The IAA Indian chapter hosted a talk with Prasoon Joshi, chairman APC, CEO, McCann Worldgroup, on 17 October in Mumbai, as part of its Young Turks series. The discussion was moderated by Kaushik Roy, president, brand strategy and marketing, Reliance Industries Limited.
‘It is in my nature to fundamentally trust’
Speaking about his early childhood and how it fundamentally made him who he is, Joshi referred to the 'sleepy town' that he grew up in. He spoke briefly about a life in which everyone in his town knew each other and how having neighbours over too was a daily occurrence.
He said, “I have lived that kind of a life. At the time, you never understand the value of such an upbringing. But when you look back at your life and think about, fundamental trust is what this brought out in me”.
On how that fundamental trust shaped his professional life, he added, “So even today, my instinct is to trust people. No matter how many times you get ‘dasoed’ (bit) by a snake, you still trust people.
‘There was no undue pressure; that allowed me to stay confused a lot’.
When asked by Roy about his upbringing, the 'confusion', and how that helped him become who he is today, Joshi had this to say: "That is a fertile place, where you are not decided where you want to go in life. And I think this is a place where you can entertain various thoughts and narratives about yourself and who you want to be. Luckily both my parents are musicians. Being creative people, they let me be. This let me cultivate unconventional thought”.
He added, “I was not made scared of falling”.
'I have learnt a lot of things I was not exposed to'
When asked about his view on whether or not someone is born a creative person, Joshi said, "The first 14 years of a child’s life are really important. That’s the time I was allowed to think”.
But, he was quick to add, “I have learnt a lot of things I was not exposed to. Growing up in the places that I did, I had no exposure to things like western rock music. Today they play a big role in the way I write, but back in the day I did not know the basics of rock music. If you have not been exposed to certain art forms as a child, you can become responsible for it and study it”.
Joshi mentioned that one cannot simply just 'be creative'. Just like any art form, one must hone their skills, he meant. He explained, “Secondly it is all about hard work. You cannot succeed in any creative discipline without working hard. Allama Iqbal, the Greek poet, used to talk a lot about the falcon (shaheen) in his poems. One of his poems in particular that stays with me, is, ‘Jhapatna palatna, palat kar jhapatna, jhapatna palatna, palat kar jhapatna. Laho garam rakhne ka bahana hai yeh’”.
He explainsed the meaning of the above lines: “The bird is not hungry, but the bird attacks the prey. He takes the prey up and drops the prey back alive. Why did the bird do that? The bird was practising the art of hunting. So that when the bird is hunting, it will not make a mistake”.
On his personal work ethic, he added, “I Keep on writing poetry without a break. I write every day. I never differentiate between a poem or an ad or any kind of writing that I’m doing. I’m equally passionate about all of it. We start seeing things through a lens and a formatted way; everyone is 'a poet' or 'a guru' or 'an advertiser' and that is something I never did’.
‘Don’t take yourself too seriously’
When asked about what advice he had for his young audience, Joshi said, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. You are not the electricity, you are the wire that conducts the electricity. What is your role? Be a good conductor."
He surmised, “Read a lot, never stop learning because the day you think you know it all, you will be finished. And very importantly, be humble."