Profile: Rajesh Bhargava: The Workaholic

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | December 15, 2011
The first thing that strikes you about Rajesh Bhargava, the recently-appointed general manager, studio and production, Dentsu Marcom, is his spectacular salt-and-pepper walrus moustache.

Probe a bit and he gets talking about it. After an accident that cost him his front teeth, and a bad cut on the upper lip, he was unable to shave for more than a month. The moustache has stayed since.

For Bhargava, production was an obvious choice after a diploma in printing technology from Northern Regional Institute of Printing Technology, Allahabad, with a specialisation in offset printing. He opted for this course to prepare himself for the family business Caxton Press, set up by his grandfather along with his brothers.

"Caxton Press was a known name in the printing industry at the time. But, by the time I finished college, there was a split in the family business." Bhargava was not interested in taking over the "fraction of outdated equipment" his father inherited.

Bhargava began his 30-year-old career with Clarion Advertising (now, Bates). He got into Clarion to understand newer technologies and adapt them to his father's business. But, once inside the ad world, Bhargava found he couldn't get out.

"With the advent of desktop computers came the digitisation of agency studios. My quest for new technologies led me to set up the studio at Contract Advertising. Ours was among the first few agencies to send digital artworks to publications," he recalls.

Despite being an early adopter of technology, Bhargava fears it is doing more harm than good. Pre-digital days seem better. "With half-baked knowledge of technology the standard of production has deteriorated so much that black-and-white ads are sent to press with CMYK/RGB images instead of grey scale pictures," he reflects.

Bhargava's stint at Clarion was followed by Contract Advertising, where he was for almost 20 years. Thereafter, he shifted to JWT, Delhi, as associate vice-president, art and production, followed by his most recent role with Wieden+Kennedy.

Bhargava knows that production is just a support department for an ad agency, but it is the love for printing that has kept him in the business for so long. "I believe that with every piece of work --even a re-print for that matter --I get to learn something new, leaving no scope for a dull moment," he explains.

Bhargava's turning point came when in 1985, he moved from Clarion to Contract. At Contract, he graduated from being the junior-most in the department to get independent charge. It was here that he got a chance to rub shoulders with industry bigwigs.

But, production comes with its own pangs. "The worst part of being in the production department is that you are the last in the chain of events in an industry that knows no tomorrow. You cannot carry your work to the next day, and then there are the last minute rush jobs that just hit you from nowhere on Friday evenings. It is challenging alright, but at the same time, affects your personal life," he says.

Bhargava left his last job at Wieden+Kennedy, India, as head, production services since he missed the work pressure that he had got used to at JWT and Contract. He, however, bemoans the lack of formal training in production across the board. "The print industry these days is not growing, but agencies still need people in the studio to create artworks. Sadly, there are no institutes that impart such training." That's the lament of an out-and-out production man.

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