Prathap Suthan | NCD, Cheil India

I was born in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. Advertising calls it ‘God’s own country’, but I’d rather call it as the land that lives under a zillion coconut palms, drunk on toddy, and green with backwaters.

I will be 46 this year, am married to Jyothi – Jo to friends. She is a textile designer and an NID graduate. We have a son – Abhimanyu, who is now in his 12th standard.

I went to Loyola School and Mar Ivanios College, and gorged on debates, word-games, rum, cricket and everything else from Abba, Beatles, Bach, Orff, Ayn Rand, Wodehouse, Leon Uris, Shakespeare, Kurosawa, Coppola, to Asterix and Legionnaire Beau Peep.

I lived in Philadelphia between 1985 – 86, to help out my cousins with our family business. But all I did was travel around, went looking for John Denver’s country roads, stood through Live Aid, climbed the Rockies, and kept aching for my bed back home.

When I got back, all I wanted to do was write. I joined a small agency in Trivandrum, and by the time I sorted my fonts out, Mudra Communications – Ahmedabad, hired me. I spent 9 years there, 11 years in Grey, and now I am into my 3rd year at Cheil.

Essentially, I am still a copywriter. I cannot give up my soul. It’s been fed and raised on Fred Woodward’s typography, Ammirati’s BMW print ads, Television Registers and Shots, National Geographic, Japanese art and art direction, foreign films with and without subtitles, world music, Economist, and at least one new random website every day.

I will always be a student of our industry. And I don’t think I will be happier doing anything else. I am as good or bad as my last campaign, and you could call me Pat.

Why are you into Advertising?
Because it’s the most interesting job in the world.

At least that’s what I think. It’s the only profession that guarantees that I get a brand new day of fun every day, and that I get the opportunity to even superficially understand and peek into the innards of almost every business that drives the world.

Not to mention the people whom I get to work with, and the places that I get to go to. I have never had a boring day.

More than that, Mother Earth and all her riches form the palette that I have in front of me to choose and draw from.

I can borrow from her, I can imagine whatever I want, and I am not held back by the limitations of any science or any rule. Everything goes in advertising.

I can travel to the moon, I can be a whooshing breeze, I can be on the wiggly tentacle of an octopus, I can be at the screeching nose of a rocket, I can be panting beside a burrowing worm, I can be a waterfall in the middle of a teardrop, I can be a rock star, a President, a general, a prehistoric man, and whatever my idea requires.

I can be anything, anyone, and anywhere.

Which other profession allows you the freedom to bring fantasies, and dreams, and imagination alive? I am sure many of us have dug into our lives and brought stories and incidents into the context of brands.

I am paid for my hobby. And the last time I went to work was the first day at Mudra. After that, it’s been one lovely endless ride.

Besides, I am not sure if I can do anything else. I really can’t. I probably might make a good lawyer, purely on the basis of arguing a point or finding a lateral perspective.

I love the power of a brilliant argument. But then, I am a bad liar. And I can’t keep a straight face while lying. I am pretty sure that I probably will be sacked even before I am hired.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
Nope. I didn’t. I was never good at drawing or painting or sketching or doodling. I could look and draw basic stuff, but I have never gone beyond stick figures.

My craft is writing. And ever since I was a kid, that’s all I have wanted to do. Of course today, the scale, scope and spectrum of my words have changed.

I wanted to do my Master’s in Literature, but after 6 months into Chaucer, Milton and Tennyson, I gave up. Not that I wasn’t interested in classical English, its purity and progress. I wanted out because I was sure that I didn’t want to read any more. I wanted to write, and I wanted to write my mind.

I believe that power of expression or being creative is a talent that all us have. Being creative is something all of us born with.

How do you think software engineers, bankers, investment advisors, detectives, and thieves live successful lives? They see life through their kaleidoscope, and they juggle things around to find their solutions. Creativity is the art of being brilliant within parameters.

Don’t tell me that you haven’t used some colourful lies, exaggerated issues or even twisted a fact or two as a kid, as a teenager, as a professional, and as a human being.

It’s natural for us to look and think out of the ordinary. All of us are creative. Much like all of us. We are all human, but we are all different minds who think and do very different and unexpected things.

With your busy schedule as an NCD, do you have enough time left to indulge in Creative?

I am very much an ideator, and very much a copywriter. Besides, I like to get my hands dirty. I am first a worker bee, and I have to work; think, write, create.

I can’t stop an idea from waking up in my head, and then I can’t turn on the air conditioner and let the idea go back to sleep.

If you have an idea, then the idea has to be expressed, and created for others to see. You have to dig it out of your head. With words, pictures, film, music, whatever.

And the more one does it, the better the person becomes.

You can’t be the best batsman and not practice. You can’t be the fastest sprinter and not practice. You can’t be on top of your game if you don’t play every day. Period.

If you are a razor, you better sharpen it daily.

I am always writing some thing or the other. Articles, stories, poetry, debates, scripts, copy. Even this interview. I could write a couple of regular lines, or get my secretary to write this interview out, and move this out of the way.

But that isn’t what this ought to be. That’s not why I am spending time over this. This has a purpose. And I want to make sure that I tell my story the way I want it told. If I can share something that’s useful to even one person, then this will have served its purpose.

I am busy, and I am busy doing things. I am not someone who complains that I don’t have enough time. I make time to work for me.

Being an NCD is one of the toughest jobs possible. It’s about being a people person, an ideas person, a craft person, a management person, a client person, and an industry person. And at any time, you cannot ditch one for the other.

It’s a balancing act. It’s an authority act. It’s a leadership act. And I have always believed that power is never given. You have to take it.

More than anything else, being an NCD is also bigger than just standing up and being the creative spine of the agency.

It is the knack of being able to spot and identify big ideas. Plus guiding, supporting, driving and empowering people to develop themselves, their ideas and their strengths. Along with managing egos.

If I do all the work, then I am a selfish conniving narcissist who doesn’t let his juniors bloom and flower. On the other hand, if I let everyone else get busy, then I am a lazy ass whiling my time without earning my salary.

The ideal is a balance.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up in advertising?
Advertising was a different industry then. We didn’t have the Internet, and we didn’t have the kind of media focus that advertising gets today.

So most people lived in their little bubbles, and looked into a collective black hole. All we had were, Communication Arts, One Shows and the occasional Television Register that got us the best from across the world. And most big names were unknown.

All we had were key numbers to follow. No wonder we made some great ads around key numbers those days. I especially remember that very famous Rediffusion ad.

Sure we knew about the agencies that were famous across the world and India. But there were almost no interviews, no interaction, no meetings, and certainly no FaceBook etc. that would have got us closer to anyone who could have been a role model.

We never knew legends. And I really can’t say I had role models. But I never wanted to be like anyone. I just wanted to be me.

However, I think one of the brightest moments and personalities that took me close to finding a role model, was a brief interaction with Helmut Krone. He was the famous art director on Volkswagen, and the craftsman behind ads like ‘Think Small’.

I was under the impression, and most industry still is, that once you get older in this business, you probably run out of ideas and become defunct. Or get burned out.

Running into Helmut Krone changed that. And that got further reinforced when I met 50-year-old Creative Directors from Madison Ave and elsewhere. My first Cannes was in 1992. And probably among the first Indians who went there.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
The people who actually pushed me into advertising were Sangeeth Sivan and Santosh Sivan.

But the person who influenced me in advertising is without doubt, Mr. A G Krishnamurthy. Founder Chairman of Mudra. He may have not have deliberately taught me many things. But I was fortunately close enough to observe and absorb from his views, his aggression, his passion, and his determination.

He was a machine gun with his thoughts, and a marksman in his precision. He is the only person in this industry whom I call ‘Sir’.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Life is the biggest inspiration. Life is the big university. There’s nothing like life to learn and imbibe from.

Life and Nature are the biggest teachers. Keep your eyes and ears and heart open for moments, stories, emotions, values, virtues, relationships, contrasts, and ideas.

I watch a lot of National Geographic and Discovery. In fact I started reading NG when I was in the 4th standard. Way back in the 70’s. That’s one knowledge base I dig into time and time again for inspiration.

Most of my advertising has been based on a conviction that I am right, and my work has always sprung from that belief. Without being truthful to myself, I will never be able to fool my words, my thoughts, and myself.

Put me in front of a problem, and I am immediately thinking of a solution. I am wired to respond to issues and challenges. And the more complicated and complex the problem is, the better off and the more interested I am.

Because, usually there’s just one right solution to the problem. And once you have the solution, you know you are on the right side of things.

I hate looking for chocolate in a candy store. There’re just far too many options. And everyone will find one. Metaphorically speaking that is.

Tell us something about the work environment at Cheil…
We certainly are the in-house agency of Samsung, and I will not pretend to be an ostrich and bury my head in sand.

On the contrary, I believe this as the greatest strength of the agency. The fact that we have one the world’s most outstanding brands to work for is a genuine stimulant. And our work will have the budgets to back it.

People will see our campaigns, and our work will not be missed because they flipped the channel.

While we may be focused on Samsung, that has helped us glean and create a great deal of proprietary knowledge in many areas. Including telecom, IT, fashion, life style, entertainment, sports, cuisine, home décor, architecture and real estate etc. besides better understanding consumer behavior, youth markets, home dynamics, urban and rural marketing, in shop branding, retail marketing, and so on.

We are now open for new businesses, new clients, with more people than ever. We are larger than what most people think, and we do have some extremely talented people working with us.

My personal endeavour has been to turn the whole agency around into a crack unit. And in the last three years I have been at Cheil, we probably have had more fun and spunk than many agencies.

Including working on the advertising that turned around Samsung Mobiles from a 2% market share to what it is today, and bringing in 12 short lists at Cannes and an equal number of finalists at One Show.

Of course there are difficult moments with our clients. But then, show me one client who is perfect. Advertising alone isn’t a barometer to measure warts.

Every client has thorns, and every client has roses. Just that here, we definitely have more roses. I am part of an agency that is full of freedom, camaraderie, happiness and zero politics.

We have a common joke in the agency that we go to Korea every morning. And we drive back to India in the evening. But the truth is, barring the couple of Koreans who work with us, we are every bit a rocking Indian agency.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?

No we don’t.

But we do offer internships to deserving kids. At the moment we have a few working with us. Personally, I keep an open door policy, and I do meet up with most people who call me.

I do think however, that most agencies don’t invest enough in their own people. There’s an overall loss of quality in our business and unless there’s more money coming our way, this abyss is only going to deepen.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Having a ponytail doesn’t work. Hanging around in bars and acting obnoxious doesn’t cut it. Getting drunk and being a jerk doesn’t and will not give you more creative cells.

You won’t find the best people in our businesses wasting their time in bars and lounges, and pretending to be what they are not. They have work to do, and things to achieve.

Be humble. Be true. Be yourself. Learn from everyone and everything. Everything is a lesson. The more lessons, you learn, more you will be able to do. Simple.

Try and understand the business and the science of advertising. Once you learn how to build foundations, then you can build the most awesome structures. Otherwise, the wind and the rain will blow you away.

Awards are not the reason why advertising was invented, or why you will be paid a salary. Advertising was made to sell products and services. And if you cannot do that, then you have no role, and the business will have no use for you.

Learn from the lives and words of our industry’s great masters. All of them speak the same language.

Learn to make mistakes. Accept mistakes. No one is perfect. And depend less on tools. You will never get great ideas every day. In your entire lifetime, you might just get a few.

Don’t forget that you need a thought first. And the more original and more yours the thought is, the more freedom you will. Have fun. Be a child. Be experimental. Try everything once.

A creative person is a reservoir of experiences. Add more to the cauldron. Add more to your collection. And having an attitude without grey matter doesn’t help one lousy bit.

The fact is if you aren’t the richest person on earth, there’s someone else out there richer than you. And if you aren’t the most creative person out there, there’s someone else more creative than you.

Remember advertising people are not important to the society. Your plumber and your sweeper are far more important. Ease up on your ego. If you have one, you’ll meet someone who has a bigger one. Our profession will never get us the Bharat Ratna. Accept it.

And once you do, your life will never be the graveyard of ambition.

You will never be good at all kinds of advertising. Just one. Maybe two. Find that strength. Build on that. Be the best creative person for that kind of work. Be a specialist.

Red Adair was the best fire fighter known to mankind. And he specialized in oil fires. Look around. It is a world of specialists. Whom do you pay more? Your GP or your Nephrologist?

Listen to everyone. Listen to everything. But create something that will be remembered after your day is done. Something big. If you aren’t anywhere close to it, try everything to get closer to. Be very proud of what you do. And what you have done.

People say that I am only known for India Shining. Maybe. But that is mine. Not yours.

A hundred years or more from now, people will still remember that campaign. Because it made us proud as a nation; because it’s linked to the change of a Government, and therefore history. Posterity will quote me. Not anyone else.

Tell us something about the Delhi Alt.
I have spoken and written much about The Delhi Alternative, and I’d rather people join the page on FB – The Delhi Alternative (temp), and follow our developments.

This is essentially built on the premise that I touched earlier – about the growing lack of depth in our industry and the lack of corporate attention to that deficiency.

One thing I can assure you is that all of us who are behind it are completely committed to the cause, and will make sure that our first initiative takes off on ground as soon as possible.

What is your dream project?
I am currently working on something that has a global dimension to it. I am hopeful that my client has the vision and the tenacity to invest in the idea.

As an idea, this is probably the biggest I have worked on. But as I indicated, there’s also another side to all the ideas that one can come up with.

If your client doesn’t have the same depth of vision, clarity of view, and the relevant budgets, things may not fall in place.

The thing about big ideas is that they are powerful. When I say big ideas, I am not talking about doing a one-off giggly chewing gun ad.

(Unfortunately, that’s the kind of stuff many people in our own industry rate as top of the line creative work).

I am talking about the size of ideas that can impact the way a brand will be seen globally, result in large-scale perception shifts, and deliver definitive stimuli to brand and market shares.

Big ideas are scary. Because they challenge everything. They redefine everything.

They change people, they change colleagues. A big idea can even change you. Because suddenly, you are no longer the small guy who came to work that morning. You are different.

You have crossed a benchmark, you have graduated to a new level, you have destroyed a record, you have overcome a limit; you have evolved.

Big ideas change life. Even your relationships with people.

They actually influence the balance of life. Suddenly you are no longer someone with just a quirky mindset. You are someone with a lot more power and lot more dynamite than most people.

Which is why big ideas are resisted by people. More than the brand needing it, and the market wanting, big ideas change multiple equations. And at times, a lot of people cannot handle that. Including your boss who at times has no idea of advertising.

Mac or PC?
Mac of course. PCs are boring. I have both on my table, and my PC is only to check office mail. It’s a waste of money.

As an aside, I have been faithful to Mac since 1989. I think Mudra Ahmedabad would have been the first agency in India to Think Different.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
This is an interesting question. And I have many choices in my spectrum. From the beautiful to the intelligent.

But if I narrow everything down, and weigh all my options, I think I would love to have dinner with Stephen Hawking.

The food wouldn’t be important at all for obvious reasons. Because I would rather spend time asking him all the questions that I have about life, and space, and time, and actually understand the answers. Theoretical physics is something that I otherwise wouldn’t even spell correctly.

I’d think Prof. Hawking represents the ultimate triumph of mind and spirit over everything mortal.

What’s on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod anymore. Everything has collapsed into my Samsung Galaxy. I have a strange mix of music. Many genres, many ages.

I have western classical, remixes, opera, instrumental, rock, jazz, Hindi – old and new, Malayalam, Tamil, some languages that I don’t understand, tracks from my commercials, odd speeches, debates, commercials etc.

Music is octane for my thinking. And if music is playing in my office, knock before you enter. I am working.

This incredible India campaign was for promoting india to the SE Asia market as the Buddhist capital of the world. It was approved but never released by the ministry.

Incredible India Buddhist Campaign
Art Director: Viral Pandya
Agency: Grey New Delhi

“These are the first ever Incredible India billboards to come up on Times Square, New York. This I think is also the first time an Indian brand ever made its appearance in the most expensive OOH venue in the world.”

Incredible India Times Square Outdoor Campaign
Art Director: Deepti Ahuja
Agency: Grey New Delhi

The Hyundai Terracan
Art Director: Viral Pandya
Agency: Grey New Delhi

Samsung Aamir Khan Brand Commercial
Director: Ravi Udyavar
Agency: Cheil Worldwide
[vimeo clip_id=”14761504″ width=”490″ height=””]

Samsung Omnia Aamir Khan Commercial
Director: Ravi Udyavar
Agency: Cheil Worldwide
[vimeo clip_id=”14761387″ width=”490″ height=””]

Samsung Summer AC
Director: Amit Sharma
Agency: Cheil Worldwide
[vimeo clip_id=”14761432″ width=”490″ height=””]

Ajanta Clocks film made in 1990
Director: Ram Madhvani
Agency: Mudra Ahmedabad
[vimeo clip_id=”14761624″ width=”490″ height=””]

Aviva Insurance, early 2002
Director: Prakash Varma
Agency: Grey New Delhi
[vimeo clip_id=”14761709″ width=”490″ height=””]

Aviva Insurance, early 2002
Director: Prakash Varma
Agency: Grey New Delhi
[vimeo clip_id=”14761791″ width=”490″ height=””]

Saffola was done in 2003.
Director: Ram Madhvani
Agency: Grey Mumbai
[vimeo clip_id=”14761852″ width=”490″ height=””]

Haier Plasma TVs, 2006
Director: Vineet Bagga
Agency: Grey Delhi.
Music: Debojyoti Mishra
[vimeo clip_id=”15290429″ width=”490″ height=””]

Hindustan Times Live Smart
Art Director: Amit Shanker
Agency: Grey New Delhi

“This was the international campaign for India Shining. After the first ad was published across the world, the rest went into cold storage because the Govt. had changed by then.

India Shining International
Art Director: Viral Pandya
Agency: Grey New Delhi

The earlier Vimal campaigns from ’90-’92
Art Director: Philip D’Souza
Agency: Mudra Ahmedabad

Some more work for Incredible India!
Art Director: Jayant Mathew
Agency: Grey New Delhi

Campaign for Hyundai Accent
Art Director: Manoj Deb
Agency: Grey New Delhi

India Today, Indian Pride
Art Director: Amit Shanker, Sanjay Menon
Agency: Grey New Delhi

India Shining Domestic
Art Director: Swami Anand Tirth, Viral Pandya
Agency: Grey New Delhi

Incredible India International
Art Director: Deepti Ahuja
Agency: Grey New Delhi

38 thoughts on “Prathap Suthan | NCD, Cheil India

  1. Sunil Baindur says:

    Wonderful work and very very inspiring.Thank you for sharing.

  2. Pratik says:

    @Nitin, can’t agree more with you. Didn’t know Prathap was also behind India campaign. I loved the Amir Khan Samsung Campaign…would have loved to see some print on Samsung.

  3. Renu says:


  4. Shanty says:

    Pat, this is one of the best interviews I have ever read. Extremely illuminating. Best wishes for your next big idea.

  5. bruce haines says:

    Very proud !!

  6. Sugandha says:

    Pat ! Its delightful to be your friend.

    What touches me about him is the purity in his work and thoughts. Each and every time I have a chat with him he teaches me one new thing. Shows me a poem, a film, an essay or just his loud open laughter !

    I simply adore his work ! Best wishes Pat and look forward to – Next is what ?

  7. Sanjeev Singh says:

    I met Prathap a couple of years ago when he was at Trikaya Grey. While he never hired me, he told me a few things that helped me find a job. Thank you Sir. I am glad that you are still as passionate and postive as ever about advertising, when usually all we hear is pessimism. May you continue to lead Cheil. And what a loss for Grey,

  8. Faisal says:

    I felt like a priest taking a confession 🙂
    Candid, inspiring, informative and guiding.
    Cheers Pat!

  9. Raina says:


  10. Vikramjit says:

    I’m out of words.

    (and I’m a Copywriter. I’m doomed)

  11. Natasha says:

    The right words in the form of books, journals or interviews find their way into your life when you most need them. At the threshold of a career shift from servicing to creative, this is precisely what I most needed to know.
    Thank you, for sharing your work and your views. I think you answered most of the questions I was looking for answers to. Your work is inspiring and your words even more so.

  12. Khima Nand Pandey says:

    Wonderful…………….. Thank you for sharing Sir.

  13. Nishi says:

    I believe this is precisely what I always wanted; something to have with me that could be my guide, to give me encouragement in my tough times and to give me inspiration to reach new heights in my successful times. I finally got it, in the form of words of a great ‘copywriter’. It’s the solutions to all the problems, the support in all the hard times, the right direction in the middle of all the wrong paths, the most inspiring and edifying lesson, in the form of an interview. I feel proud to have been given a chance to work under the guidance of one of the great masters of advertising. His every word is an inspiration and the key to unlock the door to better ideas, not just to help in the job but in the life’s other sides too. I find ‘Awesome’ a small word for what has been written. The dictionary yet to have a word to describe such a master piece made of words. Thank you, once again!!!

  14. Ajay Dhingra says:

    Pat, you are always as good as you need to be. This piece is an inspiring insight to the world of advertising. The budding generation of creative writers have a lot to learn from your wealth of experience. Your underlying punchline ‘ nothing better than getting paid (rather handsomely) for pursuing a hobby’ says it all. Look forward to seeing more of you beyond India Shining & Incredible India campaigns. All the best, always.

  15. liz mahajan says:

    awesum, shibu, u r where u were meant to be !! its heart warming to see, ur creativity n growth. Its been 28 yrs ago ! happy to see ur body of work !! all d best.

  16. Sandra Martyres says:

    A fascinating interview Pat….you are the man for all seasons. Your creative instincts are amazing…The India is shining / Incredible India Publicity Blitzkrieg is marvellous…and the verses written for each picture are something to be truly proud of…

  17. Reji Samuel says:

    Truely Inspiring. Thank you.

  18. prathap suthan says:

    Thank you all for the comments. I sincerely hope that whatever I have written and shared is useful and of relevance to the juniors especially. I am open to anyone writing to me directly, and I will take time to respond to questions. My email is prathapsuthan (at) gmail (dot) com. Do connect. Thanks again for taking time out to read and comment. Best wishes.

  19. Madhukar Soma says:

    Hey Pat.. It’s wonderful to know you.. Gr8 work.. Am sure your best is yet to come.. Enjoy life.. GOD bless.

  20. Piyush says:

    Very interesting and humble, something that separates you from the rest. I was always mesmerized by the ‘Incredible India’ campaign, not only for the concept but for the way it was the modern representation of pride in being an Indian. Samsung is a case study in itself. I was mentioning the same in one the marketing seminars I attended recently where the discussion was about how brands are replacing the perceptual leaders by doing great advertising, Samsung to Sony is one such example.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Couldn’t work with you while I was in advertising, but hope I get an opportunity to work with you soon.


  21. Kinjal Tanna says:

    Wish there was more… an inspiring and interesting insight into ur life.. leaves u thinking of the wonderful possibilities advertising has to offer… well done.. and kudos to your fantastic team at Cheil. Look forward to your global campaign…

  22. Susil Thomas says:

    Such an amazing interview, so simple and elegant

  23. Prathap, i know you through PP. Reading your interview i am pround i know some one like you. Great going.

  24. Amit Raina says:

    Pat – As I see across my ofice window and view the Downtown Manhattan sky line and then look at these wonderful campaign shots, it makes me nostalagic. I travelled back to Kalu Sarai for a few minutes. It urges me to come back home. I have been part of most of the print campaigns that you have showcased, be it Incredile india, India shinning or Hyundai, I have walked that road hand in hand with art and with you. I felt so proud today.

    I will always cherish my professional connection with you and Grey. God Bless India.

  25. unnikrishna menon damodaran says:

    “But then, I am a bad liar. And I can’t keep a straight face while lying.”

    Am glad at the least one advertising person admit it.

    Pat, a pat on your back from a “simply malayali” admirer of your work.

    why people have to tell lie when they are in business? and also forcing others to do the same?

    management people call it with a nice name “convenient truth”.


  26. Look forward to your global campaign…

  27. kiran says:

    1) Who briefed you on india shining work?
    2 ) Did’nt you cross questioned them on the credibility on the brief –
    before it crashed so badly ( BJP got out of power )
    3) Please dont say that india shining campaign had nothing to do with the then elections which you then said in the press at that time.

    Anyway you guies gave your 100 % to the brief. Good integrated work at that time.

  28. prathap suthan says:

    kiran, glad you raised the issue.

    question 1.

    the brief came directly from the ministry of finance. mr. jaswant singh was the minister. the brief had three objectives.

    one – inject economic optimism into the country – make people participate in the progress of the country, see merit in investing in the country ( instead of keeping money locked up as FDs), take advantage of loans – home, car, capital, export, agro-processing etc.

    two – reposition India globally as an economic opportunity and an investment destination. (the sensex touched 5000 for the first time – 3 or 4 days after the campaign broke – nov 14 or thereabouts 2003).

    three – relaunch the campaign that the Govt. had initiated about 10 months earlier – under the theme – ‘India’s time has come.’ unfortunately that campaign, delivered by Rediffusion, didn’t meet the above two objectives, and despite spending many crores, it sank without a trace. chances are you wouldn’t remember it.

    this also should further underline the fact that India Shining wasn’t linked to the elections. as it was a continuation of an impetus that the Govt. had started almost a year earlier.

    we weren’t the only agency briefed for the relaunch. if i remember right, 20 agencies – including the biggest among us had pitched for it. my campaign was chosen. and i suppose, if you remove the political angle, the campaign delivered its objectives. election propaganda was Not part of the brief.

    question 2.

    there was no reason to cross question the brief. why would anyone cross question a brief given by the Minister?

    what standing do I have in the financial and economic community of our country to question a brief written out, whetted, and sharpened by the top bureaucrats of our country.

    come to think of it, is there anyone in our industry who can stand up to the experience and knowledge base of the south block? i surely don’t. do you?

    question 3.

    i said this then, and i say this again, the campaign had nothing to do with the elections. here are some commonsensical reasons.

    one – i am sure they people in in politics know where the votes lie. they definitely don’t lie in urban india, or with people like us.

    the majority of india, whose votes can influence elections are with an india that lives far away from us. politicians know this more than anyone else. so why would they do a campaign that excludes the majority? or distances them?

    two – the campaign was aimed squarely at ‘successful’ india. or people who had a little extra money to invest in a new house, buy shares, take a home or business expansion loan etc. and ‘successful india’ is definitely not a vote bank.

    most of india (70 odd %), as the case is even now, lives on less than Rs.20 a day. politicians will never expose their soft underbelly. and reason why ‘aam aadmi ko kya mila’ had the potency to puncture the balloon.

    three – India Shining by virtue of its english construct was not for mass consumption, and in an election scenario ( if that was the intent ), that certainly wouldn’t have gone through their filter. it was aimed at urban india, and to spill over across the land.

    four – the ‘bharat uday’ yatra wasn’t part of my campaign. that was bjp led and deployed in the run up to the elections. and that was their decision etc. india shining at best would or could have been used as the proof of their governance for 5 years. proof why future promises would be met.

    five – and if i look back at the result, while i am no politician – am just a copywriter who worked on the campaign, the reason why they didn’t come back into power wasn’t because of the campaign. i think their AP and TN partnerships didn’t work out for them. those numbers cost them the election. it’s easy to blame the campaign. which i still believe is true and robust.

    kiran, i think the biggest and unseen effect of that campaign was pride.

    it did make us feel good. it captured the essence of what we thought and still think about our motherland. and i think there was truth in it. it wasn’t just a campaign. it was and still is a phrase that gets repeated whenever india and indians do something good. cwg notwithstanding.

  29. aditya says:

    Sir ! With respect and humility

    Your experiences shared is invaluable to say the least, also your knowledge and understanding of the advertising industry, gives light to the kind of person one can be just by being himself.Honest and straight-forward. The India Shining campaign is definately one for the amateurs, like me to study as it gives the insight of not only the being proud of being an indian, but also being honest about it. Not getting to work with you,after being able to work with you is a slight disappointment to me. Last but not the least, “getting paid for your hobby” is a classic and one to be in my memories for a long time.

    I am honoured to be a fan of yours(if i can say so) and hope that i can learn a lot from you in the near future.

  30. sameer k says:

    very impressive and inspiring. a humbling read. 🙂

  31. Arun K Nanu says:

    Hello Pratap,

    Could you please visit our website .
    We need your advice & support. Please contact.


  32. Richika Rampal says:

    Hi Pat…

    It was inspirational and amusing….!!! As I read along, it knocked on the grey matter and led me in to doing some serious fun thinking. In short it gave me yet another lens through which I can click pictures differently. And then I went stumbling…it was full of unexpected things….being surprised every time was the ultimate thing…!!!

    Richie Rich.

  33. CHANCHAL SETHI says:



  34. sathish says:

    hello prathap

    I would like to keep it in mind as one of the dear first learning I had of the science of advertising. I studied philosophy for years without understanding a word of it till I chanced upon a copy of Durrant’s story of philosophy and developed a passion for it thereafter. Almost a similar experience journeying with you . Thank You.

    I am a friend of Harikumar,your classmate at Loyola. We have met at Cochin at the session organised by Jelitta

  35. Madhuri Kurup says:

    Incredible! I’m speechless, having not lived in India for a long time now, these images make me long for our beautiful country. You make us Mallissa’s proud.

  36. rajib says:

    my altime favorite campaign is ‘Incredible India’ – a small quarry – in times square Newyork on the Bill Board – do you feel its easy to read out in a high traffic zone.
    do you feel for out door and print media campaign font and script can be customize as per readibility… just a thought.

  37. June aka Madhumita says:

    Great to see your work 🙂 Very inspiring!

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