V.A. Shrikumar is a name to reckon with in the advertisement industry
In the world of advertisements, V.A. Shrikumar is the man with the golden touch. He works in the glittering world of celebrities, brandishing brands that are households names today. As managing director and CEO of Push Integrated Communications, a creative agency, he has “pushed the boundaries” in advertising. His name is associated with the who’s who of Indian cinema, having created advertisements with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Sushmita Sen, Mammootty, Mohanlal, Akshay Kumar, Nagarjuna, Prabhu, Dileep, Shivarajkumar and many others.
Yet, there was a day in 1994 when Shrikumar felt it was the end of the road for him. The newly-married entrepreneur was in debt and everything seemed dark and gloomy. Instead of fleeing from his problems, he chose to fight the odds and how! Shrikumar was in the capital city with plans to open a new branch of Push and that is when he recalled his struggle to regain his Midas touch.
Born into a well-off family at Puthur in Palakkad district, Shrikumar would have been a Chartered Accountant if his friend had not come up with the idea of an ad agency. Colours of the World was born in 1993. “I badly needed a financial back-up so that I could marry Sharmila (his junior in college). That is why I started the firm.”
But within 11 months, his life turned upside down. A big client came his way and though his campaign for the firm clicked, the good times didn’t last. The client got into trouble with the law and Shrikumar was left with debts running into crores. “I had to sell my property. It took me nearly 13 years to get out of the muddle! In the meantime, I worked from home and took classes for CA students. It was a question of survival!” he says. Once he decided to start afresh and open a new office, his friends went out of their way to support him.
His meeting with Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director, Kalyan Jewellers, to sponsor a programme at the Devi temple in Puthur, was a turning point. “We’ve been thick friends since then. His father T.S. Kalyanaraman, also the chairman and managing director of the brand, volunteered to become my partner when I launched Nethra Advertising (which now releases ads for the print media),” he says.
They landed a coup of sorts by launching Mammootty as the Kalyan brand ambassador for the campaign about the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) mark. “It wasn’t easy to take the message across but within a few years the BIS mark was the focus of several other brands,” he recalls proudly. When the brand began making its mark outside Kerala, Shrikumar shot ads with Prabhu in Tamil, Nagarjuna in Andhra Pradesh and Shivarajkumar in Karnataka. The ads about price tag (featuring the late Cochin Haneefa) and the ‘Trust’ campaign (Vishwasam athalle ellam) series, which was chosen the TV Campaign of the Year at the Retail Jeweller India Awards 2012, got him noticed. Messages against malpractice in purchase of gold were addressed across all markets in the South through regional ambassadors. The one in Malayalam featured Dileep. When it came to focussing on products, the brand chose none other than Sushmita Sen and, recently, Aishwarya.
He is happy that now “regional ads have got a national reach. For example, the ad we shot for Manappuram Finance was made in 12 languages with eight brand ambassadors – Mohanlal, Akshay Kumar, Vikram, Venkatesh, Puneeth Rajkumar, Utham Mohanty, Mithun Chakraborthy and Sachin Khadekar. Of the lot, four were shot by Priyadarsan and the rest by me.”
He has worked with Priyadarsan for the promotional video of the Kerala IPL team, Kerala Tuskers, as well.
While he goes all out to make his Palakkad-based company into a global one, Shrikumar continues to stay in Palakkad with wife, Sharmila, and daughter Lakshmi. His dream is to direct a movie. “It will be in Hindi. I can’t reveal anything about the cast,” he says. Any guesses?
His clients include Wrangler Jeans, Shobha, Nilgiris, Kalanikethan, A 1, Kaleeswari Refineries, AVT, Annapoorna, Amrita institutions, Kalyan Developers, Cellcom, Eazi Pens and Trinity Eye Care among others. Push also runs Dotted Lines, a celebrity management company.
With the Bachchans
The highpoint of his career has been directing Amitabh Bachchan for Kalyan. “It was the first time that four South Indian actors – Nagarjuna, Shivarajkumar, Prabhu and Dileep – came together for one television commercial shot in four languages, with Mr.Bachchan as the common factor in all the four,” says a beaming Shrikumar. “It is an honour to have directed both Big B and Aishwarya. Big B even commented that it was one of the best ads he has shot. With Aishwarya, what made it exciting was the fact that she was facing the camera for the first time after her delivery,” he says.