December 12, 2009
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By demonstrating sheer grit and determination, Manish Patel who got the job of a Head Peon with a Mumbai-based ad agency is today an award-winning copywriter. When the administrative officer at Ambience Publicis, mentioned that the only vacancy was that of a head peon, Patel took up the offer. In the few seconds it took to make up his mind, his heart secretly cried, reports Rediff.

Patel had applied for the position of accountant, and his answer had shocked the interviewer. But, as his father, a stock market broker, had just lost his job, he had no option. He had applied to several places after Class 12, but Ambience was the only company that reverted.

Three years later, Patel became a copywriter in the creative department located on the fourth floor, and went on to win a Silver Radio Lion for a campaign for BullZi Placement Consultancy. It is an unlikely story of hardship and success but Patel has never shied away from hard work.

As a peon, he gave his all, running errands from the fourth floor to the ground floor. Impressed with his hard work, the admin head promoted him to the position of administrative assistant. Life is full of surprises he says, and one surprise finding has been that money problems are never resolved with money. “Money doesn’t open doors. Hard work and initiative do,” he says.

Patel’s life took a different turn when he was offered the job of a librarian at the agency. His salary then was Rs. 1,845, and he spent most of his time reading advertising books. One day in the library, he chanced upon the press ads of The Economist. That communication could be so simple, he was surprised. This is what he wanted do to; he wanted to write. Before that, he had no idea of what he wanted, as he never had the time to think about his dreams.

At school, as a student, Patel wrote and directed Hindi plays. But, he remembers with shame how he had misused his writing skills to make fun of some classmates, by writing jokes and poems about them to please a group he was desperate to be a part of. Little did he know that one day, he would use the same skills to become an award-winning copywriter.

As a librarian at Ambience, he began interacting with the creative department. “Everyone was accessible and helpful,” Patel says. Seeing the work of the art team, he did a course in web and graphic designing alongside his graduation, which he pursued through correspondence. “It was tough, I was always chasing time,” he adds.

Therefore, every day after 6 pm, when his official duties were over, he stayed back at the office and learnt Photoshop. He observed the works of art directors and dreamed of writing his first copy. Even today, as a Senior Copywriter with ad agency McCann-Erickson, he’s in the office most of the times thinking and writing Hindi ads. He plans to write a book one day and it will be in Hindi. His schoolteacher had once discouraged him from taking up Hindi because he was a Gujarati.

Elsie Nanji, Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Ambience, needed an assistant, and Patel was offered the position. “I couldn’t ask for more,” he says. As he did secretarial work for her, he was exposed to the creative works of the agency. Then, one day, he got to know that Nanji was going to Paris to present creative show from Ambience India to the creative directors of the network from all parts of the world. In Paris, the creative works were to be shortlisted for international advertising contests.

Patel had been waiting for this moment. He made a press ad for Revive, instant starch brand. It showed a man sitting on a stool, but reclining as though he were on a backrest, only that there wasn’t one. The idea being communicated was that the starch made the kurta stiff enough for the man not to take any support.

Nanji smiled at his work. Although, she wasn’t happy with the artwork, she took Patel’s work to Paris. “It was a big deal for me!” When she returned after two weeks, she called him in and said his work was appreciated. The press ad went on to win Silver at Goafest 2006. This gave him the confidence to believe in his dreams.

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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