One Under 30: Young Creative Spotlight – Harshil Shah

Highlighting young talent in the ad world – one person at a time.

As part of an ongoing series highlighting young talent in the industry, Branding in Asia presents “One Under 30” – a special feature that focuses on up-and-coming talent in the ad world, one person at a time.

This week we talk to Harshil Shah, the 27-year-old Creative Group Head at BBDO India.

Over the course of our conversation, he talks about how he got his first break in the industry, what he enjoys most about the work, as well as what he doesn’t like about it, what inspires him, and more.


The Basics

Name: Harshil Shah
Age: 27
Company: BBDO India
Position: Creative Group Head
Hometown: Baroda, India
Current Location: Mumbai
Education: XIC Mumbai, Advertising and Marketing, 2016-17

Seven Questions

How did you get your first break in the industry?

One of our professors at our college is known for giving quite peculiar assignments. One of the assignments he gave was to write a 500-word summary of our autobiography. According to him, that would give us a deeper insight of ourselves and our ambitions. He was also the head of an ad agency, and we were asked to present what we wrote to his agency after.

What I wrote surely connected with him, because that assignment landed me an internship at his agency, and eventually a job. I have been at the same agency since then. And the professor that reviewed my assignment now reviews my work.

What is your personal mantra?

My personal mantra is more of a question: ‘What’s next?’.


I think there’s no better motivation, no better distraction, no better relaxation than to think of what’s next. I love a healthy dose of nostalgia as much as the next person. It doesn’t need to be just about work, or ideas, or creativity, but the will to keep engaging with the world, and be surprised with the results.

From what person, place or thing have you drawn your greatest creative inspiration?

Marshall Mathers, known by his stage name – Eminem is an American rapper who barely needs an introduction. As a rapper, he has used around 8,818 unique words throughout his career, the highest by any rapper so far.

I’ve always been fascinated by his ability to write on something so seemingly mundane and turn it into a song that I could groove to through my childhood. His ability to use music to shape words into stories definitely inspired me to become a storyteller.

What do you love about the job?

There is no such thing as a typical day for me, and I love that. The uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring motivates me to keep learning and to keep being that child who is still discovering new things every day.

Tomorrow, you could be working on a song. Tomorrow, you could be collaborating with your favorite artist. Tomorrow, you could be shooting a film on top of a mountain. The uncertainty keeps you coming back for more.

What about your job are you not so crazy about?

Filling in a timesheet! It’s the only part of the job that I wish I could give to someone else.

What is some work you’ve done that you’re most proud of?

WhatsApp – Golden Jubilee – Message Privately

This one goes out to all the seemingly grumpy grandfather figures in my life.

Growing up, it was interesting to notice that many (if not all) grandfathers would not express their love for their grandmothers in front of others (even their own family at times). You would never expect a person who’s lived and experienced so much, would feel shy or hesitant to express their love around others. When we were thinking of stories to bring to life, the first thing we thought of was ‘messaging privately’.

What makes me feel proud of this work is that we decided to move away from the regular Gen-Z audience and communicate with an elderly audience about how technology plays a part in our everyday lives.

Idea 4G – Not Working? Try Networking!

In India, what’s quite peculiar is that you’ll find men selling sarees (traditional Indian women’s wear), and they do so with absolute grace. These owners often drape a saree around themselves as a way to display their products better. Despite the rise of online shopping, this is one service that you won’t find on any shopping portal.

So, when we were tasked to showcase the possibilities of a 4G network, that can transform entrepreneurs and self-employed Indians, we imagined it with the story of a Saree shop owner going viral for his elegant collection of sarees, draped on none other than himself. This one is close to my heart because it’s a perfect recipe of real behavior embedded within a story that is driven by our personal imagination.

Ralco Tyres – #FreeTheRoads

Institutional changes don’t matter if they are not visible on the streets we walk on. With this thought, we created a conversation that was relevant to our country, especially on the day we celebrate our Independence. A year before India was celebrating its 73rd Independence Day, the Supreme Court of the country amended many laws which were discriminatory to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Though we welcomed the move, we believed that if a change in perception did not occur among the people, it will have little effect.

What really made me happy about this work was that we managed to have a complex conversation with the masses.

If you had to choose another career what would it be?

I would have loved to be a counselor, not a life coach or a psychiatrist, but a counselor.

I believe that I am a good listener. I’ve always had a lot of patience with others, and I enjoy sitting with people and just hearing what they have to say. Sometimes, some of the best quotes are those waiting to be said out loud. I would also love to be a documentary filmmaker, which I believe also comes from my love of listening.

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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