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Profile - Raj Nair: "If not now, then when?"

BMB India's chief creative officer, Raj Nair takes afaqs! through his advertising journey.

Enter Raj Nair's office and you cannot miss a bright blue door with a metallic '16' and a knocker, propped up against the wall. Explains Nair, "This door is a gift from BMB's London office".

Apparently, it is a tradition and signifies the door of creativity. Nair is no stranger to creativity. The mind behind many a successful campaign has now taken the task of strengthening BMB in India.

Raj Nair

Nair, who grew up in a family of doctors and lawyers, was labelled a black sheep early on. He did his schooling from St Xavier' s School in Kolkata. It was here that Nair discovered a flair for writing. "My class teacher Thomas Vianna had given us an essay assignment and that is when he realized that I could write."

Nair went on to pursue graduation in commerce from Bhawanipur Education Society College in Kolkata. Along with studies, he took up a part-time job in the purchase department of National Plywood. He had his first brush with advertising here. "One day, I saw a storyboard attached to a bill. It was by Ulka and it intrigued me. The person who came to collect the bill suggested I come and meet the creative director, but nothing came out of the meeting."

Around this time, Nair' s parents moved to Kerala and he followed suit. In 1989, Nair got his first job in advertising when he joined a small agency in Kochi named SpaceAd. But he was not content and moved to Mumbai. In Mumbai, he joined an agency called Dart, which had clients such as Eagle Flask and Jay Soaps amongst others.

"At Dart, I became the jack of all trades. I did accounting along with writing ads," recalls Nair. He then moved on for a short stint at JWT and continued with the agency till mid-1993. He got the chance of working on his first TVC for Ceat Tyres, directed by Prahlad Kakkar and went on to win many awards too.

But Nair still had the feeling that something was amiss and that things were not really working out the way he wanted. It was then that he decided to join the ' hottest agency' of the time, Enterprise, run by ad veteran Mohammed Khan. "My parents couldn' t understand why I would leave a reputed agency and join one that was much smaller in size."

With Khan, Nair learned the importance of how substance matched with style makes for compelling communication. He worked on clients such as the Leela Group, Standard Chartered and Lakme. In 1995, Nair moved from Enterprise to join Contract, where he continued for 17 years. Ask him about his experience and Nair says, "Life at Contract has been a long, eventful ride. I did some of my most favourite work here - Cadbury' s Lonely Ma ad or Halls railway station commercial. The team was amazing. Ravi (Deshpande) and Umesh (Shrikhande) were great colleagues and together we did some lovely work. I went on to become the regional creative director."

At Contract, Nair headed the Mumbai and South operations and was instrumental in setting up the South offices. Prod him about why he moved after 17 years and he says, "I felt it was time to take a status check. And when this (BMB) opportunity came my way, I asked myself, if not now, when?"

Describing his current role as the chief creative officer, Nair says, "It' s almost entrepreneurial." An avid fan of music and books, Nair quips, "My mantra to succeed is never get complacent and strive to stay relevant." A sharp, witty and determined person, he quotes the title of a book by Paul Arden that he is reading: 'It' s Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be'.

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