Ogilvy's Madhukar Sabnavis pens down a memoir for Ranjan Kapur who passed away a week back.
It wasn’t clicking on first sight. We were quite opposites when we first met. He a ‘jolly, garrulous, Punjabi’ and I a ‘nerdy, diffident, South Indian’. However, in a few interactions, I found a terrific mentor and a very interesting friend. This was way back in 1994 - I was in Bangalore (it was Bangalore then) and he had just returned to India and Bombay (it was Bombay then).
Ranjan was a dreamer and he did it big - just like everything else in life. I envied his ability to envision, to think of a future that was very different from today. But even more fascinating was his ability to make everyone around him believe it was possible.
He was a people’s leader. Whenever he spoke to you, he made you feel important. He made you feel whatever you were doing was most important to him and the company. You were either ‘core business’ or ‘growth business’ or ‘future business’ and so you felt good and inspired. I did many new things I never thought I could under his leadership.
I have never heard him tell me ‘You are wrong’. He had the charming ability to just talk you into a different space and you left the room only after he and you agreed on it. He seemed to build off your ideas and you left feeling it was ‘our idea and solution’.
Every business meeting ended with a few minutes on the work issue and rest talking about life and other things. He was a boss who you had interesting conversations with - not just business.
One personal incident that reflects his leadership and trust in people: I remember my second published piece landed him into trouble with a client. He called me in Bangalore and said ‘Arre yaar, mujhe marva diya’ and after suggesting a solution, I remember him saying ‘Please don’t stop writing because of this. Just run your articles through me before you send for publication’. I owe my prolific writing to him - his constant encouragement and that day when he made sure I didn’t withdraw into a shell because of one unpleasant experience.
I will miss his dreaming and visioning, his painting and sculpturing and above all his little ribs like my ‘weekly striptease’ (a name he coined for my suit on Monday to T-shirt, Friday dressing). I will miss his charming inspiration and energy that he brought along wherever he went or whenever he was present. I still hope he will walk into the room saying ‘Madhukar’ in his inimitable way - a sound I have got used to. I know it’s not going to happen.
God Bless your soul Ranjan. While I will miss you, I guess the heavens have a right to enjoy your energy and charm too!
(Madhukar Sabnavis is vice chairman and director, client relations, Ogilvy India)