Old-timers Prabha Prabhu, Veena Gidwani, Neelkamal Sharma, Basabdutta Chowdhury, Dipankar Sanyal & Nagaraj Krishnamurthy on Madison@25

21 Mar,2013

Prabha Prabhu, CEO, BMB Madison

Madison feels like my own agency. You are given complete freedom to run the business your way within some broad parameters discussed at regular Management meets where strategies are discussed and finalized. The focus also is more on work than financials.


Another very important aspect is that there is no office politics despite the fact that it is now 25 years old. Whilst it is extremely professional in the way it operates, there is tremendous bonding between the employees. Madison is not too strict about work timings, yet employees themselves make sure that they finish the work on time. Also it’s not work, work, work all the time. There is enough room for FUN too.


No wonder, then that even if people quit Madison, many of them return.


Having been part of the entire Madison journey, I have many fond memories. The first one that comes to mind, of course is, the way we started Madison itself. We started off with Godrej Cinthol and Tata’s Nelco TVs. We had to start work on both the accounts immediately and since our office was still undergoing renovation even most of the routine meetings were held at Yacht Club, to make sure work did not suffer.


There was great excitement on Cinthol from Day 1. The first new launch was of the variant Cinthol Lime. We had the film shot and ready but the launch was delayed for several reasons. And one Sunday evening, just 2 days before launch of the film we saw the old Liril film interspersed with shots of our Cinthol Lime film. The first thing that we did was to incorporate the message COMING SOON in our film and aired it immediately. Then Sam and me rushed to Delhi, met up the DD officials and noticed that the Liril film script was approved just two days before release. DD stopped airing HLL’s Liril ad. Sam also spoke to journalists about this and the news was all over. Cinthol Lime galloped in Market share and overtook Liril.


Another very interesting milestone was when P&G and Godrej came together to form PGG and that’s when we started working with P&G on Cinthol. The then CEO of P&G David Thomas was happy with us and wanted us to handle P&G brands. And as you know for that we had to be one of their Network Agencies. And David mooted the conversation between us and one of their roster agencies DMB&B. We started work on the two flagship accounts of P&G, Whisper and Vicks. And soon we made Whisper the market leader.


P&G asked all their creative agencies to pitch for their AOR business. All of us, Grey, Leo Burnet, Mudra, Saatchi & Saatchi and Madison pitched for the account. We were the smallest and newest agency of P&G and yet we won the Media AOR account and thus became the first media AOR in the country.


Shanti, was the first long running afternoon serial on DD and getting the slot from DD, getting producers to bid for it was part of the exciting journey of Indian Television.


The stories of course are never ending.


Veena Gidwani, Former CEO, Madison PR

My friendship with Sam goes back many years before I became a part of Madison. My twelve and a half year journey at Madison PR was exciting, challenging, fun -filled and satisfying. Working closely with Sam on building Madison PR from scratch into an agency recognized for its Brand PR having a strong, motivated and committed team and a blue chip client roster was hugely enriching .


As an organisation, Madison is professional, transparent , progressive and ethical, always putting client delight as the focus and every Madisonite feels a deep sense of pride being a part of the team. As a boss, Sam was easy to work with, trusting, appreciative and non interfering … always receptive to new ideas…. spotting opportunities and willing to invest for the future. He was sharp and incisive, able to get to the crux of any issue in no time.


Sam has another rare quality of making team members of all ages and at all levels feel absolutely at ease. He has a special soft corner for the young PR team and had on several occasions expressed that when it came to energy and ideas to let one’s hair down, the PR team beat all other teams at Madison hands down. At our annual off sites, he contributed greatly during the business sessions in the day in helping us crunch ideas and numbers and in the evenings bonding with the team by sometimes walking the ramp in style for a beach fashion show or uninihibitedly answering personal questions on “Vodka with Veena” or helping to build a raft out of worn out tyre tubes, bamboo and rope and then participating in a river rafting race!


I have always admired Sam’s zest for work and his boundless energy (he can be engaged in a serious discussion even at midnight after a long, hard day and still come up with fresh, exciting ideas!) and have never ceased to be surprised by his constant desire to learn new things from people in varied spheres.


On this momentous and special occasion my heartiest congratulations to Sam, Lara and the entire Madison team and best wishes for more milestones and Bigger Celebrations!

Neelkamal Sharma, COO Buying, Madison Media Group

Madison has grown along with its clients’ businesses, and is competitive enough to handle all existing small & large national and multi-national blue-chip clients. It is able to develop tools locally to help meet clients’ advertising & marketing related challenges. It is honest and transparent enough to retain its clients and talent over years who believe in similar values in today’s cutthroat competitive environment.


While HR takes care of many fun-filled events across the year, the real fun lies with people here who are a bunch of enthusiastic youngsters, and passionate enough to work hard to provide best media solutions for their clients. In all this, we work closely with our Media partners, and are able to work on win-win partnerships, delighting both media partners and clients.


Working in Madison, I have learnt that client interest comes first, ahead of Madison’s interest and my own personal interest. It is wonderful that Madison has grown over the years, and yet retained its work culture and values.


Sam is really a wonderful person to work with, one gets to learn a lot from. I can’t think of another organization that can offer me a combination of such leadership and values.
When I look back, there are many fond memories and moments of pride during my last 15 years at Madison and some of those are “imitating Sam in his peculiar style” which you will find many Madisonites doing in the corridor or at many Madison get-togethers. Madison bagging so many awards and accolades, of course, is the pride of every Madisonite.


Basabdutta Chowdhury CEO, Platinum Media

I joined Madison when it was 21 years old. I have grown as Madison has grown. It has given me freedom and opportunities to fulfil my career ambitions. I am where I am today thanks to Madison. I could not have been more privileged than to work with Sam.


The hierarchy in Madison, though it exists, is pretty flat – learning and growth opportunities are unlimited. It provides a great platform for young professionals who have the inclination.


Madison’s vision, values, integrity have taught and inspired me to be the kind of professional I am today.


My fondest memories in Madison revolve around Sam’s ability to defuse a difficult negotiation process with simple, real-life situations in a light-hearted manner. Every time I look back, these incidents bring a smile on my face. And I am sure many more such memories are still in store for me.


Dipankar Sanyal, COO, Madison MoMs

Madison is unique. It is thoroughly professional and at the same time there is a great bonding. Here one gets the freedom to speak his or her mind, express onself freely. This helps in solving issues/ problems far more easily. Even the junior members feel comfortable to bring up their ideas and thoughts without any hesitation. Our business is all about ideas and people, and when there is an atmosphere which allows free flow of thoughts and ideas among its people you are able to add immense value to your clients because you are always creating and adding on to a great product.


It has been eight years that I have been with Madison in the current stint. Two major aspects that have always held me back are: people and the management. I have a bunch of brilliant people who have time and again proven that they are the best. On the management front I have always been allowed to express myself freely, act like an entrepreneur within the management guidelines. Personally that has helped me develop as a professional and an individual. Most importantly, I would not have got Sam Balsara anywhere else. It is an honor and privilege to be part of his team.


An interesting incident comes to mind, that shows how seamless the organization is, when I first joined Madison in 1998, I was a junior client servicing executive. I remember Coca Cola had given us mandate to handle their OOH activities. We had to make an important presentation to them. The day before the presentation, Sam sat with me from evening to night correcting and guiding me through the presentation. I can never forget that evening as that was a huge lesson for me on many accounts in my life.


Nagaraj Krishnamurthy, Senior Vice President, Madison Business Analytics

As freshers from college, three of us (Santosh, Deepak and Myself) developed Adwise, the much acclaimed system of Madison way back in 1998. The system was so good that it was peerless for that time and remains so even today. As youngsters, three of us worked as if we were on a mission from God. In hindsight, very surprised that three freshers from college could accomplish so much in such a short period with so little resources. Easily, Adwise development is one of the most productive phase of my life.


I and many like me, are a part of Madison even after years is in itself a proof that Madison is special in more ways than one. Entrepreneur culture at Madison and of course Charisma of Sam Balsara makes one stay in Madison for really long durations.


This quote of Sam captures it all: ‘We believe that our client’s problems are our problems and we do go the extra mile. I hope to sort of try and partner the client genuinely without looking at Madison’s stream of resources or profitability. Do whatever to make the client succeed.”


Sam does believe in every word of that statement and has ensured it is in the DNA of Madison.


Interviewed by Ritu Midha




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