I never worked closely with AGK; in fact I met him only a few times despite working in Mudra for a fairly long time. I worked in SAMIR, the market research division of Mudra, and was always kept at arm’s length by Mudra to maintain independence of SAMIR.
My first meeting with AGK was in Ahmedabad a few weeks after we joined the agency. There were four of us that were hired by Dr Nagananda Kumar, to expand the offering of SAMIR. We met him for just about ten minutes where his advice to us, in his typical Telugu fast paced accent, was to be fearless and to listen far more than we ever did. This is one advice that has stayed with me.
In my years in Mudra, the only time I met him again was when he complimented me for finding the right insights for the “Humko Binnie’s Mangta” campaign and his advice then too was to stay rooted and keep close to the ‘Indianness’ of India.
I had good fortune to meet him in 2005 once again as he had called for a pitch on Vimal, the brand that he built and was looking at re-launching it. The pride in his eyes after meeting Prathap, Raj Kurup and me was unmistakable. The three of us were determined to make our mark with him; it was almost as if we had to give the Guru Dakshina. We won the pitch, and to an extent we felt that all of us had passed the exam.
A small part of AGK lives in BITM today. For us to continue to work on Vimal is akin to staying in touch with the lessons I learnt from him----‘Listen and stay rooted to India’ have remained the lessons that made my career. He was truly inspirational as a leader.
(The author is Managing Partner, CSO at Bang in the Middle)