Ranjan Kapur was my boss since he took over Ogilvy India as CEO. It was the beginning of my career in advertising and I worked closely with him for a decade.
In those days, Ogilvy was an absolute powerhouse. In the board you had Ranjan, Roda, Sridhar, Chintamani Rao, Achin Ganguli – it was the who’s who list. Clients often used to get worried, when that whole lot used to come for a meeting.
Ranjan was a numbers man. He would know them like the back of his hand, very much like Martin Sorrell. That’s probably why his relationship with Martin continued for a very, very long time, even after he retired as CEO of Ogilvy India. Martin insisted that he will be the one person who would be his confidante and WPP head in India.
I always treated him as my friend, godfather and go-to-person whenever I needed sound advice. He greatly influenced me in taking up the DDB Mudra job. I went to him when I was about to start The Social Street. There was a very strong bond between us.
In those days, (in the 1990s) I used to be running Ogilvy Action. He was always the one who used to encourage me to take the risk that I wanted. I remember him always saying, “give me the best possible scenario and give me the worst case scenario and give me twenty four hours”. That was his classic reply. Nine out of ten times, he would say go ahead, despite taking big risks on those stakes.
Those were the early days of Ogilvy Live, Landscape, Outreach and many other units as we went along. He got out the best in me. Never matter who worked with him, he never got into your work but gave you the guidance in what you wanted to do. He always managed to get out the best from people.
Ogilvy is the creative powerhouse today because of him and I would unabashedly say that. He was the person who backed Piyush to head the creative function at Ogilvy. Ranjan, after taking over, had called all the managers for an offsite. The agency’s billings then was about INR 100 crore in the early to mid-1990s. His vision was to increase that ten-fold in 10 years. He put all managers into one room at The Retreat in Madh Island for three days and asked us to brainstorm on what the strategy would be to get to INR 1000 crore. We worked day and night and on the third day we made our presentations.
Ranjan listened to everybody and then said, “you are all wrong. This is what I believe. If Ogilvy has to be known as a great agency, it has to be the best creative agency in the country”. Then he announced the appointment of Piyush as the head of creative and in those days gave him a mandate of Rs 40-50 lakh to go and hire the 20 best creative people in the country. That saw the birth of Ogilvy as a creative powerhouse, which it has continued to be. It was his vision that shaped Ogilvy and WPP in India.
Many people also don’t realise that he was instrumental in the merger of all media departments of WPP’s creative agencies into a single media entity. India was the last bastion where media departments were still under the creative agency.
Ranjan was particularly fond of me because I was leading the non-advertising part of Ogilvy. Being a numbers man, he was the one who encouraged our team to contribute a large part to the bottomline. Ogilvy Action, in those days, used to contribute almost 40-45 per cent of the agency’s bottomline. He set us up to be numero unos in whatever we did.
(These are excerpts from a telephonic conversation that Pratap Bose had with Campaign India.)
R.I.P Ranjan Kapur