V Ramani, vice-chairman and managing director, Ignitee, talks to afaqs! about the highs and lows of his 28-year-old career.
After graduating with a mathematics degree from K J Somaiya, Mumbai, I dabbled in teaching and actuarial sciences at LIC. Stepping into the world of communication was my first defining moment.
In 1982, I went to Lintas through a friend and was selected as media planning executive with a take-home of Rs 690 a month. I worked on several Unilever brands and a learning point was when I conducted market research for the launch of Surf Matic. I traced the regions where there was a demand for washing machines and learnt that in Punjab, washing machines were bought on a large scale for making lassi!
My second defining moment was the start of three rollicking years (1993-96) at Contract Advertising. After I moved from McCann to Ulka, I heard from my ex-Lintas colleague, Ishan Raina who influenced my decision to join Contract. At Contract, there was great chemistry and the four of us, Devika Sharma, Rohit Srivastava and Ravi Deshpande and I formed a nexus.
One interesting account was Philips (audio systems). We found a place for it as trends were changing. Living rooms in upper middle class homes needed a status symbol since the fridge and the television had moved to the kitchen and the bedroom, respectively. Another turning point was when we signed Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador at Rs 50 lakh for three years. We faced resistance, but soon his asking price skyrocketed to Rs 2.5 crore a year and our move turned out right.
During my time at EuroRSCG, in 1999, my clients started investing in the online space. Intel was spending less than one per cent of its budget on the medium, and Dell followed suit. I ran the digital bit. In 2000, Mediaturf was launched (with Neeraj Bhargava and Raina), and within three months, I was running the show.
Digital, then, was like a pond in the ocean of traditional advertising. By 2001, Mediaturf had over 40 per cent of the market share.
A low phase
It was a blast till 2004-05, but after that I went through a low. My absence at Mediaturf (thanks to my work at MPG) triggered greed in the second-in-command. Many people were brainwashed and I was bad-mouthed. Out of 20 key professionals, 17 left (and, started Interactive Avenues). I introspected and found that I had done nothing wrong. Of course, I would be lying if I say I smiled right through it. Fortunately, a few good people like Harminder Kaur (currently, chief strategy officer, Ignitee) helped me fight back. We'd lost 96 per cent of our revenue. No client would trust me. However, I was back on my feet within 23 months.
A recent defining moment is the launch of Ignition, a nine month-long training programme that offers students certification in digital media training. It is special as it takes me back to where I started - teaching.