Remains of the day

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | February 24, 2014
In his third book, Konjo - Fighting Spirit, Sandeep Goyal narrates how he won the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu to form a joint venture with him and his seven year stint at the agency in great detail, padded with interesting anecdotes.

After penning a self-help book along with his daughter Carol last year, Sandeep Goyal, the man responsible for getting Japanese agency Dentsu to India, has kick-started 2014 with this third book, Konjo - Fighting Spirit.


Sandeep Goyal

The 298-page book published by Collins Business chronicles Goyal's roller-coaster journey in setting up Dentsu India, making it a Rs 1200 crore entity and adding non-aligned clients to the agency's portfolio.

Konjo is the Japanese word for 'fighting spirit'. "It is a combination of willpower, guts, grit, determination, great stamina, courage, fortitude, perseverance and tenacity in the face of physical hardship, pain or even death," the book mentions.

A sequel to his first book The Dum Dum Bullet, which was released by Penguin in 2004, Goyal says Konjo is the story of his second innings, between 2003 and 2011. The book describes in detail Goyal's state of mind after quitting Zee Telefilms, his diligently pursuing the joint venture (JV) with Dentsu, forming some side business while waiting for the Japanese advertising giant to make up its mind, growing the agency in seven years and exiting the business.

"In many ways this is a unique story in the advertising world of a professional manager turning entrepreneur, creating value in the enterprise and personal wealth for himself. I thought it was a story worth telling. Hence, Konjo," says Goyal, who took six months to finish the book.

Considering he has already written two books earlier, Konjo would have been an easier feat to achieve? Goyal reveals, "I had written The Dum Dum Bullet entirely in long hand. With Konjo, I graduated to single-finger typing; 80,000 words of that is not easy!"

In the book, he describes the challenge he faced in dealing with technology. This becomes evident when he narrates his first JV meeting with the Dentsu team at the Tokyo office, where he requested IT support to operate the CD he had brought for presentation.

However, Goyal adds that putting down the experiences was "easy, and fun". "Nostalgia does slow you down sometimes especially the story of the initial struggle and frustration in chasing Dentsu when there were a fair number of other suitors who had queued up. Reliving that still gives me goose pimples. Yet, some of those moments were rewarding and personally fulfilling," he notes.

Three years since bidding Dentsu goodbye, it's amazing how Goyal has been able to give out detailed anecdotes of incidents that took place during his stint at the agency. According to Goyal, he relied on memory as well as speaking to people during his time there. "A lot of my old Japanese colleagues chipped in with stories and anecdotes that had recessed from active memory. Also, some of the usage of Japanese words and phrases required validation. So, while the body of work is my creation, the embellishments and foot-notes have many times come from a dozen old friends, clients and associates," he says.

Speaking of detailed anecdotes, the book boldly mentions names of agencies and their heads, who in initial days tried to woo Dentsu for a potential buy-out. It even talks about Dentsu's Japanese expats in India as well as the agency's Tokyo management. "My narration is a mere statement of facts, no less, no more. People mentioned in the book are real. The events are real. So the narrative as part of the book is real," he clarifies.

Some of the high moments that Goyal, who describes himself as a Punjabi go-getter, remembers in the book include signing Dentsu as a partner for India, beating out large, established competitors, winning Sony Ericsson as the agency's first non-Japanese client, 'Sir uttha ke jiyo' campaign for HDFC Life, the Rs 500 crore Sony-Dentsu World Cup deal in 2006-07, Toyota Greenathon on NDTV with Prannoy Roy, opening Dentsu Dubai and creating Aircel's '1411 Tigers Left' campaign.

Having achieved so much for the agency, letting go of the agency he helped build wasn't easy. In the epilogue, Goyal mentions how he never looked back - "I have never looked back. I don't really miss Dentsu. I just moved on. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. There is no other way."

How did he deal with the situation? Goyal says it takes a lot of effort to move on. "I filled up my mind and my life with a lot many more new things, which I had not done in a long time: coaching my daughter to get to a professional course; spending time with my parents; travelling; enrolling for a PhD; writing books; launching new ventures; raising a substantial amount of private equity. I just got myself a new life with new ambitions, new challenges and new highs."

Goyal's advice to others is that when people start living in the here-and-now, they enjoy the new reality. "Taking old parents out for a Sunday brunch in the bright Chandigarh sun on a winter afternoon can bring your troubled blood-pressure down a few notches. That is the life that you now value, more so because you earlier spared neither time nor emotion for it," he observes.

And, weaning yourself from the company, Goyal points out, is actually much easier than reinventing your life. "True, I built the company with my blood, sweat and tears. But the company is eventually a badge you wear both physically, and in your mind. You just have to peel off the badge. It is somewhat like graduating from school. Lots of good memories, lots of old friends but life has to move on," he says.

Interestingly, the book has a wide target readership, as it is intended primarily for anyone who wants to engage in business with the Japanese. This might include advertising and media professionals, entrepreneurs or even students of business, management and communication.

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