In the advertising world divided between casual first names, self styled catchy one word monikers and the old world ‘Sirs’, I discovered a unique fourth one as I walked into Mudra, Ahmedabad as a rookie (a trainee planner). ‘Saheb!’. A word that was best placed after Chandan. ‘Chandan Saheb’. A word that was bestowed upon a man who had all the traits of an authoritarian king and an avuncular gentleman in equal measures. A salutation not just used by all of us at Mudra but also by the clients. The territory of ‘Saheb’ was universal.
Through the hallowed corridors of Mudra Ahmedabad where many a great name have passed, beginning with the great visionary AGK, there can be culled a distinct period of time - The Chandan Nath years; lasting for more than a decade. Time where every 3 months or so, not just new brands but newer categories were being created from scratch while Mumbai and Delhi were napping. With a motley crew of people who were more fire and less smoke, more action and less talk. Krack, ItchGuard, Dermicool, Livon, the list goes on and on.
Chandan never believed that advertising is rocket science. He believed, practiced and instilled in us just a few key principles. Common sense, listening to the gut, keeping an eye on the consumer & category at all times and most importantly a problem-first approach to things. He believed that our first job as advertising professionals is to identify the problem correctly for the client which itself is half the solution. Might sound too simplistic but in my 12 year old career since then, across agencies, I am yet to see it in practice. I am yet to see an account management and planning team as informed as the Paras team of those years, I am yet to see a team, which embodies the same investigative fervor towards finding a solution. I am yet to see a team that would itch to come to office on a Saturday morning (even when not needed) just to while away, talking about their brands/categories, and more importantly just talk to each other. I am yet to see that magic where people in an office simply lived the brand. Chandan loved playing the dark horse and would take great pride in thwacking ‘Dilli-Mumbai’ in pitches (both the advertising and cricket types). I still remember him Instructing the Admin guy to host people from other Mudra offices in the best of hotels when Ahmedabad hosted the Inter Mudra Cricket tournament. To quote him verbatim, ‘Unko field me bi harayange aur hospitality me bhi.’
Chandan, his style, his aura cannot be summed up in 500 words. It would take volumes of an average ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ copy. From his thick moustache to this thicker voice (which I still believe he modulated for effect), from his numerous vintage cars to his emotional (might I take the liberty to call it atyachaar), everything about Chandan was larger than life. In the industry of mad men, he was absolutely berserk. Chandan’s fury could make a junior pee in his pants and still he would cry when that guy left Mudra, Ahmedabad. The lion roared and then the uncle melted you down.
He ensured every event had a ceremonial feel to it. Every new joining, every farewell (where he invariably sabotaged the other guy’s speech), every briefing session, every meeting. In fact he welcomed the 2 new NCDs by getting them kidnapped from the airport only to be welcomed by a band at office. He would not begin a meeting till all of the competitive brands were not on the table. He would throw a question randomly to anyone in the team and if one could not answer would be duly thrown out of the meeting. But he would be the same person who you could seek counsel from on anything in the evening. From getting a gas connection to getting a liquor permit in Gujarat.
Unfortunately one tends to outgrow Mudra, Ahmedabad and so slowly all of us had to move on. Chandan wept for everyone. Chandan blessed everyone. Mudra Ahmedabad is one of the most fabulous stories seldom told in usual advertising circles, but it is a brilliant one. They say, big places make even the smallest of people feel big about themselves and small places make even the biggest people feel small about themselves. By that logic, Mudra Ahmedabad was the largest agency I ever worked for. A place where King Uncle roared for many years.