In the glamour and madness that the advertising industry is known for, Sandeep Goyal comes across as an outlier. The ad industry Chairman and India JV partner of Dentsu India, who retired from the hectic life of the ad world a few years ago, has worn many hats through a long and fascinating career. These include heading advertising agency Rediffusion Y&R and holding the post of Group CEO at Zee Telefilms.
Since his exit from DAN in 2011, he has gone on to found Mogae Media, which provides integrated mobile marketing services. So, does he miss the old days? “The good thing about me is that I never look in the rear view mirror. It was great fun but I have moved on,” he says, adding, “What I do miss is the camaraderie. The advertising world is a little less informal than others so I miss that.”
One recurring motif in Goyal’s life is Japan. His love affair with Japan first started with a visit in 1994. Since then he claims to have made more than a hundred trips to Japan with nearly five visits a year.
Hearing him speak about that country and people, the passion is infectious. “I learned focus and discipline from the Japanese. No other nationality is so committed. Their dedication to their clients is amazing. One advantage they have over us is that they never get into a debate over whether something should be done or not. If the client has said you have to, then you have to do it,” he says.
In his posh Worli office, decorated with art pieces, potteries and other knick knacks from around the world, we asked him about his recent trip to Japan. “Fumio Oshima (Former Managing Director at Dentsu) took us to Tsuruoka, a small town in Yamagata prefecture, which has been named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. We saw a very different facet of Japan. A Michelin star chef served us an 18 course meal. Here they use seasonal ingredients to prepare the dishes,” he gushes with enthusiasm.
A seasoned writer, Goyal confesses that the one thing he enjoys more than anything else is writing. He has already written a number of works including ‘The Dum Dum Bullet’ (about his experiences in advertising) and ‘Konjo’ (which details his journey post Zee and his association with Dentsu).
In Konjo, which is Japanese for “fighting spirit”, Goyal holds back no punches and is frank in both admiration as well as derision for many prominent figures in the advertising world. Did he never fear he would ruffle any feathers? “One thing you should know about me is that I am different from others in the advertising world. Whatever I wrote was the truth. I, anyway, want to be part of the sedate life so it is not like I am going to go back to any of them for business,” he asserts.
A gold medallist in Literature, Goyal is currently preparing to defend his Ph.D thesis, a 450-page analysis called “Celebrities as Human Brands”, at the University of Delhi. But this has not kept him away from his other writings. Works in the pipeline include another book on advertising as well as a book where he dissects and explains popular Japanese terms, which are full of subtleties and deep meanings.
“One term the Japanese use is nurumayu which means a warm water bath. The concept is that your organisation is like a bath. One should never make the temperature too comfortable; just make it a little hot or a little cold as it prevents employees from becoming complacent. Innovations happen when the water is a little hot. Another concept is nemawashi (watering the roots), the closest English meaning would be consensus. In Japan, they use this to say that consensus should always be built from the bottom and never the top of an organisation,” explains Goyal.
Despite the books he has written so far, the holy grail for him is to write a fiction novel, something he calls the true test of a writer. “I am working on a novel called “Witches of Worli.” This will be my first fiction novel and I am targeting a 2018 release for it,” he says proudly.
Apart from writing, which occupies a fair amount of his free time, Goyal believes in spending time with family and friends over weekends. Though, like everything else about him, it is not a typical get together.
“This Sunday, we will be hosting our annual parantha festival at home,” says Goyal, adding that this is the 12th year they will be doing so. So, what happens at an annual parantha festival at the Goyal house?
“We start at around brunch and it goes on till 7-8 in the evening. Two cooks from my Delhi house are coming and we will make some 12-13 different types of paranthas, which will be nearly 350 parathas in all, for about 70-80 guests,” says Goyal.
Good manners (and professional etiquette) prevented us from trying to get an invitation to the parantha party but we are looking forward to his future books with anticipation. Till then, we wish him luck with his writing and other endeavours.