Neil George has picked some interesting takeaways in his two decades experience of leading brands and business across several markets in regions such as the Asia, Europe and the Middle East & North Africa. The industry veteran, who shifted base from Dubai in May 2017 to take on the mandate of Managing Director of Nivea India, has manifested these in a book that is anything but conventional.
To begin with, Mr George chose dark comic art to tell this story. His book, ‘Building the Perfect Beast’ has advice, insights and real truths of the business, wrapped up in one compelling presentation.
Where It All Began
The seed to author a book was planted when he realized he could help youngsters exploring, or newcomers in, the FMCG industry. “I found myself answering similar questions and giving same advice. It occurred to me that if I put this down, it could help people,” recalls Mr George. He was also clear that he did not want to take the tested route of a management book.
“I am not a literary professional or have any expertise in it. I was in Netherlands when I went to a bookstore, looking around, contemplating what kind of a book I should work on. I knew it had to be visually appealing because I wanted to convey the message without being boring. I wanted readers to actually complete reading the book, and hopefully do so within an hour. That is when the idea of a comic sprung,” Mr George informs.
One may question whether that was wise, as the decision significantly deviates from anything that has clicked in the past. But Mr George is confident. He says, “Everyone has read a comic at some point in their life. Anime is popular. There never has been a corporate angle in a comic. When I say now, that this is a brand management comic, people get it. The younger generation embraces this even more so.”
The experiment seems to have worked out, given that the first print run of the book is already sold out.
Not An Easy Road
Mr George did face his share of challenges along the way. It has taken him seven years to complete the book. Creating a comic itself is not easy. Once a page is thought through, the panels are created, and the images are penciled. This leads to inking and detailing, followed by layering the dialogue clouds. After an unsuccessful dealing with the first artist for the book, he had to begin the process again. “It is a lot of work, and it was all very new to me so I took even more time. After the first failed attempt, I signed on a company in 2013, and we started all over again,” Mr George divulges.
The story has 10 key characters, each signifying the various kinds of individuals one may find in the corporate brand world. The story follows the lives of a multinational cast, set in a typical London office. Taking advantage of the format, the story includes politically incorrect dialogues, often heard in offices. “The storyline includes agencies presenting and when people from the business will read it, they will immediately connect with it,” comments Mr George.
As an author, and as a professional, there are certain impressions that he hopes the book leaves on the reader. The first of these is the ‘work hard, play hard’ environment of the FMCG world. One of the key themes of the book is to bring out the fun and the serious side of the industry.
The second theme, for want of a better description, is the loss of innocence among professionals. As people begin their careers, everything is about the right thing but as they settle in the system and grow, the darker shades of greed and the business itself comes in play. “The story is about how friendly social animals become beasts as they grow in their time in the corporate life,” explains Mr George.
The third theme looks at competition itself, and the fact that in the FMCG environment, competition can actually kill.
Mr George is gearing up for a second series in the story, which will be set in the Middle East.