Global Leadership - Executive MBA alum shares the secrets to his success

As an Indian native, Canadian immigrant and world traveler, Aswhin Kutty (EMBA ’04) is comfortable in the international marketplace. 

“Just last year, I took 20-plus trips to seven countries,” says Kutty, president and CEO of WeUsThem Inc., a full-service advertising agency and think-tank in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Having a global baseline is important to my business.”

Indeed, Kutty had a wealth of worldly experience before earning an Executive MBA from the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business. “The reputation and international component of the program is what attracted me to Purdue,” he says. “There weren’t many universities in the U.S. that offered anything similar to Purdue’s EMBA, so that was a real differentiator.”

During his time in the program, Kutty thrived on the diversity of his cohort. “Everyone came from different backgrounds and different industries, which was an eye-opening experience for me,” he says. “The practicality of what we were learning was just as important. We came away from each class with real applications that we could use on the job immediately.”

Kutty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Dalhousie University, also holds an International Master’s in Management from ESCP Europe and a Master’s in Executive Management from Central European University. He began his career with the Novia Scotia Health Authority, where he oversaw and managed strategic projects in law enforcement and healthcare for over 10 years before co-founding WeUsThem in 2011.

“Now it’s more about leading people. Today’s employees want more fulfilling jobs and work-life balance, so employers need to step up if they want to keep them.”

Viewing the advertising world with a development perspective gives Kutty a unique view into projects that clients bring to the agency. Leading the firm’s marketing and communication strategies, Kutty lends his knowledge of the business realm to a variety of Fortune 500 companies and government initiatives in education, healthcare, and hospitality and tourism.

With a client roster including brands such as Telus, Kaplan, Global Affairs Canada, ACOA, Canadian Space Agency, Nestle, Cambridge University, Pratt & Whitney, Xerox, Equifax, ESPN, ABC, and The Kempinski Group, among others, WeUsThem currently designs, develops and communicates across 150 countries globally.

“The key to our success has been the quality of work and service we deliver and the relationships we build with our clients,” he says. “Over time, we have changed our language to call our clients ‘our partners,’ which is reflective of the fact that 80 percent of our business comes from direct referrals and 20 percent from traditional procurement processes. We are proud of this statistic as it has taken us the world over with a client base that is enviable not just in Canada, but globally.”

The success of WeUsThem can also be attributed to its employees, Kutty says. “It comes down to the culture you build around your workforce,” he says. “It used to be about managing operations, but now it’s more about leading people. Today’s employees want more fulfilling jobs and work-life balance, so employers need to step up if they want to keep them.”

Kutty, who was on the adjunct faculty at Dalhousie University for a dozen years, shares similar advice with today’s students.

“We've been pushing young people to entrepreneurship, but I think they need to be leaders before they're entrepreneurs,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. You need to have thick skin to survive the peaks and troughs you’ll be going through. There is a great power in experiential knowledge, and the more you gather, the more you are prone to be successful.”

By Eric Nelson

More Stories