• Places and their influences • Road to Brandcenter • The Know-who’s • Why Communications Strategy? • Events
o Small things lead to bigger problems! A cultural change
through a rather political event
o Breaking the conventional wall in a rather unconventional industry
o The marriage season
o “Economic crisis? What is that?”
• Cultures • 10 minutes with Raju the Rickshaw Guy • Team work and leadership
PLACES THEIR INFLUENCES 2 years later, in the year 1994, my mother and I moved to Toronto, Canada for the next four years to live closer to my maternal relatives. I was exposed to various ethnicities in my school and neighborhood. While being a part of an absolutely different environmental setting, I learned to understand different cultures. Initially I faced the challenge of being accepted among my peers because of things like my accent, the way I dressed etc. However, I overcame this challenge due to my natural curiosity to learn We moved to Mumbai, India during the Gulf War in 1990 due to the instability
about, understand and adapt to my surroundings. My tendency to
in Kuwait. Our family lost two members; my father and his brother died
ascertain anything that came my way increased. Being an active
during the war. My mother started working immediately after the death of
and energetic pre-teen, I continued to engage in a variety of
my father to support the family. I lived with my paternal extended family and
activities, like, baseball, ice hockey, and skiing, outside academia.
did one year of schooling in Mumbai. The teachers at school mainly spoke the
In turn, my overall confidence to adjust to various situations further
â€˜Hindiâ€™ language while conversing or teaching even though the school was
English speaking. This in turn polished my bilingual language skills, which was otherwise dominated by the English language.
I moved back to Dubai at the age of 15. The decision was taken by my mother who wanted to be closer to a comparatively united
Soon after, we moved to Dubai, for better opportunities in terms of career,
and dependent environmental setting essential for a single parent
and upbringing of the children in the family. Although I was exposed to a
raising a teenage girl. During this transition, I identified two
different lifestyle, a balance was maintained due to a familiar environment and
distinctive social settings; an individualistic culture where personal
people. The quick shift taught me how to adapt to situations and learn with
space and privacy are dominant and a collective culture that
optimism at a tender age where perceptions dominate reality. Overcoming
primarily focuses on cohesive communities. Learning how to create
the challenges faced during this period, for instance, 10 of us living in a one
a balance between the two proved beneficial as I came back to a
bedroom apartment, among other obstacles, made me a stronger and an
city that was witnessing major cultural and lifestyle advances.
empathetic individual at a young age. Nevertheless, I continued to achieve
The year 2002 was monumental due to my high school graduation
success academically and socially, influenced by the simple, optimistic and
with academic honors, being a member of the national champion
enthusiastic spirit that the city held. I was encouraged to participate in
basketball team, and an award winning dancer apart from being
extracurricular activities like traditional dancing (Kathak) and Karate. I also
an avid keyboardist and guitarist.
learned how to play the piano which complemented my interest and passion toward music.
The overall character of Dubai has influenced me in many ways. I feel that if Dubai was a person, she would belong to the same age group I fall in; between 25 and 30. The city is stylish, indulgent, sociable, yet simple in ways and extremely friendly. She lives in the now. She is very outgoing and open minded. However, she
has some reservations being a part of the Middle East family who are comparatively orthodox and hold a traditional mindset. She accepts criticism and understands that many around her are concerned about her well-being. Some are even doubtful about her nonchalant ways finding her unrealistic at times. She recognizes that there is a lot to learn but still carries a non-giving up and an optimistic attitude. In a span of nearly 14 years, I have seen the city grow with an unbeatable ambition to be recognized, respected, and become a success story in a very short time. Observing the city bloom with extreme alacrity has inspired me to follow my dreams and ambitions in a similar way. Dubai has influenced a similar attitude within me. There is always something to learn. Then, there is always something to share from what you have learned. The â€˜impossible is nothingâ€™ attitude of Dubai inspired me to step into a new chapter with utmost confidence.
I funded my own undergraduate studies with a study abroad semester at State University of New York, Buffalo, NY. The New York experience was thrilling as it allowed me to live on my own. The independence and living away from parental influence allowed me to make my own decisions. Living alone allowed me to test my culinary skills. I realized my interests and abilities in cooking and baking as I became more experimental with the available limited resources as a student. I learned how to control my finances and create budgets without the help of my superiors. The strong surroundings of the school enhanced a sense of responsibility and a strong locus of control. The widely spread out class schedules taught me how to manage my time well. The program provided the opportunity to learn things that I have always loved doing and held a deep ardor for. I registered for a painting class as an elective. As an amateur artist learning the fundamentals of painting was an opportunity I did not want to miss. This was especially because such classes were not available at the university in Dubai. The experience was unique and certainly unforgettable. It provided me a chance to channel my artistic ability into a concrete deliverable. On another note Buffalo is a very quite city compared to the where I have resided before. The comparatively modest lifestyle in a relaxed setting encouraged an unpretentious and humble attitude quite contrary to a convenient and socially savvy lifestyle in Dubai. The study abroad program fine tuned my personality and I became the person I am today with the help of instances and opportunities that may seem otherwise menial. Moreover, this experience opened my eyes to the world beyond the shell of my home, city, and country. I would like to take the liberty to include my frequent visits to New York City during my time at SUNY Buffalo. I most certainly agree with all those who call the place magical. Some cities instantly make you want to let your hair down. New York is one such city where, as you discover parts of it, you discover parts of yourself. There is no place that inspires me more than NYC and I dream of living and working here at least for a part of my life if not the rest of it The situational and geographical changes over the 26 years of my life have not only been life altering but also shaped me into a confident, creative, optimistic and experimental individual.
ROAD TO BRANDCENTER My passion for advertising and a â€˜go-getterâ€™ attitude combined with my work experience led me to take the next step. It did not take much thinking to decide that I want to further my education in the field because it provided me with an opportunity to heighten my knowledge in the specific field while being able to employ whatever I have learned so far. During my university research I found that the Brandcenter is showcased on a brilliant level for the Advertising industry. Aside from the prestigious awards, the Sixty magazine justifies the work and talent that come out of the school. Going by past records and the reputation of its faculty, I hold a firm opinion that my education, skills and talent can be given best shape by studying for a Masterâ€™s degree in the communications strategy track at Brandcenter. This perception is also backed by the unanimous testimonials received from 3 alumni members that I spoke to during my research. I have been told that the experience at Brandcenter is holistic. Every student gets to understand what the other department within an ad agency is about aside from the specific field of study. It is not far away from a real work environment where endurance, teamwork and leadership skills are tested and polished. This heightened my interest towards the school as my primary goal is to learn in an environment that does not take me far away from professional reality. The courses involve a learning of what is important today rather than existing theories. For e.g. classes like, digital engagement, principles and strategies of modern media are some that caught my attention. In addition, I realized that a lot of learning involves working with and for real brands in classes like Investigating Consumer Culture. My passion for communicating brands to their best potential backed by working in the field of advertising for three years has developed me into a confident and competent self-starter. I have an increased enthusiasm to obtain continuous understanding and knowledge in order to translate my passion into an actual product that I can be proud of. Thus, Brandcenter fits well into the basket.
THE KNOW WHO’S
While researching, I shared my thoughts about certain schools with a friend/colleague. His immediate thought was that I should speak with Karen Walker. Karen, who is also my colleague at TBWA (and graduated from Brandcenter in the copywriter’s track), introduced me to a whole new way of perceiving a school. “Those were the best two years of my life”, she said about Brandcenter. She credited the school for shaping her character, confidence and career path. Her instant encouragement and enthusiasm was fresh and the vibe it provided was exactly what I was looking for to select my preferred school. Karen and I have worked together on several projects. She has always brought great ideas and brilliant writings to the table. Even though I only know her professional, I have extreme respect for her overall attitude. When I spoke to Karen with regards to my intention of applying to the Brandcenter, she immediately advocated the idea. She feels that the program is a perfect fit for my caliber. Also, during the process of applying, I was introduced to yet another inspirational alumnus, Ayasha Alghas. Ayasha also worked with TBWA\RAAD as a planner. She graduated in the communications strategy track and enigmatically quoted Karen, “Those were best two years of my life”. “I will sell it you like a drug”, is something else she said. We spent 2 hours talking about the program’s offerings, and the resulted outcome. Of course, an individual who has succeeded by facing and overcoming challenges will not hesitate expressing it. A realistic experience was shared that included long hours, less weekends, and exigent projects and assignments. In all this, her excitement of reminiscing with the experience combined with my excitement of passionately wanting to experience the same overpowered everything. Ayasha is a very insightful person and truly inspires me to follow my dreams.
Personally, I would describe myself as a jovial, optimistic and sociable person. I am easily adaptable to situations and can communicate with people from all walks of life effortlessly. My curiosity and enthusiasm to learn about different things and people along with the need to connect with them wires my avid interest in the creative field of advertisement. It urges me to explore beyond the realms of undergraduate studies and strengthen my knowledge and passion further. After having successfully graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration specializing in marketing, I now wish to pursue a Masters in Communications Strategy to imbibe a more holistic and strategic approach to business and brand communications planning. Communications strategy - or as many term it, strategic planning is gaining importance in the marketing world and is playing a critical role in the modern day culture. It has become imperative to understand the ever changing consumer behavior. To link it with brand behavior and make it work is the ultimate challenge. An advanced education in this discipline prepares forward thinking professionals for a career in cutting edge management communications by providing the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively face the challenges of the 21st century business and communications environment. It has become imperative for professionals to understand the rapid and constantly changing marketplace and be able to implement sound marketing strategies, solve business problems and creatively build revenue earning brands for businesses worldwide.
WHY COM MUNICATIONS STRATEGY
Last year for me has been a mixed bag. The year started off on a positive note. I was finally working on a profile that fit my caliber perfectly. While I was on an ambition high, the situation outside my world was filled with anxiety. At a time where everything seemed bumpy on a macro level, optimism and courage among people increased. 2009 defined new cultural as well as social trends. Thus, instead of focusing on conventional events I chose five topics that focus on everything that created a certain level of impact in my life.
LEAD TO PROBLEMS\ A CULTURAL CHANGE THROUGH A RATHER POLITICAL EVENT During the global economic crisis, India has deservingly received
However, a nation that lives by the motto ‘unity in diversity’ was shaken up
approbation regarding an opposite upward economic trend. While
by their actions that encouraged the very contradictory divide and rule policy.
the world is lauding on the evident potential of the country, there are
Instead of supporting the Mumbai attacks as a national event, ‘The Sena’ have
certain obstacles that hinder to the growth of the nation. Ironically, the
taken advantage of the incident and focused on a personal issue of “Mumbai
bloom has been accompanied with various challenges in the last year.
for Marathis” creating apprehension in the minds of ordinary people. Even
The Mumbai attacks were undoubtedly the most disturbing event. It got
national icons like Sachin Tendulkar (a successful cricket player), Mukesh
termed as the ‘9/11 of India’. Indians all around the world were shaken
Ambani (a shrewd businessman) and Shahrukh Khan (a Bollywood icon)
and felt an increased sense of responsibility and unity. Moreover, the
have been targeted because they have not subscribed to their parochialism.
event gave rise to a lot of speculation among the Indian youth within
For instance, Shah Rukh Khan who is also the owner of an Indian Premier
and outside the country. The event became thought provoking. In turn
League (IPL) cricket team, was attacked and forced to publicly apologize for his
the younger generation started questioning the political lucidness of
statement that suggested a friendly welcome of Pakistani cricket players into
the IPL. ‘The Sena’ blew this out of proportion and reacted by burning posters of the actor’s upcoming movie down along with violent strikes that stopped the
In retrospect, while Indians from various ethnicities, cultures, religions,
movie from running in theaters. Their overall justification to such agitations are
came together to protect their city of Mumbai and their nation in turn,
that ‘outsiders’ pose a threat to the state. These ‘outsiders’ even include migrant
a far right political party within the state decided to take their religious
Indians from different states of India.
fundamentalism)to a whole new level by contradicting these intentions. Some may consider these as political hindrances indirectly affecting the
It is shameful that in an otherwise flourishing nation, Indians are being told
economic growth; I find them culturally bound – a disruption of India’s
by political parties like the Shiv Sena that Mumbai is not for Indians but for
celebrated multicultural ethos. Here is why:
‘Marathi’s’. It disrupts the spirit of the Indian Constitution that allows all Indians to settle anywhere in the country. Being an Indian citizen and a Mumbai migrant,
Within the political system of India, there are multiple parties that
I consider this as one of the most culturally relevant issues of the recent past. If
support various common causes. India being the largest democracy in
every state were to toe their line of thinking, then India will soon disintegrate.
the world, depends on its citizens to form a governing party. A party that wins 50 percent of the votes is considered the governing constitution.
Nevertheless, this event has a positive outcome. It has allowed for cultural unity
Other parties consequently become opposing or supporting groups. Shiv
instead. With the help of national media channels, these events have pulled the
Sena are one of the state political fundamentalists broadly favoring
citizens of the nation culturally closer. Residents – ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’- and
increased influence of the Marathi speaking community, the original
even non resident Indians like me have raised a unanimous concern toward the
natives, in Maharashtra.
antics of such political fundamentalists. Being the largest democracy, citizens have used their right to freedom of speech and protested against such behavior.
Commonly known as ‘The Sena,’ they have been actively involved in
My favorite part is that Indians all around the world are finally realizing that
improving the infrastructure in the state particularly in the financial
such small and illogical issues are actually the cause behind the bigger issues.
capital of Mumbai, which resulted in a significant boom in the city.
And, action is bound to be taken.
BREAKING THE CONVENTIONAL WALL IN A RATHER UNCONVENTIONAL INDUSTRY Client servicing or Account management is the only daily client facing department within most advertising agencies. They present themselves as the face of the agency. At the same time they act as the voice of the brand they work with. Due to this reason, most agencies are very selective in employing people within the department. Considering that the Middle East is an Arab region, the account management team in most agencies holds an Arab dominated lineup. Top management, account directors and even the junior account executives in the early years have mostly been of Arab origin. To some extent, this was accepted and justified as it allowed for an ethnocentric atmosphere which was considered essential for better understanding of the local culture. The downside was that other nationalities, especially in a multicultural city like Dubai, hardly received the opportunity to showcase their ability and expertise of the field. Although efforts have been taken to involve people of other descents, they are marginal in comparison to the Arab dominated population in ad agencies. The year before last has been personally fruitful for this reason. While working as a junior planner at Publicis Graphics, I received a call from TBWA\RAAD (a creative agency within the Omnicom Group and one of the top ad agencies in the Middle east) to interview for an account management position. I had been
My meeting went extremely well and I was offered the job. After a couple days of
following their work among other creative agencies and found
joining, I took the liberty to ask my group Account Director what made them select
it very inspiring. For me, it was an opportunity to work with and
me over other candidates. And, to this she said, â€œOur agency spells disruption. It is
manage big brands. I was aware of the challenges arising from
all about breaking conventions and introducing a unique and unused idea to the
the typical lack of diversity within such departments and took
table. You managed to follow suit even before being a part of the TBWA family by
it in circumspect. Surprisingly, apart from the unconventional
taking a plunge at the opportunity without falling prey to the cultural block with
office layout, the agency already had a mix of cultures which
your non-giving up attitude.â€? That was a personal achievement culturally relevant
was otherwise a very rare sight at the time.
and I have been disrupting ever since.
THE MARRIAGE SEASON
Recently, I was called in by my cousin brother (a successful DJ) to take
I attended eight weddings in the last year, three of which were
a close look at his laptop screen. He usually does this when he wants
‘destination’ weddings. All of them were weddings of my close friends.
to show off his new girl interest, or make me listen to an amazing
One can imagine how many weddings I didn’t attend. I don’t believe
compilation he created on his mixer. However, this time it was a picture
marriage is a bad thing. To me, it is a beautiful cohesion of two people
of me, on a profile that looked very unfamiliar. As I looked closer it read
who are willing to spend the rest of their lives together. Due to the
my age, vital statistics, interests and characteristics. I do not prefer
above mentioned societal obligations, it has become a trend that
sharing such information even on my facebook profile, so it felt like
everyone my age is compelled to follow irrespective of whether they
my privacy was invaded. It further went on to talk about the kind of
are ready for the commitment or not.
boys I would like, where I would like to live etc. Seeing where this was going I looked at the URL and realized I was advertised on ‘Shaadi.
Typically, Indian weddings are a ‘week-long’ event. If you are close
com’, an Indian match making website for arranged marriages. Apart
to the bride or groom, apart from dressing up in nothing less than
from the infuriation that made me go red in the face, I was extremely
glittery traditional outfits, it is mandatory to hold a dance/musical
inquisitive to know who would perform such an audacious act to post
performance for the couple on the day of the ‘sangeet’ (musical
my profile without my consent, and assume my interests in men and
ceremony). Be a part of all traditions carried out, and finally bid the
bride farewell or welcome her into her new home. Being a part of eight ‘week-long’ weddings throughout the year surely turned out
To satisfy my curiosity I went on to check for any contact details and to
to be culturally relevant. I say this not only because it took most of
my surprise (and relief) it was my mother playing the match maker. Her
my time aside from work but also because it was the most talked
justification was a very earnest attempt which comprised of securing
about topic around me. My friends, family, community and even my
my eternal happiness by finding the man of my dreams - who I may
colleagues spoke about marriage, asked about marriage, or simply
eventually get married to - through the internet!
ended up getting married.
Last year was a funny one. Turning 25 years old, achieving great heights
This events relevance also lies in the fact that it is an obligation
at work, making the most important decision to further my education
one must fulfill. Marriage raises a combination of excitement, hope,
were accompanied by some worrisome family members and an overload
concern and worry within my family. Being single and focused on
of wedding invitations that I received from my friends from all over the
my career to them seemed like denial on my part. A denial from the
world. Yes, the marriage season was on. Every time I got a call from a
sorrow I would otherwise face seeing everyone around me saying
friend who I hadn’t spoken to in a while, I could predict the subject of
“I do”. The concerns of an Indian family in this context are highly
the conversation. Except for one friend who called to let me know that
bound by the culture and society trends, so I understand their thought
she won a lottery of a million Dirhams! This, of course, worried my family
process around the subject. After giving it a lot of thought, I used a
as I was nowhere close to the ‘M’ word – Marriage, not millionaire.
creative yet sensible rationale backed by a persuasive presentation to convince my simple minded family how marriage was not the only
Coming back to the point, last year was a year where most of my
thing on the agenda of a 25 year old woman. And I did a pretty good
conversations outside work inevitably revolved around weddings and
job at it!
marriages. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that ‘shaadi’, the word for marriage in many Indian languages, is the first word a child understands after ‘mummy’ and ‘papa’. To an Indian, marriage is a matter of karmic destiny. As soon as a girl turns 25 years old, marriage should be her utmost priority. I call it a culturally relevant event not only because 90% of my friends got married or engaged last year, but also because I was strongly coaxed to consider it as well.
Recently, I was called in by my cousin brother (a successful DJ) to take a close look at his laptop screen. He usually does this when he wants to show off his new girl interest, or make me listen to an amazing compilation he created on his mixer. However, this time it was a picture of me, on a profile that looked very unfamiliar. As I looked closer it read my age, vital statistics, interests and characteristics. I do not prefer sharing such information even on my facebook profile, so it felt like my privacy was invaded. It further went on to talk about the kind of boys I would like, where I would like to live etc. Seeing where this was going I looked at the URL and realized I was advertised on ‘Shaadi.com’, an Indian match making website for arranged marriages. Apart from the infuriation that made me go red in the face, I was extremely inquisitive to know who would perform such an audacious act to post my profile without my consent, and assume my interests in men and preferred locations!
“ECONOMIC CRISIS? WHAT IS THAT?” To satisfy my curiosity I went on to check for any contact details and to my surprise (and relief) it was my mother playing the match maker. Her justification was a very earnest attempt which comprised of securing my eternal happiness by finding the man of my dreams - who I may eventually get married to - through the internet! Last year was a funny one. Turning 25 years old, achieving great heights at work, making the most important decision to further my education were accompanied by some worrisome family members and an overload of wedding invitations that I received from my friends from all over the world. Yes, the marriage season was on. Every time I got a call from a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in a while, I could predict the subject of the conversation. Except for one friend who called to let me know that she won a lottery of a million Dirhams! This, of course, worried my family as I was nowhere close to the ‘M’ word – Marriage, not millionaire. Coming back to the point, last year was a year where most of my conversations outside work inevitably revolved around weddings and marriages. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that ‘shaadi’, the word for marriage in many Indian languages, is the first word a child understands after ‘mummy’ and ‘papa’. To an Indian, marriage is a matter of karmic destiny. As soon as a girl turns 25 years old, marriage should be her utmost priority. I call it a culturally relevant event not only because 90% of my friends got married or engaged last year, but also because I was strongly coaxed to consider it as well.
If 2000 was remembered as the year the dot com bubble burst,
Life was easy when Facebook came along – it did not require me to
and if 2006 was the explosion of social networking, then 2009 can
get up from the comforts of my cozy armchair to be connected. Yet,
undoubtedly be remembered as the year of the “smartphone”; it was
life became even easier when I could access this information on my
last year that we – the residents of the Middle East – warmly welcomed
cell phone, anywhere and everywhere, whenever I wanted it. At work,
this complex piece of circuitry into our lives.
my gadgets helped me become a productive warrior. I could finally reply to email the minute it reached my inbox (as my Blackberry
As the status of this tiny little region gained affluence in global circles
would automatically download it from my mail provider’s server), thus
– through various factors like change in oil prices, to the exponential
decreasing time lag. I could also update my schedule and share it with
increase in the global awareness of Dubai – it suddenly seemed
relevant friends and colleagues in real-time – gone were the days of
like the world was watching us. Suddenly, we had to keep up with
showing up for a meeting - that had been cancelled – which you had
our counterparts in the West (and I refer to the West as it has been
not been informed for. I am still in constant discovery of what these
agreed by general consensus that the West is the most technologically,
magical devices are capable of. There is an obvious reason why they
scientifically and socially advanced region on planet Earth today).
are called smart phones.
Now there were many ways we could put ourselves at par with them. We could invest in research and development to increase our intellectual
Nevertheless, where do we go from here? The advocates of such
property. Or, we could invest in education to increase our intellectual
technology stress the importance of and value of always being in touch
capital. However, the decision was easy – we made the smart choice
with our loved ones, while highlighting the increase in productivity
(well, I know I did) of splurging on smartphones. Hello there, my lovely
brought about in the workplace due to faster connectivity. It is indeed
iPhone’s and Blackberry’s!
quite true that our lives have been impacted tremendously by their integration in our daily activities. Yet, I often pause and wonder – will
The arrival of the smartphone was heralded with pomp and vigour.
these newfound digital interactions completely replace our physical
And, why not? With the likes of major players pushing ahead with their
interactions? Have we reached a stage in our evolvement where
expansion into Asian markets, and lower rates enabling a higher rate of
shaking a colleague’s hand has merely become the same as poking the
affordability, it seemed like everyone I knew was flashing around one
same person on Facebook? I hope not.
of these lovely devices, while flashing a look that suggested “Whatyou-don’t-have-one? Sheesh-you-are-so-out-of-it!” Not wanting to be kept out of the loop, and perhaps bowing to social pressure, I gleefully jumped onto the accelerating bandwagon and happily put my name to a Blackberry Curve (update: My loving family has now expanded to include a sleek Apple iPhone too!) At first, the blackberry was officially introduced (I say officially because a set of “I want to be ahead of them all” people already obtained means to get their hands on this device). The increasing demand and inquiry brought about the official launch of iPhone in a blink of an eye. A little late don’t you think? It doesn’t matter. Within seconds, professionals, homemakers, spoilt brats, cab drivers and even secondary school students were walking with their heads down and eyes glued to this fancy gadget. While technology helped reduce the effort needed to keep in touch with friends and colleagues – from a painstaking level to merely a few hits on the keyboard – it seems that our desires to be connected even more instantaneously were never-ending. To satisfy those cravings, hardware manufacturers allowed us to move our interactions to the next level; they facilitated the transfer of our neat, little online social environments onto the tiny screens we cuddled in our palms.
Making sense of todayâ€™s subcultures can be overwhelming. So many subcultures, each with its own alternative world of taste, fashions, music, and attitudes exist around the globe. Subcultures are accurately defined and classified in countries like the United States of America, Australia, India, Japan, Britain, and the list could go on. High schools comprise of subcultures like nerds, and jocks, universities have sororities and fraternities while societies comprise of subcultures like, ghetto, punk, emos among many others. These and many other subcultures have developed and prevailed over centuries.
I live in a country where subcultures are not listed, defined or classified like they are in many places. Nevertheless, having the opportunity of living across continents I am aware of and identify certain subcultures that I have come across. United Arab Emirates is Muslim country that is comparatively more liberal than the others around the region. There exists a huge mix of cultures. Arab nationals, expat Arabs, Asians, South-east Asian, Europeans, and Americans are some of the most prominent cultures present and living in the country. Moreover, there is an equal mix of individual and collective cultures. A balance exists between single working individuals, nuclear and joint families. Hence, even though the subcultures arenâ€™t clearly defined, they very well exist. On a broad level I participate in the expatriate youth subculture of Dubai. The youth subculture provides an identity outside of that ascribed by social institutions such as family, work, and home. There are various youth subcultures in Dubai. Mostly, they are different in their ethnicities with similarities in their lifestyles. The expatriate youth culture in Dubai that I belong to consists of young professionals - of the South East Asian decent - in their mid twenties and early thirties; working or taking care of the family business. The latter is more prominent. I, for one, belong to the former group. The uniqueness of this youth subculture is that we live with our parent irrespective of age and marital status. It is considered a given. I consider this subculture a bit close to the new romantic and glam subculture in terms of lifestyle and fashion. Maintaining a healthy social life is of utmost importance within this subculture. More often than not, I am compelled to take time out of my busy working schedules and family obligations to regularly meet friends and acquaintances over fine-dining experiences, parties and short trips. Fashion and lifestyle are inspired by the glamorous lifestyle of celebrities; western and south-east Asians. Presentation matters. Fitness matters. Brands matter. Although the overall attitude of the youth subculture is compelling, there are certain elements that allow freedom of choice. Most participants are newly married or engaged to married within the culture. A very few are single. Another set of subcultures I participate in are the artists and dancers subcultures. Painting and dance are my passion. Amid a busy work schedule and an active social life, I try and take time to participate in different art exhibitions, and doodle nights. Art for me is priceless. Hence, I gift my work out to people who matter to me. I have been part of the dancersâ€™ subculture since a very young age. While the participants and degree of participation has changed over a period of time. Dancing remains a part of my life. I have, learnt various forms of dance, performed, competed and even taught this form of art. Currently, I am back to learning. On Tuesday evenings I attend salsa classes which I thoroughly enjoy. These subcultures may not be strong in this part of the world. But, the nature of these subcultures has compelled me to stick around.
Music is a world where the elements of rhythm, tone, harmony, melody and poetry coalesce with emotions, solitude, intellect, and spirituality. It is both a solitary and a social act. It ups ones senses. Good music for me is like opening my eyes to a beautiful morning, or discovering the best chocolate cake Iâ€™ve tasted so far. Better yet, it allows me to connect with my loved ones, like it allows some to connect with their community, some with their nation or even the entire world. Music has an ability to subtly influence our thoughts and feelings. There is a magical energy, a sense of purpose and a direction that it imparts. Moreover, it gives a gratifying sense of meaning in what seems like a meaningless world. To me, music is all this and more. I come from a family of amateur musicians and avid music lovers. I grew up listening to and appreciating various genres and forms of music. Music in general has influenced my life in many different ways. It is a space I rest in. It complements my ever growing passion for dancing. It allows me to test my vocal skills. My curiosity towards the unique sounds produced by various instruments urged me to learn the piano and guitar. Choosing my favorite music is much more difficult than I had anticipated. When you listen to over twelve hours of music each day you tend to incorporate every type of music into your life. With much time and thought, I decided to do justice by mentioning one from each genre that I enjoy, solely because, each one of them play a different role in my life. To begin with, I enjoy soft rock. The combination of the acoustic guitar and meaningful lyrics backed by unique yet intense vocals allows me to step back into a calmer place. Jason Mraz is a particular favorite. His music, videos and online journals have a way of communicating with the audience like nobody
else. There is perkiness to his music that sends a blithe vibe. His songs are beautiful in a simple and honest way. They are candid. His voice complements the character of his songs. ‘A song for a friend’, ‘Live high’, ‘Life is beautiful’, are my favorite tracks among others. On a lucky day where I have the opportunity to provide my full attention to one thing at a time, I turn up my modest yet efficient sound system and listen to some beautiful contemporary Indian fusion music. There is something magical about amalgamation of instruments like the traditional tabla, percussions, sitar, flute, with more international instruments like the guitar, piano etc. Karsh Kale is one such producer/composer who has managed to achieve perfect synchronization within this genre. If you are for experimental and unconventional music, this one is an absolute listen. Another similar genre that provides the same mood settings is progressive/ vocal house and lounge music. They fall in between long drives, some weekend afternoons and nights out with friends at roof top or lounge bars. I was introduced to this genre by my first cousin who is a renowned local DJ. What interests me about this genre is the blend of electronic music, various beats and unconventional vocals. Technology has taken music to a different level. It is fascinating how music can be created through anything with the help of a machine. My cousin passionately shared the story of how a New York based DJ Knuckles would add drum beats to classic or disco music in clubs in the 1980’s. The clubbers loved this mix and house music (the name was given for what was played at the club) only ameliorated from then on. Deadmau5, David Vendetta, are some of my favorites. I grew up watching Bollywood (Indian for Hollywood) movies. One thing I learned over the years is that no matter how realistic Indian cinema gets, music and dance will never leave it. This genre has played an important role in shaping my interests around the two forms of art. Although, I appreciate commercial Indian music, two artists that have played an important role in enhancing my ardor toward the same are A.R. Rahman. I can easily say that A.R. Rahman for me is the most talented musician I have come across. His music touches my soul. His compositions have a way of arousing my senses. They are versatile yet classic. They are contemporary yet traditional. Rahman may be internationally known for his award winning music for the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. However, for me, his brilliance in his work goes all the way back to his music from movies like ‘Bombay’, ‘Roja’, ‘Taal’ among others. A R Rahman is also the genius behind the famous composition of the Airtel cellular phone Ad that millions of people have heard. In fact, in my opinion, the beauty of the Ad campaigns for Airtel heavily lies in its music composition. Being an avid music lover, I am open to any form of music (although I am not a big fan of heavy metal). Hip Hop music is a genre I listen to and dance to more often than not. Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and Alisha Keys are some artists I adore. I am a person of music. A day without music feels empty. Music has a powerful way of paying with our moods. It lightens uplifts, mellows, motivates and even becomes your friend in times of sorrow. The one thing common about all the above mentioned preferences is the creativity with which each are produced. They are different, meaningful and experimental. They are me.
It all started when I was watching an Indian movie, in which the female protagonist held the book in her hand in one scene. It had an attractive cover with a very unique name. At that point in time I finished reading some great books, like ‘God of small things’ by Arundati Roy, ‘To kill a mocking bird’ and the Kite Runner. It was only natural to visit the book store after such contagious reading with an urge to instantly find another book just as good to fill their place. This was my next pick. At first I was surprised and rather intimidated by the 900 plus page novel. It didn’t look like that on screen. But, the name ‘Shantaram’ written by a foreign author Gregory David Roberts heightened my curiosity to know what was inside. I have an inclination toward books that have unique names; names that are ambiguous enough to make me want to peek inside. Some books turn out to be interesting; some just don’t hit the spot. But, this book took to a new level of liking and with no hesitance whatsoever I can say that Shantaram is currently my favorite piece of literature. It stirred my mind and soul with every page. It was more than just an interesting read; it was an experience that the story provided. “It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving can become the story of your life.” When the first page stared at me with such words, it became hard to put down the book.
To sketch a summary, Shantaram is a semi auto-biography about Gregory
creativity. This book brings the simplest observations into learning that
David Roberts who characterizes himself as the protagonist Lindsay, ‘Lin Baba’
would make one go “Hmm, I never thought about it like that!” I am
or ‘Shantaram’. He writes about his story after escaping from high security
attached to this book for two reasons. One, it is written by the creative
prison in Australia and fleeing to Bombay (Mumbai), India with a fake New
head of TBWA worldwide, John hunt. Two, all the proceeds go to the
Zealand passport. During this experience he makes friends with people
Room 13 charity that encourages less privileged children to explore
who have nothing in common, falls in love, gets introduced to the world of
their creativity and talents.
prostitutes, gambling and black marketing, and meets a motherly woman who
I have now started to read ‘Eat Love Pray’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and I
christens him “Shantaram”, or man of peace. He talks about how he survived
will not be surprised if it turns into my next favorite. I’ll have to see
being jailed, beaten and shot at. While narrating his experiences, Roberts lets
the reader realize the journey of a violent and destructive man, who finally finds peace within himself due to various influences in the form of people, places and situations. Aside from an extremely gripping story, Roberts, describes the culture, the characters and the city itself in the most unique yet lucid manner. The exceptionality lies in the fact of how a foreigner has taken a plunge into the deepest of Indian society’s complexities and also done a successful job of understanding the fundamental unifying theme which revolves around the true sense of freedom. He writes with empathy and affection for the seamy side of Mumbai city. There is acceptance and love, an underlying humanity that comes from having experienced the worst of it. It is clear that he admires India and its people for who they are but never hesitates a moment before showing things that are obviously wrong or funny bringing a droll angle to the elaborate and otherwise serious story. For instance, Roberts creates a harmless parody around the way his friend and tour guide Prabaker makes an effort to speak and take pride in the English language, or, how he observes, adapts and is amused by different unfamiliar gestures like the side to side headshaking that indicates agreement. It is this honesty and simplicity that compelled me to read the entire book without skipping a page. With each role Roberts manages to shed equal light on the situation, the people he encounters during the phase, and how they impact him. Another aspect of this book that proves to captivate my interest is a detailed description of the systems that operate within the country. These range from police, currency, gold, drugs, prostitution and the slums. This was the first book I read that talks about prison torture and gives deserved attention to the slum life in India on such a diaphanous level. Being a non resident Indian citizen, these details not only serve as facts about the country, but they provide a sense of attachment and empathy considering these structures belong to the country I belong to. It encouraged me to learn further and observe the city I visited often with a different perspective. I never gave a second thought to the slums, except to make sure I held my breath every time I passed it. I thought they must be mad to come to Mumbai to live like this. Finally, I will give most credit to the beautiful way the book is written. Although the writing gets too poetic for my taste at times, it fits well within the realm of the story. Roberts has succeeded in romanticizing a true and rather brutal story while articulating it the simplest possible manner. Shifting back to books related to advertising, I recently completed the ‘Art of The Idea’. A must read for every individual with minimal inclination toward
We have grown up listening to our parents advising us not to speak
was driving the rickshaw to save enough money to finally get into
to strangers. In fact, I am sure I will give my children the same exact
a good university in Mumbai after paying for his sister’s marriage.
advice. However, in the present day and age, and as we grow older,
During the ride, in the midst of all the noise, we managed to speak
making conversation with an unknown individual becomes a part of
about the political and economic systems of India and the potential
our daily lives. Through social networking mediums, we manage to
that the country held. We even spoke about recent events in Dubai
talk to several strangers along the way. Of course, talking to strangers
and the current economic situation that the city was under. His
face to face still remains a tendency people limit themselves from.
awareness on subjects that lay outside the country impressed me.
At the same time, no matter how open minded we become, we
Moreover, upon mentioning the noticeable change in cleanliness,
subconsciously decide who to talk to or not based on our instinctive
Raj spoke about how his community was making a difference by
judgment and perceptions.
separating the trash from plastic and paper. Their awareness and knowledge increased through various TV ads that educated the
I have spoken to many strangers along the way. Some have become
audience about such topics.
friends or acquaintances, and others have just left a memory; mostly pleasant ones. This particular incident is a recent one that is not only
Not realizing that I had already reached my destination within a
worth remembering but also worth sharing.
timeframe that would otherwise feel like forever, I stepped down and paid the rickshaw fair. At that moment Raj stood up to say,
I was visiting Mumbai City in December 2009. After four years.
“Ma’am, thank you for listening to me. It is very rare that people
Overall, the city was a pleasant surprise; cleaner roads, cleaner air,
talk to me. And no one has ever asked my name. So, I want to
less pollution were among other revelations. It encouraged me to
thank you and I will always remember you.” I wished him luck and
do things I would otherwise think twice for. Maintaining this spirit, I
moved ahead thinking to myself that I should be the one thanking
decided to opt for a ‘rickshaw’ ride instead of calling a cab to head
him. Through this conversation I learned that knowledge and
to the other side of the city. As a non resident Indian, we are often
information is available to each one of us. Those who are eager to
told to be careful while speaking to a shopkeeper, a street vendor
learn, create the opportunity instead of waiting for one. I learned
or cab and rickshaw drivers to avoid being taken advantage of. It
that making a difference does not limit you through social classes
is a generalization that people have formed through experiences or
or professions. Finally, I learned that we all have dreams. The non-
just plain paranoia. However, on this particular day I decided make
giving up attitude of this man encouraged and motivated me to
conversation while enjoying the ride.
stick to my goals no matter what comes my way.
To begin with, he was taken aback when I asked his name. He went on to say that in the ten years of his profession as a rickshaw driver nobody had asked his name. Raj and I asked each other where we were from. When he asked me what I did for a living, assuming the complexity of my role, I chose simple words. “I help create ads like those”, I said in the Hindi language pointing to a massive billboard displaying an ad for Nokia. “You work in an Ad Agency? That must be exciting, except for the long hours no?” he said enthusiastically in ‘Hinglish’ (a mix of English and Hindi words). It was my turn to be taken aback. In fact, from then on, the conversation was only filled with eyebrow raising moments for me. Raj is about my age. He knows the English language fairly well. He explained that most of the rickshaw drivers acquired basic knowledge of the English vocabulary because of the culturally diverse and touristic characteristics of the Mumbai city. He finished his high school education at the age of 17 and dreamed of pursuing his undergraduate studies with a majors in marketing ever since. He
10 MINUTES WITH RAJU, THE RICKSHAW GUY
TEAM WORK AND LEADERSHIP “None of us is as smart as all of us”. This is a Japanese proverb that my basketball coach used every single time he witnessed a one man game on court. He used it as many times as he needed to make us remember it in our sleep. As a team member of the school team, I learned a lot about teamwork and team spirit during some defeated
client and saw the strategy as a far shot. After discussing with the senior
and some triumphant journeys. Moreover, following a great captain
management I worked with the planner on a rationale to provide them with
and coach helped me to lead my dance team in high school in the
a solution that would meet their objectives through a different angle that
best possible manner. It helped my work as a team player than just
we believed as workable. The honesty, led the client/agency team toward
producing a great idea and execution thereafter.
Every time I am in a challenging situation at work, I reminded myself
I have been given great opportunities by my superiors to lead certain
of the wise proverb that my coach used ten years ago. It helps me
projects. One such project was a disruption workshop for our client Ferrari
back track a little and get back to the basics. Let me give you an
World Abu Dhabi (FWAD). It was during a time where the account manager
example. Recently, I received a brief to design an advertorial for
and director were tied down in a weeklong conference. My responsibility
an existing campaign. The brief was simple and the work was far
was to gather adequate information that would help in the analysis during
from challenging. But, we had other obstacles. We had a brand new
the workshop. I initiated by inviting people from different teams to take part
creative team on board along with a very tight timeline to produce the
in the preparation. Four individuals decided to help and I delegated different
artwork. At this point I had just been introduced to the new creative
sections to each member of the newly found team. Each of us had to look
team. It would be natural to think that the creative team could come
up for certain information on 8 competitors of FWAD. Keeping the team
up with a great idea and leave them to work on their part of the job.
motivated by treating them to lunches and providing different work settings
However, I could hear a whisper in my head which said “None of us is
to boost a rather mundane process we managed to spend seven long nights
as smart as all of us”. So, instead of leaving it to them, I sat with the
at work that resulted in a very active and fruitful workshop for the client. I
team and went through the history of the campaign and guidelines
would like to mention the appreciation received from my superiors for a job
before the scheduled orientation. Of course, this would take up extra
well done by the entire team. I would also like to mention that I was leading
hours from my time. But, the end result was a beautiful layout that
a team of 2 senior account managers and 2 account directors and not once
the client loved in the first go. Moreover, this developed a sense of
was there I clash of ego or attitude.
assurance for the client as well our team. Teamwork and leadership go hand in hand. In order to reach goals there are We tend to work in teams more often than not. We work in different
times in life where you tend to even lead yourself in becoming a better team
team settings at work, in a dance class, with a personal trainer at the
player. A combination of patience, confidence, understanding and optimism
gym and even as a family. As a Senior account executive, I work in six
not only makes you a better team player or leader; it allows you to become
different team settings at TBWA\RAAD. Two are internal teams and
a better individual overall.
four are teams of each of my client. Working with different people toward different goals at the same time has taught me to be patient, understanding and firm at the same time. Teamwork is not just about working harmoniously. I have learnt that it is important to be honest with each other and respect each other. For instance, a client was hell bent on working with a strategy for a particular campaign. It would have been a safe route to agree with the client and provide with a product as per their inventive approach. But, I did not agree with the
Published on Apr 2, 2010