The World: Indian adlanders reveal their A List credentials

As Campaign India launches its very own A List, Anant Rangaswami celebrates the country's diverse advertising elite.

This is an interesting period of transition in India. Young professionals have become progressively more influential over the past five years, while women are rising in all domains: creative, media, marketing.

And there's another intriguing trend: the flexibility of the country's advertising professionals featuring in Campaign India's first A List, which is published this week.

They obviously have the skills to excel in marketing-related occupations, as is evidenced by Navroze Dhondy (the former chief executive of TBWA\India's previous incarnation, Anthem Communications) and Suprio Guha Thakurta (the ex-Clarion, now Bates, and Lintas executive). Dhondy now runs Creatigies, an ideation and brand strategy company, and Guha Thakurta heads the non-editorial aspects of The Economist in India.

Also, the adlander with non-advertising skills is playing a bigger part in the industry. Anuja Chauhan, the executive creative director and vice-president of JWT, is a successful author of fiction. Elsewhere, Sharad Haksar left college to dabble in photography (and has never worked in an agency), yet is a consummate adlander - having won a few Cannes Lions to prove it.

Finally, there's the youth brigade. Lara Balsara of Madison Communications is the heir-apparent to the empire built by her father, Sam. She doesn't take the coronation for granted, though. She's the hardest working and, perhaps, most insightful of the younger senior managers in media agencies in India. Meanwhile, Barun Das, now the head of Zee News, has reinvented himself over the past ten years.

Thankfully for the Indian marcoms industry, there are more Balsaras, Dhondys and Haksars waiting in the wings.

- Anant Rangaswami is the editor of Campaign India. For details of how to obtain copies of the Campaign India A List, e-mail

SHARAD HAKSAR, Chief Executive, 1pointsize

At 32, Haksar founded 1pointsize, a photography-cum-design studio. A year later, he made it into the D&AD Annual. At 36, he was named by Archive as one of the top 200 photographers in the world. Two years later, his photography for Red Cross helped JWT India's Chennai office win at Cannes. At 39, he's in The A List.

What makes the Haksar story interesting is the fact that he has chosen to continue to live in, and work from, Chennai - not exactly the centre of Indian advertising. His location doesn't matter. Creative directors seek him out and don't mind the travel to the heat and dust of Chennai for the simple reason that Haksar understands advertising and photography.

Considering his profession, it's perhaps predictable that print is his favourite medium. "There is a charm to paper and ink that nothing can match," he says. But it's a bit of a surprise to learn that he's equally fascinated by digital.

SUPRIO GUHA THAKURTA, Managing Director, India, The Economist

In his last two jobs (at Clarion Advertising, now Bates, and Lintas), Guha Thakurta would have given an arm and a leg to work on The Economist. Today, the unabashed Manchester United fan is the one with the power to decide who works on the account.

Guha Thakurta was given a free hand to grow newsstand sales, subscription sales and ad revenue. This resulted in communication being created locally, deviating from the iconic Economist advertising that everybody has become accustomed to.

The India-designed communication strategy has led to growth in all the areas The Economist targeted - and a promotion for Guha Thakurta.

If you ask him about The Economist's competition, his retort is: "What competition?" He'll then proceed to rattle off the latest ad sales and circulation figures without the need to refer to any spreadsheet.

NAVROZE DHONDY, managing director and chief executive, Creatigies Communications

From being the young chief executive of what was then India's fastest-growing advertising agency, Anthem Communications, Dhondy decided there were more opportunities outside the agency structure.

So he launched Creatigies, which has a client list that is the envy of many of the larger media or creative agencies - and yet they still love him. Creatigies works, rather than competes, with creative and media agencies. At the core of its revenue strategy is ideation for brands. Dhondy and his team, most of whom have advertising or brand management experience, provide through-the-line solutions.

They've created a knowledge base of how sponsorships work, how they can be measured and how they can be exploited from a PR perspective. Without being bracketed as a sports management company, Creatigies' revenues from sport probably exceed most of the sports divisions in media agencies. A highlight of its achievements so far is the creation of the game show Predikta, which attracted 2.5 million SMS entries.

BARUN DAS, chief executive, Zee News

Das is clearly in love with media - he hasn't worked in anything else. He was the youngest publisher at Living Media, working closely with the chief executive, Ashish Bagga, and the Business Today editor, Sanjoy Narayan, to make the title a clear leader in its sector.

Nothing short of being number one will do for Das. He felt, though, that he had to move beyond print and joined Malaysia's TV conglomerate Astro. A few years there and it was back to India to head a Hindi news channel - something of a surprise given that Das is clearly uncomfortable with Hindi, not an uncommon trait in those born and educated in West Bengal.

But what Das lacked in knowledge of the language was offset by his understanding of how media works. Today, his charges have seen revenues grow in leaps and bounds. Das, who helped grow non-core revenues during his long stint at Living Media, has had the same impact at Zee News.

ANUJA CHAUHAN, executive creative director, JWT

She's the author of a best-selling fiction novel, The Zoya Factor; has sold the movie rights to the Indian film superstar Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment and is a mother who still finds time for her day job as JWT's creative chief in New Delhi.

She's a fan of Louis L'Amour, Georgette Heyer, Joseph Heller, Vikram Seth and the Indian cult film director Manmohan Desai.

In a way, Chauhan is typical of the new Indian woman. Self-assured, talented, extroverted, ambitious and yet able to squeeze in the obligations of being a wife and mother.

The demands of her job aren't easy; New Delhi is one of the largest JWT offices in the world and is growing all the time.

She has worked on the Pepsi account for several years. Pepsi has been ahead of Coca-Cola in India since it launched in the country and JWT and Chauhan have played a significant role in that success.

LARA BALSARA, business development and diversification manager, Madison World

As in many family owned businesses, the new generation has to work in all departments, starting at the bottom. The daughter of Sam Balsara did that, and is now overseeing the growth and new ambitions of the media behemoth Madison.

She has inherited most of her father's enviable traits: the ability to listen, work hard, and win friends and influence people.

Her favourite media are India's leading pink paper, The Economic Times, and Google. Although they're necessary favourites, she hastens to add. Balsara is a typical Parsi, a community known for its honesty, industriousness and joie de vivre.

Her ambition is seen clearly in the long hours she puts in. Like her father, she is visible and involved in every media industry event hosted in Mumbai - and these are, inevitably, held after a long day at the office.