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.

“Why advertising should be governed by principles and not by rules?”


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Creativity governed by rules would lead to the death of entertainment. Daily soaps, movies and ads would be like power point presentations using excel sheets. Exaggeration and imagination are the cornerstones of creativity and story telling. Can you imagine a story without a metaphor, vivid demonstration, fantasy or a hyperbolic demonstration of human greed? Be it Axe or Avatar if the underlining moral were not be exaggerated, it would never sink in.

Having said the above now imagine a state without any legislature to govern, a society without any norms, a family with out any principles. We all can imagine the mayhem.

What is moral and what is legal is an eternal debate, in spite of a legal definition, because we all would like to be governed by morals rather than legislature if given a choice. Why should this be any different for the brands that are behaving  as human as real as our siblings? Why do 99.999% of disputes is resolved without ever had to go to courts or lawyers?

As civilized beings we know when to cross the line and when not to. If we argue modern day brands are like humans who find a purposeful existence in people’s life than why don’t they behave themselves by not crossing the line? The state bestowed faith on the industry to conduct itself by allowing “Self governed code of conduct” and a body to monitor “Advertising Standard Council of India “ and all we do as a community is to find legal ways to beat the system. If the law says you need to have a support to your claim, we produce one from an unheard research institute, as insiders we all know what game we have been playing.

Time has come to take a hard look at the old approach not because laws have changed because people have changed, world has changed. Today 90% of the youth in the world are concerned about the survival of the planet, world peace, old parents and values. Never before transparency and honesty are valued as today. Leader are responding to this new order be it Obama or Anna Hazare or Nike or Apple. In fact I would go to an extent of saying leading brands have responded faster then the political leaders, to support my hypothesis let me barrow a research report which says 4 out of top 10 icons of the world are brands not people.

There is a selfish reason why brands must inculcate good values first and start to propagate them next. If the brands are governed by the principles of the values they abide by then there is very little chance of them crossing any ethical line to be punished by people or state.

Lets turn to the communicators or the creators. I believe they are two kinds of human beings in this world, those who care and those who don’t. Those who do care are the sensitive lot and are aware of sensitive issues like; gender, values, ethics, children, safety, religion and minority communities, they generally rely on honesty and integrity of the communication to connect with people. They avoid using hyperbolic gimmicks to attract the attention. These are the guys who guide a brand to success thru life insights on the other hand people who do not care for others sentiments, do create regressive communication by resorting to cheep humor, emotional black mailing or even cooked up miss-leading facts.

Brands today are like celebrities their behavior in public is been watched by live cameras 24X7, the moment Shahrukh lit a cigarette in an a stadium, hundreds of tweets went live and even some legal suits. In this transparent world you cannot close your eyes and think world is not watching you. If you show a little kid “Chotu”serving tea in a ad, no matter how light heartedly you portray the situation, people will decode you as an endorser of child labor.

Creative people and agencies also have to be sensitive towards the societal realities. No rulebook says you cannot use a “pug” in an ad. But one need to be sensitive to the fact that the desire the ad can create in people to own and love a “pug” would be enormous and the damage it can potentially create to the species would also be enormous.  If only creators were to give a little thought before depicting two boys in a family ad and the influence it can have on people to aspire for boys. When we realize a little thought could have let a girl child live we would understand our purpose in life.

Creators have an enormous power to write stories, which can influence people and their-in lays the responsibility to use the power in the right way. If the marketers and communicators ignore the responsibility and cross the line they may well face the consequence of rulebooks, which may well be written by the NGO/Govt., legal eagles.

Censorship or self-discipline, choice is ours today.

“Anna” the ultimate HumanKind brand.


How did this 74 year old caught the imagination of Indian youth and made them rally around a 60-year-old bill and a 5000-year-old issue?

Why did loads of tweet-support flood every nano-second of the agitation?

Why did the most powerful television channel go on a record 240 hours of non-stop coverage almost converting news as a reality channel?

Why did I change my Facebook profile picture?

Why did the opposition party go numb?

What made the seasoned politicians make such political blunders?

The answer is simple. “Anna found a purpose to his existence.”

It took years even for Mahatma Gandhi to find a purpose to his existence; lesser mortals like us may not even find one in our lifetime.

Anna discovery of his purpose and mission took the country by surprise, his timing was flawless, scams and toothless actions paved way for his massive and historic modern-day civilian movement in the world’s largest democracy.

People were angry to see the audacity of the corrupt politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders and shameless public display of money in building mansions. A trillion dollars locked in the locker rooms of Swiss banks and toilets of government quarters’, the economic progress stopped to start an economic exploitation.

Clearly someone crossed the line.

Anna’s purpose of “fighting against corruption” caught the imagination of a billion victims. And his stubborn Gandhian and his humble & honest ways attracted people like little iron fillings to a magnet. He was a mere catalyst to a huge chemical reaction destine to happen.

Now what can brands learn from this? Like great human beings find a purpose to their lives, even brands must find a human purpose to find a place in people’s lives as Anna’s life is governed by his purpose to serve the nation, even brands must be governed by its purpose. And finally must walk the talk.

As Mahatma Gandhi says “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

Creation of Gandhi font.


Or is he a different type?

In hatred he saw love. In fear, courage. In weakness he saw strength. And in violence, truth. In cruelty he saw kindness. In anger he saw humanity. And in struggle, he saw peace. He saw things through his soul that are invisible to the eye. Yet through his eyes, we can still see the shining light of humanity. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A different type.

Above are the words came out of Agnello Dias when I told him about my intention to create a font for Gandhi.

” There is no god higher than truth.” is what he said and is what got imprinted in my mind  ever since I was a little boy, my grand parents always told me stories of Gandhi at bedtime, I am still a vegetarian thanks to the impression he made on me. I am just a spec in billions who follow him. Once he said “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

When Indian Industrialist Vijay Mallya salvaged the pride of a nation by bringing back the priced possession of a man who owned nothing. The day New York auctioneer announced auctioning of Mahatma’s spectacles the nation put her head down in shame, as embarrassed Indian government’s  desperate attempts to stall the action failed, Mallya’s $1.8 millon came to the rescue.

His glasses has a deep significance to all Indians, when he gave away the glasses in 1930’s to an army colonel he said ” these gave me vision to free India”. Today as we live in a free India we still are slaves to violence, terrorism, untouchability, communalism and many more evils. A young nation celebrates holiday on his birthday than his wisdom as Nitesh Tiwari one of our copywriters put it.

How do we make him and his vision relevant and how do we make people try to see the world through his eyes? Than the Idea of a typeface created out of his glasses came about.

Typographers from Leo Burnett went on to create this marvelous Gandhiji font in Devanagari and the team is working overtime to launch english and other Indian languages.( an up-date:English, Devnagari, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are available ) The website went live last night http://www.gandhijifont.com

What’s the best way to keep Gandhi’s spectacles away from auctioneers than this?


Why do we miss our middle-class-ness?



Somewhere down the lane, without you realizing success changes your life. While success\money\technology brings lots of new excitement, experiences fulfilling newer needs and desires, it also reduces lot of joys of middle-class life to memories of the past.

Hear are a few middle-class moments we all deeply miss:

Sharing ill-fitted cloths of your elder brother as a kid\teenager. However much you resist it had to happen for expensive terrycot or terlene shirts or even ever lasting Bata shoes. We virtually had to drag feet on rough concrete roads to make rubber burn and make holes in the shoes to get newer one’s or to stop passing on to our younger brothers.

All the siblings to share the same design and fabric for every festival courtesy family tailor who brings a “tann” at a cheaper rate.

Advance booking of textbooks from a friendly neighborhood senior student, if you do not have an elder brother or sister studying in the same school.

How could you escape the Nepaliwalla’s sweater for winters or your mom’s ill-knitted one, which became loose and two sizes bigger to your younger brother after three months of use or abuse?

Coconut oil and Shikakai “Head-bath” is a ritual for every festival and auspicious day in our childhood. Oily head was fine since it’s done on holidays but shikakai homemade shampoo used to burn the eyes and made them red for a day at the least.

Listening to radio cricket commentary and keeping detailed scorecard, not to mention the suffering from Narotham Puri. And of course the ting tongs of “Vividh bharathi “

An excuse of stomach aches to get free taste of Unani medicine.

Homemade Kulfi, sweets and even Diwali crackers, watching adults make firecrackers at home was the most amazing sight of excitement and stealing them while drying was even more exciting.

Life on a terraces is a chapter by itself starting from combined studies to leching girls to sleeping on the terrace in summer nights to family night outs to endless “Antakshari” sessions to stealing “drying vadams & cut mango pieces.

The very best of cheap and best mentality, repair and reuse, make it at home, homemade remedies v/s specialty clinics, Mom & Dads always use to find innovative ways to fulfill needs without spending much money and this very sprits of parents is vanishing very quickly.

I thank my parents, grand parents and my brothers for giving me such a wonderful and humane middle=class-way of life.

“Bengal Tiger.” Now you see. Now you don’t.


When I googled “Tiger”, I got more info on Tiger Woods than Bengal tiger.  I grew-up with zoos and circuses, I had no awareness or guilt in watching and marveling at captive animals. My children are different, they are more aware of environmental issues than me as a kid, thanks to their schooling, teachers and media. They refuse to see animals in zoos and circuses; I had to buy bluray “Planet Earth” series for them to watch animals up-close.

I visited Sunderban National Park and Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, last weekend with my son. At last I wanted to fulfill my desire to show my son a tiger in its natural habitat than much hated zoos.  Sunderbuns is a vast delta with confluence of three great Indian rivers: Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna spanning over 10,000 sq kms with exquisite waterways, mudflats and numerous small mangrove islands.

I had been psyching my kid to be patient in spotting an animal (as he was set with his 200mm zoom camera to click panthera tigris tigris), our hired boat sailed hours together without any luck of spotting any other animal apart from monkeys, after six hours our guide from the forest department declared that the water tide was too high for the tigers or for that matter any animal to come out and advised us to visit in winter mornings as the animals come out toward the waters to sun bath and as the tide is usually low in the mornings.  Helplessly we headed back.


Project Tiger was launched in 1972 to conserve the nation symbol from extinction. According to my well-informed forest guide tiger population in the country came down from 3642 in 1990 to present 1411. As per the legend he adds there were over 100,000 tigers in the world a century ago. With hung jaws we listened to the expert of the world’s largest tiger populated forest.

When I posted our status of not spotting a tiger on the Facebook; one of my friends responded by saying “Pops you may not have spotted a tiger but certainly it would have spotted you” This comment left me thinking whether I should have taken my son to this fenced mangrove islands to see the most precious and endangered species at all? Why can’t we let them live the way they are meant to live? Why this voyeurism?

Last night we were lisining to David Attenborough again.

Partnerships.


When I got married and moved to Bangalore my 70-year-old landlord and his 65-year-old wife were waiting for us at the bungalow we hired to bless us. My one week old wife was happy that a couple who were married for over 40 years are blessing us.

Little we knew that the secret they were about to share would change our lives. The couple asked us “who’s decision was it to move to Bangalore?” I gleamingly said 50:50 pointing both of us. The couple took us aside and shared the secret: “ Partnership is not about being 50:50, it’s to know when to be 30 and when to be 70.”

Like in life even at work this principle works brilliantly. Good partnerships thrive on pushing each other and to know when to push and when not to. Like spouses, partners do not have to be politically correct or worry about emotions at that point in time.


Such successful partnerships in advertising in India are: Chax & Pops (me). Piyush Pandey & Sonal Debral, Neville & Josy Paul, Naveed & Freddy, late Mahesh & Rajiv and now Aggi & Paddy.

Forging a partnership allows you to have mutual trust and respect, I have had forged many in my career which helped me in creating iconic work apart from Chax the significant ones are with Balki at Lowe, Agnello at Lowe and leo Burnett, Arvind Sharma & Rajeev Sharma at Leo Burnett, Ramathkar started at Enterprise in 90’s and still continuing, Ganesh Mahalingam at LG. Dharen Chedda at JWT.

Partnerships are like friendships: “selfless” all the time, this allows you to accept any criticism or ideas with equal enthusiasm. Usually we think clients, bosses, celebrity filmmakers and film and sports stars are monsters and are out to get your life like “Yamdharmaraj”, which is fortunately not true.

Ganesh Mahalingam of LG used to approve scripts on phone and sms’s which allowed us to create over 50 commercials in a calendar year to take the brand LG over 3000 corers. Look at Rajiv Rao and Varma their partnership is creating magic for their band and consumers, Piyush & Prasoon created magic on Fevicol as siblings often do. Balki’s partnership with Amitabh Bachchan  is proving to be as potent as Saleem & Javeed of 70’s.

Partnerships can also help in strange ways as Balki’s youth did to me; I had difficult time to match up to his energy levels. No wonder people say never marry a girl half your age…

Now that I stand exposed of my crimes and partners. Amen.