Simi belongs to a rare breed of women in advertising who are a ‘quarter of a century young’ in the business. In an industry where age and experience can weigh you down, she remains unfatigued and unfettered of the cynicism that often accompanies knowing too much. She is one of the most youthful industry veterans, someone who maintains an infectious laugh and ready joke to pull the entire agency through some very intense situations.
Simi is a shining example of someone who placed enormous value on relationships and always prioritized them over all else. An entire generation of mad men and women affectionately call her their ‘mother’. In fact, she was the best kind of mother, the kind who gave independence and anchorage at the same time.
Simi became my boss when I returned to advertising after a four-year long hiatus. She had an impressive resume having worked in Ogilvy’s Mumbai office on some of our most coveted accounts like Cadbury’s and Unilever.
Instead of using that stint to create a rarefied atmosphere around herself she used it to transform the culture in Bangalore. Instill a higher level of professionalism and set the bar higher for creative output by sharing her learning and experience generously.
I found myself surrounded by great talent and intellect but what was truly unique was the absolute absence of politicking. My favorite David Ogilvy quote from the many gems that have become tenets in Ogilvy is “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” Among the leaders I have had the privilege to serve under, she is the one who most strongly subscribed to this philosophy. As a result, one of the golden periods for Ogilvy Bangalore was under her.
I think Simi’s greatest achievement may not be her ascension to CEO in Dentsu but her ability to breed success without making the work environment into a racecourse where only a few galloped to victory. Somehow we all ended up feeling like winners.
Along with a wicked wit comes a razor sharp understanding of strategy and ability to absorb new tools and learning. With just one exposure to a tool Simi would be able to explain the essence of it to the rest of us. I am confident even today, if asked a question on the Butterfly framework which was in use back in 2007 she would replay it perfectly. Because for her, tools are not for adding razzmatazz to credential slides but for deployment in solving actual challenges businesses and brands face. Clients benefited from her innate understanding of their briefs for which she would ensure great ideas were brought to the table. And they trusted her because she always kept their interests above all, pushing for great work that works for the client and not just the agency. Some of our best work on Bingo!, Titan, Fortune, Allen Solly, Hayward’s was created under her watch.
Many women in the workforce believe aggression is key to showing ambition. Simi epitomizes femininity and grace. I have never seen her being abrasive with anyone, even those who have caused her hurt. She is ‘all grace under pressure’ a quality that I have tried to emulate. She is a vocal exponent of work-life balance. She is also a mother to two beautiful children who are now adults and I am sure they are incredibly proud of everything their mother stands for.
Faith and forgiveness may sound totally out of place in our industry but those are the key ingredients in her ‘secret sauce’. Keep cooking and simmering it Simi, for the rest of us.