The Next-Gen Creatives running the show at Ogilvy India

For the agency’s newly-crowned Chief Creative Officers - Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Sukesh Nayak - ‘Ogilvy-ness’ stands for team spirit, creativity & fearlessness

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Feb 25, 2020 8:15 AM  | 8 min read
Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Sukesh Nayak

Roughly 20 days into their new job, Ogilvy India’s newly-crowned Chief Creative Officers — Kainaz Karmakar, Harshad Rajadhyaksha and Sukesh Nayak — seem bustling as ever.

The trio hasn’t even had the time to have a celebratory meal or coffee together. “We had a ‘working lunch’ at the Taj together,” Karmakar retorts. Despite their distinct approaches to working, what’s common for the three is that they have kept O&M’s flag flying high by putting out the agency’s best work, but they also share deep admiration for the work that Ogilvy brings out and for its culture, and are in awe and admiration for the institution that is ad-man and Ogilvy’s Global CCO - Piyush Pandey.

Through a series of mini-interviews with each of them, we get to know a bit more on what this elevation means for each of them, the mandate given to them and how they plan to foster the ‘Ogilvy-ness’ that each of them speaks with.

Edited excerpts:

You could have done this anywhere else but there is no glory and joy bigger than doing it here - Sukesh Nayak

Nayak who has been with the agency since 2000 feels that it’s time to give back to the agency. “I have literally been all my life here. I’ve seen some of the biggest names in the industry mentor me and help me up my craft. It’s the biggest honour for me, personally because you see, you could have done this anywhere else but there is no glory and joy bigger than doing it here. I can’t describe it better than that. You could have done this earlier in your life and career. You could have gone anywhere else. But that’s not the high-point. It is to have the ability to guide this depth of talent in this institution called Ogilvy built by Piyush Pandey, to mentor them and to be able to give back now,” a stoked Nayak says.

According to him, the best way to describe the culture at Ogilvy is ‘team spirit’. “It’s a team that celebrates victory and also learns from its losses which is why it is so strong.”

Nayak believes that in the changing times that we live in while the businesses have expanded so have the need for engaging the businesses. “It requires you to constantly engage with your businesses to be able to be at the front rather than being left behind. I think our mandate is to help all the brilliant minds. We’ll play in any capacity,” he asserts.

Nayak also establishes that the trio will continue creating work themselves. “We will not be administrators, we will continue to create work because we are very young. We will continue doing that. We are going to lead, defend, be a support, we are going to play whatever role that is required for any great idea to come out and see the light of the day.”

The creative looks back at a simple story of when he would have an idea and would go to Pandey with it. “He (Pandey) would hear it and say ‘let me see what we can do about it, how can I help you bring it out’. The discussion was always about that and we are going to continue that conversation forward with the budding talent,” Nayak remarked.

“We want to do a body of work that we personally feel very proud of and hopefully what makes the industry look up to it,” Nayak continued. “It is the work you bring out that attracts talent. People keep asking where’s the talent. We all came to this lovely place because there was this person sitting and doing such amazing work. And many more came due to that. Work attracts talent, work that impresses brings new talent, clients and businesses. Nothing speaks but work. I think if we can just create a body of work that can make the next generation, who are wondering what to do, look at us and say: ‘Hey, this is the place where I want to be,’ the goal has been achieved.”

It took a while for it to sink in that we are going to be in-charge of this huge ship called Ogilvy - Kainaz Karmakar

“I think that the one challenge that will come before us is - how do we make the time for the three of us to meet,” Karmakar laughs off as we start our conversation. “It’s not like we didn’t know what we were getting into before we took it up. We know that there is a fair amount of work and a fair amount of attention that all offices need. And also we have had one major shift two years back where we each were handling one team. So we knew we had to take a bigger thing, which has become even bigger now. It took a while for it to sink in that we are going to be in-charge of this huge ship called Ogilvy. And it’s overwhelming. But I’m sure that if we put our heads together, we will get there.” Karmakar described Ogilvy’s culture as one that is clearly creativity-first.

She, like Nayak, is all about work that inspires and speaks about how Pandey’s work was a strong draw in her advertising journey and a strong influence on her for joining Ogilvy. “I think the job of a leader is how do you make everyone in your team see the vision that you have and how do you make sure that you’re continuously at the helm of creating work that inspires. Piyush inspired the whole industry by just doing what he did. I had never met him before I joined Ogilvy. Everyone wanted to join because of what he was doing. That’s what leaders do. They define culture and pass that on along with the inspiration and vision for everyone working under you. In the 90's anyone who came to Ogilvy felt that energy. It was infectious,” Karmakar added.

Quizzed about the roadmap ahead, she asserts, “We have to take what Ogilvy has been and show the world where we can take it because if you aren’t moving ahead, you’re moving behind.”

We will just be writing a new chapter to the Ogilvy saga - Harshad Rajadhyaksha

For Rajadhyaksha who joined the agency in 2010 along with Karmakar, Ogilvy has been a competitor in the earlier stages of his career. He acknowledges that the baton passed on to him is a huge one but is nothing less than a dream come true. “Yes, it’s a heavy baton to handle but one that we would take, keeping in sync with the times like responding to everything that the new world throws at us, anticipating things that are likely to come our way in terms of mediums, technologies and what the younger talent is aspiring to create. And then for us to get the work right up there with the best that our office produces and be given more and more responsibilities. It’s nothing less than a dream come true. If someone had told us a few years back that we would be heading Ogilvy India’s creative someday, we would have laughed.”

“Sukesh has grown up within Ogilvy, we came in a decade later, from outside. Ever since then, we knew Ogilvy as an agency which was very difficult to beat. So we joined them. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them. That aside, Kainaz and I feel terribly proud that Ogilvy is a big ship and to be counted as one of the biggest creative departments of this country and to be noticed amongst them and being given more and more responsibility every passing year for doing a few things right.”

According to Rajadhyaksha, his greatest inspiration is the work created around at the agency. “On any passing day, you feel charged up with the quality of work around you. This place has creativity at its core and everyone in their forms: be it account management or planning. We have some of the best people around in all-disciplines. But for all of them the creative product that we create is supreme. So the faith that so many have put on us, I think it’s wonderful.”

Rajadhyaksha remarked that it is fearlessness that according to him defines the agency’s culture. “Here it is about trying things that haven’t been done before, making mistakes but leading the trail, not follow it.” Being given the national mandate will mean going out there and helping all teams to do more Ogilvy-like work and increase instances where every office can do more of that, he points out.

However, what’s not going to change, he notes, is the very spirit of creativity being the absolute factor that rules the agency’s work, something which has been in Ogilvy’s DNA. “We will just be writing a new chapter to this saga,” Rajadhyaksha said with an air of finality.

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