Defining Moments: Anooj Kapoor: Following his heart

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | October 25, 2012
Anooj Kapoor, executive vice-president and business head, SAB TV, who has always believed in following his heart, looks back at a few key moments in his career.

After finishing Masters in English Literature, I did not see a clear career path that an MA in English could give, apart from becoming a professor. It was not exciting at all. Instead, I chose to do an MBA (1989-1991) from S P Jain Institute of Management & Research primarily because I've always had an entrepreneurial streak in me and also because I thought it would give me a definite career wherein whatever I had learnt from literature could be utilized in terms of consumer insights. It was during my MBA that I got a pre-placement offer from Colgate Palmolive. I joined as a management trainee and went on to become the product manager. It was then that I realised that there was a definite career in creative when it came to advertising.

Anooj Kapoor

How? Well, what would usually happen is that, the agency (for Colgate) would write ads and send them to me and I would write better ads and send them back. Finally, the agency got frustrated and one day asked me to shift to the 'other' side. I was totally psyched by the offer but I made the switch. I joined HTA (now JWT) as a copywriter. It was not an easy pick as I was writing copy at 50 per cent of the salary that I was drawing as product manager. And I was already married with a kid, after all! But it was a defining moment.

Aha! an ad-filmmaker

All said and done, the role of a copywriter was restricted to only ideating and writing. Now, since I had directed plays in school and college, I would get a little frustrated with the kind of audio visuals produced because, many times, the ad-film directors would not explain the nuances of acting to the actors. I saw another opportunity for myself. I understood writing and performances. I decided to quit Lintas (after three years) and set up my own advertising production house called Creative Compass in 1999. I ran it fairly successfully for three years since advertisers found me a one-stop shop - I wrote the script, made it in a limited budget and delivered it.

The 22-minute canvas

In 2000, I was offered a job to write and direct a sitcom by an acquaintance, Kishen Bhutani, who was a famous voiceover artist in radio and advertising. Here was an opportunity to express my creativity on a 22-minute canvas. So, I took it up, wrote and directed the sitcom, Chonch Ladi Re Chonch. I realised how much more flexibility, freedom and fun there is in television compared to advertising.

I joined UTV Television as head of its comedy cell in 2004. The company was doing fairly well and there I steered Shararat, the magic comedy on Star Plus. Finally, the literature bug in me caught up once again after the copywriting stint. I decided to focus on writing and for a couple of years, I only wrote a lot for television shows in India and Indonesia.

As I was doing this, the business head offer at SAB TV came to me in 2007. The reason why MSM (the owners of SAB TV) wanted me was simple - I had done hardcore FMCG marketing for Colgate, had been a copywriter and an ad-film maker. Also, because I had run my own production house, I understood the intricate costing structure while shooting an ad. The third department was programming.

SAB TV was a wonderful opportunity to harness everything that I had done in the last 20 years and enjoy the 360-degree experience. The reason that I could exactly manage with far lower budgets compared to the GECs - or create a new genre within comedy and yet make a business success of it - is because of my hands-on experience across departments.

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