Ramesh Ramanathan, the ex-chief creative director of Mudra, had no inkling that he would end up in advertising.
With a degree in B.Sc Chemistry, Ramanathan ventured forth as a production manager in a chromic acid recycling plant. Soon, he found himself strumming the guitar and writing songs.
Ramanathan's desire to be a musician brought him to a cul-de-sac. He then thought, literature would give him some respite. But an M.A in English literature only fractionally improved his prospects. He joined the English daily, The Hindu as a reporter. Disillusioned, Ramanathan, in 1984, joined a small advertising agency (which does not exist anymore) and, right after a year, he found himself at O&M as a trainee. Ramanathan had finally found his true calling.
Like Ramanathan, there are many who have stumbled into creative professions, accidentally. And, there are still many more groping in the dark. In the hope that he could guide those in search for creative expression, Ramanathan, in collaboration with Dr Akash Rose and his wife, Sandra Rose, has set up an institute called the National Institute of Creative Communication (NICC). The institute is in Bangalore.
NICC, assures Ramanathan, is going to be an institute on par with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Such will be its standards. In an interview, Ramanathan, with utmost passion, talks about his dream project: NICC. Excerpts.
Q: What really motivated you to establish NICC?
Well, besides the desire to give back to the advertising community, it was my passion for teaching which spurred me on.
Yes, it is the love of teaching. The joy of seeing someone blossom. All three of us - Dr Akash Rose, his wife Sandra and I - share a deep and abiding commitment to teaching and training. We are deeply concerned about the huge gap that we have seen and felt in the teaching and training of creative people.
Many of us stumble into creative fields almost by accident. A complete and holistic education for the creative person is simply not there. The three of us wanted to create a launch platform for the career-oriented creative person. We believe that there is a crying need for committed educationists in this field.
Our meeting was, as with the best things in life, serendipitous. I ran into Akash over a community issue - we are neighbours - and got talking. The Roses had already set up the physical structure of the school and one thing led quite naturally to the next.
Q: That sounds exciting. What would be the courses offered by NICC?
NICC offers a two-year post-graduate diploma course with a strong career orientation which includes internships at appropriate work places. The courses will begin in sync with the academic year.
We have designed a holistic pan-disciplinary curriculum, which will lay a solid foundation upon which we will build an intense specialisation for the student. The disciplines include advertising, photography, digital imaging, fine art, graphic design, film-making (advertising oriented to start with).
Q: How is NICC going to be different from other prestigious institutions such as the National Institute of Design at Ahmedabad, or the Mudra Institute Of Communications, Ahmedabad?
We are seeing NICC as a mirror image of IIT. With the same intensity of purpose. There will be a similar emphasis on excellence. Instead of engineering and technology that IIT focuses on, our specialisation will be in the field of creative communication.
Moreover, I don't think there is an institute that is completely focused on the creative person - the way NICC will be. We will give the talented student a formidable and complete foundation. And then, a career-focused super structure will be built on top of that!
Q: So does this mean, the screening test is going to be a tough one?
The students will be selected on the basis of an aptitude probe that we have developed. It is a thorough probe that will reveal the students' aptitude for a career in creative communication.
Let me tell you about the person I have in mind. Someone with a good sense of humour, who has taken several entrance tests but with no luck, who is widely read, but may not be a star performer in academics. Basically, I am looking for someone on the sidelines but with a passion for life.
Q: To begin with, how many students would NICC enroll?
We are starting with 50 students in year one, 150 in year two and finally 250 from the third year onwards. We are also looking at expanding into other cities as we strongly feel that there is a great need for creative minds across the country. Talent is geography-neutral.
Q: Would outstation students be provided hostel accommodation?
We will initially help our students with accommodation. Hostel facilities will be offered by the second year.
Q: We have not discussed the fee structure. What is it going to be like?
NICC will lay the strongest emphasis on the quality of teaching. The biggest names in the various disciplines will form part of the faculty. Hence, the fee structure will be appropriate to the quality of education that we will provide. I am sure there will be many more such queries. Interested students could write to me at email@example.com
Q: An institute that likes to compare itself to IIT should be obviously having a great faculty - right?
I don't think any one could assemble a stronger, more committed group of teachers anywhere else. Akash, Sandra and I are the founders of the NICC. All three of us will form the core of the faculty.
Akash and Sandra are extraordinary people. Let me start with Dr Rose. Until I met him, I thought I was multi-talented. You know, writer, thinker, guitar-player, songwriter, idea person... but then, I met Akash.
Well, he is a physician from AIIMS with a specialisation in Pulmonology (a branch of medicine concerned with the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the lungs). He is a recognised guide to graduate engineer students for the colleges affiliated to Chennai University (Electronics). Then he is a communications and imaging software and systems designer/exporter, photographer-author of a nine-part tutorial on macro photography,
published by Better Photography. He also holds a masters certificate in Photoshop (accredited: TDEC, USA) from the University Of Texas. Plus, he is an audio system designer and a classical violinist. Phew, that pretty much speaks for itself!
His wife Sandra has a degree for the teaching of art from the University of Belgrade. Her work hangs in many private collections. And, she is a member of the exclusive group of artists called Q.
And of course, I have been involved with training and teaching from my days at O&M. As national creative director, my biggest kick came when I hired the best and watched them grow. I put in everything I had, so that the kids who worked in my department became the best. So, by opening the institute, I am merely formalising what I have always done and what I have always loved doing.
Q: Is NICC affiliated to any government university, or is it a purely private
NICC is a purely private venture but we are in talks with some leading institutions for affiliations.
Q: What is your vision with regard to NICC?
The vision is to turn out students who don't have to stumble onto the knowledge the way we did. My idea is to create a formal system to impart knowledge on creative communication. And, to create careers for students that they and we can be proud of. Last but not the least, I wish to spend my life in that noblest of professions: Education.
All I am waiting for now is when the silent boundaries of the school will be filled with the enthusiasm of prospective students. Wish me luck.
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