Remembering Achin Ganguli

By , agencyfaqs! | In | August 06, 2001
Achin Ganguli, director and Delhi head at O&M, passed away in Texas, US, a day after a massive road accident


agencyfaqs! had a good friend. Yes, 'had'. Once in a while, when we were stuck on a story about an advertising event in Delhi, or even in Mumbai, we knew whom to call. Achin Ganguli, director and Delhi head at O&M. His first question inevitably was, "Have you done your homework?" If he was satisfied that we have done our 'homework' all right, he would go ahead and put us in the correct perspective. At times, he would admonish us in his booming voice, "Don't you quote me!"

As we started knowing him better, we came upon this slimy idea. We would call Mr Ganguli and say, "Achinda, I have spoken to x, y and z. But I still don't have a clue how to go about the story. But believe me, I have done my homework." And he would relent. The 'password' to Achin Ganguli, we knew, was doing our homework right.

Achin Ganguli is no more. He passed away last evening in Texas, US, at 8.30 US time, a day after a massive road accident. He was 55. After 23 years in advertising (in client servicing, brand building, profit centre management) and four years in brand marketing and sales management (at Lipton), Achin Ganguli has left behind scores of colleagues and business associates all of whom remember him as a thorough professional and a perfect gentleman.

"Achin was a perfectionist at work and a great man. Though I haven't worked with him as a reportee, I can tell you this from my experiences of working in the same organisation," Madhukar Kamath, managing director and CEO, Bates India, told us. He particularly remembered this one incident during the early part of his career. "I joined Clarion-McCann (as Bates used to be known then) in servicing and Achin had just left the organisation to become a client. He was in Lipton. I was standing in for one of my colleagues and had to carry some creative work to him. His first question was, 'Have you worked on this, or are you running an errand?'. I told him that I was doing this for a colleague and he said, 'Then I don't think I have to talk to you.' And that was it. I knew what he meant!"

If he came across as a tough taskmaster, it was because he believed in giving his best shot at the job in hand. Tapan Pal, who heads Zenith Media, puts him in the right perspective, "There were no large clients or small clients for him. 'Every client deserves your 100 per cent,' he would say. Those who didn't know their job well were invariably pulled up. His first question was: 'What is the objective?' Next, 'What strategy would you adopt?'."

Sanjay Nayak (senior vice-president and general manager, McCann-Erickson, Delhi) who was hired by Ganguli years back at O&M in Calcutta, says, "Ranjan Kapoor (managing director, O&M) had the most apt description of Achin: The conscience-keeper of O&M."

Conscience-keeper and a man who represented a value system that is rare today. Bashab Sarkar, managing consultant (north), The Media Network, remembers his stint at Clarion in the early eighties where Achin Ganguly was his manager. "Those days I saw him as a very strict man - like a general. Once we were going for a presentation. It was lunch time, and none of the drivers were there. He picked up the keys, drove the whole team himself. Unfortunately, we got stuck in a traffic jam. He knew how difficult it was going to be to get the car out of the jam and reach in time. So we all got out of the car, leaving it in the middle of the road, and marched to Lipton's office to make the presentation in time. He was a man who would never give up."

Nor did he give in. Tapas Gupta, head of Confluence Advertising and one-time colleague, remembers once while returning from ITC after a tough presentation how Ganguli tripped and fell down the stairs of Virginia House (ITC headquarters in Calcutta). "Achin hurt is forehead badly and everybody rushed in to help him up. He was the vice-president then and I was the branch manager at Clarion, Calcutta. I was just one rung below him. Everybody teased me later if I had pushed Achin down the stairs. Achin would always laugh it off. In fact, I can still see it before me how he was laughing on his way to the hospital."

Ganguli was a different person out of office. Pal, who has known him as a friend, says, "The transformation was almost like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde." Bashab remembers that evening in Calcutta, when he went for a movie with his wife. "I went out during the interval to buy ice-creams. When I came back, I saw someone had sent us two ice-creams. I didn't know who it was as the lights had been put off already. But the guy who got the ice-creams handed me this note. 'I will get you back in six months,' it said. It was signed by Achin. I had just left Clarion to join Contract."

Yes, he knew his people and led them from the front. And that was the quality that had endeared him most to his agency head Ranjan Kapoor. "It was his most remarkable quality - he knew how to deal with people. And he led his team in the most admirable way. I also admired the way he handled his family life. And that spoke volumes about his self-discipline. We used to say if a meeting ended early, Achin would take the first flight home."

And that was what he was doing at his ultimate moment. He was in the US to admit his daughter Paulomi to a University there. He met with an accident in a small township, College Station, in Texas. The accident led to a serious brain injury. Ganguli didn't survive the operation next day.

The industry is left poorer by a genuine professional.

© agencyfaqs! 2001

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