afaqs! met up with Bipin Pandit, chief operating officer, The Ad Club, who is about to complete 20 years at the organisation.
Bipin Pandit, chief operating officer, The Advertising Club, is a man of several talents. Apart from organising industry events like Goafest, the Effies, Emvies and Marquees, the man also finds time to perform on stage with his band 'Khumaar', is a mimicry artiste and has also written a coffee table book titled 'Khumaar' in 2013.
What's it like to be in charge of something this notorious year after year, especially when the debates and discussions around the very existence of the said something only get hotter each year? We're referring to awards, of course - the thing the industry has had a bitter-sweet, love-hate relationship with for years now. In a 2014 interview with us, Pandit spoke about awards and scams; read it here.
A look at Pandit's journey so far:
Pandit, who joined The Ad Club on March 01 1998, is about to complete 20 years at the organisation. How did he land up at the club in the first place? After completing his M.Com Part I, Pandit did three years of Law from the Mumbai University; but he was always interested in PR, as he believes he is a people-person. So, while Pandit was well into his job in Castrol's IT department as a senior executive (before which he worked at Baroda Rayon Corp for six years as a senior executive), he decided to pursue a Diploma course in Advertising and PR in the hope of getting an internal transfer within the company. But once he completed his course, there was no vacancy. He moved on from the firm ending his 10-year stint. Fortunately for him, The Ad Club had an opening in 1998.
Talking about the shift from Castrol to The Ad Club, Pandit tells afaqs!, "From a multinational to an Ad Club, somewhere, I was quite sure I would do well. I have good organisation skills. I had also organised musical nights for Castrol. So, I knew for sure that I would be doing a decent job. That's the reason I came to The Ad Club."
Remembering the challenges he faced in the initial days, Pandit says, "When I came to The Ad Club, the statutory documentation which was required for the club, wasn't there. Every two years, the committee changes. The 'continuity factor' at The Ad Club secretariat wasn't there. They used to have some military colonels, I don't know why. I think they came and went just as the committee changed. As a result, there was no proper concentration on the procurement of documents. So, I got the Charity Commissioner's certificate and Society Registration certificate... there was also the Shops and Establishment licence."
He tells us that back then The Ad Club wasn't known to be strong on the IT front, something he was in a position to fix, given his IT background. "I got emails and other things in place and computerised everything including the judging process. Today, I can proudly say that we are strong on the automation front," he says.
Talking about his workplace challenges, Pandit says, "I have always had 16 bosses and I haven't worked under anybody who is below the level of CEO, MD or CMO. The format of The Ad Club is such that there are some very senior people involved and then there are committees. At any given point in time, I am handling people with varied temperaments and work styles. Besides my work, managing that is a challenge."
Currently, The Ad Club employs seven people, including Pandit. The team typically gets three to four students on board during award season to help out with the workload.
Underscoring the importance of planning ahead of time, Pandit says, "The industry is such that any event could very well end up being your last event. If you plan the entire show and make a small mistake, there are people to blame you. One can't stop them from bashing us. Every agency that wins is a happy lot. If the same agency loses, they will say something against you. So mentally you have to be prepared for all these things and must be able to take criticism positively."
After spending two decades at The Ad Club, Pandit is well placed to talk about how things have changed over the years. "Initially the pain-point was that the entire process was manual and, therefore, time-consuming. Today the process is less cumbersome." But some things never change: "One very irritating thing is that people who confirm to judge can back out at the last minute," says Pandit.
Do the regular bouts of collective award-bashing bother him? Interestingly, the fact that his outfit is discussed the way it is, is a compliment. "When you do any work you get criticised as well," he says. "One must think positively. I don't find any reason why people should criticise something that doesn't have substance. If you have substance, people will talk about you. To use a 'Bambaiya' word, if you are 'lukha', people won't even look at you."
About agency boycotts, of which there have been several in the recent past, he adds, "It is a decision that an agency takes and you have to respect it. Our job is to move on and think about how best we can make our product big."
Mullen Lowe Lintas Group, 'Agency of the Year' at the Effies in 2015 and 2016, didn't participate this time at the Effies 2018. On the subject, Pandit says, "It is common knowledge that they have done extremely well at the Effies. Which agency that is doing extremely well at a particular event, will back out of it? They've just taken a break for a year. Next year you will see Mullen Lowe Lintas Group come back again in big numbers, with their usual enthusiasm. We have to respect the fact that they have taken a break from all awards."
If it were up to him, Pandit wouldn't let a single agency stay out of the ABBYs. "I want the old times back when The Ad Club office would be flooded with people from agencies. Back then, they'd wait in line to submit their entries physically," he smiles.
Outside The Ad Club, how has Pandit managed to find time for his passion for singing and music? He says, "My bosses at The Ad Club have been very supportive. They encourage me to pursue my talents."
His tryst with the stage began during his Castrol days; he used to compere shows for companies like Larsen & Toubro and other prominent banners. "I have been performing for the last 30 years," he reminds, admitting that is difficult but important to find time for one's passions. "At The Ad Club, my entire year is gone because there are big properties - we prepare for the ABBYs for three months, Effies for three months, EMVIEs for three months and then the Marquees..."
What's next for Pandit? He is keen to take his act overseas. "I want to go abroad and perform. And I won't mind doing a stint as an actor on a television serial," he declares, sounding every bit the performer he is.