Thought Leaders can change the entire dynamics of the industry: Ambi Parameswaran

Thought Leaders are looked up to for their expertise, to guide businesses to successfully take on challenges and tackle them, charter a sustainable growth path, and to think innovatively. They also mentor aspiring business leaders by being a trustworthy and authoritative voice. Never before has there been a dire need for thought leaders than the COVID-19 times, as businesses navigate through uncharted waters and need all the expertise to keep their operations in the black, in a time for there are no set guidelines to fall back on. 

Coming as a timely beacon in these challenging times is Adgully’s latest endeavour – THOUGHT LEADERSHIP SERIES – which is designed to engage with some of the best leaders from the industry in the business of Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. 

Held on Saturday, June 12, 2021, the inaugural edition of the Thought Leadership Series saw Ambi Parameswaran, Brand Strategist,, and author of several marketing books, in a scintillating conversation with host R. Sridhar, Innovation & Leadership Coach, Partner IDEAS RS. The warm camaraderie between the two industry leaders was evident throughout the conversation as the back and forth banter between the two kept the audience engaged. 

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On being asked “who is actually a thought leader?” Ambi Parameswaran reflected, “When does someone become a Thought Leader? Is there some Lakshman Rekha that one needs to cross to be called a Thought Leader? According to me, a Thought Leader is someone who can think of a new direction, someone who can think of a new path which other people follow. It could be a scientist, a management scholar, a technologist – Thought Leaders can come in all shapes, but the whole idea is to think of a new route which one takes which is not taken by anyone else. Growing on that path, succeeding and when other people start following you, is when a person or a brand or a business becomes a Thought Leader.” 

“So, can we call Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as Thought Leaders?” asked Sridhar, to which Ambi replied, “Both of them set a new path and they created new directions for the world to grow. Bill Gates is in the news for all the wrong reasons now, but no one can deny the fact that he pioneered the idea of an operating system which covered all the home computers in the world, DOS (Disc Operating System) and the other people followed him. Steve Jobs, in his own way, changed the entire desktop publishing industry, which was created by him and followed by others. After which he created the Animation industry, and the other leaders followed his animation business and later he came back to Apple and created the iPod, where he gave a new direction to the music industry – some say that he destroyed the music industry, but there are others who say that he saved it. He was the person who developed the idea of a smartphone.” 

According to Ambi, all these people are real thought leaders. Coming to India, Ambi mentioned about Mahatma Gandhi, who, too, was a Thought Leader who created the whole idea of universal brotherhood and non-violence. Globally, Nelson Mandela followed Gandhi’s path as he created completely a new way of protesting in a non-violent way. “Till that time, the only protest that we knew was the one involving sticks and bricks, fighting with each other on the streets, which often resulted in a huge amount of bloodshed across the world,” remarked Ambi. 

“In the commercial world, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are the Thought Leaders, but if you look into the bigger world of socio-political, Gandhi and Nehru were the Thought Leaders in their own ways and so was Dr APJ Abdul Kalam,” he added. 

Talking about how Thought Leadership can impact brands, Ambi observed, “Successful brands innovate and, therefore, we get a new path. The whole idea of launching Quartz Analog Watch by Titan was a very revolutionary move. During 1984-85, the whole country was used to buying HMT watches or Times Star which were manual. At that time sitting uninvolved in the business, I used to admire all the ads that you (R. Sridhar) created for Titan, but I used to wonder if Indians would be able to buy a watch where they have to change the battery every year. Will this succeed? But Titan managed to create a new path for the digital Quartz Analog Watches, which then created a revolution in terms of how Indians see watches. This is one of the examples of Thought Leadership to create something that can change the entire dynamics of the industry.” 

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Speaking about Amul, Ambi remarked that though established by a farmers co-operative, Amul changed the way milk is marketed in the country – whether it is liquid milk, butter, ghee. “During the lockdown, Amul has come out with so many innovative products. They also did an advertising campaign, called ‘Doodh Doodh Doodh’, which tried to make milk consumption cool, at a time when Coke and Pepsi were coming to India and young kids were getting fascinated by carbonated drinks. Dr Kurien said we need to make something for children so that they drink milk in a cool way, which led to this campaign,”Ambi reminisced. 

For this and more interesting insights, catch the full conversation here:

(Edited and additional inputs by Shanta Saikia)


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