I’ve not worked with anyone like Ashish in my entire career of 23 years. In addition to all his abilities such as great money management, deep consumer insights, extremely evolving with the times, one aspect that I will give him full marks for is his way of managing people, whether bosses, subordinates or peers. He possesses the uncanny ability to diffuse even the greatest of stressful situations and help people make peace with one another. I never came out of his office without a solution to any problem, however complex that might be, which also satisfied me. This includes even his contributions to the industry. I remember him passionately taking up debates beginning from the TAM v/s INTAM issue when the topic of a unified TV measurement arose, many years ago, to IRS/NRS and to the latest TAM/BARC. He plays an active role in the industry bodies and because of the way he deals with people, his views are heard and respected.
I first met Ashish in 1999, when Lintas chose him to head Initiative Media. I was then running Bombay and Kolkatta operations of the media company. In my very first meeting with him, I intuitively felt he had the genuine ability to understand and connect with others. We hit it off quite well from the word go. I have always been a dreamer and an entrepreneur. It took no time for Ashish to realise and nurture those qualities, thus was born the country’s first media consulting outfit, Media Futures and Lintas’ very first foray into digital, Digital Initiatives and Aaren – Initiative, an OOH company. He gave his people amazing freedom and huge support.
During his leadership, Initiative Media grew multi fold. So did the confidence of all members of the team. He and me had a deal, I had to treat him to his favorite food when we travelled together. I vividly remember the prawn tempura and wine at Park, Kolkatta, which he never got bored of. We never lost a pitch. That was our track record. One that I clearly remember, which was on the verge of going off our hands is the ITC media business, which Initiative had for 7 years. We had some internal client feelers that they may look for a change, when the review was initiated. But we took an oath we won’t lose it. Many days and nights of fun filled hard work, finally allowed us to produce one of our best presentations. We turned the ITC conference room into a movie theatre. And the client was treated to a 2 hour movie with each team member acting a part, around the fun theme of 7 year itch. The result, our track record continued on the face of stiff competition.
After a while, I went to work in some overseas markets for Initiative and Ashish set up Integrated Marketing Action Group for Lintas. But we remained in touch. And we again came back together (which he claims as his second mistake) when he took over the reins of Aegis Media India. I launched Vizeum as its first employee with very comforting speech from Mr Bhasin talking about how Vizeum should be built as a long term creative and strategic media agency, which lasted only till the next week when he appeared at my desk to check on the revenue position of Vizeum. Working with Ashish was always fun. We had our share of tiffs but like a good couple, we managed to burry them before the sunset. And 6 years later, I finally decided to pay heed to my entrepreneurial calling (I must admit it wasn’t an easy decision at all, purely because of my relationship with Ashish) And he says he will gladly make the mistake the third time over if I ever change my mind to go back to work with him.
I remember our first Aegis Media conference in Mud Island, Mumbai with 75 people in total. He had set a vision of a 1000 people organization in 5 years. Within 6 years, DAN today has around 1200 people. I have been also reading about his vision of being the No.2 player by 2017. Once he sets his eyes on something, he just relentlessly goes behind it and he will have the entire 1200 following him on that vision. I know he once described me as a rainmaker during a meeting with his boss in Singapore, which I got to know from others. But to me he is a true rainmaker in every sense. And I wish him the very best.