Pandey hands over creative reins for India to Avasthi and Rao

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | August 12, 2009
After 14 years at the helm, Pandey hands over responsibility for India's creative chair to two old hands at Ogilvy

Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and national creative director (NCD), Ogilvy India and South Asia, and vice-chairman, APAC has been at the creative helm for almost a decade and a half. But it's time for change.

Pandey has decided to hand over the creative throne for India to two long-time creative hands of the agency -- Abhijit Avasthi and Rajiv Rao. However, he continues to oversee the creative output churned out of South Asia.

It's challenging to have headed a creative colossus such as Ogilvy, single-handedly, as NCD for as long as 14 years. When afaqs! quizzed Pandey about it, "Well, these very people with whom I work, made that possible."

Both Avasthi and Rao have been with the agency for almost a decade now. The duo, along with Sumanto Chattopadhyay (Sumo) and Anup Chitnis, were elevated to the position of executive creative directors (ECD) for South Asia in 2007.

Avasthi has a background in engineering -- he completed his studies in 1993. From 1993 to 1997, in his words, he "almost did everything", from working in a steel plant, to preparing dyes for textile design for his father, and even trading in saris.

In 1997, he began his career in advertising at Enterprise Nexus (now Bates 141) as a trainee writer. After two years at the agency, he quit as senior writer and went on to join Ogilvy (then Ogilvy & Mather) as creative supervisor.

Avasthi was made creative director in 2002; and in 2005, he was designated group creative director. The responsibility of ECD, South Asia followed.

As group creative director, he worked Perfetti, Cadbury, Asian Paints, Bajaj, Motorola, Coca Cola (Sprite and Limca, when the account was handled out of Mumbai) and Yahoo.

Rao started his career in advertising in 1994 with Heartbeat Advertising, the advertising agency famous for brand KamaSutra. He was accompanied by the late Mahesh V. In 1996, both moved to join Ambience Advertising (now Publicis Ambience), where the duo looked after accounts such as Bisleri, Parachute, Good Morning and Lakmé.

Both, the late Mahesh V and Rao joined Ogilvy in 1999 as group heads to work on Maxtouch, which was first rechristened to Orange, then Hutch, and is now Vodafone. For Rao, the brand has been more like his baby, whose journey he has seen since day one. He saw the launch of Orange in Mumbai in 2002; in the same year, he assumed the role of creative director as well. He has also seen the brand go national as Hutch.

In 2003, both Mahesh V and Rao relocated to the Bengaluru office as creative heads. There, he got an opportunity to work on brands such as Titan, Brooke Bond, Allen Solly, Taj Mahal, and even won the Lenovo business. In 2006, it was time to return to Ogilvy Mumbai.

Rao, an arts student, is a pass-out from JJ School of Arts, has a degree in commercial art, and has always been on the art side of the business; the late Mahesh V was his copy partner.

Comparing markets such as Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh and others to India, Avasthi believes that India is much more evolved, in the sense of brands and clients.

Filling the shoes of someone like Pandey is, by no means, easy. Are Avasthi and Rao up to the responsibility that comes with the turf? "Piyush has left us with an amazing platform to take off from. The talent pool and culture that he has built at the agency is phenomenal. And we are ready for what comes with this," they say.

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