The book is edited by Syeda Imam, who has worked as a Senior Executive Creative Director in the JWT group of companies (HTA and Contract) that Subhas Ghosal so carefully nurtured and led over these years. The book also has reminiscences, letters and speeches made by Ghosal on various occasions on subjects as wide ranging as rural advertising and the plea for India as the venue of the Asian Advertising Congress.
It also has beautifully crafted pieces by felicitous writers such as Gerson Da Cunha, Anvar Alikhan, Ivan Arthur and so on. The book reveals happy and warm moments revealing Subhas Ghosal’s character, summed up in his own definition of an "austere elite": "You need to be elitist if you are going to set standards in your work, in your life and in the way you touch other people's lives. By elitist I mean rigorous in analysis, precise in language, aesthetic in taste." The brief and unique facts about Ghosal's career have been well recounted elsewhere.
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To this day he remains the first and only case of an apprentice who paid to be trained by EJ 'Peter' Fielden, the man identified with establishing JWT in India at the top of the profession from where it has never since been dislodged. Born to a successful practising doctor of Patna, from a scholarly and reputed Brahmo Samaj family, Ghosal was related to illustrious people such as P. C. Mahalanobis, the statistician who launched planning in India, and the legendary Satyajit Ray. He seldom dropped names, however, and has astonished generations of young upstarts in the field by his remarkable accessibility and lack of airs. He came to the rescue of the company when it was threatened by near bankruptcy in the '70s. Taking up arms against a sea of business troubles, he won his way against what was certainly outrageous fortune. Throughout the 400 delightful pages of this book there is a sense of partaking of something straight ; out of the top drawer.
There is no cloying sentimentality of commemorative volumes, nor vapid phrases of praise but such valuable nuggets of wisdom and guides for the practitioner that I for one would gladly use whole chunks of it as compulsory reading material for the young trainee. His address to the Contract trainees is a masterpiece of distilled wisdom about the business, art and science of advertising. The book gives you a 360-degree view of the man from the viewpoints of former colleagues, clients, chairmen, associates, disciples, and business rivals as well. For good measure there are short notes of admonition, praise or wise counsel preserved by his juniors. The book is tastefully produced -and divided into five segments: advertising as a profession and a business; the lessons of history; the Thompson Way Of Leadership; Attack and Defence (when the industry was taxed and came under threat of extinction from socialistic Governments in the '70s); and the meeting of minds (personal correspondence). In a speech to Thompson people in India at the very end of his career when he had established a second agency as a sibling of HTA (now JWT), Ghosal referred to the qualities of rectitude and self-esteem that the culture of the company had inculcated in him, and which he passed on to the generations that came after. "Rectitude made one do the right thing.
Self-esteem gave one the strength to act decisively. Especially at those times when you felt that the need to live with yourself was greater than the compulsion to show a bigger profit." The two qualities together, according to him, inspired you never to accept the second best or second place. Along with this Ghosal embodied in unusual measure a respect for and abiding concern for learning. Train or you die, he used to say. Before you go away with the impression that here is someone given to pontificating, let me hasten to add that never in my life have I seen a person who handled self-deprecating humour so well, and so often.
You were never far from a chuckle at a wisecrack or witty judgement, and a very civilised one at that when Ghosal was around. There are a good many examples in this book. Here is a quote from his own guru, the inimitable Fielden: "The fact of the matter is that we have peopled the creative side of the advertising business with bright young men and women who are the products of a small, well-educated, well-placed minority. They have grown up in the vacuum of their own set. Their outside contacts are few and superficial and as a consequence they know little or nothing about India as a whole or Indian life at large.
.. they are strangers to the people they have to influence". Why this book is unique? It is a compilation of letters and speeches written and made by Subhas Ghosal who was one of the.