Arvind Sharma quits as Leo Burnett India head, Saurabh Varma to be new CEO

MUMBAI: Arvind Sharma, one of the longest-serving CEOs of an Indian ad agency, will step down as chairman & CEO, Indian subcontinent at Leo Burnett. He will continue as a strategic advisor till July 2014. Saurabh Varma, who is currently the regional chief strategy officer, Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, will take over as CEO, Leo Burnett Group India, on November 1, 2013. Leo Burnett India operations are spread across Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, "I have been in talks withTom Bernardin for the last two years regarding the exit. Next year I will turn 58 and I do not want to come in the way of progress," Sharma told ET. On his future plans, he said, "There are a couple of things I have on my mind and now I have nine months to make those decisions." 

Sharma is also the president of the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), with his tenure ending in July 2014. "So it's all in sync," he said. Sharma began his career in 1977 as assistant sales manager of Voltas and joined Leo Burnett 30 years ago in 1983. 

Tom Bernardin, chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett Worldwide, said, "We are fortunate to have a strong management team on ground in India and to have the bench strength in the region while naming Saurabh to this role." 

In his new role, Varma will report to 
Jarek Ziebinski, president, Leo Burnett Asia Pacific. "In our search for the next generation leader of Leo Burnett India, a strategically important market for us and our clients, Saurabh came up as the best candidate. 

His deep understanding of India, combined with the international experience he gained over the years, is a formula that will allow him to chart a new way forward for the agency and create the growth momentum that we expect in this market," Ziebinski said. 

A post graduate in communication from MICA, Varma has 16 years of experience in the business, seven of which were at Leo Burnett Singapore. He says, "This new role is coming full circle, to where it all began. I look forward to coming back with fresh perspective gained from my time away and bring the best learnings of the Leo Burnett network to India.