Monday Mentor: Ganesh Raman, Water CDC

Ganesh Raman, Managing Partner, Water CDC

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If you want to meet a ‘calm entrepreneur’, go meet Ganesh. Whatever be the turmoils of entrepreneurship and running his own marketing & advertising agency, you will not see a furrow on his head.

How does he do it?

I had a conversation with him and here are some of his thoughts.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself – about your life before you became an entrepreneur.

I have had a pretty colourful career prior to becoming an entrepreneur – I started working at Rediffusion Y&R in Mumbai. Subsequently moved to O&M, Mumbai. Worked at O&M for more than a decade in different roles & cities – ran their office in Hyderabad, started their second agency. But importantly, had the opportunity to work with some amazing people in the business. Some of the best in the business today.

You learn about passion, perseverance and leadership when you work with the best. O&M gave me that opportunity. I wanted some client experience, so I did a good stint at Arvind Brands on the marketing side.

I wanted to get back to advertising and that was when I turned to entrepreneurship.

What prompted you to become an entrepreneur? Take us through some of your thoughts as you contemplated the jump into the exciting world of entrepreneurship.

Honestly, I had no idea what it takes to be an entrepreneur, till I was neck deep into it. It seems all hunky-dory outside. But, every day is different, especially when you are starting-up and are self-funded. There are days you wish you had not made the shift – but the thrill of entrepreneurship is in the journey, and I have the driver’s seat.

Tell us something about your company. And why did you decide to start the company with this particular idea.

I run a communications and ideas company – Water Communications. We do advertising, design, consulting, strategy and recently digital. I have vast experience in the field – categories, clients, mediums and have had opportunities very early on to manage team’s and P&L’s. So this was a natural progression.

I believe entrepreneurship is about passion – for what you can do best. And advertising is my passion.

As the head of the organisation, your people look towards you for direction, guidance and values. What are some of the key organisation values that you want your people to imbibe and form the cultural base of your company. What are the key things you believe in?

Well, it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Do you build in all the values and enforce and live by them? Or do you evolve the values as you scale up and hope the team imbibe’s them.

We followed the latter almost by gut and this has worked well for us. The key things we seek in our people are hunger, curiosity and the ability to take risks.

Hunger, is about passion. Curiosity is about knowledge or the ability to learn and improve oneself. And the ability to take risks is about standing up for what you believe in. And yes, we value the ability to be proactive. Proactivity is about being ahead and in position much before anyone else has even started thinking. Are we there yet? We still have some distance. But that’s where we want to be.

Entrepreneurial life is a series of ups and downs. Can you share with us some of your biggest UP and DOWN moments and what did you learn from them?

Entrepreneurship is also about having the right people to work with. When I stared my journey, there were four members of the senior team. While initially things were good, we never often not on the same page on many aspects – growth, people, responsibility, culture, investments… things were bound to get sour. So when one of the senior members decided to take a long sabbatical – that was the turning point.

There was a time when, I was contemplating a closure. But these hiccups are part of an entrepreneurial journey. I managed to get the leadership team completely re-vamped. And today we are on the path of growth. I was lucky all along to have a team who stuck by and trusted my instincts.

They say that the life of an entrepreneur is 24/7. How do you strike a balance between the strenuous work and the personal life that is so essential to maintain sanity.

It is simple. I just draw a line. While at times the line is a thin one, but there is always a line. Fortunately, we have a 5-day week. So I give my best during the week, sometimes 9 to 9 if need be. But the weekends are for myself and my family. That’s often non-negotiable. Rarely have I had to break that rule. And fortunately, we have had clients who respect that.

Some may think it is a luxury or that we can grow faster if we work 24/7. But the truth is, we are in the ideas business. The 48 hour re-charge is often very essential to maintain sanity. I am a firm believer of that.

Marketing has been an ever evolving function across the years. In today’s world of digital marketing, do you see the traditional marketing route vanishing over a period of time? What are your thoughts on today’s marketing realities?

Yes, marketing and advertising have evolved – there are more brands, thin lines of differentiation and we have to work harder for the next big idea. Digital marketing is but another medium to reach people who are differently wired. It needs a new kind of thinking, new skill sets. But fundamentally nothing really has changed. Advertising remains marketing’s biggest arsenal and digital is the newest weapon. And even today, it takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product / service, even digitally.

To quote, David Ogilvy, ‘Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night’. This could not be more true today.

We have recently set up a Digital Team for our clients and as a future growth engine for our company. However, the core philosophy would be centred around ideas for business growth.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become an entrepreneur?

I am not sure what to tell those who want to start this journey, I guess there is already tons of inspiration available. But I do have 3 words for encouragement for those who are thinking of giving up entrepreneurship – Don’t give up. If you believe in what you are doing, just keep going.

The journey from the plains to the hills, is sometimes a long one.

Let’s do a quick rapid fire round.

  • The most adventurous thing you have done?
    • Bungee jumping, would do it again someday.
  • Your comfort movie and/or book?
    • I enjoy a good cartoon or a animation movie
  • Your favourite holiday destination?
    • Finland (haven’t been there yet, probably sometime soon)
  • Your favourite food?
    • Dal, chawal – nothing to beat that.
  • Your most prized possession?
    • A pen and notebook. I try and keep one handy
  • A word or a phrase that defines your core life philosophy?
    • Do something that you love doing. That way, it won’t feel like work. And you will be having fun doing it.

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