Priti Nair launches Curry-Nation

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 17, 2011
The development had been brewing for a few months; afaqs! catches up with the lady herself, who spills the beans over a cup of coffee.

Her passion for advertising is palpable and her excitement, infectious. "One has to literally breathe advertising to enjoy this profession," smiles Priti Nair, who, after letting the suspense gestate for three months, has finally announced the launch of her own advertising agency. Called Curry-Nation Brand Conversations, the start-up is located at a 1000 sq. ft office at Nirman Kendra, Mahalaxmi, a commercial location in South Mumbai.

"I've already started decorating my space with really old Indian advertisements that appeared on rusted tin plates years ago. I picked these up from Chor Bazaar," says a bubbly Nair.

Currently, Curry-Nation is a five person army comprising a blend of creative and planning talent. Will Curry-Nation be positioned as a planning-led agency or one with powerful creative genes?

"Since we're such a small set up, it's hard to separate the two, really," says Nair, "Anyway, creative people are very good strategists as they are good observers of quirkiness and planners are frustrated creative people!"

Why Curry-Nation?

A true blue patriot, Nair named her agency Curry-Nation as a celebration of Indian culture. "I feel there is a huge parallel between our food and our people - both have several textures, layers and are multi-dimensional. Moreover, both are spicy and interesting," she explains.

Nair wants to make advertisements that work for Indians. "Indians are 'heart' people - we like a certain kind of entertainment, we love to laugh, tell happy stories and are all about the emotions. We don't particularly like plain and non-complicated ways of putting things. We're good at absorbing lots of information and are quick to break into a dance," she continues passionately.

Thus, Curry-Nation will be all about tapping into this rich, beautiful culture. Be it Surf Excel, the famous Balbir Pasha campaign or VIP, Nair has enjoyed working on truly 'desi' communication that caters to the quintessential Indian. That's the kind of advertising she looks forward to creating at Curry-Nation.

Nair and team are looking to create ads based on uniquely Indian insights, that is, 'Ind-sights' that ought to keep pushing the agency towards finding the sharp edges on general consumer behaviour. "There's so much unexplored territory," Nair chirps in anticipation.

Would that mean the agency wants to work only with home-grown brands? "Well," answers Nair, "I'd like to work on multi-national brands as well, as long as their products are targeted towards Indian consumers. If their market is India, I'll enjoy tapping into our cultural nuances."

What's in store?

It is learnt that the agency is looking for long term brand solutions rather than creative one-offs. The team is looking to work with likeminded clients who're interested in touching a chord with Indian consumers. In particular, Nair is eyeing three types of brands - those belonging to the FMCG category as she finds the space highly volatile; big philosophical brands that come with the promise to change social life; and other complete non-involvement categories (plywood, for instance) owing to the challenge involved in placing such brands right on top of the consumers' minds. The mobile digital space is something that Nair looks forward to 'cracking', too.

The road that led to Curry-Nation

Nair, an English Literature graduate, has come a long way. She has spent about 20 years in the industry. Her most recent assignment was at BBH, where she served as managing partner. Here, she worked on brands such as Marico's Parachute Therapie, Vaseline and Surf. Prior to joining BBH in 2008, Nair was national creative director, Grey Worldwide.

Earlier, she had spent about nine years at Lowe Lintas. At Lowe, she crafted some memorable campaigns for brands including Surf Excel, Greenply, Greenlam, Axe and the much talked about Balbir Pasha AIDS awareness campaign.

She began her career at DART Advertising in 1990. Later, after moving to Leo Burnett (then Chaitra Leo Burnett) in 1991, she handled brands such as Coca-Cola, Limca, Ariel and Complan.

Vision for 2011

While Nair does not plan to plunge into the "pitch circle" just as yet, she nonetheless plans to expand the team strength to about 20 people by the end of the calendar year. Initially, experienced individuals will be roped in to strengthen the team; eventually, some fresh, young blood will be sourced.

She adds that by December 2011, she sees Curry-Nation working on six to nine brands.

Meaningful relationships beyond the "buying-selling" are what she is seeking. "Clients' problems are real; we want to find and deliver real solutions," she asserts. This is one of the things she has learnt from her mentors KS Chakravarthy aka Chax, national creative director, DraftFCB Ulka and R Balakrishnan aka Balki, chairperson and chief creative officer, Lowe Lintas. She is grateful to have been groomed by these stalwarts who, in her words, are people of integrity and honesty who taught her resilience.

Her overall objective is a rather intriguing one. "My only aim now is that if I sit with my family and watch a commercial created by Curry-Nation, I should not feel ashamed or embarrassed!" Nair laughs.

Even more intriguing is her immediate goal - to bring on board an experienced advertising professional to partner this venture.

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