In Conversation With Swati Bhattacharya, CCO, FCB Ulka

By Swati Bhattacharya
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In Indra Nooyi’s celebrated interview on Women & work life balance, she makes a strong case on why she believes Women can't have it all… What do you say?

Having it all is a myth. And chasing that as a construct is a little bit of an exercise in heartbreak.
You can’t find a new age sensitive man who is handsome and has a great sense of humour, cooks the best machher jhol… is an absolute hands on dad, who never bunks P.T.A meetings and loves your school girlfriends and aunts and uncles as his own.
Love. Career. Parenting. Friendships are messy things.
And when you learn to love their squishy squashy.. and the little fault lines that appear out of nowhere… it’s those things that keep you engaged.
This whole superwoman was a dream  for the first generation working women. Not us. I am totally at ease with the idea of not being perfect. Good enough is the new perfect in my motherhood bible.

Is balancing work and home a continuous challenge or is it something that discipline and finding a coping mechanism can handle?

Balancing home and work is a continuous challenge.
There are days home wins.
There are days work is absolutely everything.
You can’t win at everything everyday.
But what we should have is a whole exhaustive range of delightful coping mechanisms.
A good tea. Aromatic candles. Someone to talk to. A solitary walk. Cuddling your kids or your dog. And when  everything else fails .. a MAGNUM CLASSIC!

In your early years in the industry, you were a bit of a lone wolf. That's not the case anymore. What changed?

Ha ha. Yes, that’s true.
My first 10 years in advertising was all about I. ME. AND MINE.
I was just  feeling so cool getting in and out of flights, making 3 films a month… I didn’t want to share anything of anything.
With the birth of my daughter.. it all changed. I had to learn to trust people who were willing to help me. My mom, my mother in law.. my maids. For the first time I had to learn how to ask for help on an everyday basis.
And that kind of trickled down to my work life. I had a team for the first time. I learnt how to give. I learnt how to take. And now nothing makes my day more than my collisions with young creative people. A culture of generosity is what makes this business sustainable emotionally for all of us.

After two successful short films, do you have any plans to write for mainstream cinema now?

Zoya Akhtar wrote to me after watching The Wives.. that I should write a film.. and I think I wrote one really big film that night when I fell asleep…!!! But yes.. One day!

Your work in FCB Ulka, is it worse, as good or better than JWT?

Yes it’s a bigger job.
But when big jobs come with big support and big freedom… big doesn’t scare you!
I have a boss in Susan Credle.. who has become my go to person in 3 weeks. I have never had that in my career before. I have a partner in Rohit who champions creative as a way of life, not just on award nights… and that for me is huge!!

The popular perception is that creative people are not good strategists. Yet you are a great creative leader as well a strategic thinker. Which do you enjoy more?

I am a little old fashioned.
I always start with a truth.
And once I have it.. the strategy is easy.
The strategy is always about coming closer to your consumer.
To use that knowingness …to make them like the brand you are selling.
For eg. when I arrive at the truth that only a mother can give what she doesn’t have… then telling the client that I want to do something for Mother's Day becomes easy

Were you always a champion for women or was that a result of motherhood?

I have always loved women’s stories.
The way they look at the world. Their struggle to do what they want to do. Women have been my intellectual blood bank and my most therapeutic first aid box.
I think this awareness started in Miranda House. We had an awesome English department and our teachers were constantly trying to make us see things that weren’t so easily visible.
I remember a class where my teacher got us a newspaper with a headline that said jilted lover kills girl.
Why was he called jilted? Why was sympathy being created for the boy and not the girl? If a girl says no, why is she seen as a temptress? All these questions just exploded in the classroom making us realize it's no different for women in the cities as it is in the villages. Who is telling our stories is as important as what these stories are.

What was the unlikeliest or the most bizarre place where you were hit with a great idea?

How you get your ideas has as many colourful answers as how did you guys fall in love.
You never know how and you never know when. And that is the best part. But yeah, listening is a great tool. If you train yourself to listen very carefully, lots of little gifts come your way. I have thought of things in the most unlikeliest moments and the most unlikeliest places with the most unlikeliest people. But sadly …there is no pattern to it.

Poetry or novel? What do you prefer?

On rainy days poetry. Cold days, novels. Non fiction during the day and recipes in bed at night.

Principal Partner – Creative
Priya Joseph (Guest) Great interview!
22 Mar 2016 Reply
Surajit (Guest) Nice thoughts on  strategy. The designation footnote needs to move on too, to - CCO FCB ULKA :)
11 Mar 2016 Reply
Vanita sama (Guest) U are such a fabulous writer you make one feel your thier friend in an instant and understand everything! ! Luv to read your articles and see your films ð Gorgeous lady keep soaring high.
10 Mar 2016 Reply
Shrestha Ajgar (Guest) I think wanting all to yourself is something that happens with almost everybody when they start working. But somewhere, at some point, it all changes and you learn the essence of having people with you. Working with a team. 
10 Mar 2016 Reply
Anjali Ashok (Guest) Wow! 22 years at JWT. Dentsu must have had some good bait to lure you away from JWT. 
10 Mar 2016 Reply
Meenakshi Dadhwal (Guest) Having it all is a myth... I agree. Though I can't help but wonder if there is the kind of man you mentioned. Haha... Good enough needs to be enough now a days, but if we start aiming for perfection, we'll be sorely disappointed.
10 Mar 2016 Reply