Profile: Anusha Shetty

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The story of Anusha Shetty, Chairman and Group CEO of Grey Group India, is one of belief in self and commitment to one’s dreams. Though she had a flourishing career and was doing very well, she risked throwing it all up to follow her heart to become an Entrepreneur.

Anusha Shetty started as any young woman, fresh out of B-school but her drive to achieve, to look for different opportunities and to take hard decisions at the right time has made her the success that she is today.

Here we have a woman entrepreneur who brought digital and analytics into the agency space because she believed in it. Known for her expertise in Digital Marketing, the road that bought Anusha to this position today was definitely not a straight one but one that was full of twists and turns, some planned and some unplanned.

So what is the secret to her success? Anusha claims it was not necessarily academics in the beginning. Though an ‘above average student’, in her own words, it was sports that was her passion and she excelled at it! But this was to change very soon.

“I still remember my statistics classes at college. Our group made a lot of noise in the class and our teacher was not happy with that. I thought I would not learn much in the class! One month before the final examination, my cousin, Ravi, took me through the entire course of Statistics. And I fell in love with the subject. When the results came, trust me, not just me but the teacher was also very surprised with the results. I ended up topping not just my class but also the University! That was when I realized that the power of effort and hardwork will lead you to positive results.”

Academics also started playing a big role in her life which is best illustrated by her introduction to management studies. The story of Anusha Shetty, Chairman and Group CEO of Grey Group India, is one of belief in self and commitment to one’s dreams. Though she had a flourishing career and was doing very well, she risked throwing it all up to follow her heart to become an Entrepreneur.
Anusha Shetty started as any young woman, fresh out of B-school but her drive to achieve, to look for different opportunities and to take hard decisions at the right time has made her the success that she is today.
Here we have a woman entrepreneur who brought digital and analytics into the agency space because she believed in it. Known for her expertise in Digital Marketing, the road that bought Anusha to this position today was definitely not a straight one but one that was full of twists and turns, some planned and some unplanned.
So what is the secret to her success? Anusha claims it was not necessarily academics in the beginning. Though an ‘above average student’, in her own words, it was sports that was her passion and she excelled at it! But this was to change very soon.
“I still remember my statistics classes at college. Our group made a lot of noise in the class and our teacher was not happy with that. I thought I would not learn much in the class! One month before the final examination, my cousin, Ravi, took me through the entire course of Statistics. And I fell in love with the subject. When the results came, trust me, not just me but the teacher was also very surprised with the results. I ended up topping not just my class but also the University! That was when I realized that the power of effort and hardwork will lead you to positive results.”
Academics also started playing a big role in her life which is best illustrated by her introduction to management studies.


Foray into Management Studies
“One of the unplanned twists in life was my foray into management studies. I went to do a course in NIIT and also work in Taj Manjuran, Mangalore as my father was posted in Mangalore at that time. I was very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. Out of the blue, my father handed me a CAT examination form and asked me to write the exam! I gave the exam in TAPMI, Manipal and was short listed for the group discussion. I knew that talking came naturally to me but it still surprised me when I was short listed from the group discussion! I went with the flow and life did navigate me into a new avenue.
I joined TAPMI, Manipal MBA program and specialized in Finance and Marketing. I was now living in a hostel and people around me were very earnest and assignments and projects had their own fervour! This was when I started taking education seriously. Being very good with numbers, I soon realized that I wanted to set my feet into the world of Finance. As part of my management degree, I did my internship with Lintas in Bangalore. Although I did not look the part of the ‘cool looking girls’ who were all around me, I did well in the projects given to me and ensured that the work got completed the best I could!”
Landing my dream job!
“After completing my MBA, I got placed in the accounts department of an Engineering company. As I was always interested in finance, I thought this is what I wanted to do. I soon realized that Accounts was not my cup of tea.
It was around this time that a possibility of switching to Advertising came about. A friend of mine, Vidya, from TAPMI had come down to Bangalore for her job interview in a company called Trikaya Grey and was staying with me. I went along with her for her interview as her moral support, where I met a head hunter, Mr. Puneet Sabharwal. During our conversation he mentioned that, Ammirati Puris Lintas, was hiring and if I was interested in doing something completely different to what I was doing. I immediately said yes!
I ended up submitting my resume and since Lintas was the same company I had interned with during my MBA days, I would like to believe that the work that I had produced there and the relationships I had built, helped me land that job offer! I started as an Account Executive and my first assignment was Timex, which was then a Tata company. I then went on to launch Tanishq. I had a great boss in Vasant Kumar who taught me the fundamentals of advertising and I owe my entire knowledge to him. He was demanding and put me through the grind and the role also saw me doing long hours at work. The constant collaboration and working with creative partners, production partners, media partners made the job more and more interesting. I had fallen in love with my job and I had found my niche. Ammirati Puris Lintas became my home and I am still in touch with the friends I made there. As days went by, I was given more responsibilities and started working with more brands. I would also be grateful to my business head, Renu Prasad and Branch Head, Fali Vakeel for placing their trust in me and giving me those opportunities.
The next few years saw me working with varied companies. From Lintas I moved to EuroRSCG, a smaller advertising firm. I was asked to manage Intel as a group head along with a team. I was introduced to technology and that was my first exposure to the world of ‘Digital’ marketing. The truth is, many marketers even today grapple to understand the tech and digital world but I loved it! I had broken barriers in the tech world but I soon realized that the company did not suit my style of working. So, in the late 1990’s I moved to the next role on the client side.

I joined a Silicon Valley based start-up in Bangalore called Euclid Inc. which specialized in IT Performance Management Software. I was literally the 7th or 8th employee who joined as part of the India team. But unfortunately, the market in India was not ready for this product and the company decided to shut down its sales and marketing arm in India and instead focus on the US market. Three people from the India team were given the opportunity to migrate to the US – the CEO, the CTO and me!”
Move to the ‘Promised Land’
“I accepted the role of moving to the United States of America to handle Marketing and my husband, a ‘tech’ professional, moved along with me. In fact, I was given an L1 transfer which meant moving directly to the Phase II of the Green Card process! The company was later acquired by e4e. I enjoyed my work, but unfortunately recession had begun in the US. We were looking at ways to cut down costs at Euclid Inc and this was when I thought of the possibility of creative outsourcing, a concept unheard of in the advertisement field and I also put forth my views to the board.
Start-ups were all the rage in early 2000 in the USA and I loved the energy that went with it. I made a decision, I wanted to become an Entrepreneur and that I wanted to start a company. So I decided to come back home.
I left Honeywell in 2005 and began my own company – Autumn Worldwide.”
The Birth of Autumn in 2005
“I knew my decision would affect me financially, but that never was a concern for me. The idea that I had was very clear – create a value proposition for the marketing world, something not done before. And I also wanted scale.
The concept of Outsourcing was big in India, but not so in an industry such as Marketing. I believed that creative outsourcing existed, so I created a team in India and I was going to bring business from USA, as I had the necessary network and contacts in the US. I pitched my business along with my credentials and invited Abhay Rajankar to be my partner.”


The Trials and Success that was Autum
“I set up the main office in Bangalore and business offices along with Consultants in the USA. Though the company generated profits, it was not the scale that I wanted. The industry did not react to my business proposition favourably and things were moving very slowly. After a year of travelling between Bangalore and USA, I came to the conclusion that outsourcing would not work in the field of advertising. It broke my heart. But I did not give up on my company. I started to offer Brand Consultancy as the industry was willing to accept this proposition. I started acquiring more and more clients like Karbonn Mobiles, Enamor and Honeywell itself! This was not my final dream but I did it for the growth of my company and continued to hunt for other possibilities.
In 2009, I hit on an opportunity. Orkut and Facebook were beginning to be very prominent platforms and Digital Marketing was being discussed as a bubble. My ex-boss from Honeywell offered me a business proposition – to look at Data and Insights. I knew without a doubt that this is what I wanted to explore. I immediately hired an intern and I jumped into it myself. This was the beginning of a new learning and I enjoyed what we explored. I completely believed that this was going to be BIG soon. In fact, I pitched the same value proposition to Infosys too and we had signed up our second client!
By 2011, we had started to offer more services in Digital, not just offering but hyper specializing in Digital Marketing. The next hurdle we faced was viz a viz talent – there was no readymade talent in the market as this was a new industry and the truth is that, change was not easy for the existing agency teams. People within the company were struggling to shift to Digital, as they found it easy to do what they knew than move to the other side.
This is when I took a major decision – to let go some businesses in order to ensure change takes place, let go of old mainline business and focus exclusively on Digital Marketing.
We forged ahead, we needed to work hard, we had to start learning from scratch and we were also willing to teach each other. Though we lost people during the change, we also gained people as we started to hire freshers.
From here on we saw ourselves in many more areas – from data & insights to Digital content to Online Reputation Management to Command Center Management to eCommerce to MarTech and much more.
Finally, I saw my dreams come true. We had created a new value proposition in the marketing world. Between 2011 and 2018, we became bigger – bigger team, bigger offices. We scaled up!
In 2018, there were a number of mergers and acquisitions taking place in the advertising industry. Large networks wanted to find a right set of strategic skills to grow and digital marketing became an area of interest. I wanted to integrate with a company who we could connect with and I wanted to be an integral part of the newly merged company with a partner who believed we were important and would give us equal opportunity. Everything came together in October 2018 when Grey Group acquired majority stake in Autumn Worldwide. It was Sunil Lulla who initially contacted me and Nirvik Singh took the acquisition forward for the Group, both of whom I shall always be grateful to. We had now created AutumnGrey!

I continued to run AutumnGrey and in January 2020, Grey Group decided to create a future agency model by truly integrating both Grey and AutumnGrey. The consumer had converged, marketing teams were converging and it was only right to create an agency model that was truly converged. We noticed brands needed new skills like data and technology, end consumers needed simplicity and a single tone of communication across media touch points and finally our client partners needed less confusion created by multiple agencies. There was a need for clarity in diversity. In this future agency model, that is the philosophy we stood for. I was offered the role of Chairperson and Group CEO in this integrated vision for Grey and AutumnGrey. The entire leadership was also integrated to take this vision forward. Today, as Grey Group (with capabilities of both Grey and AutumnGrey), we play the landscape of data & insights, creative & content, eCommere, technology and building experiences with end consumers. Our clients range from ‘Mainline clients’ to ‘Digital clients’ to ‘Clients who work with us because we are their integrated agency – mainline to digital’. I am grateful to have a fabulous partner in Sandipan Bhattacharya , our Managing Director and Chief Creative Officer. My dream has always been to create a new value proposition in our marketing industry. Today, I have the opportunity to do so again with this integrated vision – data to creative to tech. We are a vision of the future agency model and I see it coming to life with every passing day. Just this month, WPP merged AKQA and Grey Group and it is an exhilarating time to be at the helm!”
Down the Line…
“I see myself being a social entrepreneur – working and helping others. I believe that there are so many ideas that are waiting to come to life. I am very sure that whatever changes might come over the years, I will always be in touch with Marketing, as it is the spine of my life!”
It is unbelievable how life sometimes comes around in circles. From what Anusha said, we realise that her first introduction to the world of Advertising was when she accompanied her friend for an interview at TrikayaGrey, today, unbelievably that is the Group that she heads.
It is not easy being a woman in a man’s world but she has achieved what she has with élan. Every one of her mentors helped her grow, to this add in a supportive husband and family, we have a perfect recipe for success!
What in Anusha Shetty draws the support of her mentors? The answer was readily given by Group Captain Vijaykumar, ED MMA who said, “Her sincerity of purpose, her commitment and her willingness to help people without expecting anything in return is what attracts people to her.”
Here’s hoping the world will see more from Anusha!

Ramyaa Ramesh had interviewed Anusha Shetty for this series.