Naved Akhtar

By Kapil Dhawan
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A Beautiful Mind & A Great Leader

There are people who try every trick of trade to make their presence felt, be it through loud facades or braggadocio. Then, there are other people in this world whose work does the talking. They are those doyens who need no introduction. They are that rare breed who follows excellence, rather than fame, leaving their undeniable signature in everything they do. Naved Akhtar belongs to this rare breed. He is, perhaps, the only Indian art director to have won the prestigious Art Director of the Year award at three award shows—CAG, A&M and Delhi Advertising Club—all in the same year.

I was a trainee at Mudra, just starting on my journey in the wonderful world of advertising. Naved (along with Freddy) was already the brightest star. I was burning the midnight oil all midnights of the week, 24x7 and loving it… post one such midnight oil burning ‘session’ I collapsed in the conference room at Mudra and found Naved peering down at me. I hoped that it was a nightmare but it wasn’t. I woke-up and mumbled something… Naved just smiled at me and asked me about who my creative director’s were etc. Soon Freddy came in as well and I got chatting with both of them… And I asked them if I could work with them on whatever projects that they deemed fit… The answer was ‘yes!’

From that day onwards, my learning started under Naved’s tutelage. He allowed me full freedom of expression, boosted my confidence, and never lost his patience. He was like a mentor, a friend, an elder brother, all encapsulated into one persona. And what a persona indeed he is. The man is a fountainhead of intelligence and not an iota of ego. I never saw Naved loose his cool in any situation. Even in trying times, he has never raised his voice. Generally, brainstorming session is that rowdy ritual where tempers flow high with each member churning up a personal tempest. But Naved had always been the steady mountain that changed the course of the tempest. He has always been the helmsman, the captain of the ship, who always steered his mates in the right direction. He would listen patiently to each suggestion, pick out the important points, and bring out an “out of the box” idea. No doubt he launched polo mint with the hole.

A common perception about us, the people of advertisement, is that we generally like to throw jargons and thrive on chaos. That is never true about Naved. He always brings high amount of clarity to the discussion sessions. His brilliance, presence of mind, and depth of knowledge, and above all a probing mind, would take us to the unknown depth of a product. And the outcome is always the same—a sudden discovery of a unique idea or a tagline that will make us jump with joy. Naved believes in following few, simple principles in all his advertisement endeavors. His approach to advertisement, and what he taught us too, is to use common sense and gut feelings to understand the positioning of a product and correlate it to consumers’ expectations and needs. He has taught us to keep an eye on the shifts in consumers’ behavior and orient advertisements accordingly. But, above all, he has taught us to always keep in mind the requirements of the client and give it the utmost attention. All these may seem unorthodox, but these are the worldly tips that helped establish myself in the advertisement world and achieve success.

Everything about Naved is genuine. When he listens to you, he will give his full attention and listen patiently. And when he extends his support and help, it is always unconditional. He is a non-believer of false pretense. He is equally comfortable and amiable in chatting with a new trainee or with a high-end client. It is just impossible not to like Naved. He is a true leader and a brilliant art director. When I look back to those days with Naved, I feel only one emotion—a deep seated reverence for the man. The reverence for not only the talent he is but also for the human within. Wherever Naved would venture, he would always be the torch bearer for others.

Co-Founder
Tree Design, FrogWalksOut Technologies
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