I first met Dr Bhandari when we were making a presentation to Enfield India, makers of motorcycles. We were already the agency for Enfield and handled their iconic brand ‘Bullet’. Enfield had just entered into a collaboration with a German company Zundapp for making and launching their two-wheelers in India. This was, as I recall, in the early 80’s.
Dr Bhandari had been on the Board of Enfield India, but this was the first time he was interacting with us. He struck us as being a fairly young intellectual. At the time, we did not know anything about his pedigree. During this meeting he was very open-minded about the strategy and the creative work. While he did have some queries, he liked the scripts and was fine with our plan. The Enfield team was also supportive and we were good to go.
There were two new brands that they wanted to launch and for which we had to shoot TV commercials: a moped named ‘Silver Plus ‘ and a light motorbike named ‘Explorer’. I was then the creative chief and had crafted an endearing commercial for Silver Plus with a liitle girl and her father encountering Sunil Gavaskar, which we had shot in Pune. The commercial for Explorer featured a young couple traversing interesting locales in harmony with a memorable song. D-Day dawned and we were in an anxious state as revealed the two commercials to the Enfield team. We were intently watching Dr.Bhandari’s reactions as the commercials rolled. To our intense relief and elation, he broke into a smile as he complimented the agency. The commercials went on air soon after. Later, we had a number of meetings later about the Bullet, a mini-Bullet and another Zundapp Brand named ‘Fury’ and over these meetings, Dr Bhandari and I had struck up an excellent relationship.
In one conversation with me, he shared some of his views on IIM-A’s PGP programme and said that he felt that the final year students would really benefit from a session on creativity and he was keen that I conduct such a session. Needless to say, I felt hugely privileged and honoured. I enjoyed my sessions at Ahmedabad and visited the institute for 3 years. One day, I received a call from Dr. Bhandari about a session he wanted me to conduct at a workshop in Goa in November 1988. I readily agreed.
That program in Goa was never to be. I was on the road from Pondicherry to Chennai when I heard the tragic news about the crash of an Indian Airlines flight bound for Ahmedabad. Little did I know that Dr.Bhandari had been on board.
*Mohan Menon was a Former Board Member of Ogilvy & Mather.