For several stalwarts in the ad industry, he is a school of thought by himself - and one that is followed by many till date. AG Krishnamurthy, former founder, chairperson and managing director, Mudra Communications and current chairperson, AGK Brand Consult has just penned his fifth book, Ten Much, which deals with inspirational stories where people surmounted humungous odds and realised their dreams. In a chat with afaqs!, AGK (as he is popularly addressed) shares stories of his tryst with writing, his years in advertising and life's lessons. Excerpts:
afaqs!: When did the writer in you come to the fore?
AGK: Ten Much is my fifth book. Writing for me happened around six years ago with a fortnightly column in Business Standard called AGK Speak, where I reviewed matters related to advertising. In fact, TN Ninan and I used to call it the 'double barrel gun' as I would touch upon two subjects every fortnight. One was the best ad of the fortnight and the other a lesson that I have learnt in my life. I have worked with some of the finest people in the industry, so the second section was more of a 'slice of life' kind of writing for me.
After coaxing by some peers, I thought of writing about my experiences of building Mudra because it was an unusual agency, founded in a different city from the rest and made up of beliefs and people that were atypical. Mudra was a different institution. So, in 2005, I authored The Invisible CEO. I have never been much of a visible person in the ad circuit and it was thus that Mohammed Khan called me and suggested to me the title of this book! (Grins)
afaqs!: Your second book, too, was about Mudra, correct?
AGK: Yes, that was in 2006 and it was called Desi Dream Merchants, which was a collection of articles on experiences in Mudra by a dozen or so people who had worked in the agency and were very passionate about it. It had them penning down their feelings of building Mudra. Everyone wrote from the heart - Mudra has anyway been a 'heart' agency.
afaqs!: The next two books were both on Dhirubhai Ambani. How much of an influence has he been on you?
AGK: Yes, my third book was Dhirubhaism, which dealt with Dhirubhai Ambani's way of doing business. Compared to the way business was being done in those days, his was a distinct paradigm. What constitutes an 'ism'? - Something that is done distinctly from the rest, right? That is how the title of the book came about.
His was a powerful dream and process. In fact, his story is what inspired the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India. Today, if you ask an ordinary, middle class entrepreneur who he wants to be like, he will answer 'Dhirubhai'.
Actually, I had written articles on Dhirubhaism earlier, which had generated a big response, which led me to author this book in the first place. In the book I wrote about 15 processes which the man followed. Three of those were compilations from my previous articles, while 12 of them were specifically written for the book. The book was published across languages.
afaqs!: Could you name some of his 'isms' that you were inspired by?
AGK: Dhirubhai always said trust your people, bet on your team - and delegate. If you have a driver, why will you set him aside and drive the car yourself? That's one example of an 'ism'. He also said money is a by-product of success, so never make it the goal. What he said wasn't rocket science but he practiced what he preached, which made all the difference.
My fourth book too, centred on him - but this was less about his methods and more on the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani: his life story, the challenges he encountered and about his belief that one must dominate any industry one decides to venture into. He also propagated that Indians are very smart people. Would the Reliance Communications' '40p' dream have been possible during the times of unaffordable mobile telephony, had he not believed in it?
He always emphasised on creating a demand for a product or service - that supply creates demand and not the other way around.
afaqs!: After authoring two books on Mudra and two on Ambani, your fifth one, Ten Much, seems to have little to do with business matters. Would you say Ten Much is, in that sense, an attempt at catering to a wider audience than corporates/professionals?
AGK:Ten Much deals with the fact that success is a process, not an event that happens by luck. Some basic luck you are born with, like your location of birth, family, values and education but after that you're on your own. Most of your luck you have to make yourself.
Ten Much contains 50-60 examples of lives being turned around by belief, like that of Wilma Rudolph's, a woman who suffered from polio - whose doctors had given up hope of her ever walking. Her mother refused to give up and proclaimed her daughter would indeed walk someday. Wilma went on to become an Olympic sprint champion.
Ten Much deals with 10 ordinary processes to obtain success in life, processes that I summarise from the last 50 years of my life. People often wonder, especially when they are stuck doing something that doesn't excite them, why they are wasting their lives. Ten Much is the sort of book that will move them out of this inertia, with the kind of examples provided of people who have surmounted all odds and achieved the 'impossible'. The book hopes to make its reader believe anything is possible if they put their minds to it.
The TG (target group) for this book is anyone who wants to improve his or her life. It addresses issues you may have in your personal life or your workplace. It hopes to inspire people.
afaqs!: Apart from Dhirubhai Ambani, who has been your inspiration/mentor in life?
AGK: Oh! Two people, actually. One is Dr Verghese Kurien, whose passion and belief in Indians I am deeply inspired by. He had immense belief in all things Indian and was also a great professional who believed in the power of delegation and trusting people with the job you have given them.
The second would be Giraben Sarabhai of Calico Mills fame, with whom I worked at Calico Museum - she also managed Shilpi Advertising, a popular agency (in house agency for the Sarabhais) of the 70's and 80's. She was in charge of the design aspects at Calico and was a highly creative person. She is the person who taught me that a picture is worth a thousand words. She taught me all I know about images, composition and creativity. She is my advertising guru.
Advertising to me is a great visual art - copy has its place - but if you ask me, I think visuals speak a lot more eloquently than words. That is true on any given day.