Gerson da Cunha: A Marketing Guru, A Social Worker, A Veteran Theater – World Affairs SRS

Gerson da Cunha: A Marketing Guru, A Social Worker, A Veteran Theater

– World Affairs SRS

Gerson da Cunha is no more. He belonged to the era when almost all advertising agency leaders came with a strong theater background. It helps. The customers were mesmerized by the way the advertising agencies presented their ideas. And he really stuck to every word he had to say. But to his credit Gerson was one of the early pioneers to realize a new breed of brand [and marketing] Managers were emerging. Hindustan Lever was recruiting MBA and they were recruiting for important positions in Marketing. LINTAS, the agency that Gerson ran, was literally an extension of HLL and LINTAS became one of the earliest agencies to do MBA from top IIMs.

Gerson handed the agency over to Alyque Padamsee and went to Brazil to try his hand at social communication (again something very few advertising professionals did in those days).


After a few years he returned but did not sit idle. He got involved in setting up an NGO, which boldly attempted to bring greater awareness among the citizens of Mumbai about their rights and the need to participate in the election process.

I didn’t get the opportunity to work with Gerson or Lintas. I probably only met him for the first time, in 2009 in his wonderful old-world book-filled apartment overlooking the famous Mumbai University Raja Bhai Tower. Bal Mundkur (founder of Ulka and Gerson’s contemporary in the advertising world) pulled me over to brainstorm with Gerson on his pet project, a book on the history of Indian advertising.

I saw an immediate bond between the two giants. Child decided he would focus on raising funds for the book, while Gerson offered to line up writers who would share their views on the development of Indian advertising. Ed Katha Book was launched in Ed Asia 2011.

While writing my book ‘Nawabs Nudes Noodles – India Through 50 Years of Advertising’ the first person I came across was Gerson da Cunha. I must say that I saw him as the ‘Bhishma Pitamah’ of Indian advertising. He was pleased to hear about my book idea and generously shared the many anecdotes and pioneering advertising campaigns he was a part of. I quote him liberally in my book; Especially the stories about Lever Brothers, the Dalda brand and how it was created.

Gerson da Cunha was also a style icon. He pioneered the ‘kurta-beard’ look in Indian advertising. Many followed in his footsteps, including my first boss at Rediffusion Advertising ‘Wish’ PS Viswanathan, an ex-Lintas man.

No advertising event in Mumbai over the past decade was complete without the gentle presence of Gerson da Cunha. He made it a point to attend these events and always had a few words to share with old friends and fans. I remember him saying that he was amazed at the way the Indian advertising industry has flourished. I think the growth of the industry owes a lot to visionary leaders like Gerson da Cunha. a social worker. A theater veteran. A marketing guru. an excellent speaker. Author. A complete advertising professional. A style icon. And a gentleman to the core.

Rest in peace Gerson.

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