In the '80s, advertising was not top-of-mind when one viewed career options. However, that wasn't the case with Swati Bhattacharya. With a mother who was a public relations officer, and a father who worked with the Indian Newspapers Society (INS), Bhattacharya was no stranger to the world of advertising.
However, destiny had something else planned. While on a holiday in Mumbai, she appeared for a copy test at Trikaya. She surprised herself by clearing it. "At the time, to pass a Trikaya copy test was like clearing the IIM entrance exams. So here I was, the only girl with a Mass Communication background to join the agency," remarks Bhattacharya.
After three months at Trikaya, Bhattacharya returned to Delhi and joined JWT. "I met Denis Joseph (the former national creative director), who said that he didn't 'test' people who were hired by Trikaya," she adds.
For Bhattacharya, it was a dream start. "Just a month into the job, I was on a plane, and then, living at Prahlad Kakar's house, where we worked on all the 'It's different' commercials for Maggi ketchup with Pankaj Kapur and Jaaved Jaffrey." Calling it a dramatic start for a trainee, she feels that JWT provided her with the opportunity to create partnerships with various creative heads such as Kakar, Nomita Roy Ghose, and Subir Chatterjee. Within four years, Bhattacharya became a lone ranger who would travel from one office to another, working on various projects.
And, then came the big change in her personal life. In 2000, she became a mother and she decided to take a break. Returning to work in 2001, she was given the sole responsibility to handle GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) health drink Horlicks. "On my return, I was apprehensive to manage people since before that I had mainly worked on projects," she says. GSK, at that time, was on an expansion spree and Horlicks, from one bottle, went on to have a complete range, right from toddlers and children, to women and even instant noodles (Foodles). At the same time, she was given the charge of Thompson Social (JWT's CSR arm). "It was during this time that I overcame the fear of managing people and became a team player," Bhattacharya notes. In 2006, she was made executive creative director of the branch.
How does Bhattacharya view her career graph? "I had never looked at my career in terms of designations. It has always been about the kind of brands I have worked on," she elaborates. The last four-five years have brought a different kind of change in her style of working. After working on many women-oriented brands, she started to enjoy the relationship she shared with women. "It was quietly reflected in my work," she reveals.
Bhattacharya's mandate at JWT includes Airtel, apart from Horlicks. Calling it 'her little payback time' at the agency, she wants young people to discover what she did during her journey at JWT. She is also excited about Bobby Pawar taking over as chief creative officer. In this mad world of advertising, it is important to get motivated from time to time, believes Bhattacharya. "The last time we had a creative head was Agnello Dias (Aggie), and now, after a long gap, we will have Pawar," she concludes.