What’s love?

Love is war. Love is peace.

Love is passionate. Love is calm.

Love is curse. Love is blessing.

Love is transient. Love is ephemeral.

Love is little things. Love is big vision.

Love is this. Love is that.

Love is you. Love is me.

Love is we.

Indian Advertising has been unfair to its women ( Chapter from the book of Piyush Pandey)

I often wonder why we are not seeing more women heading advertising agencies in India. Not that we haven’t had any; we’ve seen Tara Sinha heading her own agency. And we’ve seen many, such as Roda Mehta, heading the media business. In media, we’ve seen many just below the top: Lynn de Souza, Meenakshi Menon, Ketaki Gupte, Sunita Gopalkrishnan, Kalpana Sathe, Jasmin Sorabji, and so on.

We need to ensure that the women stalwarts and starts in our business stay in the business for long enough- something that banks in India have done successfully, with Arundhati Bhattacharya as chairperson of SBI, Chanda Kocchar as MD and CEO of ICICI Bank, Shikha Sharma as MD and CEO of Axis Bank, Naina Lal Kidwai as country head, HSBC, and many others. These ladies are not just running successful financial corporations, but are thought leaders whose opinions are taken into account while drafting national policy.

Why aren’t more women heading advertising agencies? It’s a failing on our part(and that includes me). We’ve not been sensitive enough to the needs and compulsions of a woman. A woman is born with many more facets than a man; she is as intelligent and competent and hard-working as any man- but she is also the nurturer of the family. Somewhere, the two roles create a conflict, and she is forced to choose one over the other.

This conflict has to be resolved by the business, not by the woman. We have to look at ways and means to ensure that a woman who takes a break because she has a baby has the desire to come back to the business when a satisfactory support system is found for the child and the rest of the family. I have great admiration for companies that have made recent announcements on paternity leave and extended maternity leave. I believe that such decisions not only enable women stars to contribute to the nation, but will also make for better fathers in the future.

We haven’t realized or been sensitive to the fact that a huge treasure of knowledge is lost when competent women leave our industry.

Women leaders also bring sensitivity to a business, something that men often lack. Many businesses with few women at the top such as advertising, becomes boys’ clubs.

We need many more women to join and to rise.

Throughout this book, you have run into frequent references to my mother and my sisters. I have experienced their talents, their ambitions, their frustrations, their limitations, and I have also seen their success. I would love to see the same happen for many more women, particularly in the field of communication.


Excerpts from Pandeymonium

  1. Have your personal Google ( your network of diverse people from your family and friends)
  2. Human chemistry is extremely important in the business of communication. Creating communication requires diverse sets of people to come together, have conversations, debates and arguments- all towards the greater cause of creating great work.
  3. If you can read David Ogilvy or Bill Bernbach and every word that has been written by advertising greats, so can anyone else. However, one has to go beyond the reading. Clients know that all creative partners of similar size are similar as far as their abilities and infrastructure are concerned. When evaluating an agency partner, clients want to see how differently each interprets a brief and then how passionate an agency is about the category and the brand. The marketer will ask: ‘Which agency seems excited about my brand?’ ‘Which agency gives me the feeling that the team across the table from me is not an agency, but an extension of my own team?’
  4. Life is not about one or the other, it is about finding the balance.
  5. My common refrain of passion- the desire to do a job as well as it could be done, without bothering about how much more time perfection would need and, finally the need to see a truly satisfied customer; because only a truly satisfied customer would come back repeatedly.
  6. To want to be the best in what I do- and do all that it takes to take me there.
  7. Over the years, I have learnt that there are companies like Unilever, Cadbury and Asian Paints that have a knack of hiring wonderful human beings- and this cannot be a coincidence. It has to be a system- the very system we are so quick to dismiss with contempt.
  8. Research( Market research) of the real kind destroys presumptions and teaches us things that the tourist or superficial research never can.
  9. Many young professionals in India think of research as a nuisance- probably influenced by me. It was not that I was born hating research; in my earlier days, I attended several meetings with researchers and numerous focus-group interviews. Most of the research studies threw up ‘insights’ that I had known since I was three years old- so this kind of ‘research’ became a waste of time for me.
  10. The music in an ad film should not intrude or intimidate. It must live the script and entertain, involve and engage the viewer.
  11. Anyone else would have shot with the smaller edition and just got on with it, but Mr Bachchan, like many great people, believes that GOD IS IN THE DETAILS.
  12. Newcomers at Oglivy had to learn this the hard way. When the fresh recruits first partied with me, they would be gently warned about the next morning-that I would not tolerate anyone coming late to the office. We could have been out drinking till 3 a.m., but I would reach the office at Kamala Mills by 9.15 am. The official ‘office time’ to be at work is 9.30 am. At 9.35 am, I would place Post-it notes on the desks of those who hadn’t come in yet, saying, ‘I’m missing you.’ By 9.55 am, another Post-it would be added, saying, ‘God! I am really missing you, it is 10 o’ clock.’ The message went home. It took no shouting and no memos to create a culture where everyone was on time and punctual of all the meetings.
  13. Mr Bachchan has underlined, in many conversations with me, that he is always nervous before a shoot. Not sometimes, but always. He tells me the day you stop getting nervous, the day you think you have arrived, is when the downfall begins. TO STAY RELEVANT, STAY NERVOUS.VERY NERVOUS.
  14. It is easy to say that the genesis of a big work takes a big heart, big vision, big belief and big faith- in both the client and the agency.
  15. There is no pressure that is greater than great freedom and the consequent responsibility that comes with it.
  16. I’ve always believed that no category is a boring category; you have to stare hard at the product and the brand, and discover how exciting you can make it.
  17. It’s easy to be multinational. Being truly multicultural is harder. There is a huge difference; multinational is an up-to-down approach way of looking at life, while multicultural is a down-to-up way of looking at life.
  18. The beautiful challenge in India is to search for, and find, the unity in diversity. You have to look for those tastes, behaviours and thoughts that are common, and which unify all these cultures. Every once in a while, we do find such elements, and that is when the resultant communication moves consumers.
  19. Childhood is not the only source of discovering purity; old age is another.
  20. My suggestion is, when in need of inspiration, go see a Disney classic.
  21. Big ideas come from the belief that you can fly; big ideas cannot come when you are shackled by research, when you are shackled by the success of the past. So, when you are not shackled, when you have made the decision to fly, you don’t need any strings attached to the ground.
  22. Whatever your profession, whatever the business, an extraordinary success cannot be the end of your ambitions. You have to cast it aside and target something bigger, better, more profitable, more impactful.
  23. Whether in advertising or in any other business, it is the sky less flown that promises exciting possibilities. Ask Vodafone. Ask Asian Paints.
  24. When you do pro bono work, give your all to do a great job, from the conception of the idea to the execution and through to the release.
  25. Failures can happen any time in life, but if one is lucky, the failures confront you early on.
  26. A significant lesson that I learnt from a failure was that life was a journey and not the destination. Every milestone is nothing but an indicator that you are on the right track; there are many other milestones to be reached and passed.
  27. Global businesses are best run by managers who know the lay of the land.
  28. We make the mistake of defining the people we meet as sharply as possibly. Black or White. But look for the grey.
  29. Ranjan demonstrated what leadership was all about: in times of crisis, stand up for the team and take the burnt of the heat, allowing the company to function normally and with confidence.
  30. If you become bigger, you will have more offices. But don’t let go of your culture, no matter how small the office.
  31. Do not chase awards; chase good work.
  32. Simple communication reaches and touches many more people- and we saw that in BJP campaign. Remember, every little line that you have ever spoken or heard as a child is a line that may be worth its weight in gold when you work on your next campaign.
  33. As a society, we are now moving from empowering women to gender equality, and that’s where the communication has to find inspiration as well.
  34. The silos are required-for a short period of time, till you gain expertise in a new area of technology or competency. Once that happens, the silo needs to get absorbed into the larger company and business. ‘Silo’ is not a bad word, as long as you can ensure that the silo, after a period of time, ceases to be the one. Having twenty silos simultaneously is a disaster, but having a new silo every year is almost a must, because it allows you to build new expertise in a rapidly changing environment.
  35. It is the continuous creation of relevant silos, the sensitization of the entire agency to the news competencies that the silo focus on, and the absorption of these silos into the larger organization that decide the future of the company.

36. There are many lessons from my failures for young graduates from distinguished institutions. When these bright young men and women take up their first jobs, they need to forget some of the chapters taught to them in the last year of their curriculum- how to be a CEO, how to be a chief architect, how to be a head designer and so on. A job is not learnt from the textbook alone; it is learnt on the job as well. In advertising, you have to carry artworks, write presentations, and run various errands in your first job, irrespective of the repute of the college that you went to. In marketing, you have to report to the senior salesman as his or her assistant, and travel to the smallest of markets around the country. I do not know if this practice still exists, but in my younger days, all fresh marketing executives of Hindustan Lever had to spend eight weeks in a village called Etah in Uttar Pradesh in the home of a rural consumer to understand their needs, behaviour, consumption habits and aspirations. These lower middle class homes were very different from urban homes that the new recruits came from; they just had bare essentials and were devoid of most comforts.

Those who took this rural strint in their stride came out on top, becoming the Vindi Bangas, Harish Manwanis, Nitin Paranjpes and Sanjiv Mehtas, while many others not only assumed leadership of Hindustan Lever, but also of many other multinationals around the world.

They had chosen to forget the chapter in the management school about being a CEO, but they practised every other chapter one after another till they went on to become one.

Just look back at the early days of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. There was cricket and more cricket, runs and more runs. They moved on from one tournament to another, continuing to work hard or even harder. The sunglasses came much later.

37. I don’t think you can train anyone to be a leader or a CEO; CEOs are born CEOs. The CEO brings with him(or her) his own thinking, his own outlook, his own vision, his own way of looking at life. If being a CEO is all about ticking boxes, you are virtually saying that anyone could be a CEO. Imagine being told, if you tick boxes A,B,C,D,E and F, the job of the CEO is yours.

If I had to tick boxes, I would never have become the CEO of Oglivy, let alone the chairman. Look at Kunal, who we have just promoted to CEO, and how different he is from me. There is no way that I could ever tick the same boxes.

To me, a fantastic CEO says, “I don’t tick A,B,C,D,E and F, but I tick L,M,N,O,P and Q”

There are traits that any manager needs; one is hygiene. That would mean ticking five to six boxes. These would include looking after the health of the company, looking after its people, looking after its administration and so on.

But where is the inspiration? A CEO has to inspire. A CEO needs to think differently as well as confidently communicate and execute his vision and his inspiration. He should and will make his own boxes.

If all this could be defined on paper, every goddamned person would be a CEO. So could all those trainers who write bestselling books like How to win friends and influence people. If you ask me, whoever buys books to become a CEO is a fool.

You don’t tell people if they want to run, they must first remind themselves that they have to breathe. Breathing comes naturally to all. A lot of knowledge comes naturally to you. And then what you bring to the party is your own wisdom, your experiences, your own judgment. I don’t think you can formulate that. That’s why I don’t believe in overtraining.

That’s the problem I have with B-schools in our country; students are not taught how to be themselves. They’re told that they are future CEOs and they view everything from that viewpoint. Imagine a twenty-three year old, walking into Oglivy with an attitude that says, “I’ll run this show soon.” He comes crashing down to earth in his first few days, as someone, just a few years older, would tell him to take an artwork to a client.

38. For example, where would any of us be without the boy who brings us tea from the canteen or rustles up streaming hot coffee when you need it? Where does he find mention in the credits? What is the role that the spot boys played in an award winning film? Where are they mentioned? What about the junior sound engineers or the junior editors, slogging away through the night just to ensure that the commercial is perfect? Where do they find mention in the credits? Always think of the office boy, the spot boy, the junior sound engineer and the most junior editor.

The Big Day Gamble

How many times in this one life have we felt:

“This is it. This is going to be the most defining moment.”

“Here comes the D-day. All my hard work, grit, determination will be put to test tomorrow.”

“Ye 70 mins!!!Tum apni life ki best hockey khel gaye to…”

Me too, yes! I also felt those big days, those milestones of success define us. I also thought that yes, this is it…that’s it…here is my one in lifetime chance and what not….?

But, if we stop for a moment and don’t look at things so superficially. If we dare to go beneath the surface and try to get sense of what’s actually going on.

We are not defined by our success. No! This is the concept movies are selling to us, this is what the people who are in business of selling dreams do. But in reality, it’s not like that. Not at all. We are defined by the hard work we put, by the determination we get up daily and do the small things right, by the love of family and friends who love us unconditionally, by the love we give to others, by the compassion we carry for people around us, by our small acts of kindness, by how we live our life.

At the end, you will not remember what you achieve, those zeroes in your bank balance won’t matter. But, you will remember how you lived this life. Were you open to it? Did you accept the challenges? Did life happen to you or you made life happen?

So, whether it’s a big day or a usual day, strive, strive to be at your best. Strive to do more. Strive to make this world a better place. Strive to be a better you than you were yesterday. Strive so much that when all of this comes to an end, you can say to yourself with pride: “I did my best. I honoured this life. There is nothing I think I could have done better. This is it. This is my life story. I wrote every second of it. Destiny came and tried to upset me, but I stood there with a grin and picked up myself from every damn thing that came my way. I turned every obstacle into an opportunity. I learnt as much as I could. I contributed as much as I could. I lived a successful life on my terms and conditions. I lived. I lived. I lived as much as I could.”

The order in chaos!

In this one life we have got, we(the optimists) often look forward to moments which would fill us with happiness and we would dance with joy. We never imagine what if it won’t happen the way we want it. Such is our optimism and such is the utopian idea of our world.

But, then something or the other happens. That breaks us. That breaks the optimism. Suddenly, in that one moment, we loose our best quality. We loose what makes us essentially. We suddenly loose who we are. And then and there begins the chaos.

Chaos when we begin to think like pessimists. We forget who we are. We think that we were stupid that we thought it was going to be just like how we imagined it.

Chaos can lead to redefined order or it can lead to total destruction.

At this exact moment, we have two choices. We can stop believing ourselves. We can be angry about it. We can be irritated. We can think of life as worthless. We can think that life is all gloom. We can betray our true self and start living life on someone’s terms and conditions.


We can go back to where we come from. In this utter state of chaos, we can start accepting that this life will offer us both: happiness and tears. But you know what is the most important thing we can do? We can cry a river and then build a boat with our optimism. We can cross that river and bid a final adieu to the other side. We can thank it for what it has taught us.

And then we can begin on the new road with the same old optimism and become a little more confident that when the next time we will be in chaos, we will build a bigger boat!


I am done with the world and the people who have accepted the norms of society so much that they just can’t get above it. If someone asks me, when will women be truly empowered in our country, I feel I have no answer, who knows maybe never?

How much have we normalized things? Will a girl ever tell a guy that you are too aspirational just like me and because of your aspirations, things can’t work out between us? Honestly, I am waiting for the day it happens. We, as women, are always expected to support a man’s aspirations. But expecting the same in return is such a big expectation that I haven’t yet met a guy who at least says that, let alone actually doing it.

People talk about women empowerment all the time. But, when it comes to actually empowering women around them, men stand there waiting for an angel to come who would have the guts to do what they are supposed to do. If you thought only young girls believe in fairy tales, you are wrong. Men have created a world vision where they keep saying: women should work, women should be paid equal, women should be breadwinners and yet do nothing about it in their homes. Maybe we have come a step further that at least people have accepted feminism and female power in office now. But in personal lives, men just cannot accept women who are as successful as they are. The most ironic argument is “you women work by choice, but I have to work. I have responsibilities.” But when a women comes in their life who has equal aspirations can practically free them from their responsibilities they are so burdened with, they reply “Oh! This might not work…I know myself and I know your aspirations”. Some men want a world where they are not burdened with responsibilities and at the same time their male ego doesn’t let them have someone as their partner who can actually take care of things. Honestly, I haven’t heard of a more bizarre argument than this.