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RK Swamy: The 'Grand Old Old Man' of Indian advertising

BS Corporate Bureau in Chennai | June 06, 2003 13:47 IST

The Advertising Agencies Association of India president Sam Balsara calls him the Grand Old Old Man of Indian advertising.

FS Advertising President & CEO Anmol Dar says he was a doyen of the industry and a completely self-made man.

R K Swamy, 80, the founder chairman of the Chennai-based advertising agency, R K SWAMY BBDO, passed away at his residence on Thursday.

Swamy is said to be among the first few entrepreneurs in the advertising industry to have set up his own agency at the ripe age of 50. He launched R K SWAMY Advertising Associates Pvt Ltd in Chennai, after having worked nearly 30 years at India's largest agency JWT.

Dar, who worked with RK Swamy in the late 80s, says that it required grit to launch an agency when the advertising market was so small.

And thanks to Swamy's passion, RK Swamy featured among the top 10 agencies in India within the first five years of its operations. "Besides, he clearly put Chennai on the map in Indian advertising," adds Balsara.

To ramp up growth, he brought in an international partner BBDO Worldwide in the late 80s and converted his company into R K SWAMY BBDO Advertising.

As early as 1986-87, he foresaw the need for quality television programming and set up a TV software division, HansaVision, which became a well-recognised name among advertisers and agencies all over the country.

Around the same he set up another division for corporate and final advertising.

For the purpose, he roped in former head of Saubhagya Advertising Prithivi Haldea. Recalls Haldea: "I had quit advertising and did not want to go return. But I could not say no to RK Swamy." Haldea, currently managing director of Prime, agreed to become a consultant to RK Swamy's agency and set up HansaFin offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.

Haldea fondly remembers RK Swamy as a man of simple living. "I was shocked to see his Chennai house -- it was simplicity personified. There were no frills," he recalls.

One must display one's mind and not wealth, was what Swamy told Haldea when he prodded him on the reason behind such austerity, he remembers.

RK Swamy also wrote a book "India -- How to succeed without tears" which revealed his deep understanding and analysis of what India needed to do to emerge as a serious economic power.

Swamy was probably the only person who had held almost all the top posts of the all industry bodies related to advertising.

He was President of the Advertising Agencies Association of India from 1982-84, chairman of the Audit Bureau of Circulation in 1983-84 and the founder member and chairman of the Advertising Standards Council of India in 1988-89.

For his invaluable contribution to the advertising industry he was presented the prestigious AAAI-Premnarayan award by the industry body in 1998.

The Advertising Clubs in Chennai and Kolkata also recognised him for his life-long service to the industry in their respective Awards. He was actively involved in the formation of the All India Management Association and served as its President in 1977-78.

Swamy was acknowledged among the prime movers of the advertising industry in India. He is survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters.


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