This Valentine’s Day, Best Media Info brings to you some love stories from the advertising and communications industry of couples who have built a life and career together
Akansha Mihir Mota & Roshni Nair | Mumbai | February 14, 2017
Love is all pervasive and like wildflowers growing out of cracked sidewalks they can flourish anywhere. Office romances are common enough but in the media industry where one lives and breathes his or her occupation and has to spend quality time with colleagues, the possibility of falling for each other is always an eventuality. Office romances also have the added spice of having to sneak about; like with Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit has the most allure.
Take for example the story of Sundar Sharma and Gandhali Karnik. Sundar, an Associate Creative Director at Ogilvy, found his life partner at the agency. His wife Gandhali used to sit in the same cubicle. For a long time nobody got to know that they were going around until they decided to announce their wedding. Gandhali now works as Associate Creative Director at Lowe Group.
Love is an anchor, cementing lifelong relationships. Love can also be a new beginning. Deeya and Tony Singh wouldn’t have started DJ’s Creative Unit if they hadn’t found each other and fallen in love. Vivek Prabhakar and Shubhra Chadda wouldn’t have dreamt of Chumbak if they hadn’t had each other’s support. Love is a partnership, where one agrees to stay for the better or for the worse.
This Valentine's Day, Best Media Info brings you love stories that blew like silent winds in the hallways of advertising agencies and also love stories of people who not only decided to share their lives but also build a career together.
Priti Nair, Curry Nation and KS Chakravarthy (Chax), Tidal7 Brand and Digital
From colleagues to a married couple, the couple met at Chaitra Leo Burnett. Before meeting Chax, Nair didn’t believe in the institution of marriage. Nair was already working at the agency and Chax had moved from Lintas to Chaitra as her boss. In 1999, they got married after knowing each other for four years. But when they decided to get married, Nair moved on to Lintas. Nair said there was no formal proposal and things just fell into place. Their courtship lasted for a year and a half. There was no problem in persuading her parents for the marriage as Nair said, “I was old enough by then and my parents had given up. So, there was no problem in persuading them. Also, Chax and my parents are very cool. We had no pressure to get married.”
Nair and Chax were married for seven years and then separated for seven years. Today they are back together and have been going steady for four years now. “Everyone should take a break. Life is so beautiful now. He (Chax) has said we will tell each other whenever both of us go wrong anywhere,” said Nair.
What brought them back again? Chax said, “The question here is why did we even separate? I was very sure that she would come back.”
Nair likes Chax the most for the reason that he is a “fantastic human being and a pure soul. He is very honest and that is what he taught me in Leo Burnett”. Nair calls herself very expressive and wishes that Chax could express himself more. “Hugging and all don’t come very easily to him. He is a thinker. He scratches his beard and thinks about all the nice things he wants to say and then never says those things.”
Chax, however, refused to say what he likes and dislikes about Nair, instead choosing to say, “That question is very dangerous.”
Nair said when she was younger, she threw a lot of tantrums, “When you are younger and marry, because you have read all fancy books, expectations are also like that. I have matured a little now and know what kind of person he is and what he wants to be. We went through our ups and down. We are chalk and cheese as people, but our basic core is the same and that’s what bonds us together.”
According to Nair, the best part about her day is when she comes back home and watches TV with Chax.
Because Chax was Nair’s boss at Chaitra, the ego clashes never happened as she calls him her guru. “I grew under him and learned all the ropes of advertising. I have enormous respect for him. To him I am always his kid. So that never came as a factor.”
Agnello Dias, Taproot Dentsu and Nandini Dias, Lodestar UM
Agnello, popularly known as Aggy, met Nandini at Interpublicity, in the days when media and creative were bundled. After seeing each other for four to five years, the duo decided to get married in 1992. Nandini said, “I think the constant interaction, fun and games while working and both of us being in sports got us closer.
How has your profession helped you to keep tight together?
Agnello said, “Our profession helps for easier conversation I guess, one doesn't have to explain everything from scratch when one's talking about stuff. But we rarely end up talking about advertising, that's just how it naturally turns out to be.”
Nandini said, “We both love what we do and can understand the trials and tribulations, the highs and lows that come with the profession. That understanding on a daily basis is really critical as advertising is a very highly stressed profession. In addition, while we may be in different aspects of the profession, we have a lot of common friends.”
Nandini calls herself grateful to have Agnello in her life. “At the basic value system we are similar. But several of our habits and likes and dislikes are different. For example I like watching movies and books which are positive and happy. I like biographies of people who have triumphed and overcame difficulties. On the other hand, Agnello’s repertoire is far wider. I like being with people whereas Agnello is usually happy to be by himself or immediate family,” added Nandini.
Agnello and Nandini are a very down-to-earth couple. Agnello says they are “reasonably practical”. Although spending time with each other is a challenge, “it's a constant gripe. It's not easy but one learns to live with it”, added Agnello.
When asked about the ‘Abhimaan’ factor and work clashes at home, Agnello said, “Not really. Don't know how or why but it never goes beyond good natured leg pulling. At times work clashes happen at home, but nothing serious. Advertising is super but not more super than life.”
Nandini also made a point saying, “Thankfully we both did well in our own right. So that has taken away any need for jealousy or conflict. In fact I think the encouragement that we give each other has made us more individually confident. Also, we both don’t take any of the work achievements really seriously. We know that the awards and the glory help the organisation and that they will remain with the organisation the day we call it quits.”
Rajiv Rao, Ogilvy and Runjhun Jain
Runjhun joined Rao’s team as an art director in 2000 and after spending a lot of time together and Rao’s proposal, they started dating in 2002. After a year’s courtship, they got married on October 4, 2003 and settled in Bangalore. After marriage, they decided to work at separate places altogether. Runjhun quit Ogilvy and joined Fish Eye in Bangalore. Later in 2007, both came back to Mumbai. Runjhun quit advertising two years back and now pursues her passion of styling kids. Nowadays, she writes and blogs about kid’s styling.
Truly, madly, deeply in love, Rao finds nothing that he would want to change in Runjhun.
“There are a lot of things very common between us. She is a beautiful person inside-out. She is really very simple and innocent. She is very honest and straightforward and not very diplomatic. She has a very artistic side to her. There is so much to like about her,” said Rao.
Rao said Runjhun definitely hates a lot of things about him, “I am very messy as a person at home. She loves cleanliness, but now has to live with that part. It’s very difficult for a person like her to adjust with this habit of mine.”
The couple has decided to go on a drinks and dinner date on Valentine’s Day.
Arun Iyer, Lowe Lintas and Shweta Iyer, Radio Mirchi
Arun Iyer and his wife Shweta joined TBWA together in 2001. Both were paired as a copy and art team. They got married in 2005 after dating for four years. Before getting married, they decided to work at different places. Iyer shifted to Lintas and Shweta moved to Leo Burnett. Shweta moved to Radio Mirchi two years back and takes care of the creative communication part of Mirchi. Before joining radio, Shweta used to work at JWT.
Was it love at first sight?
“It was not love at first sight. It was hours of rigorous brand work and we ended up spending a lot of time together. We realised that we are not going to meet other people so we might as well hook up together,” said Shweta.
Iyer proposed to Shweta and she asked for six months for an answer but ended up agreeing in a month.
“We were spending a hopeless amount of time together. We used to work together for 10 to 12 hours and that’s how love happened. FaceTime helps us to spend time together as a lot of time I am out of the country,” added Iyer.
Iyer finds spending time together a bit of a challenge and blames himself for not being there most of the time. “Actually there was a day when we met at the Delhi airport and we both were surprised to see each other there!”
Shweta likes Iyer’s sense of humour, “In his crazy life, he can find the lightness in it. The only thing I don’t like about him is his over-obsession with work; he doesn’t know how to switch off.”
While Shweta’s calm and philosophical approach to life fascinates Iyer, he doesn’t dare dislike anything about her. “It’s either her way or the highway!”
Rajat Sharma and Ritu Dhawan, India TV
Rajat Sharma and Ritu Dhawan’s love story started when the show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ started. This was during their Zee TV days and Ritu Dhawan was the producer of the show. Although they knew each other through a common accomplice, the show meant that they were spending long periods of time together. Eventually, both of them felt that this partnership of theirs could be furthered and that is how this couple’s journey started.
“We were working closely and we used to spend lots of time together. There was a mutual trust that developed over time which eventually took shape into what you see today, an unbreakable bond that we fondly call it,” said both.
They launched India’s first private television news bulletin in 1995. And two years later, Rajat and Ritu decided to set up their own production house – Independent News Service (INS). This is still the parent company which owns India TV. Eventually in 2004, they launched India TV. ‘Janata ki Adalat’ became ‘Aap ki Adalat’.
How often do disagreements crop up in their partnership?
“Disagreements, I would say, are the flavour of our life. How on earth without disagreements can two people discuss anything? Without disagreements, the room for a dialogue will become too small and sooner or later be smothered. Slight difference of opinion keeps us going. Dealing with it is fun. Especially with the shared trust and respect for each other it becomes easier. We take opinions on almost everything, respect them but yet decide as per individual wisdom,” said Ritu.
Madly in love, they love everything about each other and couldn’t decide on any one thing when asked about what they love the most about each other.
“Well, I love everything about her – as a person, as a professional, as a partner in life, just about everything,” said Rajat.
Adding a little to the sentiment, Ritu added, “Well, I feel ditto for him, but would add a little – I also love his undying spirit for excellence and success and his matchless ability to stay humble.”
How do they intend to spend this Valentine’s Day?
“Together. Valentine’s Day or any other!”
Swati and Rohan Bhargava, Founders, CashKaro.com
Swati and Rohan met in the UK where they both were students at the London School of Economics. Homesick and in want of free home-cooked Indian food, Swati tagged along with a few common friends who were invited by Rohan for a home-cooked fare. Eventually, they started going to Rohan’s place regularly. In 2005, Rohan left for Washington, where he got a job, while Swati started working at Goldman Sachs in the UK. They were friends for three years before they started dating. A year later they decided to get married and tied the knot in 2009.
“Rohan proposed me which in a fairy tale like story, involving helium balloons, a smoke machine, loads of flowers, candles, over 100 metres of black cloth and a fake pest control inspection at my flat!” said Swati.
CashKaro.com started out in the UK as Pouring Pounds. Taking us through that journey, Swati said, “While living in London, we stumbled upon the concept of ‘Cashback’ when we were booking a flight to the Maldives for our honeymoon in 2009. To our surprise, we got Rs 25,000 as cashback through a UK portal. We loved the idea and thought it was so simple and easy. However, we felt there was a huge gap in the market, so we launched Pouring Pounds (a cashback and voucher site) in the UK in 2011. With a growing ecommerce market in India which is now expected to be a $100-billion industry by 2020, we initiated to launch a cashback site there too. Indians innate love for savings and the increasing number of online shoppers convinced us to the idea of launching CashKaro.com in April 2013, with principally the same model that had been tried and tested with Pouring Pounds.”
When you have been together so long and also run a business together, there are bound to be differences. How do they deal with it?
“Of course, there are times when there is a difference in opinion. However, we don’t have egos and that’s why it’s been easy to deal with disagreements – we go with whoever is actually right. As eloquently put by Infosys Chairman Emeritus Narayan Murthy, ‘It is okay to disagree, but don’t be disagreeable.’ Also, we are open to experimentation – so if we don’t know which way to go we are open to trying both,” said Swati.
The one thing Swati loves about Rohan is his passion for work while Rohan thinks Swati is his “balancing factor in everything he does”.
“Whether at work or ensuring we have a social life, she balances me perfectly. It’s fair to say that I focus mainly on work and I’ve left everything else to her. Her ability to manage her own work along with all else is incredible and I’m really glad she joined me on this entrepreneurial journey with as much passion as mine,” said Rohan.
Their plans for this Valentine’s Day? “It will be a normal work day as Valentine’s Day is a busy time for us as a lot people shop online for their beloved. Maybe later in the evening, we might go out for a quiet dinner and spend time together,” said Swati.
Deeya and Jasminder (Tony) Singh
City brat Tony met the disciplined navy child Deeya while working for Eagle video films. Deeya, a former journalist, was working as a writer and Tony was a cinematographer with Eagle Video Films. Over long shoots, they both realised that they wanted to take their relationship beyond work. After working together for four to five months, Tony told Deeya about his feeling.
“We were out watching the film ‘Pather ke phool’ when he told me about his feelings. Coincidentally, both of us had worked on the sets of the movie extensively, so it was kind of symbolic for us,” said Deeya
But the real test for Tony lay in wait when he proposed marriage to Deeya. Being a single child, Deeya was extremely close to her family and she told Tony that he would have to ask her parents for her hand in marriage.
“When he came, my parents had a lot of questions for him and they grilled him good. Today if my son had to go through the same, I would feel really bad for him,” quipped Deeya.
After marriage they both wanted to go their separate ways in their professions but their parents and friends convinced them to do something of their own together and although initially they were reluctant, they eventually agreed and that is how DJ’s Creative Unit was born. The production company has churned out many successful shows like Choti Bahu, Banegi Apni Baat, Just Mohobbat and Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi under their production.
They have been married for 25 years now and have been running their production house for almost 23 years. Difference, both personal and professional, are bound to creep up, how do they manage to keep their heads and work through the difficult times?
“Differences have cropped up but you can always figure out a way. Now we work very symbiotically, we know where one finishes and the other starts. It has become very telepathic, we don’t even have to speak now to let each other know where we stand. Like wheels of the same vehicle, we keep moving in tandem.”
Any advice for couples wanting to start something of their own? “It is important to have the same goals. If two people want different things out of the same thing, then it becomes hard. Getting to your goal can have its ups and downs but it has to be the same goal.”
Their new show ‘Har mard ka dard’ is going on air on Valentine’s Day and their plan is to watch the show and have a little celebratory party afterwards.
Vivek Prabhakar and Shubhra Chadda
Both Vivek Prabhakar and Shubra Chadda come from defence families and were living in a defence residential colony in Bangalore when they first met. They eventually became friends, then really good friends and then finally started dating.
Prabhakar and Chadda, who got married in 2004, launched Chumbak when they realised that there was a lack of souvenirs or products that were truly Indian.
“I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, it was just a matter of when and how. While staring at our fridge one day, which was decorated with magnets from our many travels, I got thinking and ultimately came to the realisation that there were no souvenirs or products that truly represented India that I could proudly gift my friends and relatives -- this was when the idea struck me. After much research, Vivek and I arrived at the decision that we could be the people who plug the gap in the non-traditional souvenir market and since then there has been no looking back. We launched Chumbak in 2010,” said Chadda.
How have they managed to get past differences that come up in every relationship and keep the personal and professional boat afloat?
“There are bound to be differences between people but we never take our personal disagreements to work. After having been married and worked closely together for the last six years, we have learnt that in a conflict backing out when the other one is more persuasive with his or her opinion is the best way to not aggravate the argument,” said Prabhakar, who is CEO, Chumbak.
Is there something that Chadda would like to change about her husband?
“Vivek loves change and is constantly challenging the status quo -- he wants to achieve a lot in our lifetime, and it’s a lot of his restlessness that has made us grow at this exponential rate. I, on the other hand, take my time to accommodate to changes. We complement each other very well and I wouldn't want to change a thing about him.”