Obituary: Remembering Ranjan Kapur
Equus CEO Swapan Seth remembers advertising veteran Ranjan Kapur , who died in Mumbai on Saturday at the age of 75
Precisely two weeks ago, I sent Ranjan a text message.
“I need to see you. Does either January 31 or February 6 work for you?”
He promptly replied: “11 am on February 6.”
And then came another message: “Is anyone pissing you off?”
I said, “Haha... no.”
That day, I sent Jimi and him a bunch of flowers.
I don’t know why I did it.
Perhaps it was out of gratitude.
Ranjan always had my back.
I last met him at Colvyn’s 60th in Mumbai.
He and Jimi were standing in a corner.
I went up to them.
“Did Reyhaan (our younger son) get into St. Stephen’s?” he asked.
“Yes, he did,” I said.
“You are a funny guy. Why didn’t you tell us? Jimi asked her pastor to pray that he gets in.”
Why did they have to do that?
When I first called Ranjan in 1995, I didn’t even know him.
I had heard about him from Suhel and then seen how he and Piyush were transforming the agency scene in India.
He took my call.
“My name is Swapan Seth. I want to come and see you.”
“Come home this weekend.”
Their home at Sorrento was exquisite. The furniture was Asian. It was clearly the home of a family that had seen the world. Clearly, Jimi’s labour of love.
“Tell me, what can I do for you?”
I said that I was done working for someone. And I wanted to do something on my own.
“We have an agency called Artig. Take a majority share in that company and make it rock.”
I told him I hated the name, Artig. He said, “Then call it what you want.”
Suhel then decided to give up his plush life as an investment banker. And he and I started Equus.
Then WPP happened.
The first few years of Equus saw great hostility between Ranjan and me.
I don’t think anyone has been ruder to Ranjan than I have been. He indulged my insolence. Accepted my angst.
When Deutsche Bank called him to say that aside from the other WPP agencies, they also wished to call Equus for the pitch, he told them that we weren’t as good as the others.
But as the head of WPP, he had to sit through our presentation.
I made a two-hour-long strategy presentation.
At the end of it, he came up to me and said; “I have never heard a presentation like this all my life. You sounded like a guy from McKinsey.”
It is the biggest compliment from a person like him.
Things between Ranjan and me transformed after I wrote my book.
He told me that he kept it by his bedside.
Running Equus is a terribly lonely job. There are no ears one can whisper into. No confession boxes that one can step into. There are no shoulders that you can cry on.
Ranjan became that for me. He was the embrace that I needed. The hug that I hankered for. He became my shrink.
He was also inspirational from another dimension. He was a brilliant husband. He was devoted to a fault to Jimi. He was a fantastic son. And an unsurpassable father.
Five years ago, at his home in Friend’s Colony, I told him that I was getting old and tired and wanted to leave advertising. I told him that I was 45. And wished to leave advertising in 2018.
“Idiot, that’s as old or young as Tina.” he said. “Let’s meet in February 2018 and we will do what makes you happy.”
It’s a rare promise that he did not keep.
Stay well, Ranjan. See you soon.
Swapan Seth is CEO, Equus
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