The man behind government campaigns like Incredible India and Make in India, V Sunil, has co-founded an idea incubation company Motherland Joint Ventures along with ad man Mohit Jayal Dhar and Rahul Bhatia of Indigo Airlines. Pallavi Rebbapragada speaks to him about the initiative.
Ad men are about imagination and execution. How will you do that at Motherland?
Motherland is going to be just an idea company, an eco-system of creative and business minds. Whatever idea is born out of the main company will then be set up by us, whether it’s a product or a service, we are just a platform. Once we’ve figured out that an idea has potential, our team will partner with the team that proposed it and launch it into a business.
That’s a bit open-ended. Can you deconstruct the process?
The name ‘Motherland Joint Ventures’ is a giveaway. One of the things we’ve realised after working for a decade in this new style in Wieden+Kennedy is that it’s imperative to create a platform, a solid sounding board. A couple of enthusiastic, creative and clever people can turn an industry around. For instance, Make In India was a large platform that benefitted everyone. It was our duty to build something that could drive that experience and cultivate national pride. Every object, and each segment of a large project must represent that sentiment. So, for the projects Motherland will undertake, it will collaborate with select few partners who can match its thinking and style of working. Motherland will work on three things: develop a product line, conceptualise services and experiences and take up urban regeneration projects.
What else have you drawn from a campaign as global and vast as Make in India?
One thing we realised is that the government hires a creative agency or branding experts to market its campaigns, but not everybody who passes out of art or design schools feels the need to create. There’s a conscious lack of interest, a kind of lazy and aloof mindset that’s set in because people feel ‘nobody cares’. India is a tea drinking nation but coffee shops came in and changed that. Build a Taj Mahal and people will come to see it. Make in India reinstated the virtue of possibility. Branding experts are taste makers. When there’s no shortage of funds or infrastructure, then why shouldn’t we give our best shot and build something that strengthens India’s image abroad and involves the countryment in a new kind of national movement led by design.
What are India’s aesthetic failures and what can be done to change them?
In India, we can live in a city and mess it up and turn a blind eye towards our decaying neighbourhoods. There’s no point restoring one palace or a fort or a river somewhere, entire cities need to be replanned. Take the case of Hauz Khas Village, which is the hotbed of cafes and restaurants, (that were hurriedly opened up because rent is cheap) crammed in a tiny place with traffic chaos outside and poor drainage. In New York, when the creative industry moved to the Meatpacking District, the area became smart. Why does the opposite have to happen here?
How will Motherland approach urban development differently?
Rajasthan is a gold mine. Of course it’s highly touristy. Mick Jagger, Jackie Chan and a whole host of international icons pass through it silently. Merely developing select experiences isn’t enough. Along with Kanwar Dhananajaya Singh (historian, author and restoration expert) we are bringing to life a dying step well in Jodhpur and are building cafes, shops and hotels around it. Even the roads leading up to it will get a new lease of life. The country’s biggest brands will be showcased here, including high-end Ayurveda brand Forest Essentials and menswear designer Rajesh Pratap Singh. From improving the waste and water management to building a new culture from ground up and under heavy creative direction, Motherland has big plans for the place. The project, named JDH after its aviation code, has elements that will be new, but will look old, right from the logo to the restored structures around. Make sentiments in India.