Campaign India Team
Dec 04, 2023

Shashi Sinha takes a trip down memory lane after bagging the AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award

Sinha took to the stage to thank his mentors, clients and colleagues and also shared details of his early days in advertising

Shashi Sinha takes a trip down memory lane after bagging the AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award
Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer, IPG Mediabrands India, received AAAI's lifetime achievement award on 1 December in Mumbai.
Taking to the dais, Sinha thanked the jurors for this honour and spoke about his early days in advertising.
"I couldn’t have imagined this 37 years ago when I started as an account planner at Ulka. My boss at UB (DD Saxena), had moved to Ulka. He sold me the job saying working in advertising was a shortcut to brand management as till then I had only worked in sales," said Sinha.
A few days later, Saxena moved to the Bengaluru office of Ulka, which meant Sinha was reporting to Bal Mundkur, founder and CMD. 
"Mundkur knew everything about advertising except for account planning. His idea of account planning was being an odd job man, handling financial advertising clients one day or selling sponsored programs the next," added Sinha.
Sinha recounted how his chance meeting with Dr Verghese Kurien on a rainy day in Mumbai led to a 37-year relationship.
He explained, "Dr Verghese Kurien of GCMMF (popularly known as Amul) walked into our office unannounced. All the seniors were out either holidaying in London or attending client meetings. I recognised him and took him to one of our conference rooms. That started a truly remarkable partnership which has lasted more than 37 years."
Anil Kapoor
In September 1988, Mundkur decided to step down from the day-to-day running of the agency and in came Anil Kapoor. 
"He had a reputation of being a marketing legend, but if one didn’t know him well one could easily conclude that he was not only aggressive but also abrasive and bulldog-like. Within a few days of his joining five of us decided to leave as this was not our cup of tea," said Sinha.
He added, "Anil quickly figured out that I was the unstated leader of the pack and took me out for a lunch which started at noon and ended at 7 pm post which I decided it was easier to say yes to him than to argue with him. That started a long partnership with him where every meeting would run into hours. It was amazing to see his passion for the business and above all care and concern for his people. He taught us to be confident and try and treat every client relationship as equal. He ensured that Ambi, Arvind, Nitin, Nagesh and I made a great team despite being diverse personalities."
Client-agency relations
In a career full of successes, Sinha chose to talk about failure with an example of how ITC's Hemant Malik rescued the team.
"We had worked on the launch plan of a major biscuit brand for ITC. Hemant Malik, the then CMO, gave our team a free hand and agreed to many whimsical ideas we presented. However, when the launch didn’t succeed he absorbed all the pressure. It is a testimony to Hemant’s leadership that not only did we continue handling the biscuit category, but the remit has expanded considerably," said Sinha.
He then spoke about his transition to the media side of advertising and how Lodestar grew on the back of Tata's business.
"In 2004 I made the transition to a full-time role in media. This was timed with the disbanding of the Tata AOR. Tata Motors, Tata Indicom, TCS and Tata Corporate came to Lodestar, which in a way created a strong foundation for our media offering. Mr Ravi Kant has not only been a client but also a mentor. I marvel at his ability to look at the tiniest of details in one breath and look at the big picture in the next. I will remain truly grateful to him for everything he has done for me."
He also had special words of mention for his clients Zodiac, Mahindra and Mahindra and Nerolac. 
Sinha, who is on the board of several industry bodies, stated that he does so because of a belief that if the industry prospers, all the stakeholders will gain. 
"I have devoted a lot of my time in the last decade to industry work. If the industry succeeds, the stakeholders will also succeed. It may sound easy now, but it was tough initially and I must thank Bhaskar Das and Ramesh Narayan for showing the way. From running the Goafest Abby awards to BARC, I have seen and heard a lot – but rest assured it will remain a secret with me," said Sinha.
He signed off by thanking his colleagues, the leadership team of Mediabrands, his family and Nitin Karkare, a colleague who also started out in 1986 with Sinha. The duo are still working together. 
Campaign India

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