Mumabi: The Indian advertising fraternity remembers Mahinder K Khanna or Mike Khanna as he was lovingly known as a thorough gentleman with a clipped accent and a quiet yet demanding leader. The erstwhile CEO of Hindustan Thomson Associates (now J Walter Thompson) passed away on Saturday at the age of 76.
Khanna retired from JWT in 2004 after spending over 38 years with the agency including two decades at the helm when he also oversaw the transition of HTA into JWT. Following his retirement, he assumed the role of chairman emeritus.
Khanna replaced the legendary Subhas Ghosal as HTA CEO in 1984 and his competitors included Anil ‘Billy’ Kapoor of Ulka, Arun Nanda of Rediffusion, Alyque Padamsee of Lowe and Ranjan Kapur of Ogilvy & Mather, who all were Khanna’s closest confidantes too.
Ranjan Kapur, who is now country manager at WPP, said: “A little known fact of our relationship is that I was once Mike’s client at HMM (Hindustan Milkfood Manufacturers, which is now GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare), where I spent some 20 months as Horlicks brand manager. Mike was the account supervisor and Ram Sehgal his account executive.”
Mike Khanna witnessed the disintegration of HTA and tackled issues like 15% commission. “He was at the helm of affairs when GroupM was formed and then JWT got sold followed by O&M,” said a senior advertising professional who saw Khanna from very close quarters. Colvyn Harris, who replaced Khanna as JWT head, said: “He was the constant factor across my professional journey. In terms of professional respect he was an ideal mentor. I recall the manner in which he informed me that I would succeed him. We had spoken at least eight months before the announcement. The milestones and memories are many.”