Aishwarya Ramesh

"It's adios to advertising": Anil Nair, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi's ex-CEO

Nair's departure from L&K Saatchi & Saatchi comes after nearly 17 years at the company and 26 years in the ad industry. In a conversation with afaqs!, Nair discusses his plans for the future

Moving on from L&K Saatchi and Saatchi may seem like a big move for former CEO Anil S Nair, but according to him, he’s doing exactly what he did 17 years ago – give up a fairly comfortable job and all the perks that come with it, in an attempt to start something new. “I prefer people asking me why, rather than why not,” Nair admitted over a telephonic conversation. He believes this is a time when L&K is quite robust and he personally felt the need to find something more challenging that drives him. He admits that he is a pathetic manager, and that he leans more towards creative thinking.

He also mentions that he is attempting to create something from scratch, something for which the market was not conducive a few years ago. He now wants to pay attention to his motorcycle touring company - Goodwind Moto Tours. He mentions that in India, motorcycles and bikes are seen as a cheap form of commuting but the world over, motorcycling is seen as an activity in itself. "This comes from a place of wanting to do something with my life and really make a difference," he says. Working in advertising, Nair saw plenty of 'save the world' theme campaigns which inspired him to do his bit for society too.

Anil S Nair
Anil S Nair

His platform Goodwind Riding encourages bikers to go on rides and collect money for charitable causes - akin to running marathons to support certain causes. One of the causes he raises money for is the cause of treating cancer in children. "The first time I attempted something like this, I ended up raising a lot of money for the cause. I thought I'd end up helping one child or two, but we eventually helped four. Eventually, in Mumbai, we formed a group of 26-27 bikers who get together to raise money for a good cause. I asked myself how I could monetise this and really sustain this movement. The answer to that was to start a company, the profits from which would contribute towards the cause," he explains.

I thought I'd take my passion for riding, the desire to start a company and the need to make a difference and combine them. That's when I launched Goodwind Moto Tours. It was launched two months ago and we just concluded a tour last week. The second tour is happening in December and there's another one in the last week of January, so it is taking off slowly. The real test will depend on how much of the international community I can involve in the initiative. I am launching the tour calendar in December and I am also announcing the events for the next year.

Also Read: Can you recognise the adman in this picture?

Nair will also play the role of a consultant with a Bengaluru based start-up in the MarTech space. He will not be running the company - that's a job left to the founders. He mentions that he will be playing the role of a mentor and a business development coach. He adds that it is too early to talk about the product itself - since it is in the beta testing stages.

"I would jokingly tell them (the founders) that I used to work with the magic side of marketing - involving creativity but now I'll be working closely with the logic side of marketing - involving numbers, data, and AI. I’m helping build and develop an AI powered platform and we will be going global with it soon. It involves brands that have a hyperlocal presence. Brands can subscribe and come on board, and we will help them be discovered in the digital space, organically. We work with Google. But it's a platform which we hope to give real consumer data to, so that clients can learn and use that data to change and improve their service and product delivery, not just for campaigns," he says.

Nair clarifies that the product is no substitute for advertising because demand creation is something that agencies still have to handle. "These are the two ventures I'm going to focus on, so it's adios advertising for the time being…" he says. Nair also adds later in the conversation that he intends to spend more time with his family and pursue his hobbies.

He points out that the biggest fallacy of running campaigns on major social platforms such as Facebook and Google lies in the measurement process. He adds that there are advantages of using the digital platform as it allows flexibility in running the campaign. “The biggest question when it comes to running digital campaigns is - what part of the money put in has actually been converted into ROI? This is what is being asked in most boardrooms these days, since at least 30-35 per cent of marketing money goes towards digital these days,” he points out.

He adds that he will be a consultant/advisor to the MarTech firm for now, but that he definitely intends to get his hands dirty - literally and figuratively - with Goodwind Moto Tours. “I will get involved in operations because we are three founders, and each of us has certain roles within the startup. We’ll have to get our hands dirty. We love to clean and maintain the bikes in good condition ourselves. Hopefully, one of my partners will take on a more active role beyond riding, and then he will be the CEO…” he says.

We ask him if he had any parting words for the ad industry and without skipping a beat, he replies that it is still one of the most wonderful fields to work in. He talks about the 'hum main hai hero' campaign, which remains close to his heart.

"The most important thing about working with brands is to have that sense of ownership. We fought fiercely for our ideas, ownership and to be the brand's custodian from the creative end..." he says. During the conversation, he mentions that the song composed for the Hero ad became so popular that even if people did not recognise the brand, they could recognise the music and the anthem. "When the protests against corruption, led by Anna Hazare were on at Ramlila Maidan, our song was played. We received widespread recognition and appreciation for this campaign. Though we have won multiple awards at Cannes and other events, this campaign will always be close to my heart..." he signs off.

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