RIP Pradeep Guha, the Jalwagar

Industry Watch | August 24, 2021 | Guest Article

Pradeep Guha

It was in March 1998 that I joined The Advertising Club (Ad Club). My President was the most respected and admired professional by the name Mr. Ramesh Narayan who interviewed and recruited me.

Amongst the various luminaries on the Managing Committee, there was one name Mr. Pradeep Guha, with whom everybody in the industry wanted to be associated closely. He heralded the Programmes Committee. My interaction with him then was restricted to the various evening programmes that we did.

From World Trade Centre to the Taj

It was in the year 2001 that he got elected as the President of The Advertising Club. As expected he put his best foot forward and did wonders for the Ad Club. The Membership Card was redesigned, mementos presented to the speakers underwent a change, new sponsors came on board, his team and my team worked as one unit. And above all, events of Adclub moved from the World Trade Centre and Y.B.Chavan Auditorium to Taj and Oberoi hotels. He truly introduced the five-star culture in the Ad Club scheme of things.

One major change he introduced was moving some of the events to swanky and happening venues like Mikanos and Velocity.  He also moved the premier ABBY Awards function from NSCI, Worli to a property in the Juhu area called Tulip Star. The event held at the poolside had the presence of the best known names from the corporate and glamour worlds. He was also instrumental in doing a tie up with Cannes whereby The Advertising Club sent a young student on an all-expense-paid trip to the Cannes Advertising Festival. The man had great style. I distinctly recollect conducting 24 events in a single year of his tenure.

I worked closely with him during his term of two years as President. A man of very few words, he answered all emails within 24 hours and none of the replies exceeded more than a line or two and still there was no room for any confusion. Brevity and clarity stood out as also his signature which resembled a tick mark. His biggest strength was empowerment. He completely trusted people who worked with him.

An event to remember

In came 2003, AdAsia Jaipur. He along with Mr. Ramesh Narayan requested us to don the responsibility of the Secretariat. It was a huge honour and pleasure but surely a colossal task.  The sheer planning that went into the event of that scale was unbelievable. The number of meetings that we conducted, the attention that was paid to the minutest of all details, the scope of work in many areas is beyond description in words.  It was like doing four ABBY awards in four consecutive days.

There were visits to Jaipur during which I got an inkling into how he conceives a major event. It felt like moving around with a mobile university. He never ever tried to dominate a meeting as his mere presence was enough. He spoke little but whatever he said would resonate with one and all.

The legendary Piyush Pandey created a campaign for AdAsia 2003 which mentioned, "Bipin ka phone number yaad hai na". Everybody called me for various details of the mega show to such an extent that my family also knew the schedule of Adasia 2003 by heart.

It was during a pre-event planning session at Jaipur that he asked me to do a mimicry act for a select number of people, of which he was very appreciative. He asked me to do an encore at a party held at his Madh Island bungalow to celebrate the success of AdAsia, Jaipur.

A humane giant

There was a side in him which was very humane. He always made it a point to say a few words in Marathi and at times in Urdu in my presence knowing my mother tongue and fondness for shayaris. He contributed an article to my coffee table book Khumaar and wrote a nice testimonial in my Khumaar supplement on completion of my 20 years of service with the Ad Club – all upon a request over one phone call. I remember inviting him to give away certificates to young students. He obliged and did the honours. I have preserved all the emails that he wrote in appreciation for doing a good job. He also graced my Khumaar musical nite on more than three or four different occasions and made it a point to say a few kind words. The man loved to indulge – be it in his work, or in any form of art, music, cinema, dance or food, among others.

There are thousands who have learned and benefited working alongside him. An institution by himself, he has left a legacy. He attracted people and surely had a magnetic effect. Those who have experienced that effect would never ever like to come out of it and that is what I call Jalwa.  Pradeep Guha was a true Jalwagar. A short man who did very tall things. As they say, "Waman moorthi ani mothi kirti". 

Pradeep Guha was known for big ideas, but he also knew how to execute those ideas in a unique fashion. Towering personalities like him never cease to exist as they leave millions of followers who follow their footsteps. There will never be another Pradeep Guha for God does not duplicate.

A big thanks for all the learnings. It was a privilege to work closely with you.

(The author is COO, The Advertising Club. Views expressed are personal.)

The Advertising Club’s COO pays tribute to the late Mr Guha, whom he credits for elevating the Club’s events to five-star standard and fondly recalls his ability to trust his team completely.

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