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The great ‘Mooch’ men of the Indian ad industry

Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Pandey, Josy Paul, Suresh Eriyat, Pops and Prathap Suthan share the story behind their unique style statements with

The great ‘Mooch’ men of the Indian ad industry

Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Pandey, Josy Paul, Suresh Eriyat, Pops and Prathap Suthan share the story behind their unique style statements with

Sarmistha Neogy | Mumbai | February 16, 2014

As a popular actor once said, “Moochein ho toh Nathulal ji jaisi, warna na ho!” Popular faces in the Indian ad industry seem to have taken to this rather seriously. Sporting them for more than a decade now, unlike Bollywood actors whose facial hair comes and goes as the role demands, the Indian ad men have chosen to stick with it, literally, through the thick and thin! One just cannot imagine Piyush Pandey without his handlebar moustache or Josy Paul without his moustache and cap. spoke to some of the advertising honchos and asked them about the story behind their style statements.

Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman & Chief Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, South Asia Signature style: Handle bar moustache

Piyush Pandey Piyush Pandey

What is the story behind your big mooch? I always had a moustache, but not this big. I don’t even remember since when I started keeping one. In fact, I didn’t even realise that it became a style statement, until I saw my caricatures with this big moustache. I remember I shaved it off once in college, and oh God after that I had got a firing from my mother, because in our tradition, if your father is alive, you are not supposed to shave off your moustache.

Will you ever change it? I find no reason to change it. It is actually ‘too late in my life to change the style’. In fact, till my mother passed away, she kept on shouting at me for not trimming it. My brother always runs around the house with scissors to trim my moustache. I never allow my barber to touch it, only my brother and wife can touch it!

Prasoon Pandey, Director, Corcoise Films Signature style: Thick moustache
Prasoon Pandey Prasoon Pandey

Both you brothers have thick moustaches, any reason behind it? We come from Rajasthan and all men there have moustaches. So, it actually never kind of struck me why we have a moustache. In fact, like Piyush even I had once completely shaved off my moustache. It was such a stupid thing to do. I don’t think now I can afford to make such mistake, because I need it more than ever as I am losing all my hair!

Why do all creative people have some signature style statement? Creative people always try and keep the child alive in them. Also, we are in a profession, where we are not under the pressure to conform to anything, there are no sharp business dress codes and people are accepted the way they are. We are not expected to wear a suit and tie always. In fact, Piyush wearing a suit is something that everyone would like to see. But, he loves to wear only bush-shirts and shoes without laces. He hardly shops, and whenever he does, he will go only to his favourite shop, buy the same thing in five different colours. He doesn’t like to trim his beard nor does he allow his barber to touch it. So, I literally run after him and trim his moustache myself. He is so tuned into his creativity that he doesn’t care about these little things and whatever he does becomes a style statement.

Josy Paul, Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Signature style: Half Nepali cap and moustache
Josy Paul Josy Paul

How did your cap become a style statement? In 1986, I had gone to Nepal and had trekked around Annapurna. I fell in love and got so fascinated with the place that I became an ‘unofficial ambassador’ for Nepal and I occasionally started wearing a Nepali cap. I was working as a trainee in Ogilvy at that time, and because of the cap, people mistook me for a Nepali. So then I went to a designer friend and asked him to make me a half Nepali cap. This cap was different and something unusual, so clients also started expecting my work to be different. Also, I wear the cap at an angle, which forces you to look at the world from a new angle. So, from my love for Nepal to an unofficial ambassador to a style statement to producing different work, the cap has today become a dominant part of me. I do have a moustache, but I am identified more because of my cap. Now, I don’t wear the cap, the cap wears me.

Will we ever get to see Josy without his cap one day? As they say, ‘If it is not broken, then don’t mend it’. It is a much cluttered world; if Coke can have a distinct red colour, why can’t we? Human beings are also like brands and we also require a sharp identity to stand out.

KV Sridhar aka Pops, Chief Creative Officer, Sapient Nitro Signature style: French-cut beard
KV Sridhar KV Sridhar

Did you always keep a beard? My beard has now become a part of me. In fact, around 30 years back, I even sported a full grown beard and a pony tail. But when my children started growing, they insisted that I do away with it. That’s how I started keeping this French beard and now for almost 25 years we are giving each other company. The story behind my beard is that I came into the advertising field at a very young age, I was 21 years. At that time, I used to handle many government clients, who always used to insist that I come to meetings along with my boss. I was never taken seriously! Growing a beard then helped me to look more than my age.

Will you ever change it? Why should I? That’s the only part of hair left! See, I also enjoy doing caricatures and I believe that a typical trait helps you to differentiate from the other. These characteristics then help you in branding and familiarity becomes a part of your identity, which you refuse to change. Also, since I don’t believe in cosmetics, I have never thought of colouring my beard as well. I am not ashamed that I am growing old.

Suresh Eriyat, Founder & Creative Director, Eksaurus Signature style: White beard
Suresh Eriyat Suresh Eriyat

Since when are you keeping this beard? I have my beard since birth! Jokes aside, I guess I got some inspiration from film makers and Communism from Kerala had some effect on me. So, I always had a beard. But on entering the advertising domain, I have started keeping it white. There is no question of changing my look now, in fact, a few months back I had only trimmed it and I could find a question mark on my client’s face!

What are the advantages of having this beard? See, there are many, I am 41 and I look 55, and I get to cover a lot of ignorance under my beard. I have also recently started noticing that I am being referred as Sir and not by my first name, which is very uncommon in our industry. Finally, the most important of everything, my one job in a day gets reduced because I don’t have to shave.

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner & Chief Creative Officer, Bang In The Middle Signature style: Beard
Prathap Suthan Prathap Suthan

How old is your beard? In the early 90s, when I was made Head of Creatives at Mudra, Ahmedabad, everyone around me was much older to me. So, whenever we went for meetings, the clients never took me seriously. So, in order to find a way to look older and also get respect, I started sporting a beard. Then in 1995, I had chicken pox and during that time I had to shave everything off. Post chicken pox, I also had some bad marks on my face and this beard helps me to cover them up. I was telling my wife the other day, “see you too now have grey hairs and if I shave off my beard now, I will look 10 years younger than you, which I am sure you wouldn’t want!’

Is there any inspiration behind your look? I have always admired the bearded Lee Clow, Chairman & Global Director of TBWA Worldwide. He is the man who has built Apple as a brand and I admire that he has been working with one brand for such a long time. He is a complete maverick and extremely creative. Last year, I had my moment with him at Cannes and we connected with each other, I guess, because of the beard.

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