Meenakshi Menon

Mr Brahm Vasudeva... an era ends

"He remembered figures more than the names of the people he was dealing with," writes Meenakshi Menon, board member, chairperson, managing trustee at Spatial Access.

Brahm Vasudeva, promoter chairman of Hawkins Cookers passed away on July 10, 2020. He was 84 years of age. Apart from leading Hawkins Cookers, Vasudeva also served as a member of The Indian Society of Advertisers' executive council for a continuous period of 47 years. He was aslo the first chairman of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and a founding member of MRUC India.

Started in 1959 by H.D. Vasudeva, in technical collaboration with L.G. Hawkins of England, Hawkins Cookers Ltd is the leader in its segment and has sold over 72 million units worldwide.

Meenakshi Menon, board member, chairperson, managing trustee at Spatial Access, pens down her personal account of working with Vasudeva.

When I joined Lintas in 1980, Alyque was at the helm and well on the path to building his legacy as a creative man who understood the business of advertising like few others did. So when AP considered someone a leader, a visionary you sat up and took notice.

I was on my toes the first time I met Brahm Vasudeva, his fame preceded him. He was known as a really tough client. Someone who did not tolerate fools and who chewed up ignorant account executives for breakfast. I was a stand-in for the Account Executive on the business, who had been unwell for a while. I had been warned by AP, who was conducting the review meeting, to come well prepared. I sat in the conference room and this energy bomb breezed in. Dressed in an elegant suit with a bow tie and a silk square, his sharp dress sense was rivalled by his sharper tongue and wit.

I will never forget the cut, thrust and parry of that meeting. It was like a master performance by two outstanding duelists. That exposure made me a fan of Brahm Vasudeva for the rest of my professional life. Brahm had an aversion to the casual use of first names in the ad industry. He was not ready to be known as Brahm and he remained Mr Vasudeva for most of those who knew him in a professional context.

Mr. Vasudeva was opiniated, argumentative and often dismissive when dealing with people. What made him sufferable was his deep insight on Indian markets and the Indian consumer. I remember making copious notes everytime he argued about some aspect of the research methodology or sampling strategy at an MRUC meeting. AGM’s used to be fun because regardless of how well prepared the secretariat was, Mr Vasudeva would fire off a series of questions that would have everyone scurrying for their notes and explanations.

He remembered figures more than the names of the people he was dealing with. I was on the Board of Governors of MRUC (Media Research Users Council) along with Mr Vasudeva, and a whole host of luminaries from advertising and media. MRUC board meetings used to be long drawn out affairs when Mr Vasudeva was attending. He was always ready for a debate, willing to get into each granular detail and adding value to the entire process. It was hard to hold him back when he was on the warpath. His force of personality was such that even the most hard-bitten opposition was quelled. Mr Vasudeva marched to the beat of his own drum and made sure he motivated you or convinced you to march along.

The last time I met him was a few years ago, at his daughter's birthday party. He was a shadow of his former self having battled heart disease and complications. Still dressed in a suit, with the silk square jauntily intact in his suit pocket. I held out my hand to shake his. He responded with a Namaste.

Rest in peace Mr Vasudeva, you were always full of surprises.

(The article was first published on the author’s personal blog on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.)