Anushree Bhattacharyya

Profile: Debashish Paul: The idea cruncher

How a finance person became an advertising man and is in his 25th year in that profession. Profiling Debashish Paul, COO, Percept/H.

Paul, who was studying chartered accountancy, feels that his decision to take up MBA - back in 1986 - changed the course of his life. It was while doing a non-residential course in the IISWBM (Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management) that he designed a project for Exide India as part of summer training. "That report was appreciated by the entire top management including Ashok Das, managing director, Hansa Research, who used to be research director of Chloride then. That was the turning point. I embraced marketing and finance took a backseat," says Paul.

Profile: Debashish Paul: The idea cruncher
Paul then met Pranesh Mishra (head of Lintas, Kolkata) and Praveen Tripathi (Lintas), with whom he worked on a project to measure the impact of a TV ad vis-a-vis a print ad. He fondly calls these three men - Das, Mishra and Tripathi - the three gurus of his life. But for a man who was determined to make marketing his career, the decision took a back seat after he met the late Achin Ganguly, who headed Bates (earlier known as Clarion). "It was he who hired me and sold advertising to me. I agreed to spend the next two years in advertising but ended up spending the next 25 years in this industry," he laughs.

Everything was going well for Paul at Clarion. He had his hands full with Reckitt Benckiser as his client. Then he got a call from Lintas and those were the heady days of Alyque Padamsee. Lintas was launching its second agency Karishma and Paul was brought in from Bates to take charge of Karishma.

In 1989, he moved to Mumbai first and then shifted base to Kolkata to set up the branch. "It was much later in my life that I came to know that Shyamal Ghosh (the creator of Charms cigarette brand) had recommended my name to Padamsee," he recalls fondly.

According to Paul, those were days of fierce competition and the fight was mainly between three agencies - Lintas, Ogilvy and JWT (then HTA). "Interestingly, in those days, financial results of agencies were published in newspapers and the year Lintas beat HTA, Alyque wrote a memo to all the employees and the heading of the mail was, 'Walk tall' â€' which was very emotional as well as motivating for all," he notes.

Then, for a brief period, Paul moved to Grey before joining Saatchi & Saatchi's Delhi office in 1994 as the branch head. "I was always a fan of the Saatchi brothers (Maurice and Charles) and when they entered India by acquiring Sista's and got in touch with me, I didn't even think twice before saying yes to them," says Paul. So far in his career, Paul has had the opportunity to work with stalwarts in advertising as well as marketing, but now he was yearning to get a feel of global brand management systems, which was only possible by working for a global network agency.

Profile: Debashish Paul: The idea cruncher

he explains.

During his tenure at the agency he got the chance to work on various global brands such as Nestle, Mastercard, GM, Microsoft, HP, Coca-Cola and Reckitt Benckiser and headed the Delhi branch (between 2007 and 2011). He took up the challenge of steering the one-year-old unit, McCann Social and managed the Aircel, Perfetti and Dabur businesses.

After 12 years at the agency, and dabbling with everything, Paul was looking for a bigger challenge and his new role at Percept/H was a fit. In his new role, he will be responsible for six offices including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and Lucknow.

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