“We changed the rules of financial advertising”: Harindra Singh

Harindra Singh the Vice-chairman and MD of Percept was expected to opt for a professional degree than get into business. As it turned out he did a good bit of the latter. He shares some defining moments with Biprorshee Das.

Singh’s first critical moment came when peer pressure led him to go for a degree in hotel management. With a friend, he even decided to open a restaurant chain called Harpacino Shankino. The name of course came from the two friends who were called ‘Harindra and Shan-Kar.’ The plan soon fizzled out and his family’s insistence sent him chasing a degree in business administration. He chose the University of Rhode Island in the US.

The next defining moment came when Singh was waiting to leave for the US but had nothing to do in the months before that. A friend, who ran the Mumbai branch of the Inter Ads, an ad agency based in Delhi, invited him to manage the Mumbai-branch while he went on a two month honeymoon.

The office was handling the production of all the campaigns that Delhi did. There was a textile campaign a carpet campaign and other high-profile stuff. All the good-looking models of the time were sitting in the Mumbai office every day. “That was one of the carrots he threw at me.” he laughs.

With an apartment, car and an expense account at his disposal, the two month soon turned into four. The friend didn’t return and Singh stayed back, becoming the branch manager and regional manager handling the South.

In January 1984, he started Percept with Rs 12,000, a peon and an eccentric artist who came along from Inter Ads. The money soon ran out and Singh knew he would get little support from the family. It was then that he struck his first deal ‘selling’ 50 per cent of Percept to his father who put in Rs 12,000. The deals simply kept getting larger. “The last equity deal was valued at Rs.1,200 crore”, beams Singh.

Singh recounts little incidents as Percept grew—of how, when money ran out again and investment came from a person he met at a nightclub. “There I was, broke, meeting someone in a nightclub of all places, started talking work with him and the next day my company gets a new lease of life. “

Singh spotted opportunities in the financial advertising space and used it to the agency’s advantage. There were apprehensions as prospective clients told him that he knew nothing about the job. “I told them that I would try harder. We were great brand builders and thought out of the box. Every time we handled an IPO, the SEBI came out with a new guideline,” he grins, adding, “We were instrumental in changing the rules of the game.”

Source: Percept

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