Interview with Anir Ganguly

Join me as I have a conversation with Anir Ganguly, Sr. AVP and Head of Content Strategy and Innovation at Astro in Malaysia. As he shares his 3 pieces of advice for a strategist, his strategy journey, and what he found most helpful in joining The Planning Dirty Academy.

Hi, my name’s Julian Cole and I’m with Anir Ganguly who is a strategy consultant at kiosk. Firstly, any, I would love to hear your three pieces of advice for strategists.

Hi Julian. Uh, thanks so much for having me, uh, on this podcast. Um, and I must say that is one of the resources that I almost use on a daily basis, um, you know, for reference for inspiration. So you are doing a great job, um, very, very quickly. I think that the, the three pieces of advice, uh, or at least something which has worked for me is, um, I think number one is to be humble.

Um, absolutely. Uh, no matter, no matter how much knowledge do we already have, or you have, or whatever stage of career you’re in. Um, I think humility and being humble and not having the thing that, you know, it all is, is something that is really going to help you. So with that comes the fact that you’re always open-minded second is, is the fact that, um, And these advices are general advisors.

They’re not advisors in terms of, you know, usage of tools or something. The second thing is at least read one book a month, um, on things that are not directly connected to you. Um, so, you know, if, if, if you’re into brand or something, read something about climate change or, or whatever, I don’t know, world peace, whatever, whatever, but look at it and, and, and, and do that.

So, And third is, um, Go out and meet as many people as you can. And then when I say this, I don’t mean to classify them as the standard definition of customers, but I just say, go and meet people from across a society from across professions, from across, uh, beefs and philosophies. Um, Uh, because yes, the world has become very, very, uh, networked and small and everything can be done by, you know, a couple of clicks, but it’s very important for, uh, for someone who’s in this field, in the field of strategy, um, to actually go and meet real people in real world in real life circumstances.

So. Um, and then, and I can hand on heart. I can tell you these three advice. These two things are something that I do regularly and it has helped me a lot. Great. I think you’re right. It’s, it’s constantly staying curious. I feel, and humble and curious is, is always helps. And I would love to hear your background story of how you got to, to where you are today.

Yeah. Um, okay. So, uh, so there is a post on, on, on LinkedIn, which, which is called the 3000 kilometers journey. Uh, but essentially all those three advices we take gave you shaped my career to where it is. So I started off, uh, In advertising primarily been very inspired after reading David Ogilvy’s book confessions, um, for an advertising man.

Um, so that, so that, that is something. And then. Very early on. I had the opportunity to read John Steele’s book on planning the, you know, and, um, it’s also something which already had started to deep, deep, trust me in a sense that I think one of the professions and I hope it could, and we continue to do this as part of our professions.

I think one of the professionals who truly look at customers as the centerpiece is. The professional communication on advertising. Um, And I think that was something which always, uh, had intrigued me, always had, had me, you know, uh, very, very interested to find out the reason behind why, whether it’s simples, whether it is, you know, logic or whatever it is, what drives those decisions that people make.

Um, and then of course in those days, the thing was how do you get it down succinctly to a 32nd commercial or, or even a beer mat, for example? Um, and, and, and, uh, so, so yeah, so that, that innate curiosity, and I have been lucky to say that I have always had very supportive bosses. So I started off in account management, but then shifted into planning.

Um, again, my boss has played a very crucial role in, in understanding, um, my bit of mine, my, my, uh, how do I say the mean the. You need to desire to be in that area. Um, so I started off and then got a break and I got into planning and I think so. So it was at Bangalore a long time ago. I think it’s 1998. Um, and then.

The other thing that kept on, uh, you know, pushing me inside was I always wanted to work. I love traveling. Um, can’t wait to travel again when these, the, you know, when, when the whole COVID thing dies down, but that made me also start. Literally bugging my bosses to see how I can work with, you know, uh, other cultures or other opportunities, et cetera, et cetera.

And so, yeah. So from, from Bangalore, the journey started, I worked in a lot of countries in south and Southeast Asia. So, you know, across, um, she’d uncover the dish, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, you know, various states, um, And it has been, I think two things. One is it has been a great journey, no complaints, and I’m very lucky for it.

Thirdly, I, every part of this journey has been one off learning. Um, different cultures, different people. How do you interact? How people look at brands in various parts of the world? Um, the, the whole plethora of, of subsidies that come along when you work in various different Asian cultures, um, You know, something, which I learned much more when I started working in, in, in countries of Southeast Asia, then what is not said is more important sometimes than what is said.

And therefore that, you know, the, the, the decoding of all those cultural nuances and norms. And then how do you begin to tell a coherent brand story around it? Uh, so it’s, it’s been a fascinating journey of learning in terms of culture, food. Uh, also working with them for various kinds of brands, like, uh, multinational brands for brands, like a brand essence of chicken, which is very regional, very local and it’s has its own unique, um, cultural standpoint.

So. And the journey continues. Um, so then also I made, and the other thing which I have done regularly in my career very intentionally is I’ve made people do various, uh, in different kinds of, of, uh, jobs or different kinds of verticals. So yes, I was a classic account planner. Um, then I decided that, okay, I need to, I need to understand, uh, somewhere around the early two thousands, mid two thousands actually are when media was exploding.

When, when, uh, connectivity was becoming more and more ubiquitous and devices were coming up, I decided, um, To actually look at okay. From, from the classic account planning, how do I then look at communications planning, uh, must say that your very early back, I think you were at BVDO at that point of time, uh, on SlideShare was, was one of those, uh, critical, you know, you know, nudges, I, I would like to say which, which, which you look at, so spend a lot of time.

Uh, so then we were in the communications planning, did a lot of media, uh, with Omnicom. Um, having had a lot of, you know, had had great fun and, um, And then moved on again, came back to, you know, looking at the overall overall, you know, brand strategies in, in, in looking at, uh, regional brands, et cetera, and then eventually made the shift into the client side.

So, uh, you know, because of, uh, The fact that I worked with this particular brand telling R slash DG in Malaysia, a Grameen phone or a GP back in Bangladesh. Um, so I’ve always, you know, uh, this, this has been a large part of my life working in the category of telecom and eventually moved from the agency side and moved on to the client side, which, which is an enormous learning, uh, again, and because that’s like a step shift.

Uh, in everything that you do, um, you know, and, and you realize many times over the why is that client’s life so chaotic? Why is stakeholder management at every step of the way? So important. Uh, you know, um, how can, you know, if, if you, if you don’t put all the pieces in, it sounds really easy that, yeah. I mean, these are things that you do, but often as a, as planners, we live.

Within a bubble, uh, inside an agency for, for most of the times, right? Uh, you don’t need to get into operations. You don’t need to do, uh, other stuff like finances or, or, or actually planning, uh, of, of BAU stuff. I mean, we’ve always done exalted stuff of yabby to the customers and we do this, which is why I think it was great just to make a segue, which is why I think it’s great that you have.

Snippets of how to practically deal with strategy function as it’s evolving, especially over the last five to seven years. So all your decks on, you know, whether it’s dealing with media politics, how to get a promotion, how to make yourself, you know, very, very close to the client, et cetera, et cetera. I think those are.

Very important. And I would like to talk stress this to the community who’s listening, or even if you’re not a part of this community, you’re generally listening to please go ahead and read that, because that would be very, very important in, in the ever evolving role of a strategist. But yeah, but coming back to me, um, that, that experience of, of, you know, handling a brand from a client standpoint, uh, is a whole new experience, which taught me a lot.

It is not easy. It is, it has a very sharp learning curve. Um, you make mistakes, so you need to have favorable good bosses and supportive bosses and no complaints. At least from me on that side, I’ve always had great bosses. Uh, so yeah, so that, so, so then, uh, you know, so that was one learning then I think from there.

So the essential technology media telecom was the standard TMP category. So. Then I did a pivot and did content and media, um, any doing all of this when I should, you know, later, uh, when I shifted into the client base, I was also so getting involved in driving innovation, uh, whether it is product innovation or process innovation, which, which is also, and then that whole bug of, you know, how, how can I look at tracking the problems?

And I think, I think one of the things that. Came in very handy for me, is that a lot of tools and rigor that we learned as, or we learn as strategists early in life, coming very handy, even in a process, even when you are driving any innovation process. Now the names could be different. Uh, you know, in the tech world or in the startup world, you might call something consumer validation, but it is at a very basic level.

It is checking the facts with the customer. The insights don’t change. Insights is still in core. Uh, it might be, you know, it might be different keyworded as hair on fire problem or a deep seated needle or whatever that it is. Uh, but the fundamentals remain the same. So those are things that, that, that drew me in handy, which, which then put me on this path of, of, of learning about innovation, driving innovation.

So between, so I, and, and somewhere between, I decided to make another pivot and join. Entrepreneur first, man, the Brunner first is basically an incubator, which looks at, um, you know, they recruit people is an extremely intense program, um, from startup idea to incubation, to seed round. So I decided, okay, let’s just.

You know, apply that and then learn something over there or try and do it because I am very passionate in moving towards education, innovation technology, using technology to aid education, and also in, in, uh, you know, using technology to, to, to help help good purposes. So I did that for about four or five months.

Uh, the ideas we had at that point of time did not reach the, the seed funding. Um, so. But then I had another opportunity of, you know, working in the media or which is about, you know, content strategy. And then all of that, again, I found it interesting because it connected to something which I was very passionate about and still really passionate about, which is how do you make education, um, accessible with the use of technology to everyone?

So I worked on that was pretty, pretty interesting project that, uh, that I worked on any doing all of that, you know, there comes a time when you say that. Okay. Why don’t I start doing something on my own on these passion areas, which is, which is rare. I think a couple of months back, or it’s been going on for about six odd months, you start thinking about it and that’s the Genesis of kiosk consult, which I now, um, you know, uh, which is now a reality and, uh, It’s it’s, uh, I just started with it.

Um, so yeah, so that’s, that’s the journey it’s it’s and again, it does being driven by curiosity does being driven by the willingness to experiment and, uh, looking straight at myself in the mirror and being very clear that some of the experiments may work. Some of them will not work. Yeah. Um, so yeah, so that’s, that’s that, so it’s basically traveled reading this to experience and be curious.

Yes. I love it. I love it. And yeah. You’ve yeah, you’ve definitely had a great journey. So thank you so much for sharing that and your advice it’s really appreciated. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.


Sign up to my fortnightly Strategy Finishing School Newsletter. I share tools, resources and brain bombs for your strategy comms for planners.