Interview with Rishad Tobaccowala
Lori: It’s your Tech Cat here, coming to you straight from Los Angeles, where the weather is finally starting to cool down, and today we have a really exciting show of someone that has been a hero mine for a long time. His name is Rishad Tobaccowala. Rishad is famous in the ad-industry world. He is currently the chief strategist for the Publicis Groupe, which is one of the world’s largest communication firms, and Rishad is also well known for pioneering innovation at marcom companies and, basically, reinventing how big brands approach their business. And when we were doing our pre-interview, I didn’t tell you the story, Rishad, but we spoke a couple of years ago when I was considering a gig over in your holding company, and I remember pulling off to the side of the road to do the interview, and then when we hung up, I thought to myself, well, I’ve made it because I’ve spoken to Rishad. So, anyway, ladies and gentlemen, coming to you on the Tech Cat Show, Mr. Rishad himself. Let’s hear it for Rishad! How are you doing, my friend?
Rishad: Thank you. Thank you very much, Lori, and I’m doing well. I am very pleased and honored to be on the show.
Lori: Well, we are so excited to have you, and I think one of the things that I want to jump right into is just for you to describe your role at Publicis, because you’ve had a variety of different roles in the holding company, and it’s very exciting where you are right now, kind of putting all the pieces together. So tell us a little bit about what you’re doing there.
Rishad: Sure. So right now I am the chief strategist of the Publicis Groupe, and the Publilcis Groupe is a large communication holding company of 70,000 employees, and we have several well-known companies in the creative agency space, companies like Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi; in the media space, companies like SMG and Zenith Optimedia; and in the digital space, companies like Digitas, Razorfish, and Sapient. And my job is really three fold: one is to work with the CEOs and the board, which I am on and our overall global CEO Maurice Levy, on determining the best strategy both for the holding company as well as to some of our individual brands so that we can remain relevant and add value to clients; the second is to identify, build, and nurture alliances and relationships with outside
partners that help us achieve this strategy; and the third is to provide support to our clients on their own strategic needs as well as to help our CEOs both support and protect the revenue that our clients bring us.
Lori: Oh, that is three huge responsibilities. Now you’re currently based in Chicago. Are you always on a plane?
Rishad: I am currently based in Chicago, and at the end of this particular interview, I will be on a plane to New York. I usually travel about 140 flight segments a year.
Lori: Oh my gosh.
Rishad: And over the next four weeks, it will see me in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco in the United States; and in India, China, and France outside the United States.
Lori: Oh my goodness. And what is your strategy for managing all of these different roles within the company? Do they all flow together; or as someone who has a lot of responsibilities, have you figured out a way to segment it all?
Rishad: They are all interconnected in the fact that the alliances link to the strategy, and our clients are very involved and are concerned about tomorrow and transformation, which is what our strategy is about, and, therefore, allows me to help serve them and help serve our CEOs. Outside of that, the fact that they interconnected a couple of drinks every night also [unclear].
Lori: Well, and in terms of transformation, what does that exactly mean for an advertising agency right now, because all I’m hearing from a lot of my colleagues is that the agency model is dead and they’re having to reinvent themselves. So what is transformation looking like for you?
Rishad: So, let me start with the agency model being dead. The agency has been for many years, for at least 20 years, been called a dinosaur, and I believe agencies are not dinosaurs; they are cockroaches. And what I mean by cockroaches is we sort of—we are not necessarily loved—maybe we sometimes are even despised—but we tend to scurry around, figure out what goes on, and then reinvent ourselves, which is absolutely right; and over the twenty years, when we were supposed to have disappeared, we grew. We became larger.
We added more value to our clients. We added new capabilities. However, today we are in a particularly interesting time and that is because two things have happened: one is the individual, which is the consumer, member, customer, person, is truly, truly empowered; and they’ve not been empowered by anybody but by technology. So if you think about you and me at home, we are like David and technology is like the slingshot that is allowing us to bring down Goliath, and Goliath, our established business models, large marketers and could be even large agencies. So as a result of this, most of our clients have fallen behind their customer, and that requires them to transform. It requires us to transform ourselves to help them transform. The second, really, is the opportunities and threats to any particular industry now come from outside of it. So the real archenemy of Nikon is not necessarily Canon but Apple. Similarly, the real competitor to Mercedes is not BMW but Uber, and, therefore, clients don’t even know who their competitors are anymore. So this is truly a transformational time, and what we have to do as a business or an industry is find a way to again become relevant to our clients as well as to understand who our potential future and current competitors are. And that is why, at least for us at the Publicis Groupe, we’ve decided that what we would like to bring to the party is help in communication, marketing, and business transformation, which is a combination of organizational redesign, new mindsets, and new skill sets, to help our clients catch up to their customer and offset, as well as take advantage of, new competitor opportunities.
Lori: And I know that one of the things that you were telling me about was that Publicis recently bought Sapient; and for those of you that don’t know, Sapient is known as a tech company, or, at least even to regular people they understand Sapient as being a company that does a lot of back end and a lot of technology infrastructure. So was that part of this transformation strategy to bring that tech inside?
Rishad: Absolutely. Well, what happened is our belief is the future our clients will require a combination of marketing services, which we have a lot of; technology services, which we had some of inside Razorfish and LBi; and consulting services, which we had very limited amount of. What Sapient did is it brought us 15,000 additional skilled people.
Rishad: And those 15,000 skilled people primarily buttressed us in technology and in consulting because they have about 3,000
consultants. So now we have about 3,000 consultants, about 22- to 24,000 technology people, and about 45,000 marketing services people to bring up the total of 70,000. So now at scale we can offer where those three connect, and it is a big bet, and that is how we are transforming ourselves. So, literally, in the last ten years, the Publicis Group has gone from having no consultants and almost no technology to basically having 30,000 people out of our 70,000 people in that.
Lori: And what does it mean when you say consultant, because I, obviously, call myself a consultant. So what is your definition of that, because I think that that’s also a word, a title, that gets thrown about a lot.
Rishad: Yeah, so there are three different types of consultants. There are consultants who basically are corporate-strategy consultants, sort of like in McKinsey—
Lori: Got it.
Rishad: —who consult with the boardroom. We are not that. McKinsey is that, and we neither have the credibility nor the skill set and neither, to a great extent, does Sapient. A second type of consultant is basically a consultant who is usually a one- to fifteen-, twenty-person operation that helps clients in particular niches. It could be everything from salary consultants to compensation consultants to consultants on how to organize your travel department, right? Or marketing consultants. Then, there’s a third group of consultants who help clients rethink their business model and also architect the underlying technology and other services necessary to achieve that, and that is where, I would say, a Deloitte Digital and Accenture Digital and a Sapient play. That’s the consulting we’re talking about, and because, if you think about marketing as being built up on communication and communication changing dramatically, it basically means businesses change, and it’s changing primarily because of the Internet and other technologies, so that’s the kind of consulting we want to bring to the party.
Lori: And then the technology side, obviously, can mean many different things, as well. It could mean back end; it can mean hardware, software; is that the complete spectrum?
Rishad: Yeah, so, what we are basically focusing on is very much about how to retrigger the system of a company to be both more
productive, to, basically, be externally friendly, and to be closer to customers—
Rishad: —and become more efficient. What we do not do is we work with specific—so what we would say is here is a platform. So think of us as platform consultants that sort of create the platform, but we are not necessarily the sellers of hardware or the sellers of software.
There we partner very closely in the case of software, with Adobe, for instance, and Salesforce, among others.
Lori: Yeah, and that’s a really great key distinction, because I know a lot of the agencies in the past have acted very threatened by the Salesforces and the Adobes, but the truth is that you need to partner with them in order to move through this crazy space.
Rishad: Yes, and, in fact, we are, I would say, among the top three, if not the top, revenue partner of Adobe in the world.
Rishad: So, Adobe and us are extremely close. Lori: You’re buddies.
Rishad: Yes. And as well as Salesforce. And, in fact, at the end of next week, which is the end of September, we are going to be putting together three hundred fifty of our [unclear] people together in San Francisco at an event where we’re sort of going to be talking about the transformation strategy. And, not surprisingly, the CEOs of both those companies will be there.
Lori: Well, that is very exciting. I’d love to talk to you about what I experienced at Dreamforce, as well, which was Salesforce’s big event last week.
Lori: But when we come back, we’re going to dig more in with Rishad, and we’re going to hear, also, about organizational change and career management, because I know you’ve been doing a lot of writing and blogging and tweeting about career management, and a lot of folks
are turning to you for guidance in this disruptive time. So we’ll be back soon.
Lori: All right, and we are back with the fabulous Rishad Tobaccowala from Publicis Groupe, who’s their chief strategist, and Rishad has a blog called The Re-Inventing, is that correct?
Lori: And it’s all about—well, it’s about a lot of different things, whatever you’re really talking about at the time that relates to the marketing industry, but the big topics and trends that you’re talking about right now is career management, because disruption is not only happening to the companies, but it’s happening to the humans at the companies. So what’s your stance right now on how people should move this crazy time?
Rishad: To great extent, one of the reasons I’ve been thinking about it is we are sometimes forgetting that in a world of technology and Silicon that, really, most companies are about carbon-based life forms.
Rishad: And it’s very easy to, basically, talk about we will bring in technology, but unless the technology replaces the people, you still have the people.
Lori: Right, right.
Rishad: And even if you find ways to sort of replace them—and in many ways, outside of that, too, a lot of people have been sort of asking, what do we do as we sort of navigate our career? And I thought about it, and I’ve been in business for thirty-four years, and I sort of wrote this blog about the ten lessons that I have learned, and the reason I think it hit a nerve is for three separate reasons. The first is it uses English and it actually uses a real career versus some sort of mumbo jumbo, experts who talk about things that don’t make any sense.
Lori: Right, you’re pulling from your actual career.
Rishad: Right. Second is it actually understands that career advice needs to change based on the phase of the career that you are in. So if you are younger, there is a certain form of career advice, which, actually, is very different than what I would give someone who was mid-career or older career. And the third is it runs counter to a lot of what the books tell you. So it’s the reason I think it hit a nerve is what the books tell you and what I will say were almost 180 degrees different. And, for instance, the book, basically, says when you come out of school, you want to, basically, think really hard and find your dream job that you can align with and be very happy. I basically say, when you come out of school, you need to find the least sucky job you can. Okay?
Rishad: And that’s for two reasons. First is you have to be crazy to actually believe that outside of certain very narrow categories, like, maybe high-powered software engineering or something like that—
Rishad: —that you are actually in a seller’s market when you come out of school. You are not. It is a buyer’s market.
Rishad: Right? The second is when you come out of school, to think that you know what you’re going to do with your career and you’re going to find the ideal job, is ridiculous. And the third is when you come out of school and you join a company, you are the lowest of the low, and all the shit jobs in a company fall to you. So, find the least sucky job you can, which, basically means, have a sense of perspective, and don’t have a delusion that you’re going to, basically, have Mark Zuckerberg or CEO-like power when you come out of school. The second is it really doesn’t matter what company you join; what matters is the industry you join. So, for instance, you could join the best company in typewriting or the worst company in social media. The worst company in social media will probably be better to join than the best company in typewriting.
Rishad: So, to a certain extent, you need to have a trend. The third is, unfortunately, in a world of Snapchat and instantaneous gratification, a lot of people are forgetting that they are going to work for at least fifty years, or that, at least, more likely, they’re likely to work for fifty years.
Lori: Right, right.
Rishad: So, therefore, you need to plan your career in five-year chunks and not five-month chunks and not five-week chunks, right? And so people, basically, say, oh, nothing has happened over the last three months; I’m going to quit. I said, hey, think about three, four, five years, not three, four, five months. And finally, there is this odd belief that we’re living in a world of—you know, when you put on television, everything is basically a live celebrity show, whether it is brides of something, apprentice of something, dancing with somebody or the other.
Rishad: The truth is it makes you want to compete with everybody; and the idea is don’t compete with other people, compete with yourselves, which is how do you get yourself better. So those are some of my early advice which has worked out, and then you’re in the middle years, you doing different things, because there—the boss you choose becomes very important, making sure that you, by that time, have your passion is important. And about then is when you start building a brand, because, like, in the middle career, the word-of- mouth reputation in your particular niche begins to matter. And then finally, of the later parts of your career, there are two very simple things. You have to sort of unlearn, because now you’ve learned so much stuff that it has become actually irrelevant. And the biggest part in the later part of career, where people struggle, is they don’t realize that their industry has changed, because a couple of decades have passed. In the marketing world, Lori, you know—
Rishad: —some of the smartest people that we worked with ten or twelve years ago seem to have frozen in time. They’re not a dinosaur; they’re not a cockroach. They seem to be some sort of thing stuck in amber, right?
Lori: Right, right.
Rishad: And the other is also to start thinking about your positive- career career and have a combination of starting to do some consulting, start giving back aggressively, start teaching. So, that is what I advise people, which is a combination of being realistic, of continuously investing in education and rethinking things, and, also, giving back.
Lori: Gosh. I wish I had spoken to you during those parts of my career. It would have been very helpful. But here’s my question to you, because I know a lot of my colleagues, also, and I’ve been in this situation over the years, too. There’s this fear of millennials right now, of managing millennials, of a twenty-five-year-old digital guy showing up and taking your job even though you have years of experience. So there’s this sort of boomer, gen x fear of the millennial. Is that founded? Or is that just part of the hype right now.
Rishad: You know, I tell you, first of all, I believe what it is is not necessarily the millennials. What it is is when a millennial walks into your office, you start thinking that this is about technology, and it actually isn’t. It’s basically about a person who is more comfortable than you are, usually—and, obviously, these are generalizations—but they are more comfortable than you are in a world where authenticity matters; in a world where they’re asking, what purpose am I doing this job for, what purpose do you serve; any group of people who have a certain sense of impatience but also a need for transparency. So what happens is, we have grown up in a world where we could succeed bullshitting people that were being authentic.
Rishad: Right? We don’t even care about any purpose except in let’s make some money and have fun, right? And as far as transparency was concerned, we really didn’t care that much as long as we had some idea, and we tried to albatross information as power. However, in a networked age, that doesn’t work. People can Google stuff and get information. You can be caught by being inauthentic because all these people talk to each other. So you could talk to two different people and tell one person you think yellow is a great color and the other blue’s a great color; five seconds later they’ll say you’re a liar because you told two people two different things. That, which is you are looking at people who are not in a networked world with a networked environment and a networked mindset getting very scared
about these folks. It’s not about technology; it’s just about a mindset. And so my suggestion to people is to do two things. One is don’t lie.
Lori: Right, right.
Rishad: Second is start learning and talking with these people and you’ll find that they’re just like you. They’re human beings with some skills and with some fears. And the third is if your job is one that can be easily replaced by them or replaced by a machine, quickly learn additional things and additional value that you can add, because it will be replaced by them or by a machine, because nothing can stop it, because the reality of Darwinian economics is if someone can find someone who can do things cheaper, they will. If someone can replace you with a machine, they will.
Lori: Yeah, and there’s been a lot of talk about above the API and below the API and the fact that jobs are going to be eliminated by code and by robotics. Do you buy into that? Is that something that we should all be worried about?
Rishad: No, not really. I would say that there is a—for instance, I think NET. I believe in this—the best book on this is a book called The Second Machine Age, written by a couple of MIT professors. And they hypothesize, and I do believe that’s true, that in the near term there may be some overall job losses, but over time things should stabilize. The problem simply is there’ll be certain groups of people who are more likely to suffer and other groups of people who are likely to succeed. The people who are likely to suffer are people who satisfy the following two criteria: their jobs can be automated away easily.
You know, first, it used to basically be the tellers; now you see everything from the tollbooth operators to even the clerks in supermarkets.
Lori: Yeah, humans are gone, it seems, at all these places, yeah.
Rishad: So, any of those and those people are suffering. But the reason why they’re particularly suffering is they also have not had the opportunity, right—it’s not that they’re lazy—they have not had the opportunity to invest in learning new skills. So what tends to basically happen is it’s the man with the machine, or the woman with the machine, no longer the woman against the machine. So you want to do a job where you add value to what the machine does, or you do something that the machine cannot do, like massage therapy.
Lori: Yeah, yeah.
Rishad: But, to a great extent, if your job is directly in line of fire of a machine, you must learn new skill sets, that you can either work alongside it or leave the industry. But that requires training, that requires investment, and in reality, the crisis of the United States about inequality is not just the inequality of income; it’s the inequality of opportunity.
Lori: Right. Well, listen, when we come back, more on that, and, also, I want to dig into a little bit about where you go to learn and to keep up your own skills and also to socialize some of these ideas, because there are so many great events out there, so many things to read, and people, I know, often feel really overwhelmed. So, we’ll be back in a bit with Rishad and the Tech Cat.
Lori: Hi, folks. We are back, and we are talking with Rishad from Publicis, who’s the chief strategist there, and Rishad has the fortune to go to a lot of fabulous conferences and be at a lot of fabulous places with great minds, and I’d love for you to talk a little bit about the trade shows and the events and just the people that you surround yourself with to really share all these great insights. I mean, what are some of your favorite events to go to, and I know a lot of them are even outside of the sort of marketing category.
Rishad: Yeah, so within the world of events, I tend to basically go to six events a year, three of them have to do with the marketing category. Sometimes I don’t get to all three. One is the Consumer Electronics Show. But the difference is I actually spend at least a day walking the floor—
Rishad: —versus just having meetings. Lori: And we have to hang out this year.
Rishad: Yes. So that is one that’s very important. The second is I go to dmexco, which I did not go this year, which is actually the world’s largest ad-tech show and is pretty incredible. It’s in Cologne, Germany. And the third one is in France, which is, obviously, the Cannes ad festival. And those three are, to me, they’re sort of the
three tentpole events in this space. Outside is also where I go to three other things where I have an opportunity to learn a lot. The first is I go to the TED conference in Vancouver, and that one is particularly compelling because you get to spend five days listening to some of the most exciting and interesting people. And while you could do that at ted.com, you don’t spend five days doing it, you know, watching it on video just by being there at the event. The second is I’m fortunate that I get to go to Davos, and that is in January, and that is really about world affairs and a bunch of other things. And the nice thing about TED and Davos is, for all practical purposes, I find that everybody in there is three times smarter and four times more famous, so it basically makes sure that if for any moment you have a big head, it is brought down to size and miniaturized nicely.
Lori: Now, Davos, do you get invited to? I know TED you get on a list if you submit yourself and it’s fairly expensive. Is that how it still works?
Rishad: Yes. That still works that way, which you have to be invited and admitted, and then if they decide they like you, you could get invited again, and it’s expensive. So for Davos, it’s even more selective and even more expensive. In the case of Davos, the actual event, the Davos event, is run by PublicisLive.
Lori: Oh wow! Okay.
Rishad: So we don’t own the event, but we run it and organize it, and Publicis has been a strategic partner of Davos for many years. So, we basically, at the corporate level, get five invitations; and for the last two or three years, Maurice Levy has, basically, given me one of those, which doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever, but that’s the way we get to go.
Lori: Wow. And that is mind blowing. I mean, people always talk about Davos like it’s this—the Holy Grail of all things, right? And it’s, to me, it’s always existed in the clouds. Like, I never understand is it a physical place you go to?
Rishad: Yeah. It is that, and what happens is there’s a—on my blog, The Re-Inventing blog, I actually wrote what happens at Davos, and that was one of my most popular postings, because people said, oh my god, you actually explained what goes on there.
Lori: Right, right. I have to check it out. I mean, I’ve always wondered.
Rishad: Right. And so that’s—and then my sixth one is always a random one, which depends on something that comes up that’s exciting or interesting, and I show up there.
Rishad: Yeah. So I tend to, basically, budget time for five of these and then a sixth one because it is exciting. So, for instance, I was going to go but there became a conflict. I was going to go to Tel Aviv in Israel on October 14, and I was doing a keynote at a massive conference there called JOURNEY. It’s the Ernst & Young big conference. It’s a one-day conference with two thousand people.
And, as you know, Israel is outside of Silicon Valley, the sort of startup capital?
Lori: Yep, yep.
Rishad: It’s a startup nation, and I’d been to Tel Aviv for some work in June, and they’d invited me for this, but at the very last moment, I had to drop out because of a massive new business, which I have to be aware of. But I try to do something like that, one that’d I’d never done before in a country that is not in Europe or the United States.
Lori: And when you’re—this was something that I struggled with at the IPG lab and subsequently. When you have, in a sense, an innovation role, is there, and maybe now because you’re in this other role and you’re where you are in your career, but there is sometimes moments where you get pulled into the weeds of client work, and then you’re not able to continue to be on the path of when you’re surfacing up, surfacing all this great information that will actually impact the company. So, taking what you learned at TED, at Davos, appearing at Cannes and CES and being able to turn that information into gold for the rest of the company, does that still happen to you? Do you see that as a challenge for folks that are charged with innovation?
Rishad: You know, it continues to be a challenge, but it’s something that you—so the reason why I schedule these things at the beginning of the year and my calendar is blocked, and they are pretty much at a sacrosanct, because I know those dates are those dates. I can tell everybody months and months in advance, right, I’m just letting you know that dates don’t work, right, and because many of those are
industry dates, like TED or Davos—Davos, at least, for my boss is an industry date—I get support on that. So at least I get those five. The problem really is not the meeting with the clients, which I think is very important, because sometimes even with client work, you begin to learn what is actually bothering them and what the real things are.
Rishad: Because one has to be really careful. Clients like people who come in with new thinking. They do not like people who come with new thinking that is not relevant to their business.
Lori: Got it. So it has to be contextual. So just because you’re Mr. Innovation doesn’ t really impact them.
Lori: Got it.
Rishad: Because unless you can learn the play in such a great extent, the fact that you have occasionally worked and you continue to work with clients, it’s one of the reasons why I, at least every year, actually lead, as much as one can lead, a couple of major new business ventures each year.
Lori: Yep, yep.
Rishad: Because in effect, I get to not only understand what the client needs but I get to understand the difference what we could deliver and what we can deliver.
Lori: Right, right. And I know what you mean, too, because you can—the stuff that I struggle with now is I can continue to speak about things, but the truth is it’s in the consulting work that my speaking has more value. So you actually have to be a doer as well as a speaker.
Rishad: Yeah, exactly. And so what tends to basically happen in many of these cases, there’s a specific thing, and then you go in with a team, and you play a role in the team, and so you’re actually answering a very specific question.
Lori: And does your phone and email just ring all the time from various folks within the holding company? Or has that channel sort of filtered out to just a very sort of set of C-suites at the various
companies, because, really, Publicis now is made up of so many major companies, so you taps you the most?
Rishad: Well, there’s a different group of people—there’re different groups of people. Obviously, the C-level, which basically would be the chief executive officers of our ten major brands and usually their North American leadership and their European leadership, because, still, businesses like ours are about seventy-five, eighty percent western.
Rishad: So they would as one group. The other is actually account heads who, basically, five, if they have a particular issue. So they will call me and say, can you help us on this client, help me on that client. That’s sort of the second group, people who basically do. And a third group, which I find particularly fascinating, is clients themselves.
Lori: Oh, okay.
Rishad: And so what happens is clients, basically—because prior to this corporate role and other roles, I used to work on businesses where I had clients, right, and so what tends to happen is a client will call and say, hey, I would like you to help us with something like this, and then I will say, okay, could you send that request through to this CEO, right, which is the CEO who you’re supposed to be calling, and just say yes, we’ll chat, and we’ll chat right now, but I need the CEO to know because I’m not going to work directly with you. And the reason I don’t want to work directly with them, not that nobody tells me I can’t, is because I’m no good on the follow up, and I need our brands to help follow up, because of I’m one person.
Lori: Right, right, right.
Rishad: If you cross multiple countries and agencies, and so a client, when they talk with me, will sometimes think, okay, you used to always follow up and work with me all the time, and I have to explain to them, while I will try to do as much as I can, in reality my time constraints don’t allow me.
Lori: Right, right. Right.
Rishad: So, therefore, I need someone from their brand that they’ve hired to help me make sure that they do not get disappointed.
Lori: So, you set expectations up at the front that your role has evolved and that you’re in this—
Lori: —sort of layer now, which I think, you know, I think that a lot of folks who have similar roles like you don’t do and that’s where you have clients who say, well, I thought I bought this, you know?
Rishad: Yeah, yeah, and so it’s what’s very, very careful is that what we do is it’s only the most unique elements does a client actually believe that I’m allocating time to their business.
Lori: Right, right.
Rishad: And the reason, also, is because I am absolutely free, okay? Lori: Yes.
Rishad: So what tends to happen is when I go to a client, and I spend a day or two, we don’t charge them for that day or two. We don’t charge them for the airfare. We don’t charge them for anything, because once you start charging them specifically, they will basically expect you to show up all the time.
Lori: Right, right, right. Smart.
Rishad: And we can’t, basically, do that.
Lori: That makes sense. So, I’m not going to be charged for this interview is what you’re saying.
Rishad: You will not be charged for the interview. In fact, I should pay you because you are going to make me famous.
Lori: All right. Well, when we come back, we’re going to wrap up with Rishad and talk a little bit about the technology that’s turning you on— it could be consumer stuff—and, also, where can we read, see, and hear from you in the near future? So, we’ll be back soon with Rishad and the Tech Cat.
Lori: Okay, and we are wrapping up our fantastic conversation with Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategist for the Publicis Groupe. And, Rishad, I wanted to know, like, what technology—consumer or whatever—is really turning you on right now. Like, do you have any favorite new gadgets, or are there any platforms that you’re using in your personal life that you are really blown away by?
Rishad: I would say that right now, oddly, the thing that I’m finding the most compelling is an old form of technology. It’s actually a desktop computer.
Rishad: But it is the iMac with a 5K retina screen. Lori: Ah, okay.
Rishad: I basically have one at home, and then I convinced the company that I needed to have one at work, and it is—with all the latest, you know, whether it’s Office 2016 and everything else, and it’s quite incredible how it makes almost all the other technology look obsolete.
Lori: Because the screen [unclear]
Rishad: Ultra-fast, ultra-beautiful stuff, which is one. The second is I do enjoy the Samsung Note5—
Rishad: —which is what I have along with an iPhone, so I use both technologies. And the one that I am really looking forward to is the iPad Pro.
Rishad: So those are what I’m sort of looking forward to. The technology—
Lori: Do you feel—sorry, go ahead. Well, I was going to say, you feel like I do, that you have to understand Android and Apple and a variety of operating systems right now just to understand what’s going on sort of in the consumer base?
Rishad: Yeah, so, you know, I would say that the future operating systems of the world are going to be IOS and Android and then to a lesser extent OS and Windows.
Lori: Right, right, right.
Rishad: Okay? And so, and if you leave the United States, you begin to realize how dominant we are living in an Android world.
Rishad: And there are a lot of developers outside the United States, and there’s a company that I’m on the board of, that only creates apps for Android—doesn’t even create apps for IOS.
Lori: So the U.S. is sort of this Apple fandom culture, but if you ever get a chance to attend Mobile World Congress, which is one of my favorite shows to go to—
Lori: —it’s so clear, especially in developing countries, because you have a cheap handset and then anything can work on it.
Rishad: It is. If you think about it, I think that the total amounts that are sold every quarter by Apple, I think they sell about twenty-two million phones every quarter. So I think they’ve sold about two hundred fifty million iPhones, if I’m correct.
Rishad: In the course between January of 2014 and December of 2015, the Indian smartphone market will go from eight million to two hundred fifty million smartphones.
Lori: Wow. Yep.
Rishad: And out of those, two hundred forty million will be Android, so the Indian Android uptake is bigger than Apple’s worldwide production.
Lori: Yeah, that’s a crazy comparison when you think about it, and if you don’t leave the U.S., you can’t even imagine that, right, because we’re so Apple-centric here. Even if you’re on an Android, you almost feel slightly oppressed here.
Lori: And I know when my friends whip out Android devices, because I’m fairly Apple in terms of my personal use and then I have a lot of Samsung devices just to professionally be adept, but I always kind of judge them in my head a little bit. You know what I mean?
Rishad: It is but I’ll tell you that the stuff is, if when I put out my Samsung Galaxy Note with an iPhone 6 Plus, which is what I have, the Samsung Galaxy Note is in every single way a better product—
Lori: Yeah, yep.
Rishad: —because they’ve actually fixed the design and other issues. It’s beautiful to hold. Everything is perfect. The problem still is that the IOS software is slightly better.
Lori: Right, right, right.
Rishad: But for me, why I need both is primarily because I use other devices, which are on the OS, and it’s much easier for all my devices to connect using the Apple world, and so I think Apple will be very successful, but somewhere along, Apple is trying to become no longer the computer for the rest of us or the technology for the rest of us is becoming the technology for the one percent.
Lori: Right, right, which is clear on the gold watch and—
Rishad: Yeah, yeah, there’s a very big difference between design, you know, design is what they used to be.
Rishad: They’re not trying to become luxury. The problem with is design lives forever; luxury comes and goes.
Lori: Right. Right, right, right. Smart. Yeah, I bought the cheapest Apple watch because I didn’t care about that part of it. I wanted to experience the user interface and, basically, what it would bring to my life.
Lori: I’m happy with a plain leather band, you know. So that’s a really good point, because people now seem to be struggling with where Apple is going as a company, and I know I was just talking to you about the Amazon Echo and bringing in these other products in your house that are different from those two operating systems but just bring value and are interesting and are developing other lifestyle patterns.
Rishad: Yeah, so I think Apple will continue to be very successful because they seem to be going into this three types of operating systems; which is an operating system for variables, an operating system for television, and an operating system for cars. So that’s where they’re sort of—and with the phone being in the center, connecting those three—
Rishad: —it’ll be primarily North American and United Kingdom, and the rich people in other parts of the world, and they don’t care about everything else, which is an okay strategy because they make a whole bunch of profit, but at some particular stage, it is very far away from, basically, David versus Goliath when Goliath not only market cap but in mindset becomes Goliath.
Lori: Right. That’s very interesting. What about China, though? Is China going to be an Apple country, or is it going to be an economic, sort of like the third world, in that it will go Android?
Rishad: So, China is increasingly—and as I think about it—become, is already the second biggest, if not the biggest, market for Apple. I go there every quarter. Apple continues to be the lusted after product.
The issue really, at some particular stage, is the price difference between, like, what is Xiaomi and the new Xiaomi products and Apple is so big that a lot of people at some stage may think of people who buy an Apple as someone who is only buying it to show how much money they have—
Lori: Right, right, right.
Rishad: —and it’s just like with somebody who wears an Apple gold watch. It’s not a sign of elegance; it’s a sign of being an idiot.
Lori: Yeah, that’s a very good point. The culture has really shifted—
Lori: —to that attitude. Well, we’re going to wrap out in a moment, but where are you next that we can maybe hear from you? I know we have your blog that you are constantly publishing on, which is The Re- Inventing blog, and where else can we find you?
Rishad: You know, I think the three places in the public world is basically @Rishad, which is Twitter. So when I read and learn about interesting things, I put it on Twitter. So that’s @Rishad. You know, professionally I kind of accept almost everybody except serial murderers, as connections on LinkedIn, right? And then I’m a photographer, and I would like to be a photographer and writer, and so I sort of show off my photography on Facebook and on Twitter and on Instagram.
Lori: And on Instagram. I love Instagram.
Rishad: And Instagram I’m RishadT, but most other places it’s just
@Rishad, and, as I said, the next place I’m showing up tonight is I’m going off to New York, which I’ll come back tomorrow, but, you know, sort of around the world, but what I’ve always told people is your resume is what shows up on the first page of Google. Type that in and you can figure it out.
Lori: That’s right. Well, I love reading your blog, and it is such an honor to get to talk to you. You’ve always been a hero, and I think people will really enjoy all the insights that you’ve dropped here and continue to drop in your various publishing domains. So, thank you so much, Rishad Tobaccowala, the chief strategist for Publicis. Looking forward to hearing, seeing, reading more about all the things that you are doing, and all of us will take note and do a little reinventing ourselves. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Lori Schwartz, the Tech Cat. Thank you, Rishad, and we’ll see you next week.
Rishad: Thank you, Lori.