A year after its founding, Avyan Holdings is eyeing opportunities in new markets in the region. Jack Lim (pictured centre), who joined as partner and chief growth officer last year, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it views Indonesia and India as exciting markets because brands like them for their size and scale.
“We think Singapore and Australia contain fascinating opportunities as brands leverage these economies as hubs for the region’s recovery. Best practices here are also highly replicable for the rest of Southeast Asia. So there’s plenty to do, and it’ll come down to focusing and prioritising on where and how we can best serve our clients,” Lim said.
Avyan was founded last year by former Havas chief Vishnu Mohan (pictured left) and it bought a key stake in Philippines-based design and innovation agency, Castle By The River (CBR) last year. CBR, which was founded by former Havas executive Eduardo Mapa Jr., has since been renamed to Avyan in a bid to align its operations. Avyan is currently working with RCBC, AIA, Grab and Watsons in the country, as well as startups in Philippines and Indonesia but declined to offer further details.
“As a leadership team, the Philippines is also a region where we’ve spent considerable amount of time during our extensive careers in. We have considerable operational experience, understand the market well and collectively have access to a network of wonderful partners,” he explained.
During Avyan’s founding in 2021, it designed itself to be a collective of companies working towards advancing human possibilities by integrating design, technology, and data to help brands and people thrive in a digital-first world. Avyan currently works with Mundipharma regionally and was also recently awarded a significantly large eCommerce design, build and operate with a renowned health and nutrition company in India. It also offers varied services to large corporates and start-ups and also works with VCs to scale up their portfolio companies.
Before joining Avyan, Lim helmed roles including advisor to CEO at Whisper Media; media advisor at NexChange Group; chief commercial and partnerships officer at ONE Championship; chief commercial officer at Mediacorp; and VP, affiliate and media sales, networks – Asia at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
“The best part about investing in a business is watching it grow so quickly to a stage where you get invited to take on an active management role to participate in and accelerate that growth further. Plus the ability to do that with such storied and highly regarded individuals whom I’ve known and worked with for years is all the reason I need,” Lim explained when asked why joined Avyan.
He aims to continue delivering growth solutions for clients, growing Avyan’s people and capabilities, and creating value for partners in the work it does for them. As the team has considerable experience in banking, insurance, healthcare, retail, and FMCG, Avyan plans to build on these but also explore adjacent industries where these same successes can be replicated for other like-minded brands, Lim said.
The advertising and marketing scene is known to evolve quickly and according to Lim, the team has seen how the marriage of content and technology guided by data and insights have changed how brands and businesses engage the consumer. That interaction between brands and their customers has been even more dramatically redefined in the last two years coming out of the pandemic.
“Values such as simplicity, effectiveness and trust have been elevated, including a heightened sense of social responsibility and care for your fellow human being and the planet. Brands that are best able to pivot and respond to these changing consumer expectations and needs are best positioned for sustainable growth,” he explained.
Aside from Lim, Avyan also brought on board Valli Lakshmanan (pictured right) as partner and CEO earlier this year. Lakshmanan was previously VP, enterprise innovation at Dell Technologies; co-founder and CEO of Umbrella; VP, global marketing and global experience design lead at Verifone; MD of Ingenuity at IPG Mediabrands; and co-founder of Multiply.
Lakshmanan told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that he joined Avyan because it was “perfect timing and a chance” to create something that he truly believes in and has control over. “After having spent two decades in advertising, media, client, start-up, I felt it was perfect timing to bring all that experiences together to be put into best use. I believe that future is not going to be by luck – it is left for us to create. But to truly create a future, you will need control and this opportunity at Avyan gives a good sense of control to pursue the bets even if the odds could fall either way,” he explained.’
According to him, per capita revenue metric is a key metric for the company as that builds efficiency in cost to output profile. “Less white papers, more work. Less point of view, more output. Less chatter, more shipping. Real artists ship, while not our original thinking, suits what we want to be. For large corporates, we want to be an essential partner for them to be relevant in the future,” he explained.
Lakshmanan has also known Mohan since 2001 and views him as more family than friend, adding that it is comforting to have a founder and chairman with whom he shares a close bond with. “There’s nothing trivial for us – we speak about all things work and off-work. He provides great counsel to what we are building here. His relationships, business acumen and a great sense of loyalty is a massive strength,” he added.
As Avyan continues to eye growth in the region, the company is also on the hunt for design talents. Given there’s a dearth of great design talents, Lakshmanan said it will always be on the lookout for people who can imagine and design interfaces. “Most of our resources, at this point, are based in the Philippines but we aren’t geographically specific about where they are based. With companies such as Remote and Deel, we can hire talents where they are and still be able to work as long as their cost profile matches our per capita revenue metric,” he added.
He described the employees at Avyan to be “a company of builders” who wants to talk less and build more. Hence, the percentage of individuals who are able to “do stuff” should be 80-20 compared to enablers who help scale the doing. “With an attitude of always learning and always building, I want to work towards creating products and services for clients and for ourselves with a great sense of design and usability,” he added.
Nonetheless, the ad industry is a competitive one given that there are many agencies competing for a piece of the same pie. When asked who Avyan’s competitors are, Lakshmanan cited Expa, Rainmaking, Media.Monks, R/GA, and Ideo as among the few design studios globally that they can learn from and build its offering. “Ben Terrett’s Public Digital is a great inspiration for us,” he added.
Former Havas boss Vishnu Mohan launches Avyan Holdings, acquires stake in Ed Mapa’s CBR