Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Reluctant Father

I was 20 years, with some of my really close friends, partying away, dancing and enjoying myself. It was a usual affair to spend Friday evenings till the place had to close for the night, after which we would drive to some place for dinner and return home only to wake up the next day to party again.

I thought ,there was nothing I would trade for the good times.

I was 25 years, at a bike trip with my gang, at 120kmph on my Yamaha, on a 5 day impromptu trip to the mountains. It was about chilling, relaxing, and just exploring.

I thought there was nothing I would give up for this freedom.

I was 30 years, waiting up in my room, trying to settle down my 2 month old daughter, changing her diaper, holding her milk bottle patiently till she finished it, and trying to soothe her to sleep with a bad version of a lullaby.

Now I know, there is nothing that can compare to the satisfying life I live today. Nothing.

So that's where we all land up. Right?

Not if you really knew who I was first.

Brash. Carefree. Spoilt. Wild – these were the words that would call me before people even knew my name sometimes. 

I made fun of people who had kids. Stayed away a mile from anything that related with babies, and worse - I had a bank of horrific stories, of what I would do to kids if they came within my periphery, which I told anyone who knew me.

I had no intention of having any kids of my own. Ever.

My life plan was clear –Business ,Money. Cars. Travel. Bike Trips. Boy Trips. Party. Freedom

And then it happened...

Love. Engagement. Marriage. Ups and Downs. Highs and Lows.

And then they said...

C’mon C’mon. 5 years huh. Now you must plan.

And then she came...

Angel. Beautiful. Princess. True Love.

But along with her came...

Bibs and Cribs

Booties and Charibootis

Mittens with Kittens

Huggies Diapers and Cotton Wipers

Sleepless Nights and Floor Lights

Mosquito Nets and Out go the Pets


Beer bottles made place for milk bottles

Late night parties were replaced by late night crying

Rock music made way for Rock-a-by-baby.

And you know the best part

We loved it.

This new tag team of me and my wife.

We loved every moment. We cherished every second. Soaked in every learning. Tried our best to be better. There was nothing that made us happier than just seeing her sleep peacefully at the end of the day.

Only to wake up in fifteen minutes and we were at it again.

Today my daughter is on the brink of turning 4 years. I feel a sense of purpose of my life. I know that when people told me good times will come. This is what they meant. I have joined that gang of irritating people who go and tell young couples....Ab settle ho jao. 1+1=3.


No. Touché.

So this goes out to those guys, who identify with the 20 year old me.

If you are like- No way. Me? Never! Not so soon. There’s times for that. I have a long way to go. Let me earn first. Let me live my life first. That’s for much later dude. Someday..not today. Career first. Money first. Life First. My freedom. My dreams. My life?
I respect your opinion. I understand your concerns. Been there, done that.

But if you are- in between. Stuck in grey area. Not sure. Need to be sure. Under pressure to plan a family. Read on...

The Top 3 concerns of married men but not yet fathers.

Concern 1: Money

Most common worry and biggest myth- Having a child, needs a lot of money.

So let me answer this in two parts.

Yes a child is an additional expense. It does entail buying a lot of stuff. Finding a new place to stay for some. And breaking a few savings for many.

A lot of your elders will tell you that a kid comes with his own fate and money. And while you are about to think that I am going to rubbish this claim- Sorry, but I won’t. I support it.

It’s true. A child does come with his own fate.

Money won’t come raining down your roof. You won’t suddenly strike a lottery.
But what will come is a huge amount of positivity and power. A change in approach to your work and goals. A new you will emerge. Business will do better, or your job will offer you more.


You will be compelled to discover avenues, where you see none.

You will be forced to look in places you thought were useless.

You will be pushed beyond your limits.

And you will find a way.

The best part is- It won’t be difficult.


Frankly without realising, we spend way too much money on useless things, like expensive clothes, gadgets, night outs and so many unnecessary things. Sometimes we don’t even realise that we spend way money on people around us who are just looking for a “treat”.
With a new child, all this stops.

And you realise that you can channel your resources in more meaningful, planned and better ways.

You even learn to negotiate better in your professional life.

You learn to say No when it needs and Yes when it demands.

And that brings a huge change in your overall financial scenario.

Now to clear the bit that a child is a huge expense.

Frankly no.

Many of us don’t even sneeze before paying off a bill at a high end restaurant.
The amount you’d spend on that one night at a bar is sometime equal to a month’s supply of food and medicines of a child. In fact the few initial months, the child has very basic needs, and all we buy for the child is just for our own happiness.

Children don’t care what they wear. Don’t care what they play with. And don’t care what even the size or temperature of the room is. For them it’s all new and all exciting. They will adapt, after all they’ve just been living in a tummy full of water and eating off whatever the mother eats.

The question is will you adapt?

If I had to ask you money for a blanket, some clothes, and 6 small bottles of milk a day would it hurt you financially. I’m sure not.

By the time the child is 3 and you start thinking of school fees, trust me, you’ve would have already made your money to plan much ahead.

So if money is your worry. Case closed.

Let’s move on to some other things.

Concern 2 : Sacrifice

So you don’t want to part with your friends, your social life and your exciting plans.
Let me give this to you slowly.

Sooner or later, all your friends will move on.

Unfortunately -That’s true.

This happening scene is not forever.

People. Times. Life.

It all moves on.

It’s not too far you will be sitting alone on a Saturday night and your friends will be at a family gathering, or have changed residence because of a job, or not into partying anymore.

Let’s just sit at home and chill. How often have you heard that?

If more than a couple of times. Get the picture. Change is

Life won’t wait for you. Make your move.

As far as sacrifice is concerned. Let’s relabel it.

It’s not sacrifice. It’s a blessing.

A child brings with it joy, satisfaction, fulfilment.

A child becomes your best friend.

When a child smiles at you, or just holds your finger. You will know what a real friend is.

Unquestioned. Unspoken. Unconditional. 

A real relationship begins here. It’s something you would have shared with no one else.

No one.

You know the funniest part now.

Forget sacrificing your social life, you will sacrifice a body part just to see your child smile.

Would a friend do that for you, maybe not. Would you do it for a friend? I guess you’d be a fool to do that.

There is no comparison between what you would be sacrificing and what you would be getting as a father.

Case closed.

Concern 3

Performing the part

So now you thinking, if you do have a child..

Will I be a good father.

Will I understand what to do when they cry?

Will I be capable of handling the responsibilities that come along?

Will I be able to protect my family?

Now don’t feel bad, but frankly the world expects nothing much from you.

Not insulting, but frankly we men, are pretty useless.

This moment was the one that was ignored when they coined the term - weaker sex.
And if women are the weaker sex, then men should be called - the insignificant sex.
So little is our role in being a father, that it can almost be neglected in terms of giving.

But you learn.

It’s like going to school all over again, only difference is you will pick up fast and you will absorb only as much as you want to. The rest will take care of itself.

Holding a baby the right way. Bottle feeding. Changing a diaper. Putting a child to sleep.
These are far easier to learn than changing the tyre of a car.

Even if you fail, the system lets out a cry and you learn quickly the right way.

You will read, listen, watch and get better.

You will want to improve day by day and before you know it, you will be doing your job better than anyone else. In fact you will almost go about saying, that you are a very involved father, and you are far better than the other ones you know.

And to prove it -One day you little angel will come and tell you- Papa you are the best!

That day my friend, you will stand first in class. You will pass with distinction and no one can ever take that away from you. Top of the world.

I hope this closes Concern No. 3 also.


I said I wouldn’t come in the labour room. But I stood there the whole time. I saw my baby covered in blood. I didn’t pass out. I clicked a picture.

I said I won’t be able to stay awake at night. But I wake up at the slightest sound. Now I problem-solve in my sleep.

I said that finances would be a bit of a stretch. But we live life better than before. We party. We shop and we aren’t worried about tomorrow. Because we have each other.

I said I won’t be able to do much, most of it will have to be done by my wife. But I do my little bit, pat myself on the back and am ready for my next task, any time you want.


I stand by my daughter today...

When my little angel wakes up in the morning and looks at me, when the world is still asleep.

When she cries because she doesn’t want to go to school and needs a hug to tell her everything is going to be fine.

When she looks at me longingly because she wants a toy.

When she throws a tantrum and just wants me to hold her and tell her that- she wins, I lose.

When she comes running to the door when I am back from office to hug me.

When she sneaks a smile at me and pretends she is sleeping.

When I am her hero, even when I'm down and out and had a terrible day.

When she wants me to play with her after I'm back from work and have no energy, but yet manage to, but yet put up a show.

When she chooses me over anyone else in the world.

Do you think that even the slightest thought of that party, that bike trip, that social gathering even peeps into my thoughts? Never.

There is no bigger joy. There is no better blessing. There is no higher feeling.
Trust me...

I have changed as a person..for good..forever.


Brash. Carefree. Spoilt. Wild – these are the words people call her even before they know her name.

After all she is her father’s daughter.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fwd that Smile

Just for a day, I want to work at a flower shop, as a delivery guy.

Just for one day, drive a Taxi.

Just for one day, wrap gifts at a mall.

Just for a day, work at an amusement park, manning the ride.


I'm curious to see the face of the person receiving the flowers at the door light up, blush or even turn red.

To experience the impatience of a person who has to reach an important meeting, or even better, a date and helping them reach on time.

To be part of making the presentation of the gift much nicer and more exciting.

To know that the ride is so exciting, that just making the experience worth waiting for is a joy in itself.

In my world of advertising - Closed door meetings, signed NDAs (Non disclosure agreements), brain storming sessions, daily executions, TTDs, and deadlines on various projects don’t allow me many a times to experience the true joy felt by the ultimate consumer of our product or service.

Does yours? 

Have you ever experienced the satisfaction of a customer when they are enjoying the benefits of your hard work and passion.

The moment of truth when a person uses your product, your service or your end deliverable. Have you seen them smile, feel relieved or relaxed?

Then I ask myself, is there something I can do to feel that thrill on my client face?

What can I do to make my clients happy?

How do we rate our business deliverables - on the Happiness Scale?

Many a times, a client will get on the negotiation table to reduce the cost of what we offer. But let’s face it, getting the cost down for a go-to-market strategy, or a creative advertisement, or a film is not exactly how I’d like to satisfy my clients. It may give momentary ego massage but that’s not going to last long.

But if we give work on time, or before time, deliver a creative that’s beautiful and is witty, or clever – That is what gets us brownie points.

So just for a change, instead of focusing on OUR job satisfaction, if we simply focus on our customer’s satisfaction, I think it will serve as a paradigm shift in our workplace culture, and our overall job satisfaction. It will help reduce attrition, keep employees motivated and create a much happier workplace.

After all, there is more joy in giving, than getting.

I have seen the energy in my workplace when we get an appreciation letter from a satisfied client, and that cannot be measured to even monetary incentives.

So just for a moment, let’s think of our customers as the girl on the others side of the door.

Our product, a bouquet of flowers.

Our service, like that of the delivery boy’s

Our brand experience like the freshness of the petals.

If you thought of your job like that...

Would you get out of bed in the morning, more energetic, because you would be making someone happy by simply doing your job well?

Would you be on time to work?

Won’t you make your offering, the most beautiful one?

And the experience, worth remembering.

Would you smile a bit more?

Would you feel motivated to stay longer at work because you get smiles in return -for doing that bit to make the world a happier place?

It’s really not that difficult. Just ask yourself, who do you work for, and how can you make that person smile.

A company owner should think of his employees smiles.

A manager should think of his team’s smiles.

An executive should think of his customers smile.

A back office guy should think of his superiors smile.

and as a customer or client or a superior- Be generous to praise where it is worthy and return that smile.

If all just did our job to ensure that we make the other smile, and nothing else, imagine the change we could bring in workplaces.

So try it today.

Like the flower delivery guy - Focus on the customer.

Like that taxi driver- Deliver on time.

Like the girl who wraps the gift- Make the product, or presentation more beautiful and exciting.

Or the guy at the amusement park – Make the experience memorable.

You never know, what you will receive in return.

Good luck. Keep smiling and keep spreading it.

"Smile it Forward"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Selecting an Agency = Selecting a Cricketer

So you need a marketing agency that gives you a great strategy and award winning creatives?

Not only that, but you also want to work with good people who you get along with, and don’t throw their pony tailed attitudes?

Not to forget you want the goatee bearded hot shot creative team to maintain their enthusiasm on your account for all the deliverables of the campaign?

If you answered yes, read on...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Imagine this. 

You are assigned to select players at a cricket match for a large tournament, and you spot a talented batsman, swinging away every shot. 

Your excitement and his strokes surpass all boundaries. You just know that this is the talent your team needed.

You approach the player and ask him to play a match in which you will take a final decision.

He puts all his efforts and scores a sparkling century.

The reference check given by your current teams players glow enough to light Mars.

His fee is affordable and the future seems bright.

Congratulations you have a star player aboard.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

You sign up... but...

·        You make him field all day and don’t give him a chance to bat.

·        If you make him bat, it’s at a gully cricket match.

·        You make him play football.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

After which...

·        You challenge his capability.

·        You compare him to another small time player, who you feel is more value for money.

·        You threaten to fire him (because he didn’t score a goal).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sometimes advertisers make choices of their agency partner in a similar fashion and make pretty much the same mistakes.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Imagine this now..

An Advertiser brief agencies and ask them to come up with ideas without any budget constraints (Ever heard? “Dont let monies restrict your thinking”).

He wants their best creative work. He promises the agency that the project is huge and will change the fortunes of both companies.

The agencies pitch with their best efforts and top teams, and eventually the best one gets the job.

What follows is a whole new picture?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Now in reality...

·        The budget is tight.

·        The work is more BTL and almost no ATL.

·        The actual requirement is not the same as the pitch brief.

·        The boss feels his neighbour’s friend’s nephew will be perfect for the shoot.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Now when the work is not creative and not strategic (because the deliverables have mostly been about a 70% off sale)?

·        The advertiser threatens to fire the agency.

·        The advertiser demands to complain to the Top management, or asks for a review meeting with them.

·        The agency is fired.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Whose fault is it?

I know you’d expect me to say the advertisers.

But like they say, you can’t clap with one hand (you can slap with one though)

·        It often happens that the team that works on the pitch is not the same as the one that works on day to day operations.

·        The full gloss team happens to involve themselves only if the project is a TVC (to be shot in Bora Bora Island). Which is not fair because the leadership teams’ job is not just to win the account, but to provide service and take responsibility for the deliverables?

I’m not saying that the CXOs have to ensure that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. But at least check if from a messaging point of view, the strategy is aligned.

The enthusiasm is only till the agency wins the account and the champagne glasses are clinked.  After which the agency moves on to the next win and some interns are put on the project to bear the burden of work.

The client is now navigating the boat with an inexperienced and unenthusiastic team.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

From the agencies point of view (this one is closer to the heart)

·        If you chose the agency for its batting, then play cricket and make them play in the position they are good at.

·        Remember, you can’t score a century in every match.

·        If you need a footballer, then don’t ask a cricket team to show up at a pitch. (Pun Intended)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

All said and done, when Advertisers and Agencies work together, it’s like an India-Pakistan match: 

The tension is everywhere, but everyone has fun at the end.

 PS: Also because India always wins.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Prepaid Honking

It was 2005, I walked out of my hotel in Dubai and stood at the footpath to cross the road. A huge Land Cruiser screech stopped and allowed me to pass. I was so dumbstruck that it took me a while to take a step and move, while the driver not only waited patiently but also gave me a smile. What surprised me even more was the cars that were behind him, also waited and allowed me to cross like as if I was a celebrity.

It is 2015, and I walk into my living room, turn around and walk back into my bedroom and shut the door and windows because I can’t bear the noise of countless cars honking just because the road signal seven floors below - turned green. Drivers in India honk because they want to turn, cut someone, show the driver ahead that he has a horn, or control the pedestrian with his horn because he is convinced that it is a remote control to his feet, or the most important reason which is – Honk for no reason at all.

The two contrasts we live in are so wide apart that it makes me think if there is a common ground at all.


I had attended a TED talk a couple of years back and it was interesting to hear two speakers.
  • ·    Anand Damani spoke about honking and the disastrous effects it has on our health. 

  • ·    Yashraj Khaitan spoke about how they came up with a service that provided villagers prepaid Electricity.

  • ·    I simply put the 2 together and came up with an idea: Prepaid Honking!

  • ·    No, I didn’t speak at TED.

Now Imagine a world with PrePaid Honking:

A taxi driver going to a local store on the street and asking “Bhai zara Dus rupiza ka horn dena” and the shop keeper gives him a scratch card, which he keys into his mobile phone and is ready to honk. Only this time he will honk wisely.

Or a discussion among riskshaw drivers on how honking is become so expensive, and an old timer saying ‘Hamare dino mein yeh to free hoya karta tha! Kya din the. Wah!”
A news headline saying ‘Government increases the cost of honking once again! This budget is not for the common man!!!”

“Biker caught giving bribe to hawaldar for using unlicensed horn.”

Even the kind of honking will change...

From the looong beeeeeepps to just a missed call kind of horn. Just bip.

From hard rock music honking to just sms type honking. P.P.

From air horn to just just a flicker of a headlight.

And then imagine this.

Walking down a road and listening to the man selling flutes who is playing a beautiful melody himself.

The sounds of a child scream “McDonalds!” when he spots one across from his car window.

The pleasant sound of a bopu wala idli, because his horn is not come under the scanner yet.

The conditioned voice of the bhangar wala, in his typical echoing voice.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world!

There is a quote on the last page of your driving license which says – 
“Driving is a privilege, not your right”.

Well said Sir!

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Science of Sharing

Yesterday I shared a print campaign of toothpaste, which I thought would win the advertising awards in the next season in my wall.

This week sometime, someone I know very well, shared a video on my wall, saying he knew I’d find it funny.

Last week, a friend of mine retweeted a tweet by a celebrity he is a fan of.

Studies say videos of puppies and babies, shot with mobile phones, get more shares/retweets/repins, compared to those shot by the best film makers in the business, because most people find innocent animals more interesting, than the brand who invested millions on the filmmaker.

Then again, every day I attend a meeting where brand managers are talking about “engaging their customers” online.

But why on earth would I want a furniture shop to haunt me every time I log on?

An anti-dandruff shampoo give me gyan on hair care on my facebook wall?

A jam, to tweet me pictures of fruits and facts about the nutrition value?

Which brings me to my topic, why brands on social media need to go beyond likes and instead look at sharable content?

What is sharing in the real world (not social media)?

If I had to share a cake, the one thing I assume is 

"Someone else may have made this cake, but I bought it and now this is MY cake" 

IF I want to share it, I think,  
"Here you can have some MY cake" 

If you want me to share something about your brand it has to somewhere be belong to ME, whole of me, a thing about me, something I like, something I relate to, something I think you need, or can have. 

It’s about I. It's about me. 

So, now that I know it’s mine.  Ill share it.

Forget brands for a moment.

What is it that I readily share in life? What makes me immediately log on to social networking and motivates me to post something?

I want to share news about my achievements, about my child's milestone, or recognition given to me by the society, a big news about the company I work for, or a luxury item I purchased, or a fabulous place I visited.

And sometimes a not so pleasant experience of mine. 

Again it's about me.

So in social media you see a lot of shares (and not likes) about things to do with me, myself, my life. 

So if brands touch me, in a very personal way, I'll share.

But then again we do share ads we like, ideas we love, things we find funny, things I know that you will find funny, or inspirational, or informative. 

Do note. It's about me. 

Why do I share?

I share to be seen as clever. 
I share to be seen as informed. 
I share to be seen motivated.
I share to be seen happening.
I share to be seen upmarket. 
I share to be seen with a sense of humour.
I share because I care (about myself)

Brands term their presence on social media to stay engaged with their customers. But actually, most of the times it’s about them, and not about me.

So, Hey you brands! When you post something about yourself, I don't want to know things about you, I want to know how that makes me feel good about myself. 

Only then I'll share.

So, for all the times you shared things and people asked you why you did. Remember it was your cake, and they should be grateful you agreed to let them have a piece of it.

Unfortunately brands can’t think that way.