I worked with Bal Mundkur at a time when the industry was of a small size and we had no idea that the advertising business and [Draft FCB] Ulka would become such a large and respected advertising and communications group in the country.
Bal was legendary in many ways. Not only did he have a passion for advertising, his personal involvement in creating the legendary Zodiac Man, who was an icon in those times and has ensured that Zodiac continues to be a thriving and vibrant brand even today, or the many logos which Ulka did then like the ITC Welcome Group hotels, Ceat Tyres, Punjab National Bank, which even today stand the test of time.
Bal was also actively involved in many social causes and he gave them an advertising spin too like the fund raiser post the Bangladesh war, when many Bangladeshis had to flee and were living in terrible conditions. An initiative by Bal started a campaign called ‘Save Bangladesh’, which raised millions for the cause and also went on to win the first ever Campaign of the Year instituted by the Ad Club in 1971. It was no coincidence that Bal was actively involved with Ad Club [his membership number is 007, if I am not mistaken].
Above all, Bal was a very warm human being, had the guts to fight for his people, as was exemplified many a time when he stood up to difficult clients, even at the risk of losing business. I remember once [I was a rookie in advertising when I had joined Ulka] he called me and read a letter he was writing to part ways with one of India’s then legendary multinational companies, which constituted more than 15 per cent of Ulka’s billings because the client had not been respectful of the agency teams. I was horrified and tried to dissuade him, but he would have none of it.
Bal was of the old school and would write personal handwritten letters either to compliment or reprimand one. When a good deed was done, he would breeze into the room and say ‘Son, well done’ and breeze out.
Those times were different, but Bal taught all of us to have faith in ourselves and the value of long term relationships, which is why Ulka has clients like Zodiac and Amul, who have been with the agency for decades.
May Bal rest in peace.
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.
(Shashi Sinha is CEO of Lodestar UM)