Some people are born storytellers. Sunil Lulla makes the compelling stories that others tell. He has the rare gift of being able to look around him at society, people, events and objects and then, with his extraordinary vision, create triumphant success that becomes the subject of folklore. He knows how to make a person, a product, a company or an idea into the hero of stories that delight, educate, entertain, instruct and engage.
Story makers prepare. They are hard workers. They are detail oriented, curious and informed. They are pranksters, big thinkers and theatrical. They are flexible and can improvise. They are master orchestrators of ideas, people, and situations. Sunil personifies all this and more: He was part of the management team that turned around HMV/EMI in the 90s; he redefined pop culture as the General Manager of MTV in India; he doubled the revenue of Sony Entertainment Television as its Executive Vice President; he lead the Internet boom in India as the CEO of indya.com; he built the most memorable television network as the Managing Director of Times Television Network; and he is now changing the way we think of products and services as the Chairman and Managing Director of the Grey Group India.
I have had the privilege of knowing Sunil since the days we were together at management school in Mumbai. He had the natural gift of attracting the most creative people around him. If we were together at a party or a picnic, at a meeting or family gathering, you could be sure that everyone would flock around him, attentively listen to him, open their minds and – inevitably, unknowingly, unerringly – buy into his crazy ideas. The reason why he has such a loyal and committed following is easy to see. Sunil can motivate others into action and make everything they do look like fun.
In 1999, we became colleagues and partners at indya.com, the consumer Internet portal that made history. I remember for the launch of the portal, indya.com bought the entire front page of the Times of India (along with several inside pages). That itself was groundbreaking. Never in the history of Indian media had anyone bought the entire front page of a newspaper. But even more shocking was the fact that indya.com decided to print nothing on the front page! It was kept blank. Naturally, readers were shocked. They could not believe their eyes. I suspect many forgot to have breakfast that day while excitedly discussing the lapse. How could the Times of India have forgotten to print the front page? But the back page of the paper explained it all by saying, “india changes its name today”. It happened under Sunil’s watch at indya.com. He changed a bit of Indian media forever that day. And will be remembered for it – forever.