If you think of it, Bun-Maska and Irani chai has such rich human heritage. The brown elixir of chai, that flows down the history lane from China, to the British occupation of India, and finally in the Irani cafes. The bun and butter that is as ancient as human agriculture, and domestication of cattle. And it all comes together when you dip that buttered bread in pani-kam chai. A yummy piece of history in every bite.
So there is another ‘bandh’ scheduled in Karnataka over the water being released to Tamilnadu. I don’t have a position on this, neither do I support the idea of shutting down business. However, I do have a bad habit to being a storyteller, and being inexplicably attracted to real-life stories.
Last time I faced a Bandh, it did lead to something completely amazing. I was completely caught unaware about the Bandh, and had forgotten to stock up supplies. I drove throughout the refreshingly empty streets of Benguluru. That in itself is a good reason the support the Bandh. 😛
Apart from the serene ride, there wasn’t much luck in finding anything to eat, and I had not had proper dinner the night before. I had to meet a friend in a hospital in Kormangala, so I headed there in hopes that I might find something in Kormangala. As soon as I decided to leave the hospital though, torrential downpour began, with the rain gods deciding to support the bandh. There was no way I could ride and search for any hotel in those rains. So I decided to walk around a bit. Suddenly, out of nowhere I heard a call in a heavy voice.
Khana chahie kya? (Do you want food?)
I nodded eagerly to the voice, which belonged to an elderly waiter of a famous hotel. For sake of protecting their identity, I will not reveal the name of the hotel. The waiter asked me to follow him through the backdoor, to the kitchen, and then another very narrow staircase. By now, I did not care about the food I was about to get, the experience itself had made me excited. I was thinking that there would be a small cramped up place to eat here, but at least I will get some food. Boy, was I surprised!
The dingy staircase opened up to a dingy small room, which had a rickety old door that opened to a huge dining hall. It was exquisite in every way with chandeliers, an air conditioner and with jazz music playing on the background. I asked hopefully
“Kya milega bhaisaab? ( what will I get to order)”
My attendant, who was far better dressed than me, just gave me their usual menu card, and I ordered a hearty Indian meal of Paneer Tikka Masala, Pineapple Raita, and some Rotis. I was concerned about the bill, but I shouldn’t have been as it was just under 400 INR, quite decent for the quality of food. Just as I was about to leave the place, the same elderly waiter stopped me from getting down the staircase. He said
“Neeche gadbad hai saab, doosra door se mere saath chalo aap ( There is trouble downstairs, you follow me. )”
He took me through yet another maze of rooms and corridors, through a hidden dressing room for waiters which smelled like urine for some reason. As I was escaping from the backdoor, I could see the miscreants trashing the place, and harassing other patrons. I thanked the waiter, and offered him extra tip. He was gracious enough to take it from me, and asked me to keep visiting.
Well, perhaps I will go again tomorrow, courtesy another band in Namma Bengaluru. 🙂
Around four years ago, I co-founded Purple Rabbit. It was possibly the most glamorous decision of my life. In terms of life lessons, it still is. However, when the crowd of well-meaning soothsayers leaves, and your bank balance still shows a depressing figure, things get real. Anyone who has ever worked in an ad agency would tell you that behind all the glamour, there are deadlines. It doesn’t matter if you own the agency, the deadlines own everyone. And the question we must ask is :
Why aren’t design or any other creative projects planned better? What stops people in marketing and communications from indulging in meticulous planning that is hallmark of corporate life?
The short answer is, design is taken for granted, even by the designers.
Over the last few years, I have worked with many creative designers, and have understood that their mind works differently than lets say a content writer’s or even a project manager’s. My experience as a part-time designer has often helped me bridge this gap, and communicate with them in their language. However, quite often I have struggled to get projects done. The deadline keeps extending, with Client servicing complaining about lack of commitment on creative side, and designers complaining about lack of humanity on client servicing side. So whose fault is it? Perhaps it’s the collective culture that is to be blamed.
- The maddening culture of ‘last minute stretch’
Since designers are temperamental beings, who need a lot of free time in order to come up with really creative output, their work culture usually lacks discipline. So, a project that needs to be worked at everyday for about twenty days, is put of in exchange of other ‘interesting’ projects, or even Youtubing random videos. In fact, here is a neat list of things designers procrastinate on.
- Watching movies or listening to music to ‘get inspiration’
- Playing games to ‘get inspiration’
- Going on smoking/tea/ “other” breaks for stress relief
- Taking up completely random, and sometimes even personal projects because they are in the mood.
However, before we put the whole blame on the designing community, we must understand why they do this?
- Many layers of ‘buffers’ in Client Servicing
The biggest fear of a Client servicing executive, is being found out as ‘unprofessional’, and losing the client.
Think about it, a Client servicing executive is a buffer between marketing communication and the creative team at the agency. However, their work involves a lot of coordination, with little creative input from them. This makes them eager to prove a point, and to make themselves appear to be ‘working hard’.They are also completely under the jackboot of the marketing communications department. So a client servicing person, by virtue of being in this field, has to conduct the following set of activities.
- Keeping an extra buffer on ‘quality’ of the output, in hopes of completing the project sooner.
- Keeping an extra buffer on deadlines by having an ‘internal’ deadline.
- Promising an oversell to the client when none was required.
Then, can we blame the client servicing for creating this culture of ‘last minute delivery’? Of course not. Because they turn to these means due to behavior of Marketing Communications, or even marketing managers at client end.
- Insecurity of marketing communications
Marketing communications professionals struggle with an existential crisis for better part of their career.
Unlike designers, marketing communications field has a more transactional relationship with creative projects. Usually a project is the means to an end, i.e. more publicity, and perhaps browney points from the management. Communications manager people often suffer from a secret insecurity complex, of not adding any real value to their company. To add to this, most have suffered an ‘escalation’ from the management because the agency they hired was unusually slow in producing the work.
In order to keep up appearances and to get a dose of self importance, communications usually employs following strategy.
- Reject ideas of the creative team in order to ‘align’ creative output to the brand.
- Have a long loop of emails to show that they have ‘worked’ at the project
- Provide abstract or vague briefs that do not include important marketing objectives.
- Keep an extra ‘buffer’ to ensure the calendar stays on track.
The big reveal.
Let me tell you an open secret. Every designer worth his or her salt has a very good idea about what an ‘actual’ deadline for a project could be. This sixth sense of deadlines develops with a lot of hard word rejected down the drain, many hours of burning midnight oil only to find out that the project wasn’t due for another week.
In short, the designers are tardy in their approach, because the client servicing is finicky. The client servicing is finicky about deadlines and keeps extra buffers because they know it takes a long time for project to finish, and they are eager to finish them earlier. The projects take longer to finish because marketing communications has insecurities and a false sense of entitlement, and feels that ‘agencies and creative people’ need a firm push.
So what we have here is a Marketing Mexican Standoff of the epic order.
Do you agree with the above? Do let me know in comments! I would be sharing my opinions on how the above ad agency standoff can be broken without anybody getting hurt. 🙂 Stay tuned for that.
Until very recently, I was living in RT Nagar, a relatively busy locality in north Bengaluru. In building next to mine, there was a small laundry run by a local miscreant. He never smiled, and at night he fought with his mother. Every night. My landlord would tell me,
“Stay away from him, he is not the good sort”
And I did. I never wanted any trouble or conflict. However, I did want to get my clothes pressed from time to time. So sometimes I would put my laundry there. He would look at me with venomous eyes, and just utter the day I would get it back. One night when I was talking to my mother on phone, the man suddenly ran towards me with a beer bottle in his hand.
“Anpadh hai kya? Itna raat ko tum kyun yahan baat kar raha hai, sorry bol!” (Are you illiterate, why are you talking on the street so late at night. Say sorry)
He screamed at me. I apologized immediately, and he seemed angrier that I couldn’t give him the fight he wanted. In the whole two years, he yelled at me like this quite a few times. So when I was leaving that place, I was a bit relieved to not have a potential disaster in neighborhood. As I was getting into the truck to leave, he gave a very wide smile. That is the only time I have seen him smile. Was he happy that I left? I would never know…
It’s seven in the evening
Birds shut down their wings
What a place to be, yes to be
Gulping slruping, oh what a place to be
Don’t care about you I love my coffee
Coffee cup I bring along
It’s been on work too long
What a sad little travesty it be
Sugar or not, killing the notebooks in spree
Be free, and love your coffee
Don’t you sometimes do it
Stare at nothing and exploit
Seem important, and busy
Working late night, long nights maybe
So when they fire you,
Don’t you blame it on the coffee
Cause everyone loves their coffee
Everyone loves the coffee…
gulp it! 😛
A quick recap: I had gone on a trek to Skandagiri in August. The trek went horribly wrong, and after much deliberation, I decided to call it a day and return back in defeat. Check out the fir st part if you want to know the details.
Coming down from a mountain is like starting a new life in many ways. You have these memories with you, of a wonderful time, and yet you must move on to the next thing. On treks that don’t go so well, it becomes even more difficult to come to terms with the departure. It’s funny how I took longer to come down, than the climb itself. Maybe it’s because I took longer breaks. These breaks were not to replenish my energy, but to replenish my heart with hope. A part of me still wanted to complete the trek, and I though it’s the least I could do. So I sat on a large stone, and tried to drink in the surroundings, played some music to ease my nerves. When you are all alone, the mind often starts seeing things that are not there. As I took my last break, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been to a similar trek on past.
It was so long ago, maybe from another lifetime. I am not sure how credible the memory itself was. But I remembered travelling around a mountain like Skandagiri, not really planning to reach on the top, just drinking in the sights. It was with ‘her’. She loved adventures and so did I. That trek almost did not happen, and nothing seemed to work for us. We were ditched by friends, almost didn’t catch the train we were supposed to catch, and finally we were completely lost on our way. There was not a soul around to ask directions, and yet we walked on, happily drenched in the moment. We spotted a solitary pond on the way, and enjoyed some music without having to talk to each other. We didn’t talk much anyway. I remembered the song that we played then, and out of some silly notion I just played that song. I closed my eyes and just tried to go back in time, to feel the way that I felt back then. For a fleeting moment, I went back in time, with wind in my hair and warm music in my heart. The moment broke when I opened the eyes however.
I was back on a strange mountain, one that did not care for me. One that just wouldn’t love me back. I was miles away from the mountain I had been thinking about, miles away from the girl who was there with me, and there was a distance of at least a million light years between what I was back then, and what I am today. I didn’t know what to think, or do. So I sat on a large stone near the cliff, and just kept looking at the sky. I am very sure that I would have continued to do so had it not been for some movement from the bushes behind me. Now, I am not averse to the wild life, I love it very much. Having a brush with it’s nasty elements however is never a top priority. Also I was on the edge of the cliff, and it looked higher than it really was. Talk about being caught between a rock and hard place! I should be glad though, that this moment happened, it made me realize how much I love living, especially so because I had been having an encounter with my cynical side. I braced myself for this particular tryst with the unseen monster behind the bushes. In an anticlimactic fashion, the beast was none other than a stray dog that looked rather starved.
I had nothing to feed the poor chap, and so I just kept staring at him, not knowing what to do. Fortunately he didn’t care much for food, and started descending ahead of me. I felt it was the sign for me to get going as well. I tried to follow the dog, but he was too fast, and too well adjusted to the terrain, so I lost sight of him for a long time. I did notice him almost at the base again, quietly staring at the view in front of him. I looked back at the mountain, and had one last moment of regret. Just as I had reached the Papagni Math ( the starting point for the trek), I met an old woman on the road. She spoke in Kannada, and I had no way to understand what she was saying. Noticing my discomfort, she switched to using English words that she knew. I was surprised by what she was trying to tell me. I had taken the wrong path all along! The realization was more uplifting than anything. I somehow felt relieved to know that and a weight that was heavy on my soul was nowhere to be found. I thanked the kind lady and decided to attempt again, this time from the right path. I walked for half an hour on the right path, which was too simple and plain. Somehow in that instant, I felt like it wasn’t worth it. I now knew that this is something I could easily do. It was around 3:00 PM, and I was completely tired. So I turned back once again, this time without a guilt. It ‘s strange how these things work. Maybe I didn’t feel so bad because I had already abandoned the trek anyway.
I decided to walk my way back to Chickaballapur. It was much longer than I remembered, and the sunlight didn’t make it any easier. On the way back however, I got the opportunity to observe the vineyard. I am not sure if it was just a yard, or a winery. I would have spent more time in the yard, but it was too hot by then. So I finally gave up on walking back and hired an auto.
As the auto moved away from the vineyard, and back into the town, I couldn’t resist staring back at the mountain that had left me wanting more. It wasn’t even funny how the weather changed immediately and there were clouds all around the mountain. As I looked back at the vineyard, and Skandagiri, I promised myself to come here once again, and then again, until both of us fall in love with each other. As I pondered on the thought, my ride back to Banglore had arrived. I drifted off to sleep on the way back, and I kept thinking what could be better than a long and difficult love story?? Maybe the one that never happened …