Offbeat: Roopak Saluja – Thriving on geographical mobility

Adgully’s special feature section – ‘Offbeat’ – seeks to give a glimpse of the lesser known facets of our very well-known industry leaders. We present, in the industry leaders’ own words, an interesting read on areas that are not usually highlighted in regular media coverage – be it about their childhood days, secret skills that they possess, how they unwind from their hectic schedules, and much more. 

Roopak Saluja, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, The 120 Media Collective, is a serial entrepreneur, setting up quite a few companies since 2006. 

He started his career in advertising at Young & Rubicam in account management. He trained there on the Kraft Foods and Danone accounts. In his next assignment at Ogilvy & Mather Paris, Saluja ran the Motorola account for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and managed the development of the Hello Moto campaign. 

Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug in 2006, Saluja launched his production company, Bang Bang Films, which was named India’s second fastest growing company across all sectors (source: AllWorld Live) in 2010. The commercials production vertical evolved to become Sniper in April 2015. 

In 2009, he launched Jack in the Box Worldwide, which has grown to be one of South Asia’s most reputed and heavily awarded digital agencies. The agency handles digital and content marketing mandates for some of the country’s and the region’s largest and most prominent advertisers such as Unilever, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Amazon, Novartis, Aditya Birla Group and the Taj Group, among others. 

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In 2015, he founded Sooperfly, a company that creates branded content and provides content & publishing solutions for brands and advertisers. Sooperfly is home to properties such as The Tara Sharma Show, Investonomix and Johnson & Johnson’s Best For Baby, among others. 

What precious childhood trait do you still possess?
All my life I have had a fascination for trivia – figures and facts. By the age of four, I knew all the flags and capitals of the world and my father used to call me ‘compendium of useless information’. I don’t know if that’s a precious trait, but it’s definitely a trait. 

Any super-hero fetish?
I used to have a Superman fetish because I really wanted the ability to move in a super-fast speed so that I could do stuff and nobody knew what I was doing because I was too fast for the human eye to perceive. 

What is your biggest fear and how do you face it?
Cockroaches! How do I face them? I kill the dirty bastards. You put me in a room with a wild animal I’m fine, but don’t leave me with a cockroach. The moment I see one, my gut reaction is to kill it because I don’t want to deal with it. 

A secret that you have that no one knows about? I’m going to tell you! I don’t know about secrets, but I will confess I was looking at what the others have said on the Adgully site, and then I thought do people really reveal their secrets? Some people were talking about their special skills and things like that. I don’t know if it’s a secret that nobody knows about, but I don’t think a lot of people know that I can speak nine languages – English, Hindi, Punjabi, Nepalese, Spanish, French, Hungarian, some Greek, some Italian and some Portuguese. 

What would one find in your playlist?
Psy-Trance (Psychedelic Trance), Progressive Deep House, Azealia Banks and Wu-Tang. I used to be a Psychedelic Trance DJ, so that would be my favourite, and East Coast Hip Hop. 

What is your go to activity to relax?
I listen to books on Audible or podcasts while working out and wrestling with my two boys, who are 9 and 7. 

What is the greatest lesson you have learnt from life so far?
There are two – Never count your chickens before they hatch, and different people think differently. 

A social cause that you are most passionate about?
Currently, I’m focusing my mental and corporate energies or business energies on drastic reduction of single-use plastic. I don’t think we can eradicate it completely. It is a very hot topic right now and not just me, but I’ve got a taskforce in the company thinking about how we can reduce it as an industry. So, we’ll see more on that soon. 

What’s the one thing you would like to change about yourself?
I wish I could survive on 2-3 hours of sleep at night even though I love sleep; I need at least 6 hours of sleep to be sane the next day. 

Apart from your current designation what would you have been?
A chef or a film director. I actually intend to be both at some point in life. I’m definitely directing a film, no matter what happens. Now, whether I can be a professional chef, I don’t know. My wife can’t cook at all up to the point where my kids console her by telling her that her toast and butter is delicious. 

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What are the 3 apps on your mobile phone that you cannot live without?
That’s quite easy. WhatsApp is number one. I run my company and pretty much the rest of my life on WhatsApp. Since I’ve started using it at work, I’ve cut down mail by 90 per cent. Number two is an app called Things. It’s got my to-do list for the day, week, month, year. The third is Pocket, where I save all the content I come across so that I can I consume it at will. 

What is the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
The FIFA World Cup 2018 match between Russia and Egypt. I have a very special relationship with the World Cup. This is my 11th World Cup. I also play football. After 20 years, I started playing again last year. We have a proper team and we play league matches. It’s actually me and a bunch of other dads from my kids’ school. We play league matches against dads from other schools around Mumbai. 

Which two organisations outside your own do you know the most people and why?
Conde Nast is one. Lots of friends there I think I know 50 per cent of that company. Number two would be Times Content, because half that company used to work with us at The 120 Media Collective. 

Two things about this industry that you don’t like or don’t understand?
There are two things. One is short-termism. I think that short-term thinking is more and more incentivised at large advertisers because there is a rotation of roles every 2 years or so. The brand manager or the person in charge of the role is incentivised to deliver results in those two years so that will reflect well on them even if it is to the long term detriment of the brand. I come across this time and time again, so that kind of pisses me off. 

The second is that as a whole we are very last minute as a nation. I think it is a cultural thing as Indians, we just don’t plan well enough and so don’t end up giving ideas enough time to be developed and crafted. Now, I mean India is already kicking ass at the Cannes Lions 2018. We are competing against countries at the world stage that have 3-4 times the amount of money, sorry forget the money, 3-4 times the amount of time that we get. We don’t give enough time for ideas to get crafted and to let them breathe. 

If you could be anywhere in the world where would you live?
I have already lived in 13 cities in 10 countries on 6 continents. If I could choose today, I would choose 3 cities simultaneously. Geographical mobility is super important to me. Those 3 cities would be LA, Cape Town, and Mumbai would still be one of them.

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