afaqs!

Defining Moments: KS Chakravarthy -- Of ideas and accidents

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 22, 2010
With three decades of experience, Chax has followed his instincts to carve a journey in advertising, doing what he believes has been fun

KS Chakravarthy's (Chax) has been "a most unplanned journey". He has believed that one should do the fun thing. "What is there to fear?" he asks, as DraftFCB Ulka's national creative director lists out his defining moments.

Starting out

Every decision has either been a lucky accident or felt like a good idea then. After joining Clarion (now Bates 141), I just followed my impulse. There was no great thought or great planning. This was in 1980. Hindustan Thomson Associates (now JWT India) followed. My first important decision was moving out of HTA to Enterprise along with KV Sridhar (Pops), who is now NCD, Leo Burnett.

Pops and I thought we were too young to do this job and decided to join Enterprise, which had just set up office in Bangalore. We wanted to go back to the basics and actually do creative work. We did not want to run a department. Enterprise, led by Mohammed Khan, attracted us.

Khan was a legend. He was the absolute God of Indian advertising. I do not think I would have gone ahead by myself to join Enterprise. But the thought of working with Khan was something I looked forward to. He was absolutely passionate about doing his work and that gave hope.

The next stop was Chaitra (now Leo Burnett). We literally built the agency into a respected and hot one with big clients. Its creative reputation went through the roof. The agency was something we really believed was ours. We took a lot of pride in it.

After Leo Burnett

When I wanted to get into filmmaking, I was egged on - by Pops and R Balakrishnan of Lowe - and thus came Persistence of Vision, my production house. Filmmaking was a nice way out to not be disloyal to Leo Burnett. Moving to another agency would have appeared so.

I had great fun in the first two years. By the third year, it had become a little limiting in the sense that I started missing advertising and the larger picture. Funnily enough, what I missed most were the pitches -- and the sheer adrenaline of pitching.

Enter, exit and enter again

It was back to advertising with Rediffusion Y&R, which had the Airtel account. I went through three different clients with Airtel and I had a great equation with all of them.

A three-year break with screenplays and freelance work made me realise that filmmaking was best suited to those who could exercise patience. In 2008, it was back to the ad world and DraftFCB Ulka. The thing with Ulka was that it never had a national creative director in the real sense. It had been run by strong management or planning people.

I told MG Parameswaran (Amby) who was my senior in school: "You guys are weird. You don't believe in creative." He said, "You are scary! You do not stay in one place for two years and here we have been around for around 20." What I liked about Ulka was the honesty, purpose and responsibility. In this weird world of scams and crap, it is an island of sanity.

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