My first meeting with Suman happened thanks to a miscommunication. And he ended up being the longest boss I have had in my career for one continuous stretch.
Thanks to the five years that I worked with Suman, I have a fairly clear picture of Suman the professional, the boss and the person. It might be different from what others know him as or the way Suman sees himself as. But this picture is mine.
Suman is from an era when truly bright people chose advertising as a career. The three things that define Suman the professional are; 1. His Razor-sharp intellect. 2. His listening skills. 3. His uncluttered mind.
The listener in him always got him to get to the root of any situation or a problem. Suman always attacked a problem without thinking what might be palatable or acceptable. His thinking was focused on what genuinely would solve the problem. He truly would call the elephants out.
I have felt a lot Suman’s Ideas of the times were ahead of current thinking but then shouldn’t an idea be future focused rather than being merely rooted in the present. Anyone who has gone through Suman’s old presentations (I have) will clearly get the clairvoyant in Suman.
My favourite one was Suman’s idea of categorising investment products alongside a colour code. While you could mistake the idea being frivolous. Colour and investment you would say humbug, it actually has deep psychological connections.
Obviously the client did not buy it then. However, today it is established that the colour associations have a strong co-relation with the risk appetite and investment appetite of people.
There have been instances of us not winning a pitch but Suman getting invited to do workshops with the client! You may not buy his idea but you can never deny the brilliance of it.
The management committee that Suman built had diverse thinkers and most of them very different from himself. As different as Chalk and Cheese. Suman has always nurtured diversity. Your personal relations with him never mattered when it came to being judged on the kind of thinking you brought to the table. Suman had a unique ability of seeing underlying talent and skill. There are many people who re-invented their careers at EuroRSCG. He was a great one for identifying capabilities of people and calibrating expectations. There have been many Planners who have passed through his tutelage and are evidence of him finding the best in you and making you the best you can be.
For someone who had one Boss for the majority of his career and yet established and preserved his own individuality, Suman always ensured your individuality shone through.
Suman, is a person deeply connected with his roots. And very easy to get along with. Despite living the longest period in Mumbai, his Hindi is still not polluted. Suman brings deep thoughtfulness to a relationship. He is truly the uncle, friend you could count on for counsel. He somehow remembers casually mentioned details and dates. He always committed to the relationship more than you did. It was Suman the person who ensured Euro RSCG remained apolitical and a “nice” place to work in.
Given his desire to be proper and correct you would think the only emotion that Suman would inspire was respect. Which he did, however there is no-one that I know who worked with him and did not love Suman.
I remember a colleague and I discussing an upcoming Pitch presentation with Suman. It did not have the depth of thinking that Suman was looking for. And Suman lay it to us calling us "#&*! Delhi Cowboys!" Of course post the call this colleague and I had a couple of smokes and muttered on the ridiculousness of what he said. And after a couple of hours went back to re-writing the presentation.
You would think that that was the end of our relationship. But No. That colleague continues to work with him today and here I am writing this piece about him.
Suman, has that magical ability of making things better. Be it brands or people.