Remembering Pradeep Guha

23 Aug,2021

 

 

 

Ramesh Narayan: My friend, Pradeep

 

Pradeep proved to me that you could violently disagree with someone and still be friends, writes Ramesh Narayan

 

Ramesh Narayan

By Ramesh Narayan

 

Sometime in the early nineties I signed on for a tour of Spain organised by the India Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA). I was a rookie in the advertising industry and I looked in awe at veterans like Mukul Upadhyaya, Amol Bose, Pheroza Bilimoria, Mohini Bhullar and Pradeep Guha. Yes, his reputation preceded him even then.

 

He was the man who was building up the Times of India Group into this formidable money-making machine.

 

In a couple of years, we were travelling to Cancun for a World Congress of the IAA. This time, I knew Pradeep slightly better. At London, where we checked in again for the second half of our flight, he sauntered up to the Business Class queue where I was (he was travelling first class) and cautioned me to ensure my bags had been loaded. I did, and when we landed in Cancun, my bags were there, but his weren’t. And so we spent half a day shopping for some basics for him.

 

And that was the beginning of dozens of flights and trips we did together for a host of reasons. We were the most unlikely friends. He loved shopping, I never shopped. He was an extroverted partygoer, I preferred to be in bed by 11pm.

 

But it was sometime in the late nineties when India (to be read as Pradeep Guha and Goutan Rakshit) decided to make a bid to bring AdAsia to India that we really became a threesome.

 

Flashes of incidents come back to me.

 

I excitedly told him that I had managed to wrest a 15-minute slot at the IAA World Congress in Beirut to pitch the AdAsia. He looked at me and said: “You really think those guys want to see you and me on stage? Let’s get Miss World to invite them instead”. And so Pradeep, Priyanka Chopra, the reigning Miss World and I flew to Beirut. I made the presentation and then Priyanka in her gown and wearing the crown and sash came on to invite the audience to India, promising to meet them there as well.

 

During the build-up to the AdAsia I was at the Times of India office every day from 2 to 7pm for about six months. The security assumed I was some senior employee and saluted me all the way to Pradeep’s well-designed room. Here, he poured every minute detail that could make this a memorable Congress. From the bus routes to the venue to the staff who would clean the toilets, no detail was too small for him.

And thanks to his personal goodwill, Mukesh Ambani, Kumarmangalam Birla, Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan all graced the AdAsia. And his name never appeared in the media. He made me the face of the AdAsia with a sardonic: “I will not allow the TOI to carry my picture. And the other newspapers won’t carry it in any case. So you have to do the honours”.

 

In 2008, a call from him brought me back from organic farming to my second innings with the advertising industry. He was taking over as President of the IAA and he insisted I be at least a mancom member with him.

 

In 2011, after the completion of the AdAsia in Delhi, we were driving to an after-party hosted by a friend. I told him of an ethical problem I was facing in accepting a large company which was faced with pollution charges as our sponsor for the fledgling Olive Crown Awards. He listened and quietly said: “I’ll do it”. And for three years after that 9XM sponsored the Awards.

 

In my year as President of the Rotary Club I asked for speakers, a star Chief Guest for a function at a Municipal school and TV time. He never said no to me.

 

Even in 2014 when we were organising the silver jubilee Summit of the IAA, I called him and said he should somehow get Shah Rukh Khan to come for the opening session of the conference in Kochi. He just said, “You deliver a jet. I’ll deliver SRK”. And that was it.

 

On the work front, as President of the AAAI, I was able to recover many longstanding dues from errant clients for our members simply because as regional Chairman of the INS he was happy to arm me with a letter that would place an embargo on the advertising of those clients if they didn’t pay up.

 

Pradeep had the dubious distinction of being the author of the Page 3 culture. He also helped birth the Bombay Times and though he didn’t personally usher in the era of paid news, he half-heartedly oversaw it. He knew how to make anything into a huge spectacle. The Filmfare awards, the Miss India pageants, even the Bombay Times party. It was the only party people lusted to get invited to. However, through all this he never took his eye off the ball. All these efforts were aimed at brand-building for the various publications of the Times of India group.

 

Here was a large-hearted man. Sure we had our differences, including one bitter exchange of hot words at KL airport over the theme of the 2019 IAA World Congress. But when the Congress was over and it turned out so well, we were back to our old relationship. Pradeep proved to me that you could violently disagree with someone and still be friends.

 

Ambi Parameswaran, as President of Advertising Club honoured Goutam, Pradeep and me on stage and called us the Three Musketeers of the advertising industry.

We lost Goutam last year. Pradeep a couple of days ago, and I stand bereft.

 

Ramesh Narayan is a veteran and awardwinning industryperson and headed various media industry associations

 

 

 

Partho Dasgupta: Live like a King again, Boss

 

The outpouring of love, respect, devotion as well as a sense of despair and loss – in words and pictures – in newspapers, and social media posts though don’t do justice to the Man himself, writes Partho Dasgupta

 

Partho DasguptaBy Partho Dasgupta

 

It’s amazing to see the various social media posts on PG (The Boss) pouring in through the weekend. So many, just so many have remembered him with their memories of the man who shines today as one of the brightest stars of the media and advertising world out there. The outpouring of love, respect, devotion as well as a sense of despair and loss – in words and pictures – in newspapers, and social media posts though don’t do justice to the Man himself. He is (yes, not using the past tense still) a man who is bigger than all this.

 

He was a towering personality in the Old lady of Boribunder (Times – VT building) whose presence in every review meeting or otherwise meant one learnt something that day. I still remember presenting The Economic Times  efforts in franchising the brand into regional languages by providing a page of the top news in the local language but with English ET masthead. He taught me never to use the term Vernacular – since it meant the language of the Vernas i.e the slaves. I have always learnt from him how to think strategically, thinking big and to encourage people instead of pulling them up for their mistakes.

 

The way he gave the Indian event industry a new scale, stature, and glamour, was unprecedented. He was a man who always thought way ahead of his time, encouraged people to perform and partied hard to get amazing results. I still remember the way he organised the Abbys with SRK and stars performing on stage as the President, The Advertising Club. From there on the AdAsia at Jaipur to the recent IAA World Congress at Kochi – he brought the world to recognise and witness the Indian advertising industry at its best. I doubt anyone else could do that.

 

He was the life of every party. His Diwali do every year was a sought after one and one where most erstwhile colleagues and senior people would meet. A man with excellent relationships, across industries and across levels, he loved to entertain. And lastly the managers he helped groom, the startups he advised, are there across the industry successfully managing their businesses – is the big legacy he left. I doubt we will see another PG again.

 

Live like a King again, Boss.

 

 

Partho Dasgupta, former CEO of BARC India, is Management Strategy Consultant and worked with The Times of India for many years

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