Ashwini Gangal

Profile: Tarun Chauhan: "You can take me out of Lowe but you can't take Lowe out of me!"

afaqs! caught up with Tarun Chauhan, managing partner and senior vice-president, JWT Mumbai and discovered a high-achieving yet simple, welcoming and already de-coded man

The door to Tarun Chauhan's office is never shut. And inside sits a people's person with an 'elephantine memory'. Chauhan sees his journey so far as a string of relationships, not a series of jobs. The man, who didn't possess a resume until he joined Lowe Lintas back in 2002, now harbours the responsibility of running JWT's Mumbai outfit, in the capacity of managing partner and senior vice president.

Hailing from a mixed cultural background (Maharashtra and Rajasthan), Chauhan grew up in Hyderabad. After studying management from Osmania University, he started working on - he remembers the precise date - the 6th of May, 1991. "This was a huge date for me: my first day at work," he says.

Profile: Tarun Chauhan: "You can take me out of Lowe but you can't take Lowe out of me!"
The role of trainee at the Hyderabad operations of a Bengaluru-based agency, MAA Bozell, had a dramatic start. "I recall my meeting with the agency's director of finance. I met him at seven in the evening. At that time, there was no power in the office, so we met in candlelight. He said 'I'm going to hire you but come back tomorrow because I don't know what you look like!'" Chauhan laughs. He reminisces that his salary at the time was '850.

At MAA Bozell, Chauhan handled brands such as Coromandel Fertilizers, Bakelite Hylam and Raasi Cements. "Working in an advertising agency in those days was fabulous as you got to do everything - from production, planning and media work to account management. My induction into the business was superb," he shares.

Chauhan was with MAA Bozell till 1994. Before quitting, he moved to Bengaluru for a year where he served as accounts supervisor and headed a department called the integrated services group. After quitting, Chauhan met Srinivas Balram from Mudra Ahmedabad. Ten minutes into their meeting, Chauhan was asked the question 'When can you move to Ahmedabad?' He grabbed the opportunity, albeit clueless about the location of this strange land. "I didn't even know Ahmedabad was somewhere in Western India!" he exclaims.

Chauhan spent a year in Mudra Ahmedabad. "This was in 1995," he recalls. Here, Chauhan was involved with the launch of Core Healthcare and worked on several others including Symphony Air Coolers, Cera Sanitaryware and Glycodin (an Alembic product).

Around 1997 he went back to Hyderabad to join Saatchi & Saatchi's Hyderabad operation and spent around two years here. "At Saatchi, we launched Tata Cellular from scratch. This was during the transition of mobile telephony in India," he smiles.

In 1997, he moved to Mumbai to join JWT. Here, he set up Thompson Connect and worked closely with the late Anil Bhatia. "I had no clue who he was when I came to Mumbai. After meeting him, I realised he was God," he exclaims. Here he worked with brands such as Air India, Glaxo, Johnnie Walker and Hindustan Petroleum.

In the early 2000s, Chauhan had a brief stint at Leo Burnett. "Then, Lowe Lintas happened," he says with an air of finality. Chauhan was at Lowe for over nine years. During what he calls his 'dream run' at Lowe, he worked with brands such as Idea Cellular, VIP, Bajaj and the Tata Group (Tata Tea and Tata Croma).

What was his most memorable experience at Lowe? "Working with Balki, a walking institution!" he answers. He joined Lowe in 2002 as vice president and left the agency earlier this year as president. He remarks that one can take him out of Lowe but can never take Lowe out of him.

Prior to 1991, Chauhan was a 'fairly decent' player. "Cricket taught me to be humble, simple and transparent, it also taught me the value of team-work," he asserts. His hobbies include horse riding, squash, farming (at his Karjat plantation) and reading. Chauhan is also involved with welfare work. He provides technological solutions to the rural community. On the cards is a book that will be a product of his manual typewriter.

"It will not be about advertising!" he signs off.

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