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Rising Star: Ravi Walia, Strategic Planning Director, Rediffusion Y&R

For Walia, imagination is more important than knowledge. He considers advertising his passion and calls it fun as nowhere else one gets paid for ideas

Akansha Mihir Mota | Delhi | September 6, 2016

Ravi-Walia Ravi Walia

A native from Chandigarh, this Punjabi boy is a die hard Indian at heart. By virtue of his father’s army background, he got to travel across India and study in army, air force and Kendriya Vidyalaya schools.

Ravi Walia did his mechanical engineering from Shaheed Bhagat Singh College of Engineering & Technology, Ferozepur. “You can call it peer pressure but we knew only two fields, engineering or medical, because anything else did not make sense back then. Science was interesting, rest of it was boring,” he said.

Asked if his engineering skills were used in advertising, he said, “Yes, I have worked on some car brands. So, that’s how it is coming back to use. My mother always used to say that nothing goes waste.”

Walia was a very active person in extracurricular activities during college days and used to participate in activities like debates and group discussions. He was the president of the society for mechanical engineers, a part of Students Chapters, NCC among other things.

After finishing his engineering, Walia joined Sonalika Tractors. He said, “But there is this singular problem that you start hating your first job. I wanted to do real stuff and this job was not exciting. My parents were pushing me for MBA and it is a big fashion in Punjab. Later, I got through IMT Nagpur through CAT and did my MBA from there.”

Walia enjoyed his stint with MBA as it was not as boring as engineering and he got to learn a lot of marketing skills. He said, “One pertinent thing that was always in the backdrop all these years while growing up was that I used to love ads. That is not by design, but by pure interest. People watch serials and skip ads, I skip shows and watch ads.”

After finishing his MBA, Walia was placed in ING Vysya Bank as a wealth manager and posted in Mumbai. He said, “Wearing a tie everyday to office was good in the beginning and everything was hunky-dory until the actual work began and the pressure of selling began. I realised that this is not my cup of tea and moved to advertising.”

Throwing light on how he entered advertising, Walia said, “One of my friends was in Ogilvy and the other one in Everest Brand Solutions. We met and they told me how cool advertising is, but the money was less. Nonetheless, I decided to enter advertising because when you are young you can try this transition. I took a leap of faith and joined Everest Brand Solution in 2010 in Mumbai and that decision changed my life completely.”

His first job at Everest Brand Solutions was account management. He joined the agency right before Rahul Jauhri and Dhunji. It was then the overhauling process of Everest Brand Solution happened and the agency started coming back to life. He remembers, “We were responsible for getting all the Parle business back to Everest. For six months, I have handled the entire Parle business plus Kotak Mutual Funds and reported directly to Dhunji. We used to shoot like 30-40 films in a year and it was hectic.”

After working at Everest, Walia moved to McCann Erickson as he wanted a change from the hectic work at Everest. At McCann, he used to handle all the car lines from South Korea market and put his mechanical engineering to use.

Then, he returned from McCann to Everest as a strategic planner. He said, “I was clueless and didn’t know what to do, but I trusted Dhunji blindly.”

His most challenging work after rejoining Everest was the consolidation of Parle brands. He said, “Parle had 50 sub-brands then and profit centres were not matching. I had earlier suggested this exercise in my earlier tenure. We underwent two years of long research. Parle is not a public company and the control is still with the family and they are very deeply involved. They chose us for Parle-G because of our years of long understanding of the business. We consolidated the brands.”

Another challenging campaign was for Tata Homes, selling houses online. It was for the first time in the world that homes were sold online and they also won a lot of awards for that. Tata sold 250 flats worth Rs 100 crore across India online back then.

Walia enjoyed doing Parle Hide & Seek and Happy Happy. He said, “I liked doing Hide & Seek as obviously Hrithik Roshan was there. We got to know from news that Oreo was coming to the Indian markets. Therefore, it was a competition. Hide & Seek was the category leader and we wanted to remain the leader. We had a huge budget for the campaign back then and came out with a brilliant campaign.” He was part of creating Parle’s first power brand for children: Happy Happy.

Walia calls his work as creative planning. “First you do all your homework of planning and put your strategy in place and then you sit with your creative team. You can’t expect your creatives to do the research work. Someone has to do the ground work and the right exercise and then reach them,” he said.

Walia’s biggest strength is to ideate. He said, “I see a lot of planners struggle as they stop at the academic front. I have this great freedom to pitch in my ideas whenever I have them.”

Shedding some light on his weakness, Walia said, “My weakness is that I take leaps and jumps. Sometimes they require a lot of back work and I feel lazy to work and research on it. I can’t over-intellectualise and that is the general perception of planners.”

Walia believes, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’ and this is the basis of my work.

At the professional level, Walia admires Dhunji and he idolises many heroes like Sherlock Homes, Iron Man and Hulk. Walia’s hobby is to consume information, whether it is a movie, video, content or books.

For Walia advertising is fun. “If there is more work, I am happier. My family and friends tell me that I don’t crib for my work. Advertising is my passion. Where else one will be paid for giving ideas? If not advertising then I would have been an engineer and making cars.”

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