Verghese Kurien: Great vision, Dream client

11 Sep,2012


By Bharat Dabholkar


No better client, no better professional
By Anil KapoorChairman Emeritus, DraftFCB+Ulka


Dr Kurien was one of the greatest human beings I’ve worked with. You couldn’t find a better client, a better professional. When we were being briefed for what became Amul: The Taste of India, he said “Amul is an iconic Indian brand. Rather than doing advertising on the products, let’s do this and the rest will follow.”


Based on the brief, we took the script and music to him and it was approved immediately. He was a proud Indian who always wanted original Indian advertising. After that, even as they launched a number of other products they never had to do separate advertising.


It was always Amul: The Taste of India. Dr Kurien used to say, “If I have a good product and good advertising, it will sell by itself.”


That’s why Amul is such an iconic brand. In the food industry where brands are constantly coming up with schemes, it has never relied on any schemes to dealers or consumers.


Everything moved; they’ve never dumped. He gave the agency a total free hand and never changed so much as a comma or full stop in the copy.


Once when we were presenting a campaign, a gentleman turned around and started to make suggestions. This was not Dr Kurien’s style at all. ‘


He turned around and told the man, “If you call an architect and then make changes, if the roof falls, would you blame the architect or yourself?”


(As told to Ravi Balakrishnan)


He gave each man his own space
By Rahul daCunhaCEO, daCunha Communications


My father Sylvester daCunha created the Amul butter campaign in the 1960s. He took it to Dr Kurien and explained its unique qualities: the creation of the girl, the need to run it on outdoor hoardings, the topical nature of the campaign. It needed a certain frequency to be created and therefore the trust that they could go ahead without the client approval.


These were the incredible trust guidelines that Dr Kurien set down — a great example of a client saying ‘You are good at what you do so just go ahead.’ He backed the campaign in spite of it not having any of the clichés of food product advertising since what he created at Amul was off the beaten track.


My interactions with him were more as a child and not so much as a client. By the time I came on board, he’d pretty much delegated the campaign to his team. But the core team has not changed and in many ways, that’s what makes the Amul model so unique. The current marketing team and managing director have worked with Dr Kurien and so it’s just a question of carrying the campaign on. In their favour, many clients change campaigns only when they don’t get good feedback or the sales have been dropping; neither of which has happened with Amul.


Dr Kurien did support us though: there was one hoarding, where the person it was about got quite upset; I won’t get into who the person is. I was quite stressed. This person thought it would be clever to sue Dr Kurien. Which was the worst thing to do since he had dealt with a lot more than one man suing him.


He was quite happy with our work; happy that a campaign he’d given a green signal to back in the 1960s could continue. I interviewed him for the book Amul’s India and he says a very interesting thing: “I realise how wise a decision it was to give complete freedom to the ad agency to do their job in a professional way. I never interfered with their work and the result is before you. They have done an exemplary job.”


When you see a man like this and then see the levels of corruption that exist today you wonder, where are our leaders? Where are the visionaries of today? Here was a man who built a brand and a movement that’s been reproduced in so many unions. We use words like ‘a great man’ very loosely these days; he actually was one.


(As told to Ravi Balakrishnan)


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


I have worked for almost 15 years on Amul and I have interacted professionally with Verghese Kurien. He was a dream client to work with and simply an amazing person. At the outset, he had set the premise of our working relationship, where he clearly said he didn’t want to see what we were doing as he didn’t want to interfere in our work. He said he didn’t know advertising and that is the reason he had got us, so he didn’t want to change or rewrite anything that we wrote. This was such a change from clients who would always want to give their inputs even if they didn’t know anything about the way advertising works.


I have always maintained that the success of Amul advertising lies in the hand of Mr Kurien and his approach. His immense trust in the agency and their creative potential is so gratifying, and that was what made us push to do good work. If the onus lies fully on you to create something and you get total freedom to create that brand I think it only leads to more responsibility and makes one conscious of the efforts one is making, because it had better be brilliant and match the confidence that the client has shown.


I have visited him a few times in Anand and what he has created is a dream out of nowhere. His vision is unmatched, whether it is about creating a world class campus at Anand or in his vision of creating milk powder from buffalo milk instead of cow which was the norm. He rewrote rules and was an innovative thinker. He had a fabulous lot of lieutenants who supported him and whom he supported in these innovations. Like when we launched Nutramul he tasted it and said make chocolate out of it too, so he was inspirational too.


For his advertising agencies, he knew that he had chosen the right people and trusted them immensely. The confidence he showed in a copywriter tells much about his personality.


Another thing I shall always remember about him was that he was always very punctual and never late for meetings. If he had given a time to his agency he would never make them wait unlike many who deliberately would make an agency wait. He respected the agency and not just see them as supplier of creative product. This was a rare personality.


He was an honest entrepreneur. I remember once we were to launch Amul milk shake and we came up with our research that said chocolate and strawberry were the most popular flavours. He immediately said that chocolate milk shake was possible because of the chocolate powder Nutramul but strawberry he said was a seasonal product and he refused to put essence as it would be cheating consumers. He put his foot down on the strawberry flavor instead opted for elaichi which was more readily available.


Also I remember when Amul launched its tetra pack he hated the design. Once when we went to meet him, he asked, are you still using the horrible pack? But he never interfered and asked us to redesign having known that even if he didn’t like it the pack worked in the market.

I feel fortunate to have met someone like Mr Kurien and to have had a client like him.


– As told to Tuhina Anand
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