afaqs! news bureau

In remembrance: Ranjan Kapur

The advertising industry lost a veteran when Ranjan Kapur, chairman, WPP India and ex-managing director, Ogilvy India, passed away two days back. A look at his career, one that touched many.

Ranjan Kapur, whose recent and sudden demise has left the Indian advertising industry, WPP in particular, in shock, spent over 50 years of his life in this field. He was 75. He was born in Lahore in 1942.

Kapur was named managing director of Ogilvy India in 1994; he had just returned to India after a stint at Ogilvy Singapore, one of many global offices he worked at during his time at the agency. In fact, it was during his time at the helm of affairs that Ogilvy India became the creative powerhouse it is today. Many an Ogilvy hand credit Ogilvy -and Piyush Pandey's- swerve towards 'Hinglish' advertising copy to Kapur.

In remembrance: Ranjan Kapur
Ranjan Kapur

In 2004, Kapur was appointed country manager of WPP, a role that required him to play 'group ambassador' for WPP's interests in India. He succeeded the late Shunu Sen (marketing guru). “It is a WPP ambassador's job, which will help me stay connected with the business, and keep me alive and kicking and in tune with the times and the industry,” Kapur, who will be remembered for his sense of humour among other things, had said to afaqs!, at the time, “What is nice about it is that it is not a nine-to-five job. It is a part-time responsibility, which allows me to write, paint and enjoy my twilight zone. After calling it quits after forty years of hard work, the last thing I want to do is commit myself to work one hundred per cent. Yes, it is going to be a full-time thing mentally and I will be busy, but I will still have time for myself.” At the time, Kapur was also on Ogilvy's Asia-Pacific 'steering committee' that looked into the agency network's subsidiaries in the region.

To quote him some more from our 2004 article: "It is not a front-end job. The brief is not to oversee operations, but to make sure there is continuous cooperation between WPP units. The idea is to harness efficiencies of scale, and help in identifying new markets and business prospects for the group. I shall also be providing assistance and counsel to the various WPP companies as and when necessary, and more importantly, as and when I am asked for it. My role in my involvement with any of the WPP units will be more in the capacity of a consultant, if I may use that word,” Kapur had said about his role.

In 2012, Kapur took to the helm of Bates India as chairman, at a time when the agency was grappling with tough times and several top level resignations. He had stated at the time, “In India, there is far too much emphasis on traditional advertising to provide brand solutions and drive growth. This is misleading. Bates has developed an exciting new 'changengage' philosophy that helps provide solutions that are both media and discipline neutral, and it has through the line capability and resources to deliver them.”

Kapur had a master's degree in Arts (English) from Delhi University (St. Stephen's College) and a degree in Advanced Advertising Studies from the Advertising Agencies Association of America.

In 2008, Kapur received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) for his outstanding contribution to the advertising industry. As reported in our 2008 article on the award, Kapur started his career in 1965 when he joined SH Benson (which later became O&M) as an intern; (the story of how this happened is nothing short of a movie scene: 'One day in 1966 while Ranjan Kapur was walking in midtown Manhattan, a black limo pulled up alongside. A man he instantly recognised as advertising icon David Ogilvy, founder of the agency where Kapur had recently been hired, stepped out and greeted him by name. The two men proceeded to have an hour-long discussion driving around the city. Young Kapur had just joined the firm Ogilvy & Mather after a brief stint at Citibank, where he’d decided he needed a more creative career. His conversation with (Mr.) Ogilvy confirmed that he’d made the right decision,' reports Forbes, in a 2016 article.)

The agency, our 2008 article goes on to say, was headed by expats at the time, and when they left, the vacant positions were taken up by young talented professionals, among them Kapur. He was promoted to a senior position and even became a member of the board. In the same story, Kapur was quoted saying, “The high point in my career was when I left Citibank (New York) to join the advertising industry. Back then, advertising wasn't a respected career choice. Now, advertising is the only industry besides banking that is a net exporter of talent.” In the same article, he also said, "I am very proud that the advertising industry has grown up on its own. It is an industry ruled by Indians and made for Indians. I have resided in many countries and come to realise that Indians have the most creative minds."

In recent times Kapur played an active role in taking WPP's CSR efforts forward and was also involved with the ISDI WPP School of Communication. ISDI is an acronym for Indian School of Design and Innovation.

Recall that last October, CVL Srinivas, chief executive officer of GroupM, South Asia, took over from Kapur as country manager, WPP India.

There's no doubt about the popular belief that the death of this banker-turned-advertising doyen marks the end of an era in Indian advertising.

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