Brand Makers

Why Ambi Parameswaran wrote a book on personal branding 

A company that has leaders who are respected personal brands can attract and retain better talent, says Parameswaran. Read on to know more tips on personal branding from the veteran. 

By  Ambi ParameswaranNov 4, 2022 12:02 PM
Why Ambi Parameswaran wrote a book on personal branding 
For someone moving up the hierarchy, a well-crafted personal brand can make the journey that much smoother, believes Ambi Parameswaran. (Representational image via Unsplash)

"Am I speaking with Ambi Parmeshworon?" asked the voice tentatively. I replied "Yes please." "Allow me to introduce myself. This is Subroto Sengupta speaking and may I take a few minutes of your time?" "Sir, is this the Subroto Sengupta of ex-Clarion Advertising?" "Yes, it is." At that moment I almost dropped my phone.

To a millennial Indian ad professional the name Subroto Sengupta [or for that matter Kersy Katrak or Subhash Ghosal or Bal Mundkur] may mean precious little. But for anyone who has been in the advertising business in the 1970s and 1980s, these names meant a lot. They were the pioneers of Indian advertising who took over the industry from British expats and crafted the growth of the Indian business.  

Subroto Sengupta was indeed special for many of us who did our MBAs from IIMA or IIMC during the late 1970s / early 1980s. Subroto or should I say Professor Sengupta was a visiting faculty at both IIMC and IIMA. He taught us the course ‘Advertising & Sales Promotion’. In fact, he wrote India’s first book on Indian advertising cases [published by IIM Ahmedabad]. He later wrote the book ‘Brand Positioning’ [published by Tata McGraw Hill] which was once again the first Indian book on brand building. Inspite of holding a full-time job as CEO of one of India’s largest ad agencies, Prof Sengupta found the time to write and also teach a full course consisting of over 15 lectures at both IIMA and IIMC. Many of my friends truly believed that his course was one of the best courses taught at the IIMs. 

Why am I speaking about Prof Sengupta’s passion for writing and teaching? And what does it have to do with the call? Let me continue.  

I quickly gathered my wits and asked ‘Prof Sengupta, I was one of your students at IIM Calcutta. What can I do to help sir?’. 

"Well Mr. Parmeshworon, I am writing the second edition of my book Brand Positioning, and I wanted your permission to use some cases from your book of Brand Building Advertising.  I am going to be in Mumbai next week and would be grateful if you can spare the time to meet me." I am not exaggerating. That was his tone. "Sir, you can gladly use whatever that you feel is relevant from my book. Since we share the same publisher, it should not be a problem. You don’t need to take the trouble to come and see me, sir." ‘No, no, I want to meet you Mr. Parmeshworon. If it is okay, can I meet you on next Wednesday around 12 noon?" "Most definitely Prof Sengupta. I look forward to seeing you again." 

The next week Subroto Sengupta showed up at my office. He must have been around 80 years of age, very frail and a pale shadow of the dynamic professor all of us loved. We had a cup of tea and I thanked him for thinking of my book.  

Unfortunately, Subroto Sengupta passed away before the second edition of Brand Positioning could be published. In fact, his publisher asked me to edit the second edition based on the notes and cases he had gathered.

I suppose in some way Subroto Sengupta put me on the journey of reading, writing, and teaching. My first book of cases, that Subroto Sengupta wanted to borrow from was published in the year 2000 and almost every two years I have managed to write abook. Thankfully, I have had very supportive editors and publishers. My books have ranged from advertising, and branding to consumer behavior and leadership lessons.  

Why has writing got to do with personal branding? And how do the two matter? 

Personal Branding is the way we project ourselves to the outside world. Be it in the world of business or medicine or art or theatre, consciously or subconsciously we are all on a stage, and as the Bardsaid "All the World’s a Stage and all the men and women merely players." Irrespective of your level in an organization, you are a brand. You may not do anything to enhance the brand you are projecting or you can take control of it.  

Subroto Sengupta created a brand that stood for an advertising professional who was also a respected professor and author. That was his personal brand. He consciously cultivated it by writing books, articles and taking time to teach at the IIMs. Did all this result in immediate returns, highly unlikely. But did it create a personal brand that stood apart and gave him a little extra in the crucial meetings, undoubtedly yes.  

Writing posts like these, or in newspapers or books are a part of a personal branding journey that some of us have embarked on. What is your personal branding journey? It may not include writing, but maybe singing or bike riding, or marathon running. The more dimensions you give to your personal brand, the more appealing and enduring it becomes.  

A company that has leaders who are respected personal brands can attract and retain better talent. For someone moving up the hierarchy, a well-crafted personal brand can make the journey that much smoother. 

While I may have built my personal brand around writing articles and books, that may not be the ‘write choice’ for you. Who knows you may discover a platform that is even more exciting to mount your personal branding journey.  

Parameswaran’s latest book ‘All The World’s A Stage’ is a personal branding story that presents various aspects of personal branding as a conversation among five friends who meet for their silver reunion. Views expressed are personal.

First Published on Nov 4, 2022 10:10 AM