By Krishna Gopalan 

Agnello Dias

  • Academic background BCom, University of Mumbai; PGD (advertising and marketing), Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai
  • Career path After joining Interpublicity, Agnello was with Lintas. This was followed by an 11-year stint at Leo Burnett, where he handled clients such as Bajaj, Thums Up and Heinz. In 2005, Agnello joined JWT and was its chief creative officer when he quit the agency in September 2008. In early 2009, he co-founded Taproot India, an agency that works with clients like Airtel and Times of India.

Nandini Dias

  • Academic background BSc (chemistry), University of Mumbai; PGD (advertising and marketing), Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai
  • Career path She joined Interpublicity in 1988 and then moved to Lintas. The five-year stint at Lintas had her handling clients such as Cadbury, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and Marico. In November 1994, she joined FCB Ulka as a media supervisor. Today, Nandini is CEO, Lodestar UM, which is among the top three media houses in India.

Nandini and Agnello Dias form a relatively rare case of a media planner having married someone from a creative background. They quite fancy the idea and have been married for over two decades now.

Both grew up in Mumbai and have spent their entire professional career in the city as well. Starting with a small agency, they now hold positions of prominence. If Nandini is a CEO, Agnello, after having made a mark in two huge advertising agencies, today runs his own agency.

Their backgrounds are different as well. Nandini, a Maharashtrian, and Agnello, a Goan by origin, are deeply passionate about sports. Nandini was, in fact, a state-level badminton player till the media bug bit her. They like and value their time together and keeping them company are their two boys (actually, young men).

In the high-pressure media business, where the couple is constantly travelling, they manage their schedules very well to ensure they spend as much time together as possible.

As individuals, Nandini is more talkative, while Agnello, apart from being a fine listener, has a philosophical approach towards life and work. The couple admits to being very different — in a nice sense though. It is apparent that one cannot do without the other and that comes through several times during the conversation.

The couple love their professions and have made impressive progress as well. That said, they are understated about the levels of success and love the little, small things in life. Travel is an area of interest but vacations are hard to come by after Agnello turned entrepreneur.

Where did you meet?

Nandini: We met at an agency called Interpublicity in 1988 where I had joined as a trainee.

Agnello: I remember Nandini coming to the agency for her interview and remarking to someone that there is a pretty girl in our office!

What drew you to each other?

Nandini: Well, it was a very small set-up and we were always chatting with each other. We were always playing pranks on one another and that got us closer. It was after about a year that things started moving without us acknowledging anything.

Agnello: There was really no formal dating and to me, it was just walking with her to Churchgate station after work. It was really as simple as that. I liked her because she liked me. The concept of liking someone then was very different from what it is today.

How did you take this forward?

Nandini: I moved to Lintas after I spent a little over two years at Interpublicity. It was funny being at Lintas. We never acknowledged each other. People would actually introduce us to each other. Dating and things like that were not that open in those days.

Agnello: I was looking for a change and asked her to speak to someone at Lintas. That’s how my break happened. She was in media planning and I was in creative. The only real time we had together was having lunch at one of the food carts in Nariman Point. We finally got married on October 4, 1992, in Mumbai. It was actually at the church down this road.

How different are the two of you?

Agnello: She is certainly an extrovert. I take some time to open up. Nandini is from the Western school of thought, which is more about pre-planning. I like to think of myself as a person who is from the Eastern philosophy, which is more free-flowing and flexible.

Nandini: Agnello is faster at taking decisions. I take my time. I will visit ten shops before I purchase something.

What are the things that make you similar?

Nandini: Both of us are hardworking and passionate about what we do. We are quite driven.

Agnello: We like to be perfectionists at what we do. A common area of interest is sports, though there is a small difference. I like soccer while Nandini is one for badminton. Around 70% of our television viewing is sports and the rest is news.

What is it that you like the most about your spouse?

Nandini: Agnello is an extremely generous person and that’s why I fell in love with him. I also like the fact that he is very organised all the time.

Agnello: She is very friendly, while I take a long time to get along with someone. Nandini is very spontaneous when it comes to sharing her happiness and that’s something I really like about her.

Who is the boss of the kitchen?

Nandini: We like the idea of elaborate meals. Given that I am a Maharashtrian and Agnello is a Goan, we have two cooks at home.

Agnello: The cook is the boss of the kitchen. It’s certainly not one of us.

Nandini and Agnello Dias with their sons Cohaar and Binoy

Do you get a lot of time with each other, given your hectic schedules?

Nandini: Both of us travel about 10 days each month, though the purpose is often different. Agnello is on various juries and awards committees and that keeps him very busy. Saturday and Sunday is really my time. Typically, we sleep after midnight and manage to get time when we are together. In that sense, we strive to get the right work-life balance.

Agnello: For her, it is about running six offices and that is not easy. My job involves a lot of creative thinking and I need time alone.

How often do you go on a holiday?

Nandini: Planning a break with three men is never easy and I have learnt that the hard way! We take a break every two years and the last one was to Kashmir in June 2012.

Agnello: Nandini is very eager and sincere when it comes to vacations. She does all the homework when we take a break and that could mean reading up on places of historical importance, for instance. For me sitting with a music composer for a campaign is itself a vacation. In that sense, watching a musical show in a place like Europe does not always fascinate me. Frankly, there is no pressure from the kids either to go on a vacation.

What is that you disagree about the most?

Agnello: Oh, that has to be about tidiness.

Nandini: And that can be even at 3 am when he gets back home after a long overseas flight.

How important is romance in your relationship?

Nandini: To me, it is all about spending time with each other. And that could be just five minutes, but it matters a lot. It is just about being next to each other.

Agnello: I agree. It is all about time spent together.

What kind of gifts do you buy for each other?

Nandini: I never buy anything for him!

Agnello: I always buy something since I shop fast.

Nandini: The last gift was two lovely necklaces that he bought from Bucharest. I really liked them. These were practical things to buy since size is never a problem with jewellery! Typically, his taste is right at least 60% of the time.

What does your spouse mean to you?

Nandini: I have a lot of friends. That said, the fact is that life without Agnello is unimaginable.

Agnello: Nandini has accepted me for what I am, which is a great source of comfort for me.