Srinivasan K Swamy is the Chairman and Managing Director of R K SWAMY BBDO Pvt Ltd, a leading advertising firm in India. He is also the Chairman of HansaVision, Hansa Research, HANSA Customer Equity, iVista Digital Solutions in India and HANSA|GCR and HANSA Marketing Services in the USA.
R K SWAMY BBDO is present in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. It has over 75 large national and multinational clients across all important product categories and services. In addition to its Creative and Media Services, it provides communication solutions for Healthcare, Social and Rural sectors as well as specialized divisions for Interactive, CRM, and HR Communications.
Srinivasan K Swamy is the Past President of All India Management Association and is also the Past President of The Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Madras Management Association, and the Advertising Club of Madras. He serves on the Board of Indian Institute of Management, Tiruchirapally and is also a Trustee in the Consumers Association of India and CONCERT.
Srinivasan K Swamy shares with Marie Banu his journey in the advertising sector and his passion for social causes.
Being the Chairman of Confederation of Asian Advertising Agency Association, can you tell us what inspired you to venture into the field of advertising?
Advertising was a default option for me. My father started this Company— (R K Swamy Advertising Associates)—in 1973, and when I completed my MBA in 1978, my uncle literally forced me into it. I cannot say that this was a wrong decision, because I dare say that I made my own contribution to the progress of our company which has now grown into an institution covering 20 different business offerings both in India and the USA.
My involvement with various industry associations is not seen by us as a waste of time, since we believe that any amount of time spent for strengthening our industry is well spent. It is after all the hand that feeds us. I was the President of Advertising Agencies Association of India for three years. When I was chosen to lead the Confederation of Asian Advertising Agency Associations, it was a natural corollary.
You have involved in several social service activities, ValluvarGurukulam School Society being one of them. How do you find time for social work?
As a person I believe in the virtue of delegation. You are only as effective as your team is, and team members take more interest if they see the outcome of their efforts rather than as per direction of someone else.
At ValluvarGurukulam, we have been able to make this into a wonderful institution in a matter of 15 years. From 200 students we have scaled up to 2700 students who are all housed in a modern building that has all top facilities for sports, extra-curricular activities, etc. The dedication of our Honorary Secretary, Education Advisor, Principal, Head Mistress, teachers, staff, and students made this possible. As Chairman, my role is limited to encouraging people to take positive and firm steps. Our only goal is to make the school a preferred destination for parents and students in the community. The joy is more, because most of the students are girls who are first generation school goers.
You seem to be passionate about providing education to the underprivileged. Which other social causes are you concerned about?
I am passionate about all things that I take up. I am the President of Hindu Mission Hospital, a 230-bed multi-speciality institution that caters to the health needs of the poor and needy. I am also the Trustee of AIM for Seva, an organisation that runs homes for poor students in over 80 locations across India, and a Trustee in Consumers Association of India and CONCERT.
I play a serious role in the affairs of the Sri Ahobila Mutt. I continue to be involved in many of our industry’s initiatives where I have served as Chairman or President earlier. I enjoy all of this because life gets monotonous looking at ‘work’ alone.
Most youth prefer to venture into visual media today. What according to you could be the reason?
I wish more youth take more interest in visual media (as you call it). Given the growth in IT industry, many have taken this vocation seriously. Media industry (print, television, radio, and internet) offers great prospects. Marketing Communication or advertising is undergoing some structural changes and young people are more adept to absorbing these changes and making a difference.
The challenges are arising out of the rise in digital media on the one hand and media proliferation on the other. The youth of today are big consumers of media yet unreachable for commercial messages. This problem could be best-solved if they enter the advertising profession with enthusiasm and some basic training that is provided by visual communication courses and further supplemented by MBA.
Can you tell us an advertisement that impressed you and one that disturbed you?
Being in the profession for over three decades, I am a big consumer of advertisements. To me the ads that serve the advertisers’ best in terms of increased sale or change in behaviour impress me. I don’t get taken-in by entertaining ads. Yes, like for others, they do entertain me. I enjoy them, but most often these are wasted if they do not lead to positive action. Similarly, advertisements do not disturb me. Some may be in bad taste, however well they may sell the product.
Advertising has positive as well as negative points. Can you share your thoughts on this?
Advertising promotes choice and competition. It reduces the product price due to the competitive forces. It improves quality, promotes innovation, and makes the consumer choose with confidence the quality they can get. I can go on and on. But, the only down side of advertising is the small fellows with better products cannot always compete with big manufacturers with deep pockets. It is an unfair world, after all!