By Bharat Avalani
The Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA) at the 30th AdAsia Congress in Bali from Nov 8 to 10, 2017 gave me a Special Award for teaching and spreading the good influence of advertising and marketing across the region. And also for running AFAA’s Fast Track programme, bringing hope and wisdom to young marketing and advertising professionals from 10 countries.
The highlight however was the privilege and honour of interacting with Kofi Annan. Last year I was in Ghana on work and I made it a point to visit Mfantisipim, a methodist boarding school at the Cape coast where Kofi studied. I was keen on seeing the school that made a boy into a Secretary General of UN and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. It was a Saturday morning and I saw boys doing their own laundry, cleaning their dormitories and the surroundings. The mental note that I made to myself was recognizing the dignity of labour early in life, taking responsibility to clean your own mess and that of others ! Never in my wildest dream I had imagined that I would get an opportunity to share my experience with Kofi in person. I presented him a collage of his childhood memories and I was told that he and his wife were touched by the gesture. He later put his hand on my shoulder and told me that we have another thing in common apart from shared memory of his school and that was his dad worked for Unilever Ghana. It was quite a touchy moment for us.
Mr. Annan is a remarkable individual who is very soft spoken but has power in his words.
Responding to a question on Leadership, he remarked that “leadership is about understanding a problem and asking yourself what you can do to help. Leadership is service. A good leader is a good follower.”
And that resonated well with me and am sure it will resonate with you as well.
I asked him. “ Most people trust Business and Business Leaders more than Government and Politicians. Why isn’t then the Business Leaders given the due recognition they deserve globally? Can a Business Leader win a Nobel Prize?”
He answered, “people have lost trust in leaders - both corporate and political. In the US financial crisis of 2008, some banks were ‘too big to fail’ yet people were too small to matter. This is why you see the kind of election results in the US, UK and elsewhere. Business has an advantage - they are closer to the community. The opportunity is for business to put people at the heart of what they do.”
I experienced greatness in the presence of Kofi Annan and interacting with him was one of the best moments of my life. Attached is small deck that I have put together that captured the highlights of my meeting with Kofi and my purpose.
Bharat is a Unilever Veteran who has crisscrossed 69 countries. He comes with 25 years of experience in Brand Management, Consumer Insights, Media Strategy, Brand Activation, Market Development and Integrated Brand Communications. He was the Regional Integrated Brand Communications and Market Development Director for Unilever’s Homecare category across Asia, Africa, Middle East and Turkey. He continues to be associated with Unilever in an external capacity.
He is the CEO of Connecting the Dots Marketing Consultancy and the Global Partner of Anecdote International, recognized as a world’s leader in the use of storytelling in business. He is an expert in designing and delivering brand experiences — and in what better way than to use stories. He conducts Storytelling for Leaders workshop where he helps leaders find their stories and teaches them how to tell it.