Is it really a gentleman’s game?


Earlier this month, I was invited on a panel in Mumbai which pontificated on the strategic value of corporate brands.

However, the more significant aspect of this event was the 15th anniversary commemoration of a very fine brand advisory called Chlorophyll. Many readers who are from the marketing community would know (or at least know of) Andy Halve and Kiran Khalap. They co- founded the firm on Independence Day of 1999.

In his welcome address, Kiran spoke of how Chlorophyll had innovated consistently to stay ahead of the game. He believed that this had powered Chlorophyll’s ability to influence the course of several businesses over the last decade and a half.

In my opening remarks, I chose to contradict that statement. Not so much because Chlorophyll had not made a difference to the brands that they had shaped or recast, but because these fifteen years has meant much more than innovation to all the folks who had experienced Chlorophyll over that time.

This was more than represented in the way the evening was designed. To my mind, the highlight of the event was the recognition of each of the individuals who had made up the last fifteen years. It included ex Chlorophyllians and even vendors. In fact, it was touching that one of the first people to be felicitated was their travel agent!! In this day of the online travel portal and it’s charms, this is a true reflection of how much Chlorophyll values the individual. And anybody who knows anything about our profession will know how crucial that role is for the well being of the hapless consultant, who competes only with pilots for air-miles covered.

This is a demanding profession. It requires both courage and endurance to just stay the course, leave alone produce outstanding work, week after marathon week. And it is the value of the people (on both sides) that make or break its impact on businesses.

I dare say my own career has been shaped by the personal generosity of the some of the finest thinkers in the game. Ironically, it wasn’t their intellectual capabilities or outstanding skills that defined them, but rather their willingness to patiently value and nurture the next generation of professionals.

In one TED talk, the legendary Harvard professor, Michael Sandel speaks about how we have degenerated from being a market economy to a “market society”. In an environment where almost anything can be bought, he laments that the “marketization of everything sharpens the sting of inequality and its consequences on society as a whole”. It is in this backdrop that the leadership at Chlorophyll needs to be framed.

Chlorophyll is almost as old as the Indian branding advisory business itself. And over the last fifteen years these two gentlemen have been exemplary ambassadors for the profession in many ways. But for my money, above everything else, they have shown us that decency and dignity can be very powerful drivers of reputation, in a world that is easy prey to short changing and short cuts.

Andy and Kiran, all of us are the better for the both of you. Here’s to the next fifteen.