Three years in Pune had been memorable.
We now had a son. The challenge was that he developed an infantile asthmatic condition and his doctor advised us that it would be better if we relocated to a more humid climate.
Our choices. Mumbai or Helsinki☺.
Sanity and common sense prompted the move to Mumbai again.
But what was one to do…join another firm or try my hand at something else?
That’s when my client who loved bakarwadi’s and aam barfi’s made me ‘an offer I could not refuse’ (immortal lines from the Godfather)
His proposition was very simple, or so it seemed.
He wanted me to set up an advertising firm in the publishing house and provide marketing and advertising support to the multiple brands the group had!
Having worked with ad firms, I thought it would be simple.
It was not.
Where was one to hire copywriters/ art directors/ studio artists/ client servicing teams, for a firm no one had heard of?
I started the search with friends I knew. They all shook their heads. ‘Not interested’, was their response.
I released ads in the group publications, to no avail.
Finally, a lady agreed to take on the role of a part time art director.
I helped with the copy.
The client was kind enough to re-allocate some of his better space marketing people to be the ‘client servicing team’.
We managed to hire studio artists, and before we knew it, the ‘firm’ started functioning!
The good part was that it needed virtually no investment from my side.
We sat in the client’s office, without paying any rent.
The client was reimbursing me the cost of the resources hired from outside, and I had my retainer model in place.
Everything was going swimmingly well.
Except two areas: client servicing and the number of jobs at any one time.
The client servicing team was largely space marketing folks, who did not know much about the way firms serviced their clients. It was all a bit of a mess, which took me some time to unentangle☺. The team was willing to get trained, which I did.
The second area of concern was the number of jobs which came in every day. Not just from one publication, but from different people responsible for different sections in each publication. And don’t forget…the client had about a dozen or so publications in multiple languages!!
At one point in time, with the art director friend doing the visuals and me writing copy, we had 37 jobs to be delivered in a week. And the client was very insistent that the jobs be delivered on time, else he would have ‘lost face’ within his organisation.
So we slogged. 18 hours a day. Creating concepts in English; getting them translated by senior journalists who wrote in different languages. Waiting for the publications to go to print, before ordering the typesetting we required.
Simultaneously, we put into place a few basic processes.
- A written brief was made mandatory
- The key stakeholders had to be identified
- Key markets had to be spelt out
- Tonality of the advertising had to be indicated
- Time available for delivery was to be specified
- No one from the organisation would be allowed to peek into what we were doing at the development stage (being one office, this was always happening)
A lot was being done and appreciated. But the art director and I were burning ourselves out.
I finally had to go to the client. ‘I need help. I require another 2-3 people in the art and copy team’.
I was expecting a pushback.
What I got instead was the client’s approval! Accompanied by the words, ‘Why didn’t you ask earlier’?
Even as far as payments go, I began to take these for granted.
End of every month, my retainer fee would come in. As did the amount for the salaries which I had to pay to those I had ‘employed’.
Those who work in firms know the challenges one faces at times getting client payment. But this was very refreshingly different.
‘Is this entrepreneurship?’, I used to wonder. After all, I was my own boss; I had people working for me; I had a client…
Actually speaking, it was not. I was operating a zero risk model, and I had my client to thank for this.
Today, when I see the true entrepreneurs, I realise the challenges they face are huge. And my respect for them goes up manifold.
Could I have been as successful, had I given it a shot in every way? Knowing my temperament, the answer is an unequivocal no!
Unlike Hamlet, therefore, I was never at a crossroad.
I was good at writing. I was good at thinking out of the box. I had creative tendencies. And I could build and lead teams.
But I was never good at finance. And I was reasonably sure that I would not make it as a full fledged entrepreneur, so I never tried it in the future as well☺.
- Learn to spot opportunities. They are always present, even in the most adverse circumstances
- Introspect and learn what you are good at and where you are not as good
- There is always someone who will recognise the talent we possess, and give us a break
- Make the most of every break you get
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