A very sad day for the advertising fraternity as news spread of Mike Khanna having passed away. A big loss to all who knew him, and for those not fortunate to have met him, the stories of his successes are everywhere.
Mike was the quintessential advertising CEO. Huge on ambition for the company and driven to build the finest advertising agency. Quintessential as he had all the qualities the perfect advertising professional should possess - a repertoire of knowledge across all business categories, a charismatic persona which had our people and clients equally in awe and respect, and the dynamism and suaveness required to lead and build India's finest advertising agency. As was true of the times Hindustan Thompson Associates was created to be a full service agency providing solutions across the width and depth of marketing communications. His leadership values are still prevalent in the specialist powerhouses which he led and to his credit their respective successes.
Mike was also very different. He had the sterling qualities CEOs should possess. His gentlemanly and gracious conduct in any situation was to be admired. Mike was soft spoken with no rough edges. His legacy is a tough act to follow in these days of dog-eat-dog cut-throat competition. The era then had a sense of graciousness and spirit mostly endangered today. That's evident in the strong values of ethical conduct and clean values fully embedded in JWT even today.
Mike was a true professional. The vision of success for company, clients and people was rooted in his pursuit of excellence - success was an ask which was not up for debate. Clients and staff equally loved him for this quality.
The news of Mike's passing away has left us all with a huge void. His legacy is what we grew up with, and his belief that we will be the finest company with the highest ethical standards is still an ideal followed today.
His human qualities were unique as he always had a strong sense of balance between the human side of the talent who worked with him and their professional growth. His astuteness in his evaluation of situations and people was a strength that is not common. He was a guide and mentor to many as was his legendary leadership qualities.
For those that knew him, we were fortunate. He has left a set of people who still can differentiate the good from the bad and uphold his relentless spirit of excellence in all he stood for. His duty done, Mike RIP.
The author is Executive Director Global Growth &Client Development at J. Walter Thompson Company.