Ask the Doctor

Insecurity in the workplace due to the idea of AI encroaching on your job, or being sidelined at work because of your small town background? Sandeep Goyal has the right answers to help you deal with workplace woes.

Dear Sir,

I come from a Hindi medium background but went on to do an MBA from a good business school in Mumbai. Despite that, my vernacular origins have kind of stuck with me. This is my second agency job. In both the jobs, I have been assigned to Indian family businesses, actually SMEs rather than the large multinational accounts at the agency.

I am beginning to develop an inferiority complex. As far as I can see, I speak good English. My accent is fine. My body language is good. I dress well. I look good. I have my own car.

But I am being accorded a second-class citizen status and I think it is only because of my Hindi medium background. I feel very humiliated
I have a colleague. She is Anglo-Indian, I think Goan but now from somewhere in Bandra. She is always dressed in Western clothes and speaks only English with some occasional toota-foota Hindi. The moment she joined, she was assigned to our largest global business. And she is not even an MBA.
All of this discrimination rankles me. I have tried to have a chat with my boss but he thinks it is all just in my mind and that all accounts are important to the agency. In fact, the ‘local’ clients are tougher to handle, hence need a more-experienced hand like me. To me, it is only sweet talk.

My frustration is reaching a point of no return. What are my options?

Shambhu N.

Dear Shambhu,

I would recommend you read my book, ‘The Dum Dum Bullet’. It is available online and at most good bookstores. I wrote the Dum Dum in 2004 and it covered my personal journey in advertising from when I started as a rookie to when I became India’s highest paid professional CEO.

I did not come from a Hindi medium background but my small town origins were equally disadvantageous. I had no issues with the English language; in fact, I am a gold medalist in English literature. Also, I did my MBA from one of India’s best business schools. Hence, it has many similarities with your profile.

In the Dum Dum, I actually describe my frustration at being assigned to what you call ‘local’ family business type of clients when I joined HTA-Delhi. I was put on to a small textile mill account, ‘Bhilwara,’ in a back-of-beyond place by the same name in Rajasthan. I was also assigned to handle ‘Gagan’ vanaspati from Rajpura, about 250 km from Delhi. This was a product of Amrit Banaspati Company, a family concern. HTA-Delhi was in those days one of the biggest agency offices in India and handled a large part of Nestle and HMM (now Glaxo Smithkline,) the two largest and most visible multinational accounts in Delhi. I was given no part of either of these multinational businesses.

I would travel to Bhilwara once a month by the overnight train. Sometimes more often. The folks at Bhilwara were perhaps not as sophisticated but there I met a young Marketing Head, Mr. Sunil Chaddha with whom I built up a good rapport. Because of my intense servicing of the business, my desire to understand the client’s marketing issues, my good equation with Mr. Chaddha, his growing confidence in me, my ability to deliver good advertising and the mutual understanding that we were starting to build up, Bhilwara started to grow as an account. The client gave me a lot of respect and freedom. I gave the client my best. Bhilwara moved from being a down-market cheap textile brand to an aspirational, top-of-the-league ‘worsted’ range under a new ‘BSL’ brand name. But most importantly, I made lifelong friends with Mr. Chaddha who now lives and works in Dubai.

Moral of the story is that ‘local’ businesses are not really bad businesses to handle, provided you go in without a bias in your mind. In fact, when I quit HTA, the Bhilwara business moved with me to Trikaya (now Grey.) Quite an achievement for a young account supervisor and testimony to the fact that if you serve a client well, he will reciprocate.

Some years later I went to work for a small agency called Interact Vision, a part of Mudra. Interact was totally dedicated to handling small Indian entrepreneurs and participating in their big dreams. At Interact, I helped launch Symphony air-coolers for Achal Bakeri, a young architect turned entrepreneur. Symphony became a market leader in no time. I worked with Piruz Khambatta at Rasna. I worked with Narayan Bhai and his son Darshan Bhai Patel at Paras on Moov and D’Cold. I worked with Rajiv Manglani at Meena Bazaar. I worked with Chhimi Dorji at Bhutan Board. Every single entrepreneur was unique. Each one ambitious. Each one sought out my talent and used it to the fullest. Most of these brands remain market leaders even today, after 25 years. And most of these clients remain my close personal friends.

So, Indian clients are not bad to handle. Either as work or on your CV. Your boss may be trying to placate you by telling you that you have been put on to ‘local’ businesses as you are better and more experienced. Believe me, he is actually correct.

Last but not the least, after having worked to make Bhilwara a success back at HTA-Delhi, I went to see my boss and asked to be put on to Nestle. I did not want to be moved off Bhilwara. I wanted to handle Nestle too. My boss had no choice but to oblige. I was given the Maggi sauces account. I went on to handle one of the biggest FMCG launches ever. Finally, I was the chosen one when the Horlicks (HTA’s biggest single account) came available. And I look back and know it was all because of a small brand called Bhilwara out of Rajasthan.

So, don’t lose hope. Your time will come. Enjoy your current businesses. Excel at them. The multinats will queue up in due course. And for God’s sake, let the Goan lady not worry you. She is in any case not to blame for anything you may think is happening to you, good or bad.

Dear Sir,

Will AI and blockchain actually rob me of my job? I read all these articles in media and get pressurized. I am 40+ without an MBA. I joined advertising at 18. I learnt and grew on the job and grasped all the new tricks of the game as they came along.

But to be honest, all this talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and similar stuff scares me. It all seems so complicated and unreal. But experts in the business say these technologies are now at our doorstep. I just feel very uneducated and inadequate.

I have considered joining Coursera but find the content of the courses very challenging.

Do you think the challenge of technology is actually as real as everyone makes it out to be? At least in India, at least in my own work environment, it all seems far away. But then I could be mistaken and that is what is giving me sleepless nights.

Jacob P.

Dear Jacob,

Technology will encroach the advertising business. Whether sooner or later, I do not know.

Media buying and in a way the design business and the film business are becoming more and more machine-dependent. And technology-dependent. And software-dependent. And dependent on algorithms and machine logic. So, it has started. The acceleration is a function of time.

Will your job be affected? Right away, no. Medium-term maybe. Long-term surely. So, AI, IoT, Blockchain, Cloud, etc. are no longer terms from some distant thunder. They are clouds that may rain tomorrow morning. You have no choice but to carry an umbrella to work.

I am much older than you are. I wrote the CAT exam when I was 50 years old. I managed a very good score and have spent the past five years doing my PhD from one of India’s best B-schools.

So, it is never too late to start. Learning has to be a continuous process even when you start to work. So do not get overwhelmed by Coursera. They are obviously a little tough at first, but I am sure you will get a hang of them soon.

I checked for options for you. There are many courses in India with both online and off-line components. You could choose Blockchain courses from those offered by Simplilearn, Edureka, Intellipat, CollaberaTact, MindMajix, Nobleprog, NareshIT, TekSlate, Kelly Technologies or Open Source Technologies. All of them come with good credentials and good recommendations. Details should be available on the net.

As far as courses in AI are concerned, local options in India include courses like the PG Diploma in Machine Learning and AI – offered by Upgrad and IIIT-B, Foundations of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by IIIT Hyderabad, Master of Technology in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Hyderabad, M.Tech. Computer Science Specialization In Artificial Intelligence conducted by UPES, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Training run by Techtrunk, Artificial Intelligence (AI) Training in Hyderabad organized by AnalyticPath, Artificial Intelligence Nanodegree conducted by Udacity, Artificial Intelligence Training- a Zekelabs course, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) scripted and run by myTectra, Artificial intelligence & Machine Learning Training in Bangalore mentored by Zenrays. This is of course not an exhaustive list. I am sure there are other options.

Go enroll in one of these courses. It will do you a world of good. Especially to your self-confidence. Good luck!

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