RAN­JAN: A RE­MARK­ABLE MAN, AND A CHER­ISHED FRIEND...

Roger Win­ter, Chair­man of Grav­i­tas Part­ner­ship, and a close friend of Ran­jan Ka­pur, talks of the in­tel­lec­tu­ally hon­est, ir­rev­er­ent, fiercely proud yet unas­sum­ing man he has known over the years

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Ran­jan was a close and dear friend of mine for over 40 years. We met in 1975 in New York at the Ogilvy & Mather of­fice, then at 2 East 48th. St. on the cor­ner of Fifth Av­enue. We had both come a long way - Ran­jan from Mum­bai and me from Lon­don. Typ­i­cally, they put the two for­eign­ers in ad­ja­cent of­fices. Ran­jan worked on the Gen­eral Foods busi­ness, I worked on Lever Broth­ers. The then head of the Gen­eral Foods ac­count, who later ran the agency world­wide, tells the story of how he called the se­nior client to tell him Ran­jan was join­ing the team. There was a brief pause, then “Does he speak English?” No pause, “Bet­ter than you” and could have added “Smarter too”.

Dif­fer­ent times! We both left New York in Jan­uary, 1978 - Ran­jan to re­turn to Mum­bai to work with Mani Ayer and me to Bangkok to man­age the rel­a­tively new Ogilvy of­fice there. We had a joint farewell party at an In­dian restau­rant close to the of­fice. Ran­jan, Jimi and their daugh­ter Tina loved New York and were sad to leave, but it was time.

We saw each other reg­u­larly over the years, ei­ther in In­dia or at re­gional meet­ings. I was tech­ni­cally on the Ogilvy In­dian board, but my role was not to ad­vise Mani or Ran­jan, God for­bid, but to be a con­duit to the wider world and help in any way pos­si­ble. At the time, there were strin­gent cur­rency con­trols and it was tough to im­port much-needed equip­ment and sup­plies, or even fund over­seas travel. Then in 1984, I moved to Sin­ga­pore, and soon af­ter, so did Ran­jan and we worked again in the same of­fice. Ran­jan and Jimi loved Sin­ga­pore - cos­mopoli­tan, big In­dian di­as­pora, and im­me­di­ately (thanks to Jimi) they made tons of friends… and also, of course, were close to home. We re­mained friends, in­di­vid­u­ally and as a fam­ily, ever since, see­ing each other all over the world… Hong Kong, Lon­don, New York, Bangkok and, of course, of­ten in Mum­bai. I vividly and fondly re­mem­ber a trip on the ‘Palace on Wheels’ with other ex-Ogilvy col­leagues through Ra­jasthan.

Ran­jan was one of the smartest guys I knew, with an in­nate abil­ity to per­suade peo­ple that his was the cor­rect view… never con­de­scend­ing, which so of­ten is the purview of re­ally bright folk. Un­der a laid-back de­meanour, he har­boured a pas­sion­ate zeal for what he be­lieved was right. He loved, and I mean loved, to ar­gue and hated to lose an ar­gu­ment. Logic might some­times slow him down, but he in­evitably found a way to cir­cum­vent it! He had a dry, even imp­ish, sense of hu­mour and we spent many an hour hap­pily zing­ing each other. He used, back then, to en­joy play­ing squash… I think mainly to per­suade him­self that de­spite his chain smok­ing, he could! He fi­nally de­cided, and one has to re­ally de­cide, to quit smok­ing. Over the years I’ve ‘smug­gled’ car­tons of cig­a­rettes for many peo­ple, but Ran­jan was the only one to ever ask me to ‘smug­gle’ Ni­corettes… he didn’t seem to grasp the con­cept that Ni­corettes were a con­duit to morph you off cig­a­rettes, not be­come a re­place­ment!

Ran­jan was ir­rev­er­ent, scared of no­body… well, maybe Jimi at times. Fiercely proud. Proud of his her­itage, proud and pro­tec­tive of his fam­ily, loyal to friends, Ran­jan rev­elled in be­ing a men­tor. He was in­tel­lec­tu­ally hon­est, and, in turn, ab­horred eva­sive­ness; he couldn’t stand phonies. He was, like many tal­ented peo­ple, un­der­stated and unas­sum­ing, see­ing no need to boast of his paint­ing, sculpt­ing or po­etry writ­ing. Re­mark­able guy, and more im­por­tantly, a cher­ished friend. David Ogilvy, who was him­self pas­sion­ate about In­dia, said Ogilvy & Mather should aspire to hire “Gen­tle­men with brains”… Ran­jan was the ab­so­lute per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of that.

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