I have known Bal for 22 years now, since joining Ulka. Memorable it has been knowing him. And cherish I will my innumerable interactions with him.
We had been in touch quite regularly in spite of him moving to Goa in the late nineties. My last conversation with him was a few days ago when he had called to talk about ‘Ad Katha’, the book on Indian advertising that he had conceptualised and launched at the AdAsia 2011 in Delhi and which Draftfcb Ulka and I personally too had backed. He had invited me for a two-day stay at his tastefully done up home in Goa, but it was not to be. I did go to Goa today, but it’s a pity it was to bid him adieu at his funeral.
Difficult to sum up this doyen of Indian advertising in a few words, but here goes – guts to quit a cushy job in the then Ogilvy and start Ulka in 1961 and make it a success known for its business ethics and creativity; sense for business and money, but munificent in approach to people; outrageously outspoken; irrepressible; irascible and given to colourful expletives, but not a mean bone in him; would readily sack a good client if Ulka or its people were not respected or was unfair in remunerating the agency; was socially conscious and has been involved in restoration of the Afghan Church and Asiatic Library; has set up a cerebral palsy unit, etc; highly networked and tremendous ability to raise funds for good causes; zest and vigour for life and love; art and aesthetics connoisseur; a bon vivant full of joie de vivre; tireless and never-say-die spirit. Any wonder he passed away with his boots on at 86!
I am sure Bal, up there, must have already started off on some divine projects for God Almighty.
Bal and I shared an abiding passion for art in all forms and there was a sort of a latent pull between us.
Bal, the mortal, is no more, but Bal, the legend, will live on in the hearts of those who knew him. People like him are rare and a gem.
Bal Mundkur, the man who set up Ulka Advertising 50 years ago, passed away on the morning of January 7, 2012 at his residence in Goa following a heart attack.
(Nagesh Alai is Executive Director, India Operations, Draftfcb Ulka Group and President, Advertising Agencies Association of India)