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Profile - Narendra Kumar Alambara: For the love of media

Come back from a meeting with Narendra Kumar Alambara and the image that remains with you is his infectious, childlike smile. The COO of Sovereign Media Marketing - also known as Naresh - is much given to smiling widely and talking softly.

"I am a reticent, easygoing person who enjoys the science of arts. Since I speak less, I tend to listen more, which has helped me get perspectives faster. I believe that, at most times, common sense trumps logic. I have always been analytical and methodical. That frustrates some, but it has helped me have the apt point of view," he shares.

Narendra Kumar Alambara

It was back in 1991, after reading a few copies of Brand Equity and attending a day-long workshop on advertising organised by the Ad Club Coimbatore, that Alambara was attracted to advertising and media. Interestingly, he has worked with three of the five speakers from that conference - Lynn de Souza, Ishan Raina (then with Contract) and Jagannath Ramaswamy.

When Alambara got into the media business, he thought it was all about getting paid to watch TV programmes, reading newspapers and magazines. The reality check followed immediately after. But, the Zoology graduate quickly got into the groove. "I am proof that Zoology can mix in media," he says.

Alambara is also a teacher and collector. He teaches media across colleges and industry forums. An obsessive collector of comics and books during his youth, Alambara moved on to boxed sets of music, criterion edition DVDs and BluRays, and now vinyl editions of classic albums. "I used to have almost every magazine and journal till recently. My wife made me give it up since there was hardly any space in the house," he smiles. More than being a collector, I am a 'completist' - I need to own every film of a director, albums of an artist or books of an author," he explains enthusiastically.

Alambara attended school in Chennai and went to college in Coimbatore. An MBA from BSMED, Bharathiar University, Alambara started his professional journey 18 years ago in account planning with Profad WCA in 1994, before switching to media planning with Lintas, Chennai in 1996. He has also worked with MPG/Euro RSCG for a year as head, South, before helping kick start the Chennai operations of Starcom MediaVest Group in 2005. He played a key role in building up Starcom's Chennai operations from scratch.

So what made him change sides? Alambara explains that it is not so much about changing sides or joining the print industry as much as "looking at the consumer-brand-media relationship from a different perspective. The legacy of the Thanthi Group has now expanded beyond print, with interests in radio, television and digital. I consider it a fantastic opportunity and significant challenge going forward," he says.

One of the key learnings from SMG has been about the importance of the human experience, "whether it is brands seeking consumers or media connecting with its viewers and readers or listeners. It is ultimately about people and what they are, what they like to do and how a brand can be part of their lives. My experience of working across product categories (and therefore different consumer segments) will help me connect the Thanthi Group's brands with its consumers even better and across multiple platforms," he reflects.

According to Alambara, the need to experiment and recommend something fresh is critical for the growth and evolution of the entire industry. "Using multiple platforms to layer the communication to the same audience is going to be ubiquitous from here on," he signs off.

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