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Why was I such a corporate disaster?

Shivaji Dasgupta, Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, offers a few tips from his life to those who want to make it big in the ad industry

Shivaji Dasgupta

It is now amply clear to me and to many others who know me that I was a disaster in the organised corporation. I fled once for dear life and was tempted to retract briefly before settling down to an ever-evolving version of entrepreneurship. While the future is rather que sera sera, the past is definitely clear as daylight and this may make sense for you too.

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The start was rather promising with a decent run rate in the early overs as I was a diligent learner and sincere doer. As juniors in any organised system, the challenge was always optimal conformance and that I learnt quite early in the piece without trying to be smug or clever. But then as I grew older, unavoidable streaks of dilettante behaviour crept in as the much-suppressed creative genes threatened to converse, thus thwarting the managerial prudence. This led to an indefinite struggle and as a result of many adjoining factors, I found solace in the solo umbrella preferring the gusting winds and torrential rain to a petite calm that numbs the uniqueness. I will now share a few traits which set me up for failure and this may be your story as well.

The first formula for disaster was an obsession for thought autonomy, which made me cross swords with many a legendary behemoth, with Cannes flowing from their sumptuous ears. Now I have been cursed with a certain disruptive intellect incapable of conventional conformance and thus the bellicose playing to the galleries never quite curried much favour. I often tried to adjust for the glorious sake of the EMI but the Equanimous Mental Institution never quite agreed. So lady or gentleman, if you have a streak as such, either be on antibiotics or craft your own raft.

The second formula for disaster was an inability to pander to peers and instead focus on the customer, be it the client or the user. Perhaps it was due to being the son of a doctor and thus being influenced by outcomes and not by intermediaries or it may have been yet another debilitating Bengali streak. So I ran away from award juries, was a reluctant attendee of award shows and never quite resorted to hero worship unless the candidate was truly deserving. The craft that we peddled with much love was actually more significant than we thought and the reason most certainly was its impact on consumer attitudes and actions, certainly not pot-bellied CCOs running home kitchens with retrospective acumen.

The third formula for disaster was a discomfort with denominator management which is indeed the skill to manage costs and not stimulate revenues. A uniquely holding company culture which led to great careers being chalked for those who met the numbers without embracing the figures that could be truly achieved. What essentially was a CFO function was lovingly usurped by the CEO as demonstration of intent and ability and thus the Golden Road to Samarkand was never quite stumbled upon. Sub-optimal minds built entire careers on reducing rack rates while the industry was hungry for upgrade in skills and abilities.

The fourth formula for disaster was politics and this was a craft that I was adept in but uncomfortable with. Politics as in the ignoble institution that required the boss to routinely belittle the reportee as if a tiding of normalcy. Where fine girls and boys were humiliated daily by rabble rousing ‘major domos’ in the guise of militaristic obeisance that was frankly unfair to modern mindsets. Politics equally as the consistent degradation of the significant other as that person posed a threat to the insignificant purveyor, blessed with power but not much else. In my entire career, I have been obsessed with ensuring a certain decorum and respect and I think this comes largely from Calcutta and the dealings of my father.

The fifth and final formula that I wish to elucidate is this rather tenuous aspect of honesty that marks so many of our conversations. Now the advertising industry over the years has been a mite loose in morals and this is not a reference to the casting couch but the take home pouch and you know what I mean. Far too many stalwarts have been knowledgeably on the take and this culture I could not quite fathom. I too in times of duress have been inquisitive about funding but the intent has never been cash register treachery that this industry has been reduced to. At times my eager-beaver ness has led to unsavoury interactions but institutional corruption is a vice that needs busting.

Now look, old and young, just take a simple learning from this expansive article. If you are blessed with the skill of strategic compromise, then do join a network agency and I must heartily recommend WPP. If, however, you have a bone that is wary of succumbing and a heart that is eager to flutter, then do build a turf you can call your own. Your creativity will be protected, your passions will be intact and if the stars are kind, then a legend may well be brewing.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)


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