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Bina Nayak and the Starfish Pickle

Bina Nayak is a graphic designer and communications specialist with more than 30 years of experience in the world of advertising and media. She was born and brought up in Mumbai to Goan parents. Growing up in Andheri West, Bina did her schooling at St Louis Convent and then went on to complete a 5 year degree course in Applied Art at Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai.

Finding Her True Calling

As a child, Bina loved to draw, swim, read and write (in exactly that order she confirms!). Drawing came naturally to Bina. She was the school artist, and early success in drawing competitions like winning the Silver at Shankar’s International Children’s Drawing Competition made it clear to her, what her life path should be. At the same time, she was fascinated by the world of films and advertising. As a teenager growing up in the 80’s, she was exposed to the world of MTV, music videos, ads, photography, fashion and media. Also, Bombay was (and still is) the hub of the advertising and media world in India. At that time, it became very clear to her that she wanted to be in advertising. Drawing and painting was a talent she would continue to nurture on the side but she wanted to be a communicator above all.

Professional Career

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Bina started off her career in advertising in 1991 as a trainee visualizer at Speer Communications in Colaba. It was a mid-size ad agency that worked with national and international brands like Monginis, Voltas, Levi’s Jeans, Tata Press, Borosil, ABB, Singer Sewing Machines etc. After this, Bina joined Mudra DDB-Needham where she designed advertisements for companies like Hong Kong Bank, Hutchison Max mobile (now Vodafone), Lupin Pharma, Pfizer, BSA SLR bicycles, Nutrine Biscuits, Reynolds Pens, etc.

Bina then worked at Chaitra Leo Burnett where she oversaw the ad campaigns for the launch of Coca Cola, the relaunch and rebranding of Thums Up and Limca, ad campaigns for Penzoil, Fiat cars etc.
During her stint at Ogilvy and Mather, she worked on ads for brands like Unilever (Lakme, Ponds, Aviance), Globus Fashions, ICICI Bank, Mattel (Barbie, Funskool and Hotwheels), Kotex etc. She bagged a Clio award for a newspaper ad she had done for Lakme.

The advertisement designed by Bina for Lakmé

Goa Calling

After spending so many years working in Mumbai, Bina suddenly felt a desire to return to her home state. So in 2003, Bina packed her bags and moved to Goa where she met a wonderful individual – Keith Fernandes of Slip Disc Advertising. This was the start of a friendship that has held strong from 2003 till date. Currently, Bina is the Consultant Creative Director for Slip Disc Advertising. Her first assignment for Slip Disc was “Battle of the Bands”. This, she thought, was a test to prove her skills. She has been organizing this event for the last 15 years. Bina says she did some crazy advertising for the event with newspaper write ups and innovative advertorials. All the newspapers in Goa were very supportive and put up with all her creative shenanigans! Her biggest joy was to meet the late Nandu Bhende while organising one of the editions of “Battle of the Bands”. Nandu Bhende had jammed with Led Zeppelin in the 70’s when they visited Bombay and played at “The Slip Disc” club in Colaba. Nandu had once left a comment on the SlipDisc Advertising Facebook page saying that he was a big fan of “Battle of the Bands”. They had come full circle!

The late Mr. Manohar Parrikar, former CM of Goa, would also frequent their rock show “Battle of the Bands” to connect with the youth. In Goa, Bina also worked with advertising associates of organizations like Chowgule’s Maruti Suzuki, Goa Tourism and the Goa Government. She also freelanced for Santa Fe Realty, Calizz and Club Paradiso (now defunct). Most of her work in Goa was local – as Goan businesses rarely advertise in national dailies or TV channels, with the exception of Goa Tourism (for which she managed to press ads for national magazines and newspapers) and Santa Fe Realty (DreamWoods project in Navelim, which was advertised on national and airline magazines).

Her last corporate job was at The Walt Disney Company’s Mumbai office in 2010 where she worked as the Head of the Design cell. The only difference was that Bina now worked on the client side and was in charge of the design and creativity for all of Disney India’s business verticals.

From left, Ravhy Bhatt, COO, Slip Disc Advertising, Former Goa CM Parrikar and Keith Fernandes, CEO, Slip Disc Advertising with Bina Nayak at one of the editions of “Battle of the Bands”

Challenges Bina Faced

In the first couple of months at her first job at Speer Communications, her immediate boss – a senior lady art director – went on maternity leave and all her work was assigned to Bina. The work that was given to her were big campaigns that she would normally have had to wait for at least 2-3 years to do. It was a trial by fire but she did quite well and managed to complete the tasks assigned to her properly. As a result of this, she got confirmed as a permanent employee of the company within a span of just 3 months of joining. Before she had completed a year, she had ad films and national press campaigns in her portfolio. But she was working till 2 and 3 am in the morning. “My parents were very worried about the crazy hours and my dad, who was a senior manager at an international bank, felt that I was being grossly overworked and underpaid”, she says. He was appalled at the lack of systems in advertising (back then in the early 90s). “He even told me sarcastically that ‘with this kind of dedication, you would have found a cure for cancer if you were in some other field.’”

But Bina made him understand that this is how creative fields function, because creativity cannot be structured. Also, initially, ad agencies test their new employees in this manner so that only those who are tough and good at their job and who truly enjoy their work last long. Many people give up under pressure from parents and peers. She told him that this was her chosen line of work, and if she was not complaining about the working hours and the hard work, then why was he? “After that, no one at home questioned me about my late hours at work or about my profession!” says Bina.

In 1993, when there were bomb blasts all over Bombay, Bina happened to be at work. Most people panicked and rushed home early. Bina, however, decided to finish her work. There was no point leaving early as all modes of transport would be full. She completed all her work and did the next day’s work as well. After that, she coolly left for home at 1 am by taking a cab from Colaba to Andheri (one of the joys of working late – after 10 pm cab fare was reimbursed. Also, Bombay is so beautiful and empty late at night). A curfew was in place. Advertising personnel often pass off as journalists or reporters. “Maybe we look and dress similarly!”, she says. The cops took one look at her and allowed her to pass at every barricade. She didn’t even have to show her ID! “At every agency I worked at, I have been lucky to have had supportive bosses and colleagues. Also, many of my copywriter partners encouraged me to write just as I encouraged them to learn some design skills”, she says

An advertisement designed by Bina for Globus

Her Most Famous and Memorable Advertisement Campaigns

Bina’s most memorable advertising campaigns which she worked on include Ponds’ press and TV ad campaigns, Globus Fashion’s press and billboard ads, Impulse Deo’s (international deo brand) launch in India , Fiat Uno’s launch in India. Limca re-launch and re-branding in India, and press and TV ad campaigns for Lakme.

Famous Ad-Gurus She Worked With

During the course of her career, Bina worked with many stalwarts from India’s advertising industry including Piyush Pandey and Geeta Rao at Ogilvy, Late Nalesh Patil and Gangadharan Menon (Nalesh & Ganga) at Mudra DDB, KS Chakravarthy (Chax) and KV Sridhar (Pops), Agnelo Dias (Aggie) at Chaitra Leo Burnett, and Ronnie Screwala, Mahesh Samat and Mubina Ansari at The Walt Disney Company.

Venturing into the World of Films and Radio

Apart from graphic designing, Bina used to also write scripts for TV and radio. “Usually an art director’s role is to storyboard a film idea and oversee the film’s shoot. The main idea and script comes from the copywriter. Very few art directors get involved in radio spots” she says.

Early on in her first job, she did ad film campaigns for Tata Press Yellow pages. She also worked on promos for animated feature films produced by Disney like “The Jungle Book” and “El Dorado”, during her stint at Mudra Mumbai. When she was at Chaitra Leo Burnett, Coke would do one or two big ad films every year (brand films). They would also do several promo films every week (depending on brand tie-ups, sports events sponsored by them, summer promos, etc). Bina worked on many promo films for Coke, on the re-launch brand film for Limca and promo films for Penzoil. While working for Ogilvy, Bina did brand films for brands like Lakmé, Ponds, Impulse Deo spray, Kotex and Barbie.

Her Career in Goa’s Radio Industry

Bina moved to Goa when FM radio was just becoming big. She capitalized on her years of experience in radio while working for clients in Goa. “One major difference I found in Goa was that there were no recording studios doing radio spots (in different languages, with voice over artists etc). Yes, there were superb recording studios, but they were catering only to musicians who wished to record CDs”, she says. The FM radio stations would not only record the radio spot for the client/ ad agency – they would also do the script, and get their RJs to record the spot ad.

So, clients were used to briefing the radio channel directly. And for the price of radio time, they were getting radio scripts and recorded spots. “Of course, I doubt if the FM channel gave them that radio spot on a CD, or even did very creative spots”, she says. SlipDisc was probably the first agency in Goa to give creative radio scripts to radio channels, with specific instructions on how to record them, the kind of voices and accents to be used, etc. Bina did many radio spots in Konkani. In the early 2000’s, most of the radio spots on Goa’s radio channels were in English. The national ones, usually govt. schemes, were in Hindi, and they would sometimes give the Marathi version for Goa. “I started writing radio scripts in Konkani for local clients. Sometimes a mix of English and Konkani (Konklish) – how we all speak in Goa. We did a lot of these for our own show, ‘Battle of the Bands’. Soon, our other clients started requesting it” says Bina.

Famous Celebrities She Worked With

During her stint in the world of films and radio, Bina worked with celebrities like Lisa Ray, Rachel Rubens, Nethra Raghuraman, Mugdha Godse, Shonali Rozario. Vinod Kambli, Malaika Arora, Vidya Malwade and VJ Keith Sequeira. She also got an opportunity to work with directors like Atul Kasbekar and Pradeep Sarkar.

Bina, The Writer

Bina’s passion for writing did not come up all of a sudden. Says Bina, “I was always into writing. In whichever agency I’ve worked in, I was known as the art director who also writes. I would write the copy for ads that I designed, scripts for films and radio ads, content for brochures, etc. In my leisure time, I would write short stories. Some would get published while some would stay in my computer’s folders!”, she adds. Bina was inspired to write her book “Starfish Pickle” after Arundhati Roy published “God Of Small Things”. Even before that, Bina was an avid reader of books in English written by Indian as well as international authors. “I knew I would write a book someday. And after Arundhati got published, it suddenly seemed very possible. Here she was, telling a story based in a small South Indian village, and she was not a trained writer – She had studied architecture. I have followed her work since her acting and script writing days” says Bina.

Bina’s book “Starfish Pickle”, which is going to be made into a movie very soon
When asked whether she has any plans to start an academy where she can teach and mentor aspiring students in Goa who are interested in making it big in the field of media and advertising, Bina replied that she doesn’t have such kind of plans as of now. “I don’t think I’ll make a good teacher!”, she says. “Also being an introvert, I get tired of engaging all the time with people. I can manage it for short periods, but otherwise I like to be left alone to do my writing or my art. And while there have been offers to start academies, I have declined. I am first and foremost a creative person. I am still learning myself. I can do one-on-one mentoring, but I don’t have the patience to take on a full class!”, she adds.

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