Archives for category: Corporate Matters

The Pirates of The Intellectual Properties

Haresh Shah

haresh_bunnyworld

Soon, Playboy was no longer just a magazine. There was Playboy Mansion and were Playboy Clubs and Playboy Bunnies and even Playboy theater and Playboy movies and television show Playboy After Dark, hosted by Mr. Playboy Hugh M. Hefner himself. And then there were Playboy products. The first noticeable were air fresheners dangling from the rear view mirrors, mostly of the cabs, auto decals donning black and white image of the by now ubiquitous rabbit head, key chains. Mostly cheap products. Most of them unauthorized and unlicensed. When you have a fertile swath of land, and the year is good and it rains and rains and rains, what happens? Suddenly, you have shrubbery and uncontrollable weeds. Nothing you can do. This was not in the plan. Literally, you see your rabbits multiplying at the pace you never in your wildest dream imagined. No way to stop them fornicating and swelling in population unless a natural disaster the scale of Malthusian theory of population were to strike. You can’t keep your act together to keep it all under control, let alone begin to reign them from growing greater.

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Terrorized By The Righteous Rage

Haresh Shah

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I am impressed by the opulent looks of the agency. They show me around beaming with  pride at the facilities they offered. I, as a senior executive would have my own office, they tell me. Each office is named after the wonders and the major landmarks of  the world. Whenever possible, I would be assigned the Taj Mahal, they promise. I would have my own direct phone line and my personal voice mail.  I would have access to the support staff.

Hanging on almost every wall are expensively framed inspirational quotations by Dale Carnegie, Orison Swett Marden, James Allan, Malcolm Forbes, Lee Iacocca,  Albert Einstein  and such. The tone of the quotations assumes that you are down and out and are in dire need of pick me ups. Unlike clients in other businesses, we are the fired lame duck executives.

I still am not clear about what exactly I am supposed to be doing sitting in one of those little larger than cubicle offices, and more importantly, what it is that they would do for me. So I sit down with the president of Benson and Associates, Bob Benson and his partner Herb Lester, face to face for an initial interview. The interview itself lasts for more than an hour, during which they ask me whether my “separation” from Playboy was voluntary, as if there were such a thing!

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From Irish Eyes To The Razzle Dazzle

Haresh Shah
haremgirl_2

The year before, Helga and Fred Baumgärtel (Mr. Playboy of the German edition – retired by then), Gudrun (Thiel) and myself  had gone to the Oyster Festival on a private trip. On the second day or so, Gudrun suggested PLAYBOY-Germany organize an Anzeigen-Meeting for next year’s festival. The participants, so she predicted, would sure be thrilled. I can still see her sitting by the portside, a glass of Guinness in her hand,  warming to the subject, as it were, while developing this wonderful idea. And so it happened.

Reminisces Andreas Odenwald – the editor-in-chief of Playboy Germany at the time. And I happened to be one of the dozen or so to join Germany’s top advertising executives who were invited with their partners to spend a long weekend in Ireland and experience the annual Oyster Festival. I don’t remember having eaten many oysters there, but drinking lot of Guinness to be sure.

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Haresh Shah

Daring To Be Different

geishabrau
When our Japanese partners were reported what Shah-san was up to all through the week, flabbergasted, the executives and the editorial team are in awe of the fact that an executive of Playboy Enterprises was in their country expressly for meeting with them and yet they would not see him for an entire week. They were equally astonished when heard from Ray Falk’s office that Mr. Shah, nay Shah-san, accompanied by Sasaki-san, was crisscrossing  their country and visiting places in an attempt to glean first hand some understanding of the land  and its culture, its people in general and the young existing and potential readers of the Japanese edition of Playboy in particular.

Even though they didn’t know what to make of this Shah-san, they were positively impressed and intrigued, not to mention amazed. And then approved of my itinerary as was set up by Ray’s office. The places I would visit and the people I would be exposed to should give me a fair idea of some of what they had hoped to communicate to me when Lee (Hall)  had originally conveyed to them what my mission would be working with the new team.  That my role would go beyond giving them pep-talk,, turn around and then catch a plane back home. That I would roll up my sleeves and work hand-in-hand with them, not only in making and re-defining the magazine itself, but also talk about and make possible ancillary publishing activities as an extension to the regular issues.

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The Impossibility Of Being Christie Hefner

Haresh Shah

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‘What do these conferences mean to us?’

It’s a legitimate question. I have gotten to the meeting room earlier as usual to make sure things are set before everyone else begins to stumble-in in another half an hour. Only other person fussing around is Mary (Nastos), and then there is Christie Hefner. The two of us standing in the middle of the conference room on the lower floor of The Pontchartrain Hotel, New Orleans’ old European charm. I have been organizing Playboy International Publishing’s conferences now for years and no one has ever asked me the question. It was something that was handed down to me when I was re-hired by Lee Hall ten years earlier in 1978. I hadn’t given any serious thought to the question Christie posed – now the president of Playboy Enterprises.

‘Well, it’s mainly for all our editions to come together with their counterparts from around the world and discuss the year since they met last and establish some understanding of what lay in the future. From these meetings some international projects of common interest have been born and accomplished. The Soccer World Cup pictorial in 1986, which we produced in the host country Mexico and the Miss Playboy International Beauty Pageant, broadcast live in Hong Kong.

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Scattered Gems Of Practical Wisdom

Haresh Shah

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The train pulls up at some unknown station. The peacefulness of the night turns into a little puppet show for those few minutes. The flickering dim gaslights illuminate the platforms, the guard blowing his whistle, the signal man running in front of the locomotive with his red and green flags, the tea and food vendors reciting their sales pitches, “chai garam babuji, chai garam, garam garam bhajia, khalo saab, aisi puri bhaji aage nahin milengi, pani, thanda pani. (hot tea, hot hot fried dumplings, have some, you won’t find them as delicious at the next stop, cooled water)The people getting off the train and running to the water fountains to fill up their water flasks with fresh drinking water, some sipping the piping hot delicious local chai in clay cups, some savoring the spicy puri bhaji. Sudden burst of activity, the train will pull away in a few minutes, the station would doze off once again. If there is another train arriving in an hour or so, they would just sit around puffing on their chillums, and the next puppet show would begin at the sight of another approaching express. It’s amazing to watch all those people moving around in such synchronized harmony, like in a well choreographed musical. Everyone has his own place, his own kind of product to sell, his own price, his own lyrical voice to recite and get his product to his consumer’s ears and eyes who only have seconds to make up their minds. Make a quick sale. And then once again, they disappear, they fall asleep. The train moves on.

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Butting Heads With Experts

Haresh Shah

whattime_revised

My ex-girlfriend Susan (Serpe) was a successful management consultant. And yet, I never quite understood what it was exactly that she did. Once in a self-deprecating mood, she told me a story of three consultants, which has probably been told and re-told or perhaps not.

A large international corporation in need of a consultant invites proposals from some of the top professionals in the industry. From the huge pile of applicants, they have boiled down the list to the TOP three that seem most likely to fulfill their needs. They are to be interviewed by the CEO himself. He seats them down around the conference table in his office.

‘Good morning to you all. And congratulations for making it to the top three. That’s quite an achievement, considering that we had received more than a hundred offers. You guys are the crème de la crème and it would be an honor for our company to work with any one of you. Unfortunately, all we have is only one position open, so here goes it – the final round. I do not wish to take up much of your valuable time, so without much a do, I’ll come right to to the point. Before we decide, I only have one simple question to ask of you, which is: Can you please tell me, what time is it?  Confused only momentarily, the three realize it’s one of those trick questions. Everyone could see clearly on the wall clock in the CEO’s office that its 2:30 in the afternoon. The first of them clears his throat.

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