I have known R.V. Rajan for a few years now, known him more intimately that is. Years ago, I used to occasionally bump into him at meetings organised by the Public Relations Society of India but such meetings were fleeting more than anything else. One fine day in April 2007, if I remember correctly, I was surprised to see him when I entered the room of the executive director of IFRA India, Magdoom Mohamed. I was called for an interview to be an editorial consultant for the organisation and there was Rajan waiting to grill me. Of course, he didn’t, but I think we both recognised each other and the interview flowed smoothly. I went on to get the job and in the next two years or so, I would meet him often, for IFRA work as well as work relating to a house magazine he started for the Rural Marketing Association of India.
So, when Rajan invited me for the launch of his autobiography, Courage My Companion (Productivity and Quality Publishing Pvt Ltd are the publishers), at the GRT Hotel Convention Hall, I readily accepted. Rajan has several faces – basically an advertising man, he founded IFRA India, which is now one of WAN-IFRA’s successful branches worldwide; he was also part of the Round Table; is now an active member of the Rotary and the Advertising Club; and had served AMIC (Asian Media Information & Communication Centre). It’s a “candid” autobiography, as Rajan calls it, because he even mentions visits to “aunty joints” in Bombay where he spent the early part of his career, his regular drinking of an evening, even how he used a string to hold up his trousers (his waistline was so thin then). I am only halfway through the book, so there are likely to be a lot more “candid” confessions.
The book is a remarkable product in a way, because as Rajan mentioned at the launch, whatever he has written is based on his memories. Having been able to recall all the incidents in his life with clarity is indeed remarkable, considering that there are numerous names of people and places and events that are mentioned and that most people nowadays do not even care to remember what happened yesterday. It reflects the kind of person Rajan is - the kind who gives every incidence importance and is passionately involved with whatever is happening, be it work or pleasure.
The release of the book was made to coincide with his receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rural Marketing Association of India. The citation, as you would expect, highlights all his achievements. But what readers, especially youngsters, should note is that Rajan was a dreamer who, backed by dollops of good luck, went on to achieve them. He even constructed six or eight toilets in his house (during his 29 years in the chawls of Bombay, he recalls in the book how he and the others would line up to go to the bathroom in the mornings – there was only one bathroom on a floor to cater to many) to make up for what he had missed in childhood. No wonder then that he, who started his career with Clarion and later with Grant Kenyon, went on to become, at 31, the youngest CEO of a national agency, Advertising Consults India Ltd, in Delhi. In 1986, he established his own agency, Anugrah Marketing & Advertising, now Anugrah Madison, the rural wing of the Madison Communication Group.
Today, more than anything, else, Rajan is better known as a rural marketing ‘guru’. He lectures in colleges and institutions and is the driving force behind the RMAI, now headed by Pradeep Kashyap. He has relinquished his post as IFRA India managing director but continues to advise Magdoom, his protégé.
Rajan’s book has several errors; copy-editing is pedestrian. The errors must be corrected if there is a second reprint. However, that does not take away the positives the book has to offer – and there are several of them, such as inspiring readers to work hard, pursue a dream and be candid and honest. Also, the story is all about how even ordinary people can make a mark and tell their story.
Like he suggests in the book, Rajan had once told me to jot down on a sheet of paper my plus and minus points, and to do it honestly. I had to show it to him and a few others who knew me. Once the list was refined, the challenge was to convert the negatives into positives. I am yet to do what he suggested, but I am sure I’ll do it after completing the book.