(Updated at 9:55 am on 2 February with Madhukar Sabnavis' tribute to Ranjan Kapur)
In a conversation with Campaign India, Piyush Pandey, executive chairman, Ogilvy India and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia pays tribute to Ranjan Kapur.
A very big client commented once, "when I meet agency heads socially, I see it as courtesy. But when I meet Ranjan Kapur, I go back learning".
Even after retiring from Ogilvy in 2004, his influence on the industry remained as WPP’s country head. I call it influence, because ‘influence’ is shown by your character and personality. Influence is not by power, which he never displayed even as the chairman of Ogilvy in India. He treated everyone small or big with the same mutual respect.
He was the one who made me Ogilvy Bombay’s creative director first, at the risk of losing some senior people, which the agency did lose. He was the one who persuaded me to be the head of the Bombay office, along with my creative job. He also made me the national creative director. Apart from designations, he is the one who gave me wings to fly. He is the one who believed in great creative work and thought that I am the appropriate partner for him to do that job. That gave me the belief that I could build a team, that we were able to do together and the rest is history, I guess.
He was a dream for any creative person and it was my dream come true that he chose me to be his partner. He commanded respect till the last day.
A statement from Piyush Pandey, SN Rane and the board of directors, Ogilvy & Mather, India was also released this evening to its employees and key stakeholders. Read the statement below:
Most of you would know by now that our former chairman, Ranjan Kapur, passed away on Saturday 27th January 2018. Some of you who joined Ogilvy before 2004, may have worked with Ranjan. Some of you may have met him as part of his role as the WPP Country Head for India, or more recently as Chairman, WPP India. However, many of you may not have had the privilege of interacting with this great leader, so I would like to give you a little glimpse of his life and times.
Ranjan served Ogilvy for 37 years in different parts of the world. In 1994, he returned from Singapore to head Ogilvy India. His predecessor, Mr. Mani Ayer, laid the railroad. Ranjan became Ogilvy India’s most powerful engine. An engine that took Ogilvy India on a journey full of joy, a journey that made us see destinations that we had not dreamt of, a journey that delighted us, our clients, the people of India and the world.
Ranjan was determined to make Ogilvy India the biggest and the best agency in the country on the back of great creative work that solved our clients problems, and opened new opportunities.
Ranjan led by example, sleeves rolled up, always willing to get his hands dirty, no matter how small the job. He taught us all to play the changing game and played alongside us. He shared and celebrated successes with us. He coined the phrase "we evaluate our success by the level of laughter in the corridors".
I have had the opportunity to know him, to have worked with him, and to have learnt from him, for 36 years. There are stories and more stories -- of working hard, playing hard and celebrating harder.
Ranjan leaves behind his wonderful wife Jimi and daughter Tina. It is impossible to assess the incredible value of the role Jimi played in keeping us all connected and making us feel good. She knows not just us, but our families, with whom she has a relationship well beyond work. More about Jimi and Tina on a happier day.
The gentlest of giants in the advertising industry is not with us any longer, but his inspiration and spirit will continue to guide us. Let us all salute Ranjan Kapur, and continue to make him as proud of us in heaven as he was in this world. Rest in Peace my friend, philosopher and guide.
Madhukar Sabnavis, vice chairman and director, client relations, Ogilvy & Mather
It wasn’t clicking on first sight. We were quite opposites when we first met. He a ‘jolly, garrulous, Punjabi’ and I a ‘nerdy, diffident, South Indian’. However, in a few interactions, I found a terrific mentor and a very interesting friend. This was way back in 1994; I was in Bangalore (it was Bangalore then) and he had just returned to India and Bombay (it was Bombay then).
Ranjan was a dreamer and he did it big, just like everything else in life. I envied his ability to vision, to think a future that was very different from today. But even more fascinating was his ability to make everyone around him believe it was possible.
He was a people’s leader. Whenever he spoke to you, he made you feel important. He made you feel whatever you were doing was most important to him and the company. You were either ‘core business’ or ‘growth business’ or ‘future business’ and so you felt good and inspired. I did many new things I never thought I could under his leadership.
I have never heard him tell me ‘You are wrong’. He had the charming ability to just talk you into a different space and you left the room only after he and you agreed on it. He seemed to build off your ideas and you left feeling it was ‘our idea and solution’.
Every business meeting ended with a few minutes on the work issue and rest talking about life and other things. He was a boss who you did interesting conversations with, not just business.
One personal incident that reflects his leadership and trust in people. I remember my second published piece landed him into trouble with a client. He called me in Bangalore and said ‘Are yaar, mujhe marvadiya’ and after suggesting a solution, I remember him saying ‘Please don’t stop writing because of this. Just run your articles through me before you send for publication’. I owe my prolific writing to him. His constant encouragement and that day when he made sure I didn’t withdraw into a shell because of one unpleasant experience.
I will miss his dreaming and visioning, his painting and sculpturing and above all his little ribs like my ‘weekly striptease’ (a name he coined for my suit on Monday to T-shirt, Friday dressing). I will miss his charming inspiration and energy that he brought along wherever he went or whenever he was present. I still hope he will walk into the room saying ‘Madhukar’ in his inimitable way, a sound I have got used to. I know it’s not going to happen.
God bless your soul Ranjan. While I will miss you, I guess the heavens have a right to enjoy your energy and charm too!
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