K V Sridhar, National Creative Director of Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd. hails from Hyderabad and has made India proud by creating award-winning campaigns that have floored juries at all advertising festivals, including Cannes. Viswaprasad Raju , Associate Creative Director ,R K Swamy BBDO, Hyderabad meets the Ad Guru who is popularly known as ‘Pops’ .
Q: How did it all started – your glorious journey into advertising?
KVS: Way back, in 1979, I had three career options to choose from: 1. Medical Representative; 2. Drawing Teacher; 3. Finishing Artist in Advertising. I chose the third because of my academics. After completing my B. Sc from Osmania University and, I went on to do graduation in fine arts from Gulbarga, and somehow I felt advertising deals with both science and art. I had no clue about commercial art or advertising, till I met-up with a future guru and dear friend called Rohini Kumar (a distant cousin), who taught me the basics of graphic design and art direction.
Later I joined ASP as an unpaid trainee and was elevated to finishing artist, illustrator, visualizer and art director all in a span of 18 months. I quit ASP as they refused to transfer me to Account management. That’s how I started my journey into advertising.
Q: You started your advertising career with Ulka, Hyderabad before you moved to Mumbai – the Mecca of Indian advertising and made it big there. How were those early days of advertising in Hyderabad?
KVS: When I started advertising around late 70’s there were only two big agencies ASP (Birla-owned) and FDS. And a handful of clients such as ECIL, Hyderabad Asbestos, IDPL, BHEL, and Ampro biscuits most of the business used to be around industrial products and tender notices. Pharma used to be very big. No one knew about advertising including the one’s working in it. Connections were important in getting the business and those were the glorious 15% commission days therefore life was cool.
I started with ASP, and then moved to Topads as business head. Later, I partnered with Laxmiram Reddy to start Priyadarshini Advertising, followed by stints with Ulka, Hyderabad and HTA Bangalore before moving to Mumbai in 1992.
Q: “Hyderabad is for people who want to get up at nine in the morning, stroll into office and have a cup of tea. It’s not for someone with fire in his belly. I’d give anything to be able to live there but in the profession I am in, I think I’ll go mad if I did.” This is what Mohammed Khan; another advertising legend from Hyderabad has to say. What’s your take?
KVS: He was right; those days it was a lazy city, with lazy people content with what they have. And had no real ambition. But today is different. I see more fire and energy in the city and its people. I love this Hyderabad.
Q: You had a magical partnership going with your copy partner – K S Chakravarthy or ‘Chax’ as he’s popularly known. What made you part ways?
KVS: I don’t think we parted ways, I think partnership is all about pushing each other and kicking butt when needed. We still keep doing that. The reason why we work in different companies is sheer economics we both now have become white elephants and no one agency can afford us.
Q: Pops, you are known as the man with the Midas touch and you have this amazing ability of getting the best out of people. What makes you tick?
KVS: If you want to shine like a moon than you must let the stars shine! I think that’s the mantra.
Q: Creativity is an in-born talent or can it be ingrained? How do the environment and early influences contribute in shaping creativity?
KVS: I do not think there is anything called in-born talent, we acquire every thing, all of us play, sing, write and paint right? While some continue to play will go on to become Tendulkar’s others who continue to write may go on to become Prasoon Joshi’s. It’s all about early influences in life and what you feel passionate about.
Creativity in advertising is quite different from others. In advertising we use life’s experiences and observations to connect with people, this simple act makes us creative. If you love life and have an ability to understand human behavior you could be the most celebrated creative guy. This business deals with people and their behavior.
Q: In between, you were supposed to head overseas. Many advertising professionals from Indian have taken up the challenge and proved that we can flourish anywhere. Sonal Dabral, Jaggi, Bobby Pawar, Parag Tembulkar, to name a few. Wasn’t it a greater challenge to play in a bigger league?
KVS: Yes, I was supposed to in late 90’s, I almost took the regional job in Asia, what made me change my mind is; when my 8 year old son Saketh questioned me “would Tendulkar play for Australia and win a world cup for them?” That made me think how much more one could do in our own country before one sets off to conquer the world.
Yes! Indeed it is a challenge and we have enough talent to excel. Today game has changed; India is too big and important, if you are playing in India than you are playing in the big league.
Q: Shyamsunder Goud, again, is from Hyderabad and is a hot-shot Creative Director. His career took off when he was with Leo Burnett under your aegis. It would have been a proud moment for you when he started picking up metals at major festivals.
KVS: I am proud of Shyam. I gave him a job in Leo Burnett not because he is from Hyderabad; he had the fire and passion to be somebody. And today all his ideas are worth in Gold. As I said earlier, the more metals he picks the more I shine.
Q: Your five all-time favorite campaigns
KVS: “Hutch Boy”, “Saint Gobain- Black Women”, “Happydent-Palace”, “Cadbury-Girl dancing”, “Luxor- Che”
Q: Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand… is it India’s time, going by the awards Indians have been picking up over the last few years, finally?
KVS: In a way – yes! It would be difficult for the world to ignore us considering the number of entries we send. We have been doing better than before. I think we still have a very long way to go, we may win many awards as individual agencies but as a nation and culture we need to find a voice, which is a reflection of us. Like the way South America, and Thailand found theirs.
Q: You keep visiting Hyderabad. Which are your fave hangout places?
KVS: Minerva Coffee Shop, Dakshin and Kuchipudi. I love and live for Andhra vegetarian food.
Q: After the Cannes haul, you declared that ‘You would be happy to retire now!’ Were you serious?
KVS: Not yet. I had spent all my life proving to white men that we are as good as them but this year at Cannes we proved that we are better and in future would show the way to the world. Seeing my boys – Agnello and Santosh Paddy – taking the center stage at the recently concluded Cannes Festival is the most gratifying moment of my life, if I have to bargain my retirement for a day like that I would do so gladly.
Q: Painting is a big passion with you. Any plans of holding exhibitions or turning into a full-time painter?
KVS: I will give it a serious thought once I retire, maybe in five years time from now.
Q: Any advice for youngsters who want to get into advertising?
KVS: Only qualifications one needs to be in advertising is understanding of human behavior and knowing what could possibly change, influence or alter it.
Source: Advertising Club, Hyderabad