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And here's to a brand new start….


By VINAY KANCHAN

The ‘what do we need to do this year?‘ meeting - a necessary fixture in almost every organization (except those involved in making calendars where strangely this never happens). Here the top management over tea, coffee (all machine generated of course) and whatever eatables can be mustered without tipping the balance sheet, reveals its master plan for the coming year. A master plan that has not changed over the past five years and has successfully maintained its ‘Greek and Latin‘ status in terms of comprehension over this course.



"And what did you guys do on New Years Eve?" boomed the President, not really wanting an answer but more from the point of view of stirring the lethargic minds that had gathered around the conference room table. An entire bunch of fifty. Crammed in like the list of footnotes at the bottom of your insurance policy. They all were bleary eyed from the exploits of the previous night. This agency had the unique (and fiercely hated) custom of calling in people on the 1st at 11am (attendance was mandatory) for what was simply called the ‘what do we need to do this year?‘ meeting. Valiantly all the employees had dragged themselves off their beds, or whatever else they had slept on the previous night and made it to the conference room where many had planned to catch up on some sleep once the presentation went past slide ten. (Or seven/ seventeen/twenty seven… if you were Vikas, but that‘s another story).


The President‘s eyes were on Ram. He felt obliged to answer. " Well what I did was…" "Ahaa sounds like you had a really great time" the President cut in having got the necessary sound byte flowing in his direction. " But what are all of us here for?" He asked continuing in the interactive mode that he had begun the New Year in. A voice spoke up from the front "To understand and comprehend the enormity of the task ahead this year. And to evolve through a process of consensus the best strategies to achieve our goals" that was vintage Vikas Khanna (Ram‘s boss), without pausing for breath even once during those utterances. "Right. Right" said the President not really knowing the meaning of what was said but taking a chance that no one had noticed.


"Nothing is new…its all the same old tea in a new cup" those words of wisdom sounded in Ram‘s ears and he looked up to see Chai-La (the mystical Chinese canteen boy) vanish into the overhead projector.


"This year we must grow organically as well as pick up new business, because there is no business like new business" the President droned on, "That‘s the same joke he has been using for the past five years" an old cynical hand whispered in Ram‘s ears. "Is that a joke?‘ Tanya the creative trainee asked, feeling threatened about servicing stealing the ‘funny‘ position in the agency. Nobody had the energy or the willingness to answer.


"We must continuously strive to deliver value to all our clients. Value that serves to differentiate us from their other agencies in some cases. And stops them from looking beyond us in others." The President was flipping past slide seven when that happened. Eyes were getting heavier. Breathing was proving to be an effort. But that was for mere mortals. And Vikas Khanna was beyond such classification (socioeconomic or otherwise). All he saw was that the presentation had moved to slide seven and it was time to make an intervention " Does that mean we would try and become not just advertising managers but knowledge managers as far as the clients business and consumer segment goes? Don‘t you think this will significantly enhance our value proposition?" Vikas‘s question raised a couple of groans from the back of the room.


"Where did this guy come from? Does he ever speak English?" the old cynical old hand whispered in Ram‘s ears. Luckily Ram never felt morally obliged to defend his boss. After comments like those he always kind of disassociated himself and moved in a diagonally opposite direction, as far as possible.


The shifting of the chair necessary for this exercise caught the Presidents attention. "Yes what do you feel about what Vikas just said?" asked the President, deflecting a difficult question to an innocent bystander (basically his upward career movement strategy). Ram felt cold sweat drops trickling down his spine, sending shivers through his soul. He had not even been paying attention to what Vikas was saying, he was busy trying to amuse himself trying to imagine all the people in the conference room in a raunchy remix video and that thought had sustained him through that meeting till that time. The President‘s question caught him around the time the censor board starts taking an interest in the video.


"What do I think?" Ram started, rather timidly feeling the discomfort of all the eyes in the room looking at him and burning searing holes into the more tender parts of his anatomy. He needed something to shift the attention away from him. And it must have been his lucky year. He got it.


"Wait up! Yeh kya ho raha hain" said PP, the creative director who was done trying twirling his trademark moustache and satisfied with the way it was now playing itself out. As he spoke he banged the table loudly, spilling a few coffee cups on the servicing underlings that were gathered around the front of the table (poor blokes had to take the burns sportingly after all a year of tight deadlines beckoned) "I have not understood a single thing that you have said. What nonsense are you talking?"


The President‘s face went through the entire range of colors on an Asian Paints shade card and finally settled on the ‘Mera Walla Pink‘. He was completely taken aback by PP‘s sudden participation in what he had assumed would be a one-way session (all those attempts at participation notwithstanding).


"What is your confusion PP?" Vikas enquired with condescending attitude of a heavy metal fanatic listening to a pop song performance. The sarcasm as always was not wasted on PP.


"You don‘t tell me that you understood what you just said?" "If it helps and I will say this again..more slowly this time. We have to upgrade our skill sets in terms of knowledge of the category and the consumer so that we will be truly able to add value to our clients business. Existing and also in the case of pitches. We must flaunt all the proprietary research tools that we have from our worldwide partners to achieve this end." Ram marveled at Vikas‘s singular talent of keeping things complicated, so effortlessly.


PP was silent for a second…. a third and so on, the moustache twirling ritual had gone up a notch. And then. "Rubbish. Utter Rubbish. What knowledge? What consumer? What category? You my friend don‘t even write a brief, you still look in your pants to find one." That kind of awakened the whole room. Any jibe at Vikas always united the agency. It began with a few chuckles; a few stunted giggles and then as the mirth movement gained momentum it culminated into huge roars of laughter that hit Vikas like a tidal wave, knocking him off his surfboard and into the icy cold waters of human resentment.


But Vikas was a battle-scarred veteran when it came to these kinds of situations. He calmly stroked his chin waiting for the rumbles of laughter to subside. Sarita, Ram‘s fellow Account Executive and otherwise Vikas‘s external organ, was about to say something when Vikas patted her hand and stopped her. There was complete silence now and Vikas, quite with the timing of V.V.S. Laxman stroked in his comment. Minimum fuss. Maximum Impact. "At least I don‘t claim the work of my juniors as my own."


The silence in the room was deafening.




Ram was counting the number of seconds it would take for the message to percolate through to PP‘s alcohol impaired brain. One, two, three, four ….then it hit him with the force of a Roberto Carlos free kick catching you with your pants down (though why you would choose to do that is beyond my comprehension).


"Teri to…" mouthed PP snarling with rage and threatening to chew his moustache into extinction. He hurled a duster in Vikas‘s direction. Vikas who was used to projectiles being hurled in his direction at great speeds (refer handbook on ‘what it takes to be a servicing person‘) adroitly ducked his head and the duster crashed into the bald head of Partha Sarthy the chief accountant who despite all the noise around him was still trying to catch forty winks.


Partha briefly opened his eyes and felt a sharp tingle on his forehead. In true accounting style he wrote it off as last night‘s whisky peg kicking in (bad debt that).


The President slammed his palm on the table.


"Cut out this nonsense both of you."
"But that mad man tried to kill me…"
"And that f**king @#$% %&^$ was making serious allegations about me…"
"Which brings me to the next part of my presentation… going ahead as a team...."


"Old Chinese wisdom says use everything happening around you to make your point and that was the management method of the mighty Tao dynasty" hushed words of wisdom in Ram‘s ears, the faint rustle of air, the appearance of a plate of biscuits almost magically in front of him and the boom of the intergalactic tube as Chai-La morphed into a whiteboard marker.


"As I was saying…" continued the President quite puffed about having his section on teamwork (or the need for it) preceded by such a splendid ‘role play‘. It was almost like a media innovation having possibilities at the black suit ceremonies. "We need to move forward as a team. We need to truly help each other in our individual causes and only then will we emerge as a truly well oiled unit. Lean mean and hungry and ready to take on any challenge."


"Do you suits ever let up? Why can‘t you just say we should work as a team and leave it at that?" PP enquired. "Because this is a management presentation and it has to have words that inspire and focus our efforts" Vikas retorted. "Inspire and focus our efforts.." said PP mimicking Vikas, chin stroking and all that "Have you flown a kite recently?"


"Err…No. But what does that have to do with this meeting?" asked a confused Vikas "Yaar phir itna lapet mat. Ha ha ha. " PP‘s remark brought peals of laughter into the room again. Everyone had a smile. Even Vikas though he had mentally made a note to get even later.


"Hey Ram what did that mean?" Tanya cooed in Ram‘s ears.
"I did not get the joke?"
"Then why did you laugh?"
"Because my boss cracked it silly. I need to get confirmed."
Ram would have called her a hypocrite but hell, she was too cute for that.


"This year our focus will be on cutting edge creative…" continues the president. "We must have great work on all media that people talk about in conversations. I want work that makes an emotional connect with consumers." "I think that‘s a great point, chief" Vikas quipped in.


The President gave him a knowing look "For God sake. We are an advertising agency we all know that. You think we aren‘t trying right now?" PP butted in. "But from now on, we will create work that stands apart from the rest…" the President droned on oblivious of PP‘s interruptions. "He means we will be worse than usual" the cynical old hand chuckled in Ram‘s ear.


"Our target is to be in the top twenty by this year end…" " We have been trying that from the past twenty years" the cynical old hand smirked in Ram‘s ear, spilling some discontented bits of saliva that made Tanya‘s south Mumbai sensibilities cringe.


"And that we will achieve only if we maintain our synergies as a team, working to shift the paradigm of human accomplishment." "That was great stuff, chief. I am really looking forward to the challenge" - Vikas Khanna..who else? " Can we get a copy of what you said in Hindi please? Yahan pe sab Indian hain" PP , rubbing in his ‘man from small town representing India‘ appeal. .


"And with that I have come to the end of my session. Best of luck to all you guys and may God smile upon our agency" the President finished to the utter relief of one and all. "I only understood his last comment" the old cynical hand told Ram with a half smile half smirk kind of expression that characterized him. "What part of his presentation did you like?" Ram asked Tanya, for lack of a better conversation opener. "I don‘t know. Everything was above my head. But don‘t you think his tie was cute?" Tanya gurgled back.


"Great show chief" said Vikas closing in on the President and shaking his hand before anyone else did. "Do you think they got the message?" "I‘m sure they did … what was it, by the way?"


"A meeting at the beginning of the year is very bead for system, especially if you had eaten scrambled eggs the last night" whispered a voice in Mandarin in Ram‘s ears. (He read the subtitles in case you were wondering). Ram turned around to see Chai-La vanish into the wall with all the tea cups and biscuit plates.


Then he felt his stomach rumble.


Vinay Kanchan - currently client services director with Everest Integrated Communications Limited. He started his career in Lintas (now Lowe). Kanchan is also a soccer freak and organises soccer games for like-minded members of the media fraternity residing in Mumbai‘s suburbs. He can be contacted at vinaykanchan@hotmail.com.


(The views expressed here are those of the author and indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to the same)


 

 

 

 

 

 

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