Prahlad Kakkar an ad guru, food connoisseur and restaurateur, cigar connoisseur, scuba diver, entrepreneur, globe trotter or a celebrity who has become a ‘page three’ phenomenon?
Born on the 24th of March 1950, Prahlad Kakkar, a ‘Man of many hats’, to begin with, is one of the finest ad film director in India, and the founder of Genesis Film Production, one of India’s leading production houses.
Some of his famous works include corporate ads for brands including Pepsi, Kit Kat, Nestle, Maggi Sauces, Whirlpool and much more.
Prahlad also happens to be a cigar connoisseur and manufactures a cigar brand called ‘Shergar’ in the Philippines, with the aim to match the standards of his personal favourite Cuban cigar brand ‘Monte Cristo’.
Prahlad has a reputation for being irreverent and direct with clients and crew in the advertising world, and is famously known as the Enfant Terrible (a French expression referring to a child who is disturbingly blunt by saying embarrassing things) who never grew up.
A peep into the personal and early life of Prahlad…!
Born in Mumbai, Prahlad was the son of army colonel father from Pakistan (and moved to India after partition) and half Burmese and half Marathi mother. He was nine years old when his father had passed away.
Presently, he is married to Mitali Dutt Kakkar, the owner of the film companies Offspring and Offshoot, and together they have three sons Arnav, Varun and Anhjin. Prahlad Kakkar along with his son Arnav, are Dyslexic.
Some of his interests include Scuba Diving (he is also a CMAS 2 Star Scuba Diving Instructor), Gourmet cooking, Reading, Swimming, Snorkeling, Squash and Horse Riding.
The one thing Prahlad hates the most is a “boring script”. Although, if he happens to come across one that can make him smile, then he transforms it into a memorable film. Prahlad believes that it is the human element in an ad film that makes all the difference, and being able to pick up mannerisms and emotions are the key to a successful film. Simply put – his idea is to be able to relate to human emotions!
Talking about his education – He began with a playschool near Lodhi Gardens named after the owner’s daughter, Kumkum in Delhi. He was rusticated from school for a false allegation of indecent behaviour, and was sent off to his grandparents’ house in Dehradun, and was sent to a boarding school called — St Thomas High School.
Later, he shifted to Sainik School in Karnal (Haryana) and completed his schooling from there in 1966. Prahlad then completed his graduation in Economics from the Fergusson College in Pune in 1970, where he was able to get the admission because his grandmother was the first woman doctor in Maharashtra.
TRIVIA: Prahlad had changed his name in college to ‘Robin’ to avoid the attention, due to his grandmother.
In 1971, he took up his first job at the Advertising firm ASP (Delhi) as an Accounts Executive, after rejecting Citibank’s offer. But for some reason, he always points out that he was actually a glorified peon there.
In 1972, he left that job, shifted to Bombay and after much persuasion, he joined Shyam Benegal as an Assistant Director, on a monthly salary of ₹300. After assisting Shyam Benegal along with Mandeep Kakkar and Ravi Uppor, for six years in making ad films, in 1977, he moved on to start his own venture.
How has his life transformed since then? What’s his story?
It all began with Genesis…
In 1977, he started his own Advertising firm called Genesis, and thus began a glorious journey to success! With the launch of Genesis Film Production, he also virtually gave birth to television advertising in India as well.
One of the most important reasons to begin with his venture for remaining passionate about ad filmmaking was that telling a story in 30 seconds in the most engaging way possible, is the best way to reach out to the masses and market yourselves.
And since making films that capture the dreams and aspirations of a vast target audience, remains one of his fortes, Prahlad has managed to go from nobody to become the ruler of the ad film making industry and has also managed to win a long list of awards for technical excellence, Innovation and Creativity in advertising over the years.
Some of their service offerings included: – Ad Films, Corporate Films and Documentaries; Brand Consultancy and Strategy; Public Relations and Media, Celebrity and Talent Management; Workshops for Corporate and Management Universities; Specialized Camera Equipment; Line Production and Print Shoots.
Over the period of time, Genesis has managed to bag some of the most prestigious brands as their clients, including: corporations like Nestle (India and Pakistan), PepsiCo (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Vietnam and New York), Levers (India), Britannia Industries Limited, United Breweries, Proctor and Gamble (Vietnam), Sony Entertainment Television, MasterCard, Visa international, etc…to name a few.
He has helped create memorable campaigns for brands like Pepsi with their famous advert “Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby! Aha!”, Gold spot with “The Zing Thing”, Maggie with “2 minutes!”, Britannia with “Ting Ting Ti Ting”, Limca with “Zor ka Jhatka”, Maggi Sauces with “It’s different”, and so many more famous ones.
Additionally, Genesis Film Productions has gained wide recognition and popularity for their short film “Bali” made in affiliation with the channel Star One, along with their popular Kamasutra ads, as well.
Today, Prahlad’s Genesis Film Production, has grown on to become one of India’s oldest and foremost Ad film production houses, and under the shelter of Prahlad, it has also been ruling the advertising world with their brand of mocking humour, unforgettable and catchy brand building campaigns and Award winning commercials for the most reputed Corporates and agencies in India and the Asia Pacific region.
And say what you want, but the “Ad guru” that he is; by bringing in and applying the appropriate “regional Indian-ness” and values into an urban context through his films, creative workshops, articles and interviews, Prahlad has become one of the key factors in bringing about the much needed change to the face of advertising in our country too.
After the Genesis of Genesis, Prahlad had ventured into the Hospitality industry!
He started a Gourmet Restaurant at Prithvi Theatre with Jennifer Kendal Kapoor as well. Jennifer was the wife of the great Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor, who also owns the Prithvi Theatre!
The placed used to act as a meeting point for all the couples. In fact, they had even got 20 couples married and even threw them a dinner too. The restaurant was shut down when Jennifer died.
Other than that; he had also been involved in restaurant design, and had turned around an ailing eatery by adding a touch of sophistication, to a new, improved and successful venture started by him called – Tea House. It was the first of its kind restaurant in the country designed by him at Churchgate, in association with the Tea Board of India. But eventually, the government took it back from him.
In 2001, Prahlad started Casa Amore, a charming little exclusive wine bar and restaurant in Mumbai along with partner Kalpana Kutty. Additionally, in just about a year, he also started ‘Sarson Da Saaga‘ – Bombay’s first slow food, Punjabi- home style cooking Dhaba at IMAX in March 2002.
Prahlad has also created Papa Pancho for designer Mamta Sekhri, a sequel to the naughty Papa Pancho t-shirts that they sold at their boutique. Mamta also owns popular boutique store – Wild n Whacky and Chaat Cafe, which is specialised in Dilli chaat and Indian fast food.
Other than that – Genesis has given birth to Offspring and Offshoot!
It was first started as ‘Offshoot’ in 1986 by Mitali Kakkar. It was a line production company that handled ad films, documentaries, corporate films and the works.
From managing fresh interns, techies, and thinkers with unmatched panache and efficiency, to budgeting, scheduling, crew, equipment and suppliers, to pre and post production, she had mastered every element to set an unparalleled system of work, for the company.
Due to which, in just about 3 years after the birth of her eldest son Arnav in 1992, she managed to set up ‘Offspring’ as well. It was a film production company that did international productions across Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, and Thailand.
Over the period of time, the company has produced successful campaigns for Pepsi, Nestle, Cadbury Schweppes and Britannia, etc., that have been successful nationally and internationally.
As a matter of fact, Offspring takes care of all of Prahlad’s Vietnam work, where he directs films for Levers and P&G.
And even though Prahlad is a Principal Director for her production houses, it is Mitali who has brought the company to where it is and has also earned herself a position amongst one of the top producers in the country.
After earning successes with their respective companies – the husband-wife duo then decided to venture out into SCUBA diving!
Setup in 1995 and founded by Prahlad and Mitali – “Lacadives” is India’s premier SCUBA diving operator that has been initiated with the active collaboration of the administration of Lakshadweep. They offer their services in the Lakshadweep Islands, the Andaman Islands and in the cities of Mumbai and Bangalore as well.
It is the only CMAS certified Dive Centre in India and is also the only establishment to have Six CMAS Instructors working with it on a full-time basis.
In addition to this, Lacadives is also a part of the Underwater Federation of India and has established the Indian Scuba Diving Association that ensures the adherence of safety norms in this industry as well.
Over the period of time, Lacadives has not only successfully certified more than 450 Indian Divers, has trained over 5000 beginners but has also hosted countless certified divers from all over the globe as well.
TRIVIA: In 1994, Prahlad along with his wife Mitali had also cofounded “Reef Watch Marine Conservation” that aimed at creating marine life awareness. Prahlad is also the Chief Advisor & Trustee of Natura Outdoor Education Trust.
More recently, after all, these successful ventures, Prahlad decided to pass on the wisdom with a school…!
Now after running Genesis successfully for around 3 decades; Prahlad realised that ‘fear’ was an element that was destroying Entrepreneurship and was brainwashing all the confidence and courage from people.
Fear prevents the young and old from taking decisions and responsibility. And failure goes in sync with fear!
And one common difference that he noticed amongst the successful people was that, they all managed to become successful, only when they overcame their individual fears.
That is when he thought of starting a school that trained you to become entrepreneurs using the most unique and effective techniques.
Having said that, in March 2016 – with the main tagline – “Beyond Fear“, “The Prahlad Kakar School of Branding and Entrepreneurship” (PKSBE) was formed!
It was started in association with Whistling Woods International (a media and communications institute of filmmaker Subhash Ghai), who shared their infrastructure with PKSBE.
“The idea was to bring out exemplary professionals!” They offered two programmes to begin with…
The first one is a one-year course on ad filmmaking and branding. Beyond the basic curriculum, the course also ensures that the students work on three advertising films before they finish their course, which helps them to build a portfolio that could be used to find a job.
And the second course is a two-year fellowship in Business and Entrepreneurship that ends with the institute introducing the students to a panel of Venture Capitalists (VCs) to whom they can pitch their Business Ideas.
Since the institute is not recognized by any university or government body, they only offer certificate courses; however, the students do get access to mentors and industry experts such as Prahlad Kakkar, Subhash Ghai, Piyush Pandey, Capt. Gopinath, Mahesh Murthy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Gary Kirsten, among many others.
What sets this school apart are their unique ways and strategies of teaching the students! At the core of its curriculum is fear, and learning to face and overcome it.
Here participants actually get to form a management company and take over a sick company from banks. They have one year to turn it around, and if they manage to keep it afloat, they will automatically become the most wanted people in any organisation.
To sum it all – the course begins with a boot camp à goes down to survival level à and finally, you come out with new confidence, perception, alliances, friends and new teams, with a lifelong lasting value!
The larger idea is to add value; to be independent and confident, highly motivated and flexible on the ground, understand the difference between value and money! The institute trains you to fight for responsibility and to take decisions fearlessly.