careers, challenges, opportunities

The One Where I Listen To Ross

1 Jan. 9 Jan. 20 Jan. 3 Feb. 17 Feb. 18 Feb. 21 Feb.

We’re just over two months into 2023, and it’s been a year of great change – personal and professional. Change is never easy, and brings along with it uncertainty and anxiety…but also opportunity.

As I went through these last two-odd months, I found the space to reflect, upon the past and upon the future. And, as I found clarity, I also found myself remembering a talk I’d made at an offsite last year. A talk about finding clarity, driving change…and pivoting. For anyone going through similar musings this year, I hope this helps.

I turned 40 last January.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re wondering – 40? Samit looks not a day over 28!!!

But…who am I to argue with how we measure time?

So. I’d just turned 40. That’s a fairly significant milestone in anyone’s life. And a good moment to step back, reflect and take stock.

I was, I reflected, happily married.
I was a new Dad, something that has always meant a lot to me.
I was part of a great team at work, leading a great group of people in doing meaningful work.


The pandemic had still separated us as a family.
I was struggling with my own health and fitness.
And I was, frankly, a bit lost from a career perspective. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do or should be doing…or if what I was doing was making me truly happy.

The work I do has always been a huge part of who I am. And the last question was haunting me, dragging me down…making me somewhat unhappy.

I ended most days exhausted, feeling as if I were running on a treadmill – putting in effort but not really moving forward.

My energy was declining, and it was harder and harder to be positive and find motivation.

One day, during a conversation with my coach, I shared some of my thoughts with him.

That’s when he introduced me to the Japanese concept of ikigai.

Many of you will be familiar with this already. 

Ikigai means, “a reason for being”.
It refers to something that gives someone a sense of purpose, a reason for being.

My coach asked me to spend time reflecting on what my own ikigai was.

It took me some time to get there. But after several weeks of reflection, I discovered – no, I remembered – my ikigai.

And this led me to make two profound changes. One professional…the other, personal.

I’ll start with the professional.

Last June, in a 1:1 conversation with my manager, I shared with her my struggles and fast-declining happiness with what I was doing.

You see, the reason I joined Google was to build my favourite brand from the inside out. To tell our story to the world, to help people see the company the way I do.

Somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of that.

I’d buried that goal under the idea that I was still building our brand, through the work I did.

But the work I was doing was taking me further and further away from what makes me happy, from what gives me energy, from the areas I was strongest. From the very reasons (I think) Google hired me in the first place.

The thing is, it was right in front of me all this time.

On the first line of my social media bio.

“Reader. Writer. Geek.”
Reader: Someone who is fond of reading.
Writer: A person who writes books, stories or articles.
Geek: A person who collects facts and mementos related to their fields of interest.

My ikigai lies in connecting everything I read and collect, developing ideas and telling stories.

And that’s what I found I enjoyed most, even after all these years.
Dreaming up ideas, telling stories.
I could wrangle the stakeholder management and even survive budget management – with a little help from my team.
I learned a hell of a lot.
But I needed to be focused on telling stories.

That conversation led to me stepping away from Brand & Reputation Marketing, and refocusing on Brand last June.

And, every night, no matter how hard the work day has been, I go to bed happier and wake up more energised than I have in the two years past. Using everything I learned in those years to good effect, too.

Now on to the personal.

Very simply, my ikigai is my family.

And, after becoming a father, I found myself more determined than ever to have more time in this world with the two people I love the most – my wife Saav and my son Reyaan.

That’s literally my reason for existing.

Since November, I’ve been on a journey to combat ageing and extend my lifespan. (Bizarre but true.) 

I began with a lot of research on nutrition and supplementation that’s already borne results…but that’s a story for another time.

In January, I realised that my fitness just wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I knew that doing the same thing over and over again would just give me the same results, over and over again.

I needed to make a drastic change.

On the 7th of March, I started out at Ultimate Performance Fitness. The gym that media reviews call, “The Goldman Sachs, Real Madrid, Apple of personal training. They’re so far ahead of the field.” I discovered it on Google – it had 499 reviews that day, of which 498 were 5-star and 1 was 4-star. How could I not sign up?

I have to say…

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Harder than adjusting to the client side.
Harder than B&R.
Harder, sometimes, than even parenting.

The very first day, I found myself strapped into a machine that was nothing less than torture equipment, physically crying, and yelling at myself – “Remember why you’re doing this! Remember why you’re doing this!”

The programme combines an incredibly strict calorie-deficit diet regimen with a weight training routine that is based on the concept of Progressive Overload. And is supplemented by an active lifestyle – I have to get 10k steps a day, come what may.

Since March I’ve sacrificed dessert, alcohol, and eating out. I’ve had 4 drinks since I started. Food isn’t a source of pleasure – it’s just sustenance, something that my body needs to go on living.

But I’m gradually learning a new, healthier, more sustainable way to live.

Slowly, every day began to get easier. My body began to transform, visibly. I began to end workouts strongly, and look forward to the next one.

The result? I’ve dropped 10kg and 12% body fat…so far.
And gained 4kg of lean muscle.
I have more energy than ever before.
I’m no longer disappointed when I look in the mirror.
I feel more confident – and I think it shows.
And I’m only halfway to my goal.

But, most importantly, I’m happier. I know I’m investing in my ikigai – and that any additional years I get with Saav and Reyaan are worth the pain I’m going through now.

So, what have I learned from all of this?

One: Prioritise happiness. Not success, not promo, not money, not transient pleasures. The long-term outweighs the short-term, no matter how difficult or far away it might seem. Finding a role you love. Find those things in your personal life that set you up for happiness. When you prioritise waking up happier every day, things just have a way of coming together.

Two: Purpose is the most powerful motivator. Reflect deeply. Once you’ve found your true purpose, it’ll blaze so bright within you that it’ll illuminate a path for you in the darkness. Understand your purpose, your why, and everything will become much clearer.

And, three: Don’t just embrace change – trigger it. It’s when things seem the most difficult, the most complicated, the most unachievable, that triggering change can set you on a better path. And that’s where leading with ikigai can guide you along the way.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

digital, industry, opportunities, trend

Predicting 2014, aka What I Want To Do In 2014

The tough part about leading an agency creative team is that you have to set the direction and the vision for the work that you will do.

The great part about leading an agency creative team is that you get to set the direction and the vision for the work that you will do.

Digital marketing in India has come a long way since I defected from traditional advertising in 2009. Fewer marketers are talking about digital being the future; they’re beginning to see it as a de facto way of life. I, for one, believe we’ve entered a post-digital age, and that all marketing efforts going forward need to accept and leverage that reality.

I think we need to go beyond looking at digital as Internet and mobile. I think we have to look at digital marketing as an intersection of three worlds; and that intersection doesn’t always need to reside in the virtual world.

What Is Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is an intersection of three previously distinct worlds.

Forgive me, but I’m going to repeat three buzz-phrases you’ve been hearing for a while. They’re the absolute truth.

  • Content is the new communication. You can’t be a marketer and believe that you’ll achieve brand engagement with a 30-second TVC.
  • Data is the new oil. Because digital allows us to capture what people are actually doing, versus the focus groups that capture what people claim they’re doing.
  • Mobile is the new TV. It’s belittling to call the first screen you look at every morning, the only screen you carry wherever you go, and the last screen you look at every night a “second screen”.

The other thing we need to practice is data-driven marketing. If you’ve managed to get past information overload and get someone to actually click through to your content, you aren’t doing yourself justice if you aren’t setting up to reach that person again. Every piece of engagement that you run needs to help you understand something more about your audience.

The Marketing Circle Of Life

Marketing today isn’t scientific unless it’s driven by data.

If one understands these shifts, it’s not difficult to see where digital creativity is going in 2014. Here’s my bucket list for the year to come.

creative, digital, opportunities

Friendly Neighbourhood Resource Poacher

A quick word of warning to Creative Directors everywhere.

You don’t need to worry about other agencies poaching your people.

(Well, you do, but there’s a bigger threat on the horizon.)

You see, LooksGayButClaimsHeIsn’t and I are swamped with work, and need some help.

So we’re going to be going from cubicle to cubicle, from person to person, requesting them (unofficially) to spend their spare time helping us.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised to find your art director ignoring a print ad layout in favour of a website design. Or your copywriter suggesting you don’t do a poster, but a Facebook app instead. Digital is like that only – far more fun.

Of course, this is all part of my top-secret, highly-classified, under-the-table, ultra-stealth master plan to transform every mainline creative person a digital creative person. Without slipping strange chemicals into their drinking water, that is.

Already two people have volunteered their spare time, and we will brief them today.

And for all those creative folk who are happy writing product tags and the odd poster, I paraphrase what the Creative Director in the Ramgarh office said to his people: “Beta, kaam kar, nahin toh digital-waale aa jaayenge.”

careers, challenges, insight, opportunities

Where’s A Lifeguard When You Need One?

They say – and I do too – that the best way to figure out if somebody’s up to a challenge is to throw that person off the pier into the deep end.

If he (or she, in which case you’d better push her off the pier gently) can stay afloat, and if the sharks aren’t particularly hungry, then you know that he (or she) is up to it.

This week, I find myself in the water, and the sharks are smelling blood.

The next five days will be game-changing for my career.

Either I will be completely shattered, left with little or no confidence in my creative abilities, destined to be a follower…

Or I will come out believing I’m ready for bigger things.

In the last three months or so, I’ve moved from being a small fish in a large pond to a (relatively) bigger fish in a smaller pond. The move from Lowe Lintas to Linteractive has brought with it serious responsibility and expectations – to lead a creative renaissance in our digital wing, helping to build it into a powerhouse that’ll chart the agency’s course for the future.

On Friday, we go into a large, extremely competitive pitch. The spends are huge and the pressure is immense. The product is a parity one, a category I’ve worked on fairly often before – which means that it’s even tougher to crack.

The nerves are jangling.

This will, after all, be the first time I present creative at a pitch – not counting freelance pitches, of course.

This will be the acid test.

For the next five days, my creative partner and I will live, breathe, eat and sleep with this pitch. We will take the brief and turn it upside-down, inside-out. We’ll squeeze it dry. We’ll look at it in a mirror. We might just tear it up and start afresh. All for that one idea that’ll hopefully win us the business, and the recognition we deserve.

And if there’s any insight I might have gleaned from these last couple of days, it’s this.

You may spend your whole life preparing for something; but when it comes, you’re never as prepared as you thought you would be.