NEW DELHI — H+K Strategies has named a new interim CEO in India following the exit of Chetan Mahajan after less than 15 months in charge.

Kavita Rao, formerly chief talent engagement officer at WPP sibling Genesis Burson-Marsteller, is named interim CEO to replace Mahajan, after a search process led by H+K global CEO Jack Martin in conjunction with Genesis B-M principal/founder Prema Sagar.

Rao will bypass the traditional regional structure and report directly to Martin, reflecting the H+K CEO's dissatisfaction with the firm's progress in India. "I’m not satisfied with where we are, but that’s really not a reflection on Chetan," said Martin.

"I’d like to see a little more growth and I’d like to see us take better advantage of our story," added Martin. "I’ve decided to spend a good bit of my time focusing on this and I really want to get this right, but I've also relied heavily on Prema's advice."

Martin noted that Rao will also have a "dotted line" to Asia-Pacific CEO Viv Lines, who he said had been involved in the selection process. He added that Rao's interim status does not rule out the possibility of a permanent tenure.

"We thought we’d give this a shot to work together and make sure she likes us, but we didn’t want to oversell it," said Martin. "Kavita's going to do an analysis for us and give us a roadmap. I’d be honoured if she’d stick around for a long time."

Sagar, said Martin, would continue to serve as an "advisor and mentor" to H+K Strategies in India. Sagar's own firm, of course, will merge with Six Degrees Cohn & Wolfe once the latter's earn-out is complete.  

Rao spent six years with Genesis before a decade with HSBC, returning to WPP in 2013. Since then, she has held senior talent management roles at both GBM and PPR.

Mahajan took on the top job at H+K Strategies at the start of 2017, replacing Radhika Shapoorjee. Previously, he was co-MD at MSL India.