By Amey Katkar and Abhishek Jamwal
For DesiCreative’s very first agency profile we honed in on Curry Nation, a young and ambitious group of people headed by some very reputed individuals. The idea was to keep it friendly and get inside the walls of first impressions, to capture the essence of what they stood for, the agency, the people, their work, their ideology and a whiff of their plans for the future.
On a fateful Thursday, Priti Nair called us in for a friendly inquisition and I, in turn, called upon Amey, a fellow inquisitor armed with a tickling sense of humor that was ideal to get the conversation flowing. The two of us met at kurla and took the afternoon local to Mahalaxmi, chalking out a plan while being clear on one agenda, yes coffee to banti hi hai, peekar to aaenge hi…
At Mahalaxmi station we took a taxi for Famous studios, a landmark of the area and quite an iconic name in the advertising industry. Curry Nation was right nearby. Then a quick pitstop at a chai tapri.
Having met a fair share of advertising professionals as a part of DesiCreative, the first thing I noticed was that while many agencies claim to be “a family”, Curry Nation truly exudes the sentiment, their senior team of Priti Nair, Nagessh Pannaswami and Porus Jose having worked together at Lintas earlier. They are a young, yet tenured and motivated group who are all willing to climb into the trenches when necessary, guiding and helping each other.
In conversation with Priti.J.Nair and Nagessh :
To both of them, starting a new agency was a natural next step, an added spice which facilitated the ability and liberty to experiment with ideas with a dash of Indian fervor that they could have only when left answerable to no one. The foundations of Curry Nation are epitomized in their remarks, “For any campaign to work in India it must be world-class in quality and deeply dyed in Indian colours.”
Now, meeting Priti and not questioning her on the famous Balbir Pasha campaign would have been akin to reaching Agra and not visiting the Taj Mahal. The choice of name being the striking point of the campaign, we wanted to know how it came about…
And it turns out that one needn’t have looked very far for inspiration.
“We started with names from within our own agency and then spread out to others. We looked at names like Tushar Kadam to even names like Puliraja (a south India actor) then, with a variety of names at our use we began a lengthy and lively permutation and shortlisted ten of them. After which we felt that the name Balbir Pasha went well with the campaign made for Truck drivers, Migrant Laborers and Sex workers”.
Having worked internationally in BBH London and Singapore, Priti feels that work in India is nowhere less in standards than work abroad.
She feels that the diversity in culture, language, food, gods are the choicest ingredients to bring out something that stands up to the best of works done anywhere in the world.
Nagessh blends well with Priti, having been friends from their Lintas days. They complement each other very well, where Priti looks more into creative affairs, Nagessh handles Administrative and money part of the agency. He adds, “Having worked with leading brands like Levers, Onida, Loop Mobile, DART etc, I have the necessary expertise to develop business and handle clients, which has helped Curry Nation bag some good brands like Emami, Cavin Kare, Rasna, Naturals and Himani in their kitty.”
What is Curry nation best at?
Curry nation is best at Parallel processing, the ability to simultaneously handle a lot of work , varied work and provide alternate solutions that work best for their clients and really work for client in increasing sales and brand awareness.
What Curry Nation is bad at?
They feel they are bad at negotiating the money. Priti is quick to add Nagessh handles the money and grins…
What they love?
More clients coming and Curry’s work making clients happy.
What they Hate?
How do they have lunch?
Like a family would. All of them have their food together in common room and by law everyone needs to be there at lunch time. Most of them have dabbawalas delivering food for them.
Particularly the day I met them, Priti had Labshi (broken wheat) and Nagessh had some Kerala cuisine.
What do People usually do on weekends at Curry?
Saturday is an off but when I had word with fellas in Curry I realized even though it was an off, they liked being in the office, as the agency is more like a lovable family, and most of them like to hangout together after work.
Things they like to brag about:
Curry Nation offers sharp brand solutions to their clients and love to brag about their commitment to them. They are very particular about time deadlines given to them by clients and have always completed work within the given timeframe.
Internet speed at curry:
To already existing clientele of Emami, Cavin Kare, Himani, Naturals, Saii Dairy, Cholayil they have added Nirlep, Borosil, Spinz Deo and Rasna Fruit Plus.
No. of people in the agency:
15 people with 9 Creatives.
Is it difficult to find good people for work?
Yes it is difficult, Most of the people who work in Curry Nation have been friends with Priti or Nagessh or have been admirers who quit bigger organizations to be part of this young agency.
Curry Nation asks for a minimum of 3 references from job seekers.
Employees expectation from Curry Nation?
All of them expect an opportunity to do interesting work with the avenue to work with some very reputed colleagues.
What Curry expects from its employees?
Dedication to work and discipline.
They are very particular on the discipline aspect, Curry Nation believes in a 10am to 6pm day.
How Curry Nation Selects TVC Production Houses.
Story telling part.
Experience in the past.
Production house values and performance.
Structure of Hierarchy:
They have a Flat Structure which is quite evident as they have no walls, to which they explain brings positivity and good vibes. There is an atmosphere of trust and fondness amongst employees. Everyone sits close to each other.
Does Curry Nation believe in Nurturing new brains?
Curry Nation already has two interns working in Client Servicing, with another set of eager learners shortlisted to fill in after the current internships. Priti and Nagessh believe that a “Degree has no meaning”, it is the idea that will click and to achieve this they believe that hard work and building strategies is important even when you are not actually working in an agency. They feel interested people should look at the things around them and start making ads for those products. Or watch ads keenly, see what their positioning and campaigns are and write the next campaign for them. That will show how committed they are rather than emptily claiming their love for advertising.
Curry nation doing their bit?
Curry Nation has an artful Dabba program. Colourful Dabbas are collection points for donations, which are given out every month to the needy ones.
Something very different that you have come across that’s caught your eye?
To this, Priti jumps in and says “Yes yes, The Bean Bag promotion!”, she loves it she says she really finds it very interesting how this guy gets his number spray painted all over and promotes his business and pays almost nothing for all this, she wanted us (Desicreative) to meet this guy and talk to him and his ideas and is it profitable and how is he doing with bean bag business.
How many people went to Goafest 2012?
Two people, which seems pretty decent for an agency of 16, considering all of them had recently visited Goa to celebrate their First Anniversary.
Talk with Porus Jose Creative Head:
Porus who is about to finish his 16th year in this field started his career in advertising when he was 25. Modestly, he admits that to him creativity did not come naturally. He quotes “I was no lateral thinker, more like a vertical thinker” he quipped, “I had to really work very hard for creativity”
For him, the journey from a physics graduate to a copywriter has been very enjoyable. Porus who returns from Kenya having worked there with DDB, says Curry Nation is like coming back to family as he was part of Priti and Nagessh’s team in Lintas.
While in Lintas he worked on the Levers account and he adds that he really misses working in Lintas. He also says that he sometimes feels bad about having left Lintas, but then that’s the way life goes.
According to him, the essential qualities of a good copywriter are :
Madness, Variation and articulation.
Porus who just eats one cooked meal a day says that if anyone has to be credited for good creative work it is the client, and then the agency. It’s the client which lets the agency experiment with their money while dealing with the pressures of gaining market share, increasing brand awareness, market penetration etc.
A little about other people in agency (the few I had a discussion with):
Anoop Konath (Creative Brand Management): Anoop started out making Mallu movie posters and gradually progressed to reputed brands like Romanov, Airtel, ING Life, Arrow, Kingfisher Blue and others.
Before joining Curry as an Art Director, Anoop was with Rediffusion Y&R for 5 yrs.
Swetha Ajit: A young gun fresh out of a course in Copywriting from MICA.
Sheryl Roche: Fairly young and dynamic weapon in Curry’s armoury, Sheryl is into Client servicing and has been a part of Fairever campaign. Having done her study from the Manipal Mass Communications College she is in Curry to learn from Priti.
Snehanka Kelshikar: Five years into Art Direction, Snehanka has a BFA degree from LS Raheja school of arts. She was a part of Leo Burnett’s team prior to Curry nation.
Vaibhav: Has worked in Comma Zero (Gurgaon) before Curry Nation.
Anuja Wadhkalkar: Anuja is from Bhans and has a diploma in advertising. She’s into designing clothes and has written scripts for television, before joining curry nation as a copywriter.
Cedric: Works in client servicing and has the experience of working with Mccann Erickson and BBDO, Mumbai. In Curry Nation, he handles accounts for Fairever, Spinz, and many more…
Ankul: Has been an engineer for two years before joining Curry Nation, to work on Rasna.