Sarang Wahal, 41, senior vice president, and account management head of the Vodafone business at Ogilvy India, is no more. He passed away on August 10 after a sudden illness and is survived by his mother, wife and two daughters.
Wahal started his advertising career around 18 years back. Before joining Ogilvy, some of the other agencies he worked at include Rediffusion, Lowe Lintas and Phoenix Advertising.
The 'about me' section on his online pages reads: 'It's great to be alive. I am a geek at heart who instinctively loves challenges. I started as a software professional and switched to advertising. Successfully managed global brands such as Vodafone, Motorola, Sprite, Yahoo, Canon & LG by delivering effective & awarded work.'
According to Rajiv Rao, national creative director, Ogilvy India, and creative head of the Vodafone account, Wahal understood the brand very well. "He was great at his job. Moving to Mumbai to work on the Vodafone business was a change for him but he adapted in no time."
Rao adds about his dear friend, "Sarang was a very happy person. He was a people's guy; one never had a fight or conflict of any sort with him... everybody loved Sarang. There was nothing 'hidden' about him; he was very straightforward. And he had a great sense of humour. He would have a 'joke of the day' for everyone. That would really make our day and lighten up the work environment."
He makes special mention of Wahal's calm demeanor. "Sarang would never lose his cool, not even under pressure. He always had things under control. This made him the easiest guy to work with. We will miss him," he says.
Even for Lloyd Mathias, chief marketing officer, Hewlett-Packard India, Wahal's most memorable quality is his "even temperament," a trait he encountered while working with him during his Motorola days, during 2006-09. "Sarang was a wonderful and warm human being. The one word that describes him best is 'genial'. He was very pleasant, was always cool and composed, and never flared up. He was someone you didn't feel guilty about calling up late in the evening."
On the work front, Mathias says, "Oh, he was remarkable. He always made deep points. He never tried to 'sell creative' to us; it was clear that he was there to work on a positive solution for the brand. Client servicing professionals with such creative conviction go a long way..."
Ajay Gahlaut, executive creative director, Ogilvy, recalls the way Wahal treated his team members. "His juniors worshipped him. He took care of them. For example, he'd tell them to leave if they sat back in office too late into the evenings ... he'd understand the human side of things," he says, before going on to share his sweetest memory of Wahal, from 2009.
"It was in South Africa. Sprite, our client, as a gesture of appreciation for good work done, sent some of us to watch some of the IPL cricket matches there. What a beautiful trip it was! Sarang organised our travel within the country and looked after everyone. I remember he really wanted to sky dive on this trip, but the weather didn't permit it," he shares about his colleague, who, we learn, was also known for his culinary skills.
Kapil Arora, president and branch head, Ogilvy Delhi, at a recently held prayer meeting for Wahal, made a speech about his colleague-turned-friend. Part of it went: "When Sarang was around, good cheer was a guarantee. Whether it was a family gathering or a work-related one, he had us all rolling in the aisles with his disarming sense of humour. And he was never one to be scared of the consequences of honesty. I know that having to lie - even casually - deeply troubled him."
In conversation with afaqs!, Arora adds, "Sarang could diffuse any tense or difficult situation with his 'easy style'; this made him a good leader. People felt positive around him. He had a zest for life. He lived for the day. As for the days he lived... Sarang would have no regrets."