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Tribute: Not Ragu Kodak

By Jyothsna Hegde Email By Jyothsna Hegde
August 2022
Tribute: Not Ragu Kodak

A marketing genius, an advertising buff, a community advocate, and a family man, Raju Kotak left a big gap in Atlanta’s Indian community.  

“Raju is not a spaghetti sauce; Kotak is not a digital camera.”

Drawing attention to iconic products that sounded very much like his name (Ragu sauce and Kodak camera), Raju Kotak’s trademark introduction on his website, wownow.com speaks volumes about the kind of person he was—a marketing genius with a sense of humor.

An all too familiar face in Atlanta’s media circles, Kotak was born on February 14, 1952. He was the only child of Neela and Chandu Kotak. Born in Mumbai, he and his family moved to Africa, then Canada, and finally landed in the U.S. on December 5, 1973. Kotak passed away on June 4th, 2022, at age 70 due to complications with his heart and lungs. He was surrounded by his family during that time and left in peace. He leaves behind his loving mother Neela, daughter Tiffany, and son Tejas.

Raju Kotak, the marketing geniusTribute_2_08_22.jpg

Down to earth and earnest to a fault, Raju Bhai, as he was often referred to, was Atlanta’s go-to person for any kind of South Asian reference, be it marketing, advertising, events, event halls, or contacts. Having poured his heart and soul into wownow.com, Kotak had developed his website to extensively serve as Georgia’s primary South Asian information source—a total media solution incorporating Internet, video, and social media.

[​Right] Kotak was able to brand himself as a marketing professional and his website wownow.com as a community portal with exceptional success.

“In my 30 years of publishing for the South Asian community, I have never met someone as passionate about advertising and marketing as Raju Kotak! As an advocate of branding and the power of media to help businesses grow, he was a force to reckon with. His missionary zeal for the value of his work, his experience, and his expertise was contagious. Raju was generous with his advice and had helped many desi businesses make a name for themselves in the community. He was very successful in transferring his professional experience—gained from his positions as a senior account executive, first at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and then at the Gwinnett Daily News—to South Asian media and marketing,” notes Parthiv Parekh, editor-in-chief, Khabar magazine.

“I first heard of Raju Kotak as the marketing whiz who had helped grow Little India magazine into a household name in the Georgia market in the early 2000s. Over the years, NRI Pulse has benefited from Raju’s advice and innovative ideas, especially in the year before the pandemic when he joined our team as marketing manager. We will always miss him and his unique personality,” says Veena Rao, author, and editor-in-chief, NRI Pulse.

Raju Kotak, the community man

Having spent hours on the phone with Kotak—who I remember as Raju—discussing advertising and marketing for various events and organizations, I had come to realize that not only was Raju passionate about his work, but equally generous in sharing information from his years of experience. I have personally referred Raju to so many people and if anything, they have said they received more than expected.

Aparna Bhattacharya, executive director, Raksha, and her team agree. “He created our very first PSA and aired it on AVS. He always found ways to support our work. His generosity and care for connecting the community was invaluable. The Raksha community knows how important Raju’s contributions were and will miss his presence and support. We are grateful for all the ways he showed up for Raksha,” Bhattacharya said. The founder of Raksha, Sonia Sharma agrees. “Raju was such an incredible person and a great supporter of Raksha,” Sharma observed. Tiffany fondly recounted that some of her best moments spent with her dad included her time with him at Raksha’s events.

Raju Kotak, the smart marketeer and media veteran

Kotak’s credentials were unique in that he had worked with the mainstream and South Asian media in equal measure garnering over 40 years of rich advertising, marketing, and branding experience. His claim to fame was his successful assimilation as a professional into the mainstream while remaining rooted in South Asian media. Not many in Atlanta can boast of that.

Tribute_3_08_22.jpg

Some of Kotak’s mainstream media experience included his work at Daily News, a New York Times Company; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he managed a $14-$16 million portfolio of local and regional clients providing strategic media planning; and Gwinnett Daily News where he managed local clients with strategic media planning and ad placement. Kotak had also served as editor & advertising director for The Sentinel, a bi-weekly college newspaper at Kennesaw State University, and advertising director for GSU Signal, a weekly college paper.

[Left] Showered with love from daughter Tiffany and son Tejas. 

His South Asian media experience was varied. Kotak worked with Asian Variety Show (AVS) where he launched weekly television programs and created professionally-produced commercials for clients, garnered sponsorship for major events, and extensive marketing. Kotak is credited with the launch of the Georgia edition of Little India and the Southeast edition of India Abroad. Kotak worked with publications such as NRI Pulse, Khabar magazine, and Rivaaj magazine in advertising and marketing.

“I have known Raju Bhai for many years. We have worked on many events together,” Mustafa Ajmeri, CEO, Global Entertainment and Media Services said, recounting the Asha Bhonsle concert in 1994 that they coordinated. “He was very knowledgeable and always presented fresh ideas for marketing. I join the community in expressing my heartfelt condolences for the loss of a great community and media member,” he added.

Raju Kotak, the person

“My father was a very loving person. He loved being involved in the Indian community. He loved family cruises and food and spending time with family,” Tiffany said. Her best memory remains the celebration of Raju’s 70th birthday together as a family along with their mom, Alka, after 17 years. “My dad wanted us to be happy. He wanted both of his kids to be successful in business and life,” she added. Bidding goodbye to an only son or any child, at any age, is perhaps one of life’s harshest facets. “Raju meant everything to me. Life without him is very different,” Neela lamented.

Tribute_4_08_22.jpg

A successful entrepreneur who pursued his passion and spent meaningful moments with family and friends while working with and for the community, Kotak’s life was well-lived.

[Right] Kotak loved spending time with family. Seen here with Tiffany, Tejas, and mother Neela.

One of Kotak’s distinctive qualities was his ability to express himself with no inhibitions and to always let bygones be bygones. Parekh recalls, “Over the years, I have both tussled with him as a competitor, but also partnered with him. And in the process, I have learned a good bit from him. On the phone, his knowledge and enthusiasm for our mutual work would often get the better of him, and since I couldn’t always sustain those calls, I enjoyed sitting with him at community events where we could chat at length.” Parekh’s final words for him sum it well: “Raju’s loss leaves a huge hole in the community!”


An independent IT consultant by profession, Jyothsna Hegde pursues her passion for writing as City News Editor at NRI Pulse and also contributes to many literary publications and nonprofits.

 


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