Winning ways for IAA India captains

18 May,2015

 

Depending on when you are reading this, today (May 18 ), to be precise, the International Advertising Association will award veteran adpersons Srinivasan K Swamy and Ramesh Narayan with 2015 IAA Inspire Awards in London. The IAA Inspire Awards were created to celebrate IAA members who have achieved leadership excellence and contributed their professional expertise and inspired the marketing communications industry locally, regionally and globally. Swamy, who is Chairman, R K Swamy BBDO and President, India Chapter IAA, and Ramesh Narayan is an industry veteran and Hall of Fame awardee at the IAA Leadership Award in 2014. Said Swamy on the recognition: “These awards are a validation of the active and meaningful role the India Chapter of the IAA has been playing as the leading industry association of its kind in the country. Ramesh and I will accept these awards on behalf of the entire team at the India Chapter”. Messrs Swamy and Narayan took time out for questions from Pradyuman Maheshwari. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview:

 

The IAA is unique. It’s not the primary industry body, like the Adverising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), the Advertising or the Press Club. How would you describe the association to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

 

SRINIVASAN K SWAMY (SKS): IAA is international, as the name signifies. We in India are part of that large multi-country, multi-cultural institution. We represent the interest of ‘advertising’ — we believe in free commercial speech, self-regulation in advertising, and in the power of communication to reduce prices, improve quality by increased competition and offer choices for consumers to choose from. No other body has such laudable objectives in the world or in India, if we look at what IAA stands for in totality.

 

RAMESH NARAYAN (RN): I would describe it as a friendly, useful, busy, meaningful, go-to industry-association that actually cares for the industry it represents.

 

And what does it aspire to achieve?

 

SKS: If we believe in the power of advertising, we should use this to good purpose that benefits both the consumer and the producer. IAA Global constantly creates campaigns that demonstrates the power of advertising. Plus, we led a campaign on climate change for UN called Hopenhagen in 2009 which was rolled out across the globe. In India, we believe what is good, is good for business. Like the Lighting a Billion Lives campaign, IAA’s Olive Crown Awards, Gender Sensitisation Seminars, Changing Role of Women in Advertising, the Overcoming Voter Apathy campaign etc.

 

RN: One aspires to be part of an association that helps you showcase a plethora of initiatives, ranging from technology-based to intellectual, marquee, industry-specific and meaningful. Initiatives that tickle the intellect, satisfy the need to do things that are adding value to the industry, and also never lose track of the fun element.

 

How have you done in these areas?

 

SKS: From the examples above, I think we have done well. Now it is for others to judge.

 

RN: I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. People like Pheroza Bilimoria, Pradeep Guha, Raj Nayak and Kaushik Roy set the stage for a great association. Then our president-on-steroids, Srinivasan (Sundar) Swamy came along and took the association into another orbit. There is no other association that does as much for our industry as the IAA. Our webinars bring technology and information about the digital world into management classrooms and offices. Our Retrospect and Prospects is a topical event where a CEO takes a look at the highs and lows of the industry in his rear view mirror and then does a little crystal ball gazing as well. Our debates are a unique format to bring a dash of intellectual thought back into our lives. Our Leadership Awards primarily salute the marketing world. Our mentorship and Young Turks programmes reach out to the younger people in our industry who might be feeling a little left out otherwise. And as far as I am concerned, the IAA is doing the industry a great service by proving that communication can be a force for good with its Olive Crown awards, gender sensitisation programmes, anti-voter-apathy campaign and the like.

 

When you took over responsibility of the IAA India, what were the goals you set yourself? Did you plan on such a super-active association?

 

SKS: In the very first meeting I took over as president, we announced a slew of initiatives and much of what has happened since, is not by accident but by design.

 

RN: I planned nothing. Pradeep Guha called me out of retirement. He, Raj and Kaushik have encouraged me. Sundar has been a revelation. His energy is as infectious as his smile is. He combines being hands-on with complete delegation in a manner where he inspires a diverse group to work on the several initiatives the IAA has.

 

Since both of you have been actively associated with various other industry associations, why do you think others aren’t as active as the IAA?

 

SKS: We have a very cohesive team at IAA. I think our success lies in that. Wherever I was fortunate to lead, I always put together a team that gets energised and is willing to make a difference.

 

RN: The AAAI is possibly active in industry-specific areas that are not in the public domain. The Ad Club has mega events, so I guess each one has its place.

 

Is IAA India fortunate to have the existing industry associations inactive through their basic activities?

 

SKS: It doesn’t take much to make an association to get active. If others have not moved ahead, may be this was not that committee’s priority. You should ask them.

 

RN: Our industry needs its industry associations. And they perform unique and important roles. I have had the privilege of having been President of both AAAI and the Advertising Club. I believe they perform important roles. If I had to crib, I would just say that both these Associations need to include the “good” quotient into their activities. They have the resources, the talent, the bandwidth to establish that “what’s good is good for business”. And they should lead from the from in doing this. This is one important way of positioning our industry as something the youth will aspire to get into.

 

And there is no monopoly on doing good. The IAA is showing the way. We need all industry associations including the ISA and the IBF to step up to the plate. There should be a collaborative approach. Our goals are the same. Let’s bring our respective strengths to the table and complement one another.

 

08. Who would you attribute IAA India’s success to? And let’s not be politically correct here…

 

SKS: If I had to be politically incorrect, I might say I, me, myself. But the reality is we had many people in the Mancom shouldering specific responsibilities to deliver the unified whole that is IAA India.

 

RN: I can only say that the IAA has been president-driven. And it has had the good fortune to have good presidents. It needs to be more committee-driven, which is the effort right now.

 

Both of you will need to hand over reins to someone else. You could well be given an international responsibility. Any succession plans?

 

SKS: We have strong senior leaders in the committee. We also have many good young leaders who can assume primary responsibilities. So IAA in India is on solid footing. As to our international roles, we’ve already enjoyed it. I have been on the Board of IAA Global for three years. Further growth depends on whether we want to spend more time and money, and also whether the democratic process at IAA Global will provide us with any opportunities.

 

RN: I believe a succession plan is already in place. Last year, in a never-before move, the Managing Committee decided en masse not to offer themselves for re-election. So the entire elected Managing Committee of the IAA already has an average age of under 45. These are the leaders of the future. We are already in an advisory role, without voting rights. Very few people realise this, but it is one of the healthiest things to have happened in our industry – no staying on, no bickering. Just a bloodless handing over to GenNext before people even spoke about it.

 

We’ve seen both of you work selflessly for IAA’s India chapter. Had you decided to spend the same amount of time on your respective businesses, wouldn’t it have done more good for the industry (and yourselves)?

 

SKS: Some years ago, I settled in my mind that there is no such thing as either/or. It is this and that. So I wouldn’t have liked to play this any other way.

 

RN: It is said that if you have an urgent job, give it to a busy man. I have devoted a lot of time to industry initiatives even when I ran my agency. “No time” is just an excuse lazy or unwilling people resort to.

 

This might sound like an unfair question, but it’s kind of fashionable to say that one needs to give something back to the industry. Isn’t selflessness also a type of selfishness, because while business success can provide material gain, it’s the larger industry recognition that one seeks…

 

SKS: It’s true that we are doing this for the hand that feeds us. But equally, opportunities don’t present themselves to many. We were lucky. Also, one pursues all this to achieve one’s purpose of self-actualisation.

 

RN: Recognition is never guaranteed. Sure, it feels good to receive it, but I believe that if you work expecting recognition you either lose steam, do a half-hearted job or end up miserable. There is a joy in saying ’I have no axe to grind. I enjoy what I am doing’. I have lived by that credo and when I no longer enjoy what I am doing, I will walk away from the industry.

 

A shorter version of this appeared in dna of brands dated May 11, 2015

 

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