D K Bose: Father of Social Communication in India

12 Oct,2020


We  have had a major power outage in Mumbai and were ill-prepared for it. No power backups, plus a very weak internet connection. Our edition today is hence a little truncated. Our apologies. – Editor


By Indrani Sen


Dwipal Kumar Bose, known to most of us in the advertising and communication industry as ‘DK, expired suddenly due to a heart attack on the morning of October 9 at McLeodgunj in Himachal Pradesh. DK was 76 years’ old and had over 50 years of extensive experience in the industry across Media Planning, Social & Rural Marketing and Advocacy Research.


DK and family were refugees from Bangladesh and after coming to India had to move their base a number of times due to his father’s frequent job changes. During his childhood and teenage years spent in many places across India, DK had to change schools frequently, but acquired grassroot level knowledge of India which was deeply rooted in his psyche.


Financial constraints of a middleclass family with 12 siblings forced him to take up in 1964 his first job at 20 years as a voucher clerk in the billing department of S H Benson, the parent company of Ogilvy. But he was destined for bigger and larger roles in his life, so with his drive for learning and his unstoppable energy he managed to secure a degree from Elphinstone College, Mumbai and over the years rose through the ranks in Ogilvy, Benson & Mather to become a Media Manager in 1974.  He worked in Mumbai and Kolkata offices of Ogilvy (O&M) during the 70s and early 80s.


I met DK for the first time in Mumbai in the early 1980s when he was working in Ogilvy and I was working in Contract Advertising. In spite of a slight age difference, we struck a bond as two Bengalis and as two professionals trying to improve our skills in understanding of media research and its applications to media planning. He taught me the value of grassroot level learning one can acquire through only travels in India, which made me drag my family to many small towns and villages across the country during our annual holidays for many years. My friendship with DK lasted for forty years though we never worked together or even lived in the same city after the few initial years in Mumbai.


in 1984, DK joined HTA (JWT) Delhi as Media Director and I shifted back from Mumbai to my home town Kolkata, but we continued to stay in touch. For a few years, both of us worked in HTA’s media departments in Delhi and Kolkata and we used to meet at various seminars, conferences, media heads’ meets and during our official travels to Delhi and Kolkata. My travels to Delhi were more frequent than his travels to Kolkata and he never failed to invite me to his home for a meal whenever I went to Delhi. His wife Sahana (Khuku Boudi) was a gracious hostess and a great cook.


DK shifted from media to social and rural marketing and started India’s first Social Communication Agency as the head of Thompson Social. He is rightfully the Father of Social Communication in India. He subsequently worked with RK Swamy BBDO and Ogilvy Outreach and expanded his knowledge and skillsets in social and rural marketing and media. I learnt a lot about social and rural communications by just interacting with him over the years. DK was a Founder Trustee for Centre of Advocacy Research, a member of Awareness & Communication Strategy Advisory Council (ACSAC) set up by UIDAI under Nandan Nilekani and served as a consultant to USAID, UNICEF Bangladesh and Myanmar. He helped set up rural and low-income communication units in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.  A book can be written on his experiences and achievements in the area of social and rural marketing. After his retirement from his last job as President of Ogilvy Outreach, DK started working as an advisor and strategist in Behavioural Change Communication mainly in the area of health and primary education. His described himself in his LinkedIn profile as “Margdarshak and advisor on Rural and social Marketing”. DK was awarded with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rural Marketing Association of India in 2017.


DK taught at IIMC, Delhi as visiting faculty for many years and was later associated with IIM Lucknow, IIM Khozikode and Jamia Milia University as visiting faculty. In his time, he trained many media planners and social and rural marketing executives, who later attained important roles in the industry. Some of them have been pouring their tributes to him over the last few days on social media. I quote here a few lines from the FB post of Kunal Sinha (a consumer strategist & foresights expert, 12 times winner of WPP Atticus award for original thinking in marketing services, including the Grand Prix) posted on October 9- “TO SIR WITH LOVE: You were my teacher, mentor and guide to life. And to countless others. I remember every moment we spend together because they were all valuable…… You inspired me. You challenged. You applauded. You were the source of new beginnings, at every age. Here is to your latest! Stay joyful- there’s no one who shared his love so selflessly.”


Earlier this year, DK published his autobiography “Life Unstoppable: Making Challenges Work for you” with Adite Banerjee as an e-book on Amazon. The link is available on his website www.dkbose.com. The introduction on the back cover says: “Bose’s story is an inspiring tale of grit and determination, rejection and success. In narrating his life’s journey, the social communication strategist and behaviour change mentor goes beyond the tried and tested route of offering ‘success strategies’ but shares his own learnings and reveals how challenges can be made to work for you.” Young aspirants in advertising and social marketing must read this book for invaluable learnings.


DK and Khuku Boudi were a made for each other couple and she accompanied him on his various travels across India and many other countries. She shared his love for travelling and visiting places in Interior India, particularly the small towns and villages of Himalayas. DK nursed her caringly and lovingly during the last few years of her life when unfortunately, she became wheelchair bound. DK also travelled with Khuk -Boudi during that period. He missed her a lot during the last two years after her death in September, 2018. I met DK last in January 2019 when I made a visit to his house in Mumbai and he offered me some homemade snacks prepared by his cook proudly telling me that she was trained by Khuku Boudi.


He wrote in his FB account last month: “Two years back, Sahana, my wife left us for her journey into another world, leaving me to carry on my journey in this world alone. It is not easy to adjust to a life without her after 45 years off travelling together. While my children and their spouses are doing their best, I know I will have to travel alone. In the first 15 months after her demise I travelled to 15 places trying to create a world of my own. Unfortunately, the pandemic destroyed it all…. I know time will help. I am trying my best. RIP my co-traveller.” Little did we know that DK would be joining Khuku Boudi in another world within a few days of writing that post!

A couple of days after the above post, DK posted on FB: “Planning to travel to McLeodgunj in October. Anyone willing to join?” We spoke last after that post, when I told him that I won’t be able to join him, but would enjoy the beauty of the hills through his lens. DK reached McLeodgunj in late evening of October 6 and breathed his last during sleep in early morning of October 9. He was cremated in the afternoon of October 10 at Dharmshala by his son Dipankar. DK now lies in eternal peace cuddled by the Himalayan hills he loved so much. He is survived by his daughter Sonali, his son-in-law and granddaughter, his son Dipankar and his daughter-in-law.  He will be remembered among his many friends and associates for his caring nature, his great spirit, his passion for learning and teaching, his sharp analytical mind and his awesome energy. I end here with my heart-felt condolences to his immediate and extended families.


Rest in peace, my friend!



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