Tara Sinha, 88, a doyenne of Indian advertising, has passed away. The octogenarian was ailing for the last six months, according to people close to her.
Ma Sinha, as she was popularly called, was the first woman to set up a national advertising agency, Tara Sinha Associates (TSA) in the 1980s. The agency became Tara Sinha McCann Erickson in later years and handled prestigious brands like Nescafe during its time.
Completing an Advertising Diploma Course at the City of London in the 1950s, Sinha joined D J Keymer, Calcutta, the Indian subsidiary of S H Benson (that evolved into the present day Ogilvy).
In 1955, Benson shut down the Calcutta Branch -- the staff got together to form Clarion and Sinha was the director of an ad agency at the young age of 23.
Sinha relocated with her husband to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1963 and headed Clarion's Bombay Office. From Bombay, back to Calcutta and then to New Delhi to run ACIL, the Indian off shoot of Clarion, the big shift in her career was when she joined The Coca-Cola Export Corporation.
"These were troublesome times for wholly owned foreign companies; Coke closed and some of us were relocated to the USA. I was one of the fortunate ones moving to the Corporate Headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. Professionally, as well as personally, this move resulted in significant developments. Exposure to the world gave me the confidence to face later challenges. And challenges, they certainly were!," Sinha notes in her profile on social media platform, LinkedIn.
Sinha worked at Coca Cola in India and in the US from 1973 to 1983 before returning to run Clarion till 1985. "Ma Sinha was in the advertising business for more than half a century. And she belonged right up there with Subhas Ghosal and Subroto Sengupta, half a generation ahead of Alyque Padamsee, Mike Khanna and Diwan Arun Nanda," said advertising veteran, Sandeep Goyal.
In 1984, Sinha returned to Clarion having been persuaded to do so by both her 'veteran' Clarion colleagues and friends and associates at McCann Erickson (an agency that had a JV with Clarion in the 1950s or 1960s, which had been dissolved some years later).
The following period turned out to be the most challenging in her professional career. "For reasons best known to them, Clarion decided to 'Terminate' my employment," notes Sinha.
This they did by sending her a legal notice. "But sadly for them they forgot to inform either their associate, McCann Erickson, or their major MNC clients, Nestle and Gillette. This lapse led to the formation of Tara Sinha Associates. TSA succeeded; later became Tara Sinha McCann Erickson or TSME. Two subsidiaries -- Admar, a MR agency and Result, a below-the-line and direct marketing agency were also formed. Branches were opened in Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Madras and even Kathmandu, in neighbouring Nepal. After after 10 years at the helm, Sinha left TSME in the hands of the global partner, McCann Erickson. "And today it is known as ME!," Sinha notes.
Prasoon Joshi, CEO and CCO, McCann Worldgroup India, and chairman, McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific, who's inherited the mantle after Sinha, and her successor, Sorab Mistry, paid rich tributes to her. Joshi said, "Tara Sinha was a tall leader in that era. I have heard legendary stories, though I never had the opportunity to meet her. I will cherish the legacy."
Advertising and media veteran, Chintamani Rao, who has held top management positions at Ogilvy & Mather, McCann Worldgroup and The Times of India Group told Campaign India some months back about an incident that happened way back in 1991. Her agency was thrown out of AAAI (industry body, Advertising Agencies Association of India) – for, ironically, breaking new ground.The offence was that on one account, Videocon, they did the creative work and media planning, but handed over to another agency for media buying, and of course in that process, shared the 15 percent agency commission. That was labelled discounting, and was meant to be a violation of AAAI rules.
Sinha was summoned by the AAAI. Another legend of that era, R K Swamy, accompanied her to lend support. "Mine was the lone dissenting voice on the Executive Committee, which included AAAI laureates Anil Kapoor (in the Chair), Goutam Rakshit and Arun Nanda. When I pointed out that Hindustan Lever had been doing the same thing for many years, Nanda said it was he who initiated the practice when at Lever, and told me, 'You should tell Hindustan Lever to stop it,'" notes Rao. That was some six years before Carat started in India, in 1997, and ten before Universal McCann and Mindshare did. "The AAAI committee of 25 years ago didn’t see the future coming, when she did,” said Rao.