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Defining Moments: Shripad Kulkarni: Stats Wiz

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Planning & Buying | May 21, 2012
Shripad Kulkarni, CEO, Allied Media, uses his right brain and left brain equally in his career. The avid chess player and swimmer takes afaqs! through the defining moments of his 27-year-long media career.

After dabbling in several odd jobs between Masters in Statistics from Mumbai University (in 1981) and pursuing an MBA from JBIMS and a course from the Operational Research Society of India, I desperately started searching for a new job.

Shripad Kulkarni

This was when I chanced upon a half-page advertisement in Business India, in 1985. It was an ad by Contract Advertising that read 'Required Media Planner'. I didn't know what that even meant but the credentials they required (such as the knowledge of statistics, econometrics) fit my CV to the 'T'. I went to the British Council Library, picked up Simon Broadbent's book on media planning and tried making some sense of it. I was in two minds but typed out my CV anyway. I hand delivered it to Deepak Raja, the then media director of Contract Advertising. By the time I went back home, Raja had sent me a telegram asking me to join. This was my first defining moment.

An idea called M:Ideas

The second defining moment of my life was when I started my own media consulting and training company called M:Ideas in 1992. It gave me a holistic perspective of the industry and taught me that you can't just be an armchair planner and talk to sales people as if you're God!

I also realised that in their own way people working in smaller outfits are more successful than so many CEOs of large MNCs. I learnt both the client perspective as well as the media perspective of things. I learnt to be neutral. In the hindsight, I consider myself very tough mentally to have taken the decision to launch M:Ideas as it required me to leave a cushy job at Contract.

A book that has structured the foundation of my life philosophy is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Reading it during my M:Ideas days was my third defining moment. It formed my life construct and taught me that there is no end to learning. I also learnt that there is one critical base level that one needs to achieve - after passing this you're on your own and don't need a 'light force' any longer.

Establishing connect with my wife Keerti was another defining moment. She holds a Masters degree in English Literature and is also from the media industry. She is a clear thinker - unlike me - and I've learnt clarity of thought from her. She can read people much better than I can and has taught me how to look at a single situation from different perspectives. Her influence has helped me tremendously in my professional life.

Baptism by fire

Another big defining moment for me happened when I joined Carat Integra as CEO in 2003. It was my baptism by fire in corporate life after 10 years of doing things at my own pace. Besides, I entered Carat when there was panic all around. The previous CEO, Meenakshi Madhvani, had quit and the top two clients had sacked the agency. I was in the throes of a political turmoil, too. This comeback made me stronger and taught me the virtues of patience and perseverance, and now I have learnt how to think straight in an emergency.

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