Profile: Subhas Warrier: The wanderer

By Nisha Menon , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising
Last updated : July 09, 2012
Subhas Warrier, who recently took over as the executive vice-president and head, South at Initiative takes afaqs! through the twist and turns in his life.

'Samvo Manámsi Jnánatam' (Together, with our minds, may we understand) - Rig Veda

"This quote from the Rig Veda is my inspiration," avers Subhas Warrier and this is probably what will help him fulfil his mandate at Initiative.

Subhas Warrier

"We moved to Mumbai from Kerala in the '60s when my father came to the city to pursue his dreams. We lived in a typical 'small' house in Santa Cruz. I specify 'small' because in my view, middle class is a term that has been overused," says Warrier.

His first taste of independent life came when his father moved to Dubai and he headed to a boarding school in Mumbai. "That is where I understood what independence is all about," he says.

Warrier later joined his family in Dubai to finish his schooling. He returned to India to pursue a bachelor's degree in physics from Calicut, Kerala.

After graduation, Warrier returned to Mumbai in 1983, taking up his first job at Auto-Dialers and Directory as a salesman. "This was my first experience in hard selling," he says.

Thanks to his friends and grand uncle, whose expertise in literature resulted in long conversations about literature, art and films, Warrier soon developed an interest for advertising. A friend's library membership gave him the first lesson on advertising with the book Confessions of an Ad Man.

Warrier's first 'proper' advertising job was as an account executive at Clea Advertising that he bagged at a friend's reference. After a short stint, he moved to media planning and buying in 1987 at Oster Ads in Dubai. "Oster Ads was a well-kept secret as no one knew about the agency though it worked with some of the biggest brands. I worked on brands like Emirates, British Petroleum and Sensodyne, which helped me develop my advertising knowledge. As a budding media planner, this was the best opportunity, being exposed to Europe and Asia in good measure."

After spending six years at Oster, Warrier returned to India in 1993 to join HTA (now JWT) in Chennai as media planning supervisor. He moved to Ogilvy Bangalore in 1994 as group head and within a year was promoted to head Chennai, where his specific mandate was to direct the Ponds skincare business. "I built my reputation as an aggressive media professional here along with winning new accounts," he says.

Warrier decided to move on in 2000, when the Ponds business was consolidated and shifted to Mumbai. A true wanderer at heart, he joined Mindshare in Jakarta as general manager, handling Unilever. He headed to Dubai once again in 2002 for a short stint at Mindshare as director on the Unilever account, handling deodorant, oral, skincare and food segments.

In 2004, Warrier tested his entrepreneurial skills and launched his own venture. Alongside, he took up an assignment with Air Arabia as media director.

He wound up the venture and joined a local media firm, Zaman Marketing Consultancy, as media director. Warrier started yet another venture, Eye-2-Eye Media, in association with Zaman in 2007.
Warrier moved back to India in 2010 and joined Denstu Media as vice-president heading Mumbai.

Ask Warrier where he sees himself a few years down the line, and he shrugs, "Writing a book or may be farming near Coorg. One cannot plan life."

Having been taught Carnatic music by his mother as a child, he wishes to take it up again: "Age should not be a limit. Music is something I love. And I would love to explore Carnatic music again."

First Published : July 09, 2012
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