Sunday, April 08, 2012

Corn sells. And, how?

Corn sells. That used to be the war cry of Mrs Tara Sinha in the good old late 60s as she restlessly paced the passage way in front of her office in Advent, next to the Golwalla Swimming Pool near Sachivalaya. This was her daily clarion call for the print ad for Tata’s Magic detergent. Almost every single morning, there used to be a planning meeting, sometimes because Mrs Sinha had come up with what she thought a better idea than the ad made by the creative team . A new layout would be presented in the afternoon. By evening, it was back to the drawing board. (The product manager for Magic was Camellia Panjabi. She was the Marketing Manager of The Taj Group of Hotels in the JRD-Ajit Kerkar era where she pioneered Szechwan and Thai cuisine in the 5-star restaurants. Later on, she made a name for herself as the trail-blazing restaurateur who almost single-handedly introduced Indian regional cuisine in the UK.) Mrs Sinha had just taken over as the Bombay Branch Manager of Clarion-McCann and was heading a group of clients as well. She was a dynamo of ideas and, later in her career, worked for Coca-Cola in India as well as the US. She was always ready and willing to chip in generously with advice for any problem, including a personal one. In the early 70s, my friend, RV Rajan, had worked closely with Mrs Sinha in the Delhi-based but unimaginatively christened Advertising Corporation of India, a Clarion-McCann sister company meant to handle public-sector accounts. In his self-published autobiography, Courage My Companion, Rajan recalls how she had clearly specified what a corporate wife should be like: her qualities and her duties, so to speak. On pages 63 and 64 of his book, he quotes Mrs Sinha’s advice “… on the type of girl I [he] should marry. Because I was a successful adman and had a bright future, she felt that my life partner should be a smart and capable girl. She said, ‘Marry a girl who will be comfortable entertaining clients at home. She must be sophisticated to be able to socialise with the wives of the clients.’ In other words, she wanted me to marry a girl who could support my career.” He did exactly the opposite. Maybe, in her heart of hearts, she thought of it as the corniest thing that could have happened to him.