Gandhi vs. Anna.


Anna is a simple man, so was Gandhi.

Anna started by changing himself and then his village so did Gandhi.

Anna preaches non-violence, so has Gandhi.

Anna is a stubborn man, so was Gandhi.

Anna rallied young India, so did Gandhi.

Unfortunately the comparisons stop here.

Anna is a Gandhian but not a Gandhi. I respect Anna for his honesty, simplicity, his stubbornness, intent and his peaceful methods. Leaders are always born out of adversity, when India is going through her worst leadership integrity crisis, Anna took upon himself to rally people against corrupt politics and society, a simple, quite Gandhian turned into an agent of people’s conscience.

Anna’s success came because of young India taking to streets, a movement fueled by anger and helplessness of young men and women, who silently witnessed the powerful leaders and businessmen shamelessly looting their treasury.

When corruption reached parliament, when policemen started to rape and molest little girls, when army men stoop to steal wealth, when politicians blatantly amass disproportionate wealth, When educated entrepreneurs cook-up account books, when Baba’s hide rooms full of gold and silver and when temple incomes bulge more then a state’s. You know it’s only a matter of time for a catharsis and indeed Anna became the fountainhead of this revolt.

After Jaiprakash Narayan no other leader mustered as much support as Anna. Jaiprakash Narayan succeeded in changing the government because he supported a newly formed cleaner party with leaders of intent and integrity. The agenda before the nation was clear: vote out the Nazist congress party, people understood and implemented. When people empathize with issues they need an action point and Jaiprakash Narayan provided one.

Mahatma Gandhi too understands this human truth like any other successful leaders in the history, Gandhi always gave an action point, be it making salt or burning British made cloths or asking the mighty British to “Quite India”. Any mass movement should have an actionable end. Even the recent “Occupy Wall Street” had a definitive action point to just occupy Wall Street. Simple enough for people to understand and execute.

Anna should go beyond appealing to people to come onto the streets to protest. He must give an action point, if one were to say “ Vote for Lokpal or Quit parliament” and if one were to give the agenda of pushing every local MP to vote or resign, there would have been an action plan for restless young Indians to execute.

I believe Anna will become a true heir of Gandhiji, if he becomes as shrewd thinker and as clear visionary as Mahatma is.

Power shifts in advertising.


The recent ranking of the most influential people by Brand Equity raised eyebrows and sent shockwaves thru the ranks of the industry. The veteran blackberry boys were giving way to apple tribes.

Two decades back armed with management degrees from the top institutes the double-breasted blue blazer brigade took firm control of the business from the erstwhile “angrezi hangover babu’s” of the post independent India. And the blazer brigade were the most powerful lot as they controlled the business of the businesses by working as strategic and marketing extensions of huge corporations.

What made this successful brigade to take a back seat? Why the suits were marginalized? What made creative guys to rise?

Well the answer lies partly in the changing business model and partly in the egoist reluctant to change CEO’s.  Why do I blame them?  Three decades ago when I started work in advertising as an untrained commercial artist, stumbled upon a book in a second hand bookstore titled  “12 benevolent dictators of advertising” the book dealt with how the legends of the industry were thrown out of their own shops unceremoniously.

And the moral of the story being: ownership does not give power, real power in advertising is the influence you have on the Brands business and how indispensible you become to the biggest brands of the agency. Most often the owners and the MBA managers mistake power to money control and designations therefore they spend all the time in managing money and holding control meeting. Before they even realize the power starts to shift to enterprising business heads or creative heads.

Its not surprising to see some of the legendary CEO’s being marginalized post de-bundling of creative agencies. When you had 15 channels to manage a general manager was more powerful today there is just creative and only products to be managed are Ideas.

With INS accreditation out of the window and monthly remuneration system is in, there is hardly any complex management is needed therefore more creatives are taking charge to manage ideas and agencies.

Hope one day the management schools will add this section of Idea management to their curriculum.

iPad painting : T20 of art?


Resisting change is in human nature. Well in marketing terms I could be classified as an enthusiast or an early adopter. People take their own time to adapt to new things, because familiarity with the old gives us solace hence adoption curve will take time to climb as in the case of digital photography. Every photographer worth his salt resisted the digital formats till Hasselblad and Sinar came up with digital backs, even I resisted till Nikon D90 happened.

Purist will resist the “bastardisation” of any art form. Human talent and craft rules supreme any intervention by machines or non-human is believed to contaminate art. Each art moment faced this challenge be it Cubism, Dadaism or Expressionism. This divine Apple’s intervention will also have its fair bit of resistance from purist. Never before the digital software gave the gratification of real painting experience, where technology is invisible. Thanks to the touch screen and tablet format, suddenly one gets instant gratification of drawing or painting.

I have never tried to create art using digital technology in my life till iPhone happened a year ago, where I downloaded an app called “Fountain Pen” which allowed me to scribble on the screen, I loved it but never took it as serious art, while my friends from Twitter and Facebook insisted that indeed it was, when shared. When I picked up my iPad last December on my son’s insistence to watch You Tube Videos and ads, I discovered many silly drawing apps which did not interest me till I stumbled upon “Art Rage” which blew my mind, it was like a live TED video and magic unfolding every second. I looked at havens and adopted “Art Rage” instantaneously.

What magic did iPad and Art Rage did on me?

As I said before iPad gave me the gratification of real drawing and painting and further iPad allows me to carry my studio with me almost every where like a mobile phone. Art Rage gave a complete studio of 2000 square feet with innumerable capacity to store canvases both painted and new, hundreds of tubes of colors free with infinite shades, entire sets of hog hair and sable hair brushes, palate and painting knifes, rollers etc, etc, all this lifetime supplies for a meager $7.00.

Nothing is more tempting to a soccer player then seeing a still ball, and same is true to an artist, give an artist a white paper and ask him/her not to scribble? Materials tempted me to carry on painting especially the oils, all this without the hassle of cleaning or arranging. I painted close to 70-75 canvases in less than 40 days and did around 200 charcoal sketches, all this in normal process would have taken almost couple of years, what does this say to us? At an average time of 3 hours for each painting it make you more prolific than any one can ever imagine!

Technology is not helping art it’s just helping the artist, you still need to be a trained artist to paint even on a dame tablet. Prolific art may cause a supply surplus in the market but on the other hand artist may actually see some money while they are alive.

Had anyone ever guessed that one can score 300 runs in 20 overs?

Being Pops.


What the heck if pretty girls call me Pops? What’s the fuch if people think I was born in the same year as Zora Sehgal ? What the hell if people try to find similarities between Balki, and me thinking that I am his Pops? What the shet if Arvind Sharma’s driver introduces me as his saheb’s “papaji” ?

It’s not easy being Pops. Yes. It’s not easy to be Big B’s Popsji, Chennai’s Mr.Pops, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s Pops, Chiranjeevi’s Pops garu, Balki’s Pops & Tweetaratti’s kvpops. “Baap re” its difficult to take loads of affection, respect and love.

“Pops” made Kondiparthi Venkata Sridhar a brand, and proved to the world, power of naming and branding. Imagine Mr. kondiparthiji.  What did I do to deserve to be called Pops?

Simply nothing.

In early 90’s when Chax and I joined Lintas as creative heads of one of their Bombay units, Alyque Padamsee was at his wittiest best when he hired an ex- military Major as chief administrator. Now one can imagine the hierarchy and bureaucracy ruling the floors of Express towers.

In such an office there was a quite shy-ish six-foot young copywriter named Sridhar existed. Since the culture did not allow bosses to be nicknamed, poor little baby-faced Sridhar was christened as “Baby Sridhar” and me, months later by default became “Papa Sridhar” and then came a livewire called Asha Rishi an account executive who started calling me Pops.

By virtue of my personality people felt it’s an apt description of me. Chax my partner in crime need to take some blame for not resenting in fact he started a chain of jokes on Pops. Around mid 90’s advertising and marketing media suddenly became big and they took up the mission of making Pops stick in people’s heads.

In old day advertising guys used be real characters with some quirkiness, Alyque with his diction, Kersy with his suspenders, Chax with his Gandhi glass and signature beard, Piyush with his handlebar mustache, Prahlad with his cigars and hat, since I had none, “Pops” helped me to be remembered.

All jokes apart, the changes that came along with the name Pops are: made me look wiser, acquire patience, forced me to listen to people and lend my shoulder, made me stop leching at young girls once they call you Pops. Convinced me to adopt young talented kids and above all reminds me to make my bucket list every morning.

As the cliché’ goes: the rest is history.

( Written specially for Impact magazine.)

Story of a tail wagging the dog.


Advertising time dictating cricketing time.

Many years back my partner Chax used to have a poster in his office, which read as follows: ” If you do not find space on the floor then use the ash-trey.” the same sounds true to Indian cricket broadcasting  ” if you do not find ad spots then run live cricket.”

Strange isn’t it. Being an advertising person to hate ads in a cricket telecast, point is not my obsession for cricket; in fact it’s for advertising. People who watch cricket are passionate about cricket and they are mature enough to know the role of ad revenue in cricket broadcasting, it is when ad spots cross the line, it’ gets destructively irritating and broadcasters have been doing this consistently last couple of years. Who will lose in this? Viewer, broadcaster or the advertiser?

I guess you do not have to be a genius to figure out that the advertisers are going to lose out for annoying the viewers and loosing ethical and emotional stature with the viewer/ consumers therefore lose certain emotional equity of the brand advertised. It’s like an irritating pet throwing ball at you urging you to play when you are making love to a women.

I appeal to all my dear clients not to make their ads work against them by placing in an over booked slots and to my dear media planners not to get carried away by the TRP’s and OTS, please also keep in mind brand values and look at people in the context of cricket passion this session.

Leave the dog to do the rest.

What’s in a logo? Ask GAP.


After a public outcry on the social media, “GAP” withdrew its modern logo and brought back classic blue box.  Couple of days back Airtel launched its new logo and again it’s the social media, which has been critical, harsh and unkind, before we get into merits and demerits of the opinions, lets look at what goes behind designing a logo and how to judge one. Because consumer outcry is one thing industry peers is another thing.

To be fair I just want to gently remind our tweeting and status-updating judges the parameters to judge a good logo and view the design in the context of a telecom brand. Iconic logos have a simple yet magical qualities of evoking an emotional response in you for instance when you look at the golden arches of McDonalds you feel happy and hungry at the same time. Ever thought why this happens? It’s the colors, which does the trick. Yellow arches make you smile while the red McDonald’s background makes you feel hungry. It’s unbelievably true that the color red makes your blood pressure soar and also makes you feel hungry.


When you judge a logo you need to keep five simple things in mind:

Symbolism:  The symbol used should signify and communicate something about the brand’s ambition or vision in a clearly identifiable way while keeping the historic, cultural and category relevance in mind.

Style: The style should communicate the personality or functionality or special attributes of the brand like: indoor, outdoors, cleanly, orderly, open, friendly or a closet.

Typography: Type should communicate certain feel and vision of the brand. Type should tell you weather the brand is stiff or flexible, bold or fragile, feminine or masculine and so on in an instant way.

Relationship: The graphics, icons, type and color used should have a relationship with the target group and company values, goals or aspirations.

Color: Colors used should represent and relate to the business and its aspirations. Color should communicate the intended message or emotion instantly.

Now lets keep these parameters and look at some telecom logos thru my point of view (not the creator’s):


Vodafone: Uses speech mark as a symbol to communicate about the brands ambition. Needless to say how simple it is for the people to comprehend and connect with the brand and the category. Styling of the graphics is near perfect to represent the preciseness with its orderly alignments and placements. Typography is bold, confidant yet very friendly with its lowercase usage. Red is the color of passion and action provides energy and excitement to the brand. Overall all the elements are used to perfection and a classic example of art and science of design coming together. Logo designed by Brand Union.

Uninor: Inspired by nature and its role in innovation in Scandinavian culture this propeller like symbol was designed to communicate the delicate balance of movement and change. Uses a very purposeful tranquility feeling by delicately designing the symbol and the typography. Very delicate thin san serif font used to enhance Scandinavian design esthetics. White, blue and black are used in the identity to enhance the “Inspired by nature” feel.

Docomo: Uses its name that means “every where “in Japanese (DOKOMO) this logo designed for the Indian market to communicate “Do the new” hence fun typo design keeping in line with the brand promise. Styled to perfection to connect with youth and VAS users. Graphics are designed for flexibility to be used freely. Colors are young and vibrant bring in fun and energy. This logo keeps the evolution of the consumers in mind to bring in flexibility for co-creation by the consumers. Designed by Wolff Olins of London.

Airtel: Uses alphabet “A” in lowercase in a very causal yet dynamic way, spiraling “a” almost gives you a feeling of a tornado, generating lots of kinetic energy. Styled in a vibrant youthful way to communicate to the changing Indian consumers. Typography is youthful and inviting by using lowercase and reiterating its values of friendly approachable service. Color red used for depicting energy and passion of the brand. Designed by Brand Union again.

Designing or judging logos is a very difficult task especially for telecom, which deals with more interfaces and touch points than an airline. Redesigning and implementing a new identity is a mammoth task, takes months to reach every circle leave alone the streets.  While the new Airtel logo may just have fallen short of critic’s expectations, it may well create enough excitement in the market, who cares for critics who are interested in what could have been done and in the missed opportunity? When people embrace the change with open arms.

Hope we can fill in the “GAPs”

Adman, Conman and Superman.


Sometime I feel ashamed to introduce myself as creative, Ad guys are the most pompous lot they alone title themselves as creative. Tell me who is not creative? Engineers who design innovative combustion chambers are not creative? Con men of Mumbai who run ticketless travel insurance are not creative? Mothers who invent new ways of giving concocted medicine to kids are not creative?

All of us are creative and talented in our own way but than why some succeed? What does it take to be a successful creative person in advertising? Is it the ability to write, think or connect? Or is there something above all this?

Indeed there is.

As kids all of us have painted, played some sport or other, sang songs, danced to the tunes of Jackson, made interesting faces in front of mirrors, wrote poetry to impress girlfriends\boyfriends and told cock and bull stories with innovative twist, didn’t we?

It’s all about relentless pursuit of chasing what we enjoy most, if we were to continue to paint may be if not MF Husain at least we would have become a Laxma Goud, If not Sachin at least a Parthiv Patel isn’t it?

Now coming to the point, What if didn’t chase any of the above and what if we didn’t grow-up at all? Simple. We would become a successful adman. Yes indeed “Enthusiasm” is key to success in advertising that too child like enthusiasm! At 55 can you get excited about motion control games? At 45 can you get excited about two extra spark plugs in an engine’s combustion chambers? Can you get excited about milk proteins in toilet soap?

I believe if you are excited you can excite anyone exactly the effect a kid can have on you if you are watching Powerpuff girls for the 20th time. If you don’t get a hard-on when you discover that your product is 0.3% better than the competition than you are not on.

Apart from your ability to write, visualize, tell a story, use experiences and observations from life, your zest for life is as important. If you can connect like a grand mom, posses crooked ways to find a solution and have a relentless urge to remain in the limelight like a superman than it’s your turn to be an adman.

Did I say “Chaddi-man?”