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    Blast From The Past: Rajiv Agarwal back with Nexus Equity

    Synopsis

    Like a retro rock act, one-time hotshot Rajiv Agarwal is back with Nexus Equity, 18 years after he founded it. Will it be as memorable as a recent Van Halen comeback or as forgettable as that of Guns N’ Roses?

    Like a retro rock act, one-time hotshot Rajiv Agarwal is back with Nexus Equity, 18 years after he founded it. Will it be as memorable as a recent Van Halen comeback or as forgettable as that of Guns N’ Roses?
    At 55, Rajiv Agarwal, co-founder Nexus Equity , is probably one of the oldest account executives in Indian advertising: “I still think I am the best account executive in the advertising business,” he says tongue-in-cheek .

    Perhaps he was that when he quit Mohammed Khan’s Enterprise and, along with Arun Kale, founded one of the largest and most respected independent agencies in mid-90 s. Three years later, Khan and Agarwal merged operations to create Enterprise Nexus. Agarwal quit the agency in 2001, and went on to do stints with Bates and RMG David before bidding adieu to the industry a few years later.

    Agarwal was at his peak in the 90s during which he was synonymous with some standout work. This includes the ‘One Black Coffee Please’ commercial for Ericsson mobiles, which also got India its first ever film Lion at Cannes; ‘The Complete Man’ for Raymond; ‘Woman of Substance’ for Femina; and ‘A day in the life of India’ for The Times of India. For good measure, Agarwal was also the first Indian judge to go to Cannes as a press juror in 1994.

    Khan reckons that Agarwal should have been “the superstar of advertising today and it is a grave tragedy that he is not. Advertising is run by mediocre people and it makes me very sad that someone like Rajiv is languishing,” says the man who had a hand in starting agencies like Contract and Rediffusion, besides of course Enterprise.

    Unsurprisingly, Agarwal too believes a fair bit of today’s creative work is mediocre. The lack of exposure in creative people these days results in poor quality of advertising, he reckons . “They have not read enough, seen enough, nor have a sense of history, of the human situation and, above all, they do not have an understanding of the consumer, of culture, of communities . And this gets reflected in a lot of work,” points out Agarwal.

    Well, perhaps it’s this scenario in which excellence is scarce that Agarwal saw an opportunity to reboot Nexus Equity after 18 years. However , it’s not been easy getting into the groove after so long. “We will take a couple of years more,” shrugs Agarwal.

    For his part, he is in no hurry to prove himself — he’s already done that two decades ago — but he is conscious of the economics of advertising being very different today. “There is a lot of competition , client expectations are at an all-time high, costs are rising. There is a lot of new stuff happening in the market and in the world.” But if Agarwal is back, it’s because he believes at the core, advertising is still the idea that connects a brand to a customer. “The basics are the same. You have to do great work, think big if you wish to be successful,” offers the veteran.

    With a modest team of six, Agarwal restarted Nexus Equity with the philosophy that they will only take up — at least initially — as much work as the two of them (Agarwal and Arun Kale) can manage. So it is not surprising then that the client roster is not exactly long: It includes Hamilton , a company that makes kitchenware; and Build the Nation, an organisation that works towards development of sporting talent in schools.

    Mahesh Chauhan, co-founder , Salt Brand Solutions , thinks Agarwal has a good chance to repeat his success. “Age is just a number in the mind. If one has the desire and the energy to make it big, he will,” says Chauhan, who has known Agarwal “from a distance.”

    Ask Agarwal to pick his favourite in advertising today and his vote goes to Piyush Pandey, who he says “has this ability to pick up something in a brand and translate it into that one idea that is very human, and that makes all the difference.” Ask Khan the same question and pat comes the answer. “I think clients should go and line up outside Agarwal’s agency. Because there are people in Indian advertising today with a bigger reputation but not with bigger brains.”
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