Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Kersy Katrak, R.I.P.

In the last few days of 2007, Indian advertising lost one of its true legends. Kersy Katrak, founder of the almost mythical MCM, my NCD at the beginning of my advertising career, father of another ex-boss and friend, Maia Katrak, and the chap who made me fall in love with suspenders again. And if there was more proof needed that advertising folks have short memories, there's this: I heard the news not from a former colleague from the profession, but from a poet, when I was in the middle of the sad duty of compiling the names of writers who had passed on in the year for the Kala Ghoda festival's "In Memoriam" programme. Yes, Kersy, besides being a kickass copywriter and creative director, was also a poet, a playwright and a columnist. I must confess though, that in my days at Lintas, where he was capo di tutti capi, I knew nothing of those sides of the immaculately turned out gentleman who once prodded me in the ribs in the corridors.

Read Andy Halve's tribute at agencyfaqs.


Rajiv Badlani said...

I had the privilege to work with Kersy Katrak.

He changed me. I joined him as an innocent little wimp and came out of that experience with about a thousand times the confidence.

He could do that. Turn you into who you want to be.

He could do that because of the hugely empathetic guy he was. That empathy showed up in his work also.

Before Kersy turned it around on its head, the advertising industry in this country was patronising and talked down to consumers like the naïve natives they were. But he came in and spoke to people as equals, shared humour and wit with them in a sharply participative manner and it worked like a dream.

I worked with him on the Four Square account and he took me to a meeting where the MD of Godfrey Philips congratulated us on giving them results more than 10 times what they expected.

Kersy made it sound like was all my doing.

He’d really do it in style (remember he was dealing with a scared little boy brought up in small towns who was awed by everything Bombay was).

He’d ask me if I was free to take a meeting with Godfrey Philips’ MD (and in those days I didn’t have the nerve to say let me consult my diary), hold the car door open for me, open the door to their office for me, tell the receptionist that Mr.Badlani was here to see the Big Man though she knew who Kersy was, open the door to the MD’s room, pull a chair back for me, wait until I sat before he sat, light my cigarettes, and if I as much as opened my mouth he’d spin his chair around towards me as if he didn’t want to miss even one word of the wisdom I was about to spout.

This was enough to convince even the most insensitive observer that I was in the VIP category. That you didn’t need Kersy Katrak to come in to every meeting every time.

I soon began to see what he was up to, but couldn’t help acquiring more self-esteem in a few months than our educational system had allowed me to gain before. It was lovely to be treated like a heavy.

I don’t know whether his habit of bringing out your best served him well. He took in people and nurtured them into peak levels of self-esteem, to the point where they abandoned him. That’s how MCM folded.

I know that it broke my heart to leave MCM. But a 23 year old with no home in Bombay is an insecure human being so when offered another job I took it.

Thanks to him I learned the confidence to succeed at almost everything I did. I picked up the nerve to quit my job and go into business and when I had a successful brand built up, went and thanked him one of my visits to Bombay. He was really touched.

I told him that day that he’s created the me who could do such things and I still believe that I owe whatever I’ve achieved to the person he unleashed.

Thank you Kersy. I am sure you will continue to inspire the angels you run into ever greater achievements also. Maybe we’ll even see the results down here.

Rajiv Badlani

Priya said...

Kersy Katrak was a great man. I respect his devotion to his work.