Sanjeev Kotnala: What I learnt this Guru Purnima

01 Aug,2018

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I remember the moment. It was late at night.  I was returning from the IAA Leadership Awards. I had just popped in another chewing gum when I opened the winner envelope I have been holding tight.

The 23rd winner.

Ok, let me correct it. At IAA Leadership Awards last Friday, fourteen leaders were identified across categories and given the ‘North Star of Industry’ award. There were seven ‘IAA Person of the Year’ awards for exemplary iconic, inspiring work in their category. Mr Sam Balsara was inducted into IAA Hall of Fame. That makes it 22 awards. I was the last winner, the 23rd winner.

I won the prize, not an award. It was for an online quiz. It seems I was the lucky one who had answered three tough questions from a leading newsmedia group.

So, why share it.

I must share the incident for two reasons. One, it was after a long time I was on stage receiving an award. Yes, I know it was just for an online quiz. Two, I thought I must share with many who gave me those envious looks about what I won. People must not get the wrong impression.

How it all started.

As usual, I was on time for the event. However, that is not the story.

I was moving through the narrow pre-function area when an ever-smiling IAA India President Ramesh Narayan caught hold of me. He introduced me to a lady from this news media group. She shared a secret with me. I had won the ‘Quiz’. She told me how happy and relaxed she was to see me. They were not sure if I was going to be present to collect the prize.

Wow, it was good news. I was getting something for reading an event mailer, noticing the quiz and answering a few simple questions.


However, that is not the story.

Not surprisingly, it was not a secret. People at IAA and this newsmedia group knew. Some of them congratulated me for the win.

I have always been envious of people winning such prizes at the event. The prizes usually are generous for such a contest. Typically, they are about a fully-paid-treated-like-a-royalty vacation to one of the destination in the newspaper territory or a smartphone or an I-pad or substantial cash.

It was an auspicious day. Guru Purnima.

The moment

The event was a tightly packed session. Kubra Sait, the Cuckoo of Sacred Games and the host of the evening was right about it. I was feeling good.

Midway through the event, I felt the bio-pressure. However, I held on. What if the organisers decide to announce the prize while I was away? I was not willing to lose the opportunity.

So I held on till the talented violinist came on stage. I knew this was the window I could use I made a quick exit, and I was back before she changed the song. I enthusiastically clapped for her and myself; the prize was safe and secure.

The seven Leadership awards were given, and Cuckoo hinted it was all over. I could see the crowd slowly getting off from their seat. I thought my day was ruined. Have they made a mistake? Were Ramesh Narayan and the lady from the newsmedia group joking?

Suddenly I hear Kubra Sait calling my name. The quiz winner was announced. I proudly cut through the crowd, climbed five steps to fame and received my prize.

I was given an envelope. It was too thin to have anything significant unless it was a cheque. The cameras flashed while I stood at the centre of the stage.  I heard the presenter tell me. It was a Crossword voucher or vouchers. I read many books, so the Crossword vouchers were okay. Many congratulated me on my win, and I smiled back.

The Discovery

It was half an hour into my ride back home, when I finally decided to check my prize. I opened it with soft hands, and then I saw it. It was a 1000-rupee crossword voucher. I thought maybe I was missing a zero. I checked for more vouchers. There were none. I had been on stage basking in the glory of winning a 1000-rupee crossword voucher!

Saali Saab Uttar Gayi!

It looked like I have answered a contest on FM radio. The situation was such that I was not sure if I should laugh at myself or complement the brand team at the news media group.

I am sure. Only the marketing team at the newsmedia group knew what prize I got. They were happy the winner was in the crowd. The winner was delighted having won something. The other invitees congratulated me, but, they never knew what he won. The brand got the mileage it wanted and I the 1000 rupee Crossword Voucher.


Remembering my many Gurus in advertising, marketing and communication on Guru Purnima.  I have learnt by directly working with them, reading their books, hearing discussions on their approach and work. Quite a few are my colleagues, and my juniors have also taught me finer nuances unintentionally too.  So did the team from the newsmedia group. Happy Guru Purnima.


Sanjeev Kotnala is a senior marketing and strategy consultant. He is also an educator. He writes for MxMIndia every Wednesday. The views here are personal



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