Bajaj Electricals lost its 41 year old joint MD last week. The head of the brand's creative agency pens a memoir.
Once I had gone for a work lunch with Anant and he made an impromptu plan to go visit art galleries. We both cancelled all our engagements for the afternoon and spent it relishing art. He was the managing director of a Rs. 5,000 crore company who obviously had many pressing things to attend to. But at the end of the afternoon as we were heading back he said, "Now that was an afternoon well spent."
If there's one word to describe Anant, it would be Maverick. There was nothing conventional about him. Meetings with Anant were events which we would always look forward to. They were never run-of-the-mill. He had his own unique perspective. He would crack jokes and make puns. He used to call me an "online editor", because I used to often make impromptu changes to scripts. If he did not like a particular campaign he would quip "This is not Onads work, did you get some other agency to work on it?"
My first interaction with Anant was when we had pitched for Bajaj Electricals' 75 year campaign, six years back. We immediately hit it off with our common admiration for Apple products.
Anant would not give a measured response to ideas. He would instantly like or dislike an idea. There was no hard selling with him. He had realised that I always presented the ideas that I was most convinced about last. So once while I was presenting ideas, he refused to see or even listen to the first two campaigns. He said "Just go to the last campaign, because I know that is the best". And of course, he approved the last campaign that we presented. If he was convinced about an idea, he would convince his team about it on our behalf.
He was always very punctual, always on time or before time. Most of our meetings were in the morning and it was quite normal for our meetings to start 15 or 20 minutes before the scheduled time.
He hated smoking. If he smelt smoke on the clothes of even a junior copywriter in my team, we knew that he would spend the next 15 minutes explaining the ill effects of smoking to that young chap.
Anant was a futurist and one could have long discussions with him on technologies of the future. In fact, you could have a discussion on almost any topic as he loved trivia.
He loved his music. He had deep knowledge about world music and would often help me discover new music. And yet, on a flight back from London one time we sang old Hindi songs for two hours. He used to always take pride in everything Indian and regale any achievement by an Indian.
He was very passionate about Bajaj Electricals and would often elaborate animatedly his dreams for the company. He was prepared to be radical and bold. He brought about many transformative changes in the company.
His marketing was reflective of his beliefs. Supporting the Indian Kabaddi League right from its inception, even before it gained prominence, and sponsoring events like the Kala Ghoda Festival and the Pink Marathon, were all reflective of Anant's passion for all things Indian, of his deep interest in art and music, and of his thoughts on the subject of empowerment of women.
He really enjoyed his food, be it having a vada pav and bhajiya at the shoot or having Mediterranean food in London. Once over dinner, after patiently listening to me having an intense and long discussion with someone at the table about how the world is going to change sooner than we think, he said, "Right now you should just enjoy your dinner. The world is not going to change tomorrow itself."
He was very humble and simple in his ways. Graceful and kind to the people around. He was just too young, ambitious and driven. He should have been chasing his dreams right now. But fate has been very cruel in taking him away, as it did, right in the middle of his dreams. I can't think of more apt words than those from Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind':
'Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did.'
RIP Anant. In a world where genuine people are rare, you will be truly missed.
(The author is founder, Onads Communications, an advertising agency that has handled the Bajaj Electricals account for six years - 2012 to date).