Ashwini Gangal
Defining Moments

Defining Moments: Rajiv Agarwal: "I'm a terrible business manager, but an inspiring leader!"

Rajiv Agarwal, director of the recently revamped advertising agency Nexus Equity, speaks to afaqs! about the key developments that paved the way to the present.

The biggest defining moment in my professional life has been my first job at Rediffusion back in 1979 that lasted for three years. I was 23 years old, and those were the agency's greatest days.

I didn't know a bunch of such brilliant people could exist in one agency. Remarkably, there was a functional hierarchy, but not a social one. Diwan Arun Nanda headed the agency and we could just walk into his cabin. It was special because I was like an immature rookie, but still spent many evenings drinking rum with this gang.

Defining Moments: Rajiv Agarwal: "I'm a terrible business manager, but an inspiring leader!"
The professionals there stood up firmly for what they believed in, and I, too, spoke my mind. My attitude towards advertising was shaped at Rediffusion, and this experience helped me decide what good advertising is. You usually imbibe from those around you and mix that with your own sensibilities and come up with a worldview. This is exactly what happened to me at the agency. I learnt what a good relationship between a client and an agency was.

Entrepreneurial Calling

I started an agency (Enterprise) in 1983 with Mohammed Khan. We began with a couple of clients. I left Enterprise two-and-a-half years later, and started Nexus Advertising with Arun Kale and David Innis. Both events were milestones except that I worked harder for Nexus because we started without businesses, and especially since we didn't have Khan's genius backing us. The events were significant since all this while I was an employee and suddenly I turned into a businessman. A lot of things were taken care of. But as an entrepreneur, you suddenly had to make everything happen -- from stationery, to running after businesses, and getting the team to work together. This was also significant as being a businessman was never part of my plan; it just happened.

An important lesson learnt was that in an organisation, especially a start-up, democratisation is for the monkeys since the decision making process is much better when an individual takes the call. In early 1997, we merged the business (Nexus-Equity) with Khan's Enterprise to become Enterprise Nexus. We were the first Indian agency to have a foreign partner (Lowe Group). For the first time in my professional life I was answerable to somebody and managed budgets and targets. I realised then that I am a terrible business manager and more of an inspiring leader.

It's Personal

The recent revival of Nexus Equity was a crucial one for me. I hung up my boots too early and stepped out of advertising prematurely. Though I've missed out on the industry hullabaloo of the past few years, the agency will be well established in the next five years.