Prital Patel is the Chief Executive Officer of Creative VMLY&R, an advertising agency specializing in branding, printing, design, web and social media, brand identity and publishing services.
Briefly, describe your family background
I am a third-generation Kenyan Indian. My grandfather came to Kenya in the 1940s in search of better opportunities. I am the middle child in a family of three. I am single and no children either.
What are some of the influences that shaped your childhood?
Living in an extended family, I saw both my parents working hard, one as an entrepreneur and the other as a home-maker.
The importance of working hard and perseverance is something that really shaped my childhood.
Tell us what Creative VMLY&R is all about
We are an integrated communications agency that started in 1995 as a design studio.
Up until early this year, we were known as Creative Young & Rubicam (Y&R), a global merger of Y&R, a legacy brand-building agency and VML, a digital experience agency has now led to our new identity and offering to form Creative VMLY&R, a brand experience agency.
We harness creativity, technology and culture to create connected brands that impact the world.
The company started as Creative Edge Ltd nearly 24 years ago when I bought into it in 1997; we only had a single computer in 1997 with a staff count of two (including me) and are now a team of over 80 staff offering integrated communications to our clients.
How does this set you apart?
We believe that our creativity paired with effectiveness is the key to growth for our clients’ brands.
Brands today need more than an advertising agency, and we are gearing up to be a strategic partner for our clients and work with them on addressing and solving their business and brand challenges.
As CEO, briefly describe a typical day for you at work
Everyday is a different experience. I typically keep an hour for myself for some strategic thinking and important projects that I am working on, and thereafter it includes reviewing whether our client work, brainstorms and client meetings go well.
Why did you choose this particular field?
It took a while to figure this out, but to be honest, I think it found me.
I studied business management and my first job was in the family business and in finance.
But after two years I knew this wasn’t for me. I thought I would pursue an MBA and in the meantime.
There was an opportunity to invest in a design house called Creative Edge. And with a loan from my father, who believed in my ambition, here I am today.
Who are the three people you look up to?
I believe there is something to learn from everyone. If I had to narrow it down to three — one is my father.
Being an entrepreneur has had its challenges and he has taught me to be focused and that perseverance is key and that it is not always as simple as it seems.
Yossi Schwartz, former chairman of Y&R Africa, has given me a lot of encouragement and believed in me in this crazy world of advertising.
And last but not least, Avdhoot Shivanand introduced me to meditation and mindfulness, which have really shaped my mindset, and it came at a pivotal time in my life.
What are your other passions away from work?
I love being in the outdoors and earlier this year I started hiking.
I loved seeing different parts of Kenya that I had never been to. And the challenges you face whilst hiking have been great life lessons.
The beauty and the challenge in combination are what epitomise my work-life experience.
I also enjoy fitness activities such as kickboxing, training and yoga – which are part of my weekly activities. And I just love travelling …. seeing new places and new experiences.
How do you achieve the so-called work-life balance?
It was challenging earlier; however, I have had to design it for myself, whether it is a training, kickboxing, yoga, meditation or simply just some time off for myself.
So I’m pretty much done with my ‘me’ time before I get in to work. I have learnt to prioritise what is important for me and focus and give that time.
Weekends are more about spending time with my family and relaxing and occasionally hanging out with friends.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started The Digital Transformation Playbook by David Rogers.
What is the one thing you can’t leave the house without?
My phone for sure, but these days perhaps my trekking shoes and an energy bar.
Hard to pick one as I am a foodie … Vietnamese or Thai food would top it though.
What’s your favourite pastime?
Reading and spending time with my nephews.
What’s your dream holiday destination?
My mindset makes me believe I am yet to discover my dream destination… but I would like to go to Patagonia in Argentina or Bhutan next.
Where do you want to be as a person in 10 years’ time?
I would love to be able to take a step back and see what I have left as a legacy…
If you were to write a letter to a young girl, what would you tell her from what life has taught you?
Do not expect others to believe in you if you can’t believe in yourself. Embrace the challenges of life as they will grow you and help you to dream big. If anyone can do it, you sure can. And don’t forget to smile, have fun and smell the roses!
What’s your dream for the company?
The purpose of Creative VMLY&R is to shape the greater purpose of brands, and I believe that by doing that we will achieve our dream of being the leading creatively effective agency in East Africa.
Have you been recognised for any of your work?
Yes, we have. We were the first agency in East Africa to bring home a Cannes Lion in 2015 and subsequently our second Cannes Lion in 2017.
We also have brought home Loeries, Epica and Cristal Africa. There is unprecedented pride when your work is recognised globally, not only is it really competitive but you also feel immense pride that you are showcasing the creativity in Kenya.
On the home front, we are also proud of the APA awards we have got. And at a personal level, I was in the 40 Under 40 Women list eight years ago.
What gives you the most satisfaction as a CEO?
Nothing beats seeing our creative work pushing boundaries out there.