End of an era: Avinash Pandey remembers Pradeep Guha

Guest Column: It was PG's smile, out-of-the-box ideas, and the ability to get the very best from everyone, writes Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network

e4m by Avinash Pandey
Published: Aug 25, 2021 9:00 PM  | 4 min read

“Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight

Here one day, Gone one night,

Like a Sunset dying with the rising of the moon,

Gone too soon, Gone too Soon”

– Buz Kohan & Larry Grossman in Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.


I met Pradeep Guha for the first time in 2003. I was working with TV Today at the time and I realised none of us in the company had registered for AdAsia Jaipur. My then boss asked me to call Pradeep and request for registrations of 10 people. The festival was less than a week away and the news of it getting over-booked was already everywhere. I called, and to my surprise, he picked up. He said he will try but asked if my then boss can speak with him as well.

A day later I called him again. He wanted the names and in order of priority. I sent 10 names to him. The first was obviously my boss, the second name was mine and the rest of the list were important names of company executives too but at that time, they appeared lesser mortals to me.

PG cleared just the first two. I met him at Jaipur and thanked him. He was standing among a few Bollywood celebs in a crisp white shirt with the appearance of a person who knew he was in control. That was the beginning of our long friendship and association.

This is what PG was – the man always at the centre of conversations, and the core of power in our community. But seen as helping people, irrespective of their status. Those who knew PG (as he was called by his colleagues), will always remember him as a smiling, curious person. I never worked under him, but I worked with him on many occasions in the IAA, Ad Asia and IBF, and travelled with him almost all over the world.

PG’s biggest characteristic as a leader was that he never thought small, and never recommended what you already know. He thought, and executed, big. Ad Asia Jaipur, according to me, was ‘Na Bhuto, Na Bhavishyati’, it had never happened at this scale in the past, and neither could it be replicated like this in the future. Until he became the top boss at Zee, I am told Zee and Star never visited each other's offices. He partnered with the then-CEO of Star India and together drove the industry forward for rate hikes and the likes, driving incremental revenue.

This one move was pivotal in setting up the importance of price discovery between ad agencies and broadcasters.

He brought the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to India. Today all of us that are part of the media, communication and advertising industry, owe it to

him for placing India at the top at the Cannes Lions Festival. I frequently used to meet him at Cannes and often agreed for evening conversations. We never matched on lunch, as he loved seafood and I am a thorough vegetarian.

We agreed on the Rose instead at the Gutter Bar and we discovered stories of the Indian media and advertising history, tales of Indian media owners and several other anecdotes that even served as lessons. It was during my Cannes visits that I realised how well connected he was internationally and how almost everyone from the Indian community wanted to share a drink or accompany him.

He worked hard to bring India and Pakistan together through the IAA. He, in fact, took all the managing committee members of India to Lahore, where he was speaking along with Imran Khan and the other leaders of the sub-continent. He led a delegation of Indian company leaders to Silicon Valley to meet the Who’s Who of the tech world for us to see what they were working on, meeting them in their offices and campuses.

It was a trip that I was privileged to be part of and found him to be tremendously detailed in planning this one-week activity. Every day, he would be the first person to be there in the morning and the last to leave the bar at night, always happy, sharing anecdotes and learnings.

I remember him taking the onus of hosting the IAA Global Conclave in India. He set up a very strong team and for some reason, he included me as well with the agenda to line up world-class speakers almost 18 months before the actual event. He said, first we will find a reason for these global leaders to come to India. And we all know how the Kochi IAA Summit was among the best in its chapters.

PG was loved and supported by all that ever worked with him. It was his smile, his out-of-the-box ideas, and the ability to get the very best from everyone that made him lovable. With him gone, we truly say goodbye to an era.

 (This column was first published on BW Marketingworld)

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