We’re having coffee at the ITC Hotel in the south Mumbai neighbourhood of Parel, waiting for our meeting with Agnello – known to everyone as Aggie – Dias.
“So tell us a bit about Aggie,” says Maarten to our curator. “I read that he’s one of India’s advertising icons with numerous Indian and global creative awards and nominations to his name.”
“That’s right,” she says. “The list of awards is endless, he’s extremely creative. In 2007, he even won India’s very first Grand Prix and Titanium/Integrated Lion at Cannes, which catapulted JWT India to the No.1 spot in the WPP network.”
“Impressive,” I say. “So what is he working on now?”
“Well after he left JWT India, he co-founded an independent agency, TapRoot India, which he recently sold. Now he’s working on a number of interesting ideas, but I’m sure he can tell you more himself,” she says as she waves across the lobby where Aggie has just come in.
“Nice to meet you,” says Aggie as he sits down. As we tell him about our trip and our project, Aggie nods quietly.
“So tell us about your background,” I say. “How did you get into advertising?”
“To be honest,” says Aggie, “I only made it in the second half of my life. Before that I was just surviving. But I won’t bore you with that story.”
“So when did your chances turn around for the better?” I ask expectantly.
“Well, I got my first job as an advertising copy writer in 1989. By 1990 I had found a better job and then the best thing ever happened…my future wife tipped me for another job where I got more responsibilities and also earned a better salary. That was a big step for me. From then on things got better, I got the chance to show what I am really about, which is creating relevant content and campaigns.”
“We read that you recently sold your agency,” says Maarten. “What’s next then?”
Aggie takes a moment to consider and then says: “I’m not entirely sure yet, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the speed of change.”
“Ok,” says Maarten.
“Things are changing too fast and more often than not, it is change for the sake of change. We don’t stop to think whether it is really necessary. I am for progress, but I’m not sure that we constantly need innovation.”
“Can you give an example?”
“Well innovation often brings its own problems along with it. When we all rushed to get computers, there was a massive outbreak of Repetitive Strain Injury, for which we had to develop a dedicated healthcare sector…”
“And what is the solution?”
“I’m not sure it’s the solution, but I think it is a shift that we need to make: what I want to work on in the coming years is the tempering of innovation and the stimulation of progress.”
“Well, be sure to keep us posted!” I say. “I’m curious to see how you’re going to do this, it seems like a huge challenge but also a very much needed alternative perspective.”
“I agree, but that’s what interests me, it should not be easy,” says Aggie with a secretive smile. “And I’ll be interested to read about your experiences in India and beyond. Keep in touch!”
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