Ramesh Babu: 50 years of designing advertisements in the UAE

Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu’s office is a museum of papers, magazines, slides, cinema, radio and TV advertisement material.
Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal / Gulf News

Dubai: The walls of the nearly four-decade-old building in Baniyas Square have many stories to tell – of days gone by, of people who lived there, and traders who made a living from this bustling street. However, many of these stories pale before the ones narrated by Ramesh Babu in his small office.

Babu, 77, is an entrepreneur who came to Dubai 50 years ago and started an advertising company when he saw the first English newspaper and realised there was room for his passion to grow.

Before computers became part of our lives, advertisements for print media had to be designed by hand. This is where Babu’s expertise came into play. He painstakingly worked on drawings and created ads needed by companies, using calligraphy pens and gadgets that are not found any more.

“This is a spray gun painting device,” Babu says. “I used it to paint the advertisements and label designs, and give them a particular tint.”

Ads for print, radio and cinema

Babu also created advertisements shown in movie halls, mostly open-air ones whose shows started at 8pm. “At one point in time, I did not have to pay to see any movie. I could just walk in because the staff knew I was the person who produced the advertisements.”

Eventually, ads for nearly 50 clients from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah found their way into print, radio, TV, and cinemas.

But life was not easy. “Once after delivering advertisement slides at Sharjah Cinema, I took a share-cab to Al Khan roundabout. As it was past 8pm, there was no transport to Dubai. So I walked back home to Deira. Although it was dark and lonely, I never felt the distance because my mind was bubbling with new ideas.”

Throughout his career in the advertising industry, Babu has had very few staff, preferring to do most of the designing and running around himself. When computers came on the scene, he hired a couple of additional staff to help harness technology.

Babu’s wife and two daughters have shared in his work.

Today he looks at decades-old newspaper clippings with pride. “I can claim to be one of the pioneers in this field in the country, and this gives me immense joy. The hard work I did with my hands has paid off for many of my clients. I am very happy and proud to see them do well.”