December 27, 2012

Is Masala Journalism Bad Business?

“When ice freezes, all the excrement rises to the surface. And so, when the dialectic was frozen, all the sacred excrement of the dialectic came to the surface. When the future is deep-frozen – and, indeed, even the present – we shall see all the excrement come up from the past.” (Baudrillard 1994, p.26)

2012 is sliding into history in the land of Curry Munchers, India. Although the year has been pretty ordinary from economic, political & social angles but it has brought to forefront a sort of journalism which had been confined to sectarian-vernacular ghettoes of the media. I call it Masala [Spices] journalism in TV news-media. Most characteristic feature of masala- journalism style is preeminence of the style over substance. It does not matter how insignificant is the event the anchor would make it point to adulterate the facts with overdose of shrill high pitch voice, background sound effects & graphics of the screen to grab your attention.  Channels honchos believe that since majority of Indian watch Bollywood movies full of unrealism so they would seamlessly connect with shouting screaming anchors.

Mothers do give attention to crying babies but if a baby keeps crying for hours better take it to a doctor. The Masala journalism is not an isolated phenomenon but a prevalent malady afflicting the entire TV News-media in India in 2012. The English language print media for almost fifty years maintained a distinction between national & vernacular press. That boundary has been obliterated now with rise of Hindi journalism. In 80s the largest selling vernacular newspaper was non-Hindi Malaya Manorama which has been replaced by a Cow-belt Hindi language paper. 

So the growth in Cow-belt lead to spilling over of low cost journos into English media. Traditionally media in India was notorious for paying very low wages & field correspondents were supposed to hawk advertising for the publication. This invasion of English language media by Hindi trained journos brought in new way of thought & expression into the profession. Unfortunately the Cow-Belt has remained most underdeveloped part of India with large number of districts caught up in insurgency. Social conditions shape the personality of people. So these new journos adopted an attacking slandering style of interviewing people in public in the way police interrogates criminals in privacy of police stations in India. These Masala journos will keep asking you same question repeatedly & at the same time telling you that you are wrong to hold your view.  The Masala journos pretends to be educated than IAS, Senior Execs, professors & the other educated elite.

Arnab Goswami of Times Group once threatened the principal of India’s premier college St. Stephens Delhi on public television demanding that the principal must give class attendance to a student who had not attended the college. The compliant political class pressured the VC Delhi University to pass the order making an exception in the case. The principal must have lost his motivation to maintain the tradition of excellence in his institute. Masala Goswami subverted the Taj Mahal of education in India & successive generations would pay the price of his stupidity.

There is general agreement in the media czars in India that electronic media is suited for sensationalism to get viewership. So they have let loose the marauding semi-literate armies on TV screens beaming right into homes with kids watching slogans of “Hang them, Castrate the bastards” & other puerile carefully selected jargon.  All this is done to get the attention of the viewer. These blocks think that minuscule viewership of BBC & CNN in India is because they haven’t matched the profile of consumer with the offer service. So it’s profitable to offer highly spiced curries to titillate the masses.

The media managers are rare in India because the owners want complete & total control. There is an established tradition in India to hire managers for growth phase of the business. Once the business has scaled up to an economic level the managers are often ejected & replaced by a lackey or family. This in media has led to a unique challenge that editors have come back into power in a capital intensive business. The editor wants advertising revenue to grow, so a critical level of viewership would be required to gain attention of media planers. Therefore instead of creating a business strategy they get distracted by a content oriented move to lure the masses. Here they spill the curry !  The business cycle for a hindi movie has to be shorter than a 24x7 New-media.

The media czars have fallen into trap of Editorial led strategy for a capital intensive News-Media business.”The Hindu’ commands a brand value much greater & beyond the covered markets. Masala journalism can increase the TRP but it will completely distract & destroy the attention of viewers from advertising.  Why would some business advertise on a channel where the audience is always emotionally charged?  There would very poor recall scores for the advertising message presented to an emotionally charged audience.  Masala journalism is not only bad business its poor journalism also.  Media must soothe the nerves of low-income country like India instead of rabble rousing. Look at the Hindi movies, light action based comedies do more business than others. People want some peace in their life and want to eat homemade food than spicy stuff available at the street corner. 

November 17, 2012

How the politicians find what people want ?

Political parties in a democracy are answerable to the electorate goes the cliche, but do our parties undertake any scientific research to enumerate the priorities of the masses? Well in India leaders assume that majority of the people do not vote on a rational basis. Those leaders are right as the results of elections indicate.
Majority still vote for caste, religion, regional and ideological orientations. Economic issues do not seem to motivate the masses to vote in large numbers. But how do the parties find out what the people are thinking in their constituency? Politician in India seems to go by judgement approach and expert panel opinion taken from experts from within the party.
I have undertaken a focus group exercise in the youth segment to unravel their mind and the issues that they think are extremely important for the nation. The list in the order of priority is given under;
1. Population: Surprisingly no political party has talked about it in 2009 elections. What can the electorate do? Population growth remains the most critical issue that is slowing down the growth of India.
2. Respect for talent: Most participants feel that there is no room for talent & talented individuals in India. Youth is perturbed that the talented individuals do not stand a fair chance of achievement in our society. People still give too much importance to other factors over the talent of an individual. Students believe that it stifles the growth of talent, consequently growth of country.
3. Corruption: Why we have accepted bribery and corruption as part of life in India?Corruption weakens the country but no party seem to make it as an election issue and has offered no solutions to curb corruption in public life.
4. Economic policy: Major political parties do not present a clear cut industrialisation plan that could create jobs for the educated. All parties make similar noise about their economic policy.
5. Removal of poverty: Youth do not find mention of how much growth in per capita income would the political party would like to achieve in their tenure of five years.

November 8, 2012

Distribution Strategy for the MSMEs

Several Small & Medium Enterprises [MSME] go through the pain of trying to set up a distribution network and most seem to set it up by trail & error method than in a planned manner.  So you have seen many flourishing & established businesses in north India that have been struggling to strategise their distribution  network to match the sales objectives, financial strategy and the production capacity. Many firms find it impossible to balance sales force’s strengths & weaknesses to the cumbersome traditional system that it has got saddled with. 

For consumer facing business it’s extremely critical to leverage the distribution network in order to stay competitive for a medium to long term. The myth of financial leverage associated with existing trade channels has long been dispelled by many players across India. Just having a good product, an attractive trade policy and transport network is no longer enough. You need to have great packaging, trained sales force, marketing support and strategic & tactical plan to get your share of the market. You need to benchmark  certain percent of repeat sales from your market otherwise you may look like those primary agriculturists who used to burn the jungles and cultivate it once and then move on to the new pastures. 

You must ask yourself how much repeat sales are you getting from your served markets and which direction you are headed? Generally we start thinking about marketing & sales after manufacturing has been taken care of.  Recently I came across a firm from ludhiana, Punjab that faced classical dilemma. The CEO wanted a sales & Marketing network that could handle higher volumes, whereas the Sales & Marketing Head would blame bad production planning for poor sales. The conflict between production & marketing is normal until the organization is not riddled with inventories.

Having no inventories or moving all your production could not be the aim of a good CEO/CMO, you must strive to get the max share of market on a given day & plan for that. If you are happy with moving everything you make then you are complacent about the competition just eating away your share. That in turn would lead to fierce competition in future.

It’s wise to plan marketing well in advance & test the network before you get into real battle. Integrate all nodes of supply chain into one whole with help of readily available solutions. Must look for contract manufacturing and concentrate on brand building and supply chain. There are many suppliers for manufacturing operations available but hardly any for managing the distribution in a manner that amy suit your growth plan.

Start up companies must negotiate the trap of creating a corporate brand in comparison to product brand. A product brand is easier to market than communicate the umbrella brand. I have observed many SMEs trying to do a corporate brand. Most ludhiana based hosiery & apparels companies suffer from this problem they spread their brand too thin. They thought they were emulating a Nike or Adidas without understanding the nature of those companies. Its necessary to have a well oiled distribution network served by a motivated sales & marketing team to match the competition in the growing India.

November 6, 2012

Political Giants & Media Monsters !

Media and the Political players are like married couple. Both understand each other’s temptations so readily forgive the flings unless it becomes damaging affair for either of the stakeholder.  They fight but make up soon for sake of continuation of the relationship with renewed vow to support each other every time.  Like most marriages this too is an unequal relationship wherein the political player can lose reputation and elections but the media firm can lose its existence. 

Politicians need media to put across their promotional communication to citizens at large and media need them for advertising money and sensational content. News Channels use no holds barred approach to find content that brings highest TRP to their business so that they could charge premium from advertisers. Therefore the so called Breaking News stories have not much to do with journalistic mission or nation building pronouncements for sake of audience benefit but a direct greedy tactic to get better TRP for raking in the moolah.

Let us also resolve the conundrum of politics for nation and people or politics for pure self aggrandizement.  In my considered opinion all Political players work for themselves only and some of them are more open to sharing the windfall gains with some number of people. There is no political party that has worked for all the people of a country. Show me one and I’ll show you people the victimized and marginalized in some clear manner.

Let’s get back to the issue of how political parties should handle media or leverage the communication opportunities presented to them. Firstly in pays to have own dedicated mass media machine that is run professionally. Most parties in democracies have ‘close’ linkages with media houses but since last decade in India many parties own pretty powerful media monsters of their own to unleash at the opponents. The serious weakness in all those strategic assets is lack of professionalism as toadies generally lack competence to get audience interest. Such dedicated media firms must be run by professionals with Editorial policy control with the party. Aligning with an outside media firm is more expensive & less effective.

Political players generally get carried away by the media attention and tend to speak endlessly on any topic under the sun. Have you ever heard a politician say on camera that they need some time to answer the question if the muck racking seems to be working to their advantage? When you target the opponent it’s better to go prepared for your best shot. You must always depend on written prepared communication for better results and always desist from off the cuff shibboleths.

Political parties must plan the media rendezvous and must not exceed a given limit. Please note that more communication may lead to more confusion so in order to have positive impression on masses keep all political communication around few specific points that a binds your politics with your target audience.  A political player must avoid expressing views on topics that strengthen the opponent camp as bad publicity is also welcome publicity in politics.

Finally political parties would benefit if the work of communication management be left to professionals than party managers because the insiders can’t have a 360 degree view of a communication situation. 

October 13, 2012

Skill Development & India: Challenges !

Would you like to become someone who is looked down upon in society? Say an ambulance chaser? Just imagine that you have a choice to become a doctor or a fashion designer, and the society you live in accords more respect to a doctor, would you prefer the later route? Besides livelihood people work hard to earn respect of society around them. Can you say I bought a Ferrari by selling contraband? People are identified by their profession and skills so skills are important part of what a person is? Isn’t it?

Government of India has realized that no economic development is possible without inculcating critical skills in people of India. Economic growth based on capital has limitations as compared to skills the capital as resource is less impact on sustainable growth. CK Prahalad & Gary Hemel introduced the concept of Core Competencies into Management literature. Michael Porter, another strategy stalwart, advised many governments to persuade them to build a Competitive Advantage for their economy and companies.  Presence of large number people having knowledge of English language available at low cost provided  competitive advantage to India in the BPO sector for couple of decades. China took few years to scale up their assembly & manufacturing on the basis of manual skills present in the Chinese people. Indian people on the other hand don’t seem to have manual skills needed for achieving success in manufacturing space.

Ustad Ahmad Lahouri a Persian is the architect behind India’s iconic Taj Mahal built during Moghul period. Silks in India come from Karnataka as people have traditional skills in silk rearing & weaving Punjab has grey yarn spinning industry as cotton is grown in large quantities here.  Religious men from Hinduism & Islam claim to predict your future on the basis of their knowledge of astrology etc.  But skills in India have been associated with caste classification of society as per the Hindu belief system. And perhaps the caste system is the culprit for vanishing of skills among the people. Another view is that since the British ruled India for couple of centuries wanted to prepare clerical slaves for the Empire, so they manipulated the education system to produce educated people with just average communication skills rather than preparing masses for vocations as the British wanted to flood the made in UK goods into India.

Well past is past! Presently most Indians prefer to work on white collar jobs rather work with their hands. It’s rare to find a great carpenter or blacksmith in India. Why? Because when a carpenter’s child gets a clerical job then he would not be called a carpenter but a clerk. A clerk or babu is considered a more respectable profession in India as per caste system. Therefore thousands of engineers graduating from technical universities can score exceptionally high marks in written exams but hardly anyone can use hands to fix a machine.  Unless the government addresses the social stigma attached to skilled people not many would be prepared to learn the skills required by India for nation building. India can create national level competitions every month in various critical skills and honor the winners with large sum of money. Higher income can diminish the hurt involved in learning new skills in caste ridden medieval society of India. 

September 21, 2012

India Welcomes Walmart Tesco Carrefour : FDI in Multi-brand Retail

Finally on September 20, 2012 Government of India allowed Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail in India. It’s possible now for global retail majors like Wal-Mart, Tesco & Carrefour to enter the market which has 300-400 millions strong middle class. Without going into political economy aspect of the move let’s look at the management & marketing side of the multi-brand retail in India. Retail & aviation has many similarities in India particularly. Retail majors need to learn lessons from India’s aviation industry as both cater to same customer base.

Lessons: Largest of the domestic corporate giants have burnt their fingers in organized retail in India during more than decade long period. Top three of them have reported losses. Retail in India is a fragmented unorganized business evolved alongside the social structure of communities. India has more cultural diversity than entire Europe as language, food habits, customs, religions & even Gods change every 50 kilometers in India. Hindustan Lever Limited had attempted to monopolize ice cream market in India two decades ago by buying out major brands but they could not fight with local satraps.

Basics: India has population of the size of China living on 1/3 of the area. Publicity managers of brand India have projected that what makes India attractive is presence of 300-400 million middle class consumers. Let me flag this figure right here from marketing perspective. Since Indian society is highly fragmented & culturally diverse therefore it’s a challenge to find various ‘consumers profiles’ embedded in this large population of consumers.

India buys few cars just [1/6 ] as compared to China. This figure is very significant as majority of Indian people prefer buy a house before car unlike in rest of the world.  India has no problem with congestion as all metro cities are teeming with people hence retail experience to India may not be same as routinely described in classical retail plans. On the issue of buying on credit or cash Indian consumers are no different than others but majority of Indians don’t have credit cards.

Entry Strategy: What business model Walmart would use in India is the billion dollar questions. Will they go for company owned company operate [COCO] route to begin with or take the franchise route? I believe later route may be more suitable as it would cut cost of entry & provide for safe landing for this controversial roll out. If Walmart recruits 25 major franchises in the beginning it would provide substantial leverage in domestic market to navigate the social reaction in the first phase.

POS & billing: In my opinion POS strategy would be the waterloo for Retail in India. Walmart, Tesco & Carrefour would be wise to invent a new POS strategy as no other country resembles in India in buying behavior. I would recommend that CXOs of retail giants should invest lots of their time at airport lounges & Metro railway in Delhi & Kolkata to grasp the behavior of Indians and ignore Mckinesy consumer reports. It’s impossible to succeed in retail without strategizing this final moment of truth in retail trade.

India is really a more diverse country than it appears on paper. Retail industry may have to take Indian Railway route & organize the operations that could handle the diversity of buyer needs in India. Historically Indian may have lived under centuries of foreign domination but they have succeeded at maintaining their lifestyle & culture and this must serve as guiding principle to any executives involved in this service sector. 

September 4, 2012

India's Private Shame !

The rise of China has significantly trounced the Thatcherism on public vs private sector. The experts failed to notice the dangers of universalizing an essentially Western phenomenon. It has been argued & agreed that each economy has some unique features that differentiate it from the others. Moreover an economy also has certain competencies prevalent due to several natural & man made reasons.  Apologists for poor performance of India vis-à-vis China point to two main factors that are cultural & administrative factors in nature. Indian ultra-nationalist economists never tire of stating that China has been able to pull of spectacular economic performance majorly due to one race- one language and a political system that doesn’t allow room for dissent. Both arguments examined closely would prove nothing but mythology.

Blind faith in virtues of privatization & efficiency myth of Indian corporation must be examined in the light of realities of two decades of its operation in India. The representative symbol of economic growth in India in last two decades is the current Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who brought in a set of economic reforms in early 90s that gave India freedom from Hindu rate of growth of two to three percent. India has posted a six plus GDP number ever since he came on the scene. His economic policies were continued by governments across political spectrum in India.

Where is the evidence to prove the hypothesis of private sector‘s superior performance in comparison to the public sector? China may have greater number of private enterprises now than ever before but the public sector enterprises continue to contribute a lion’s share to the state output.  In India too, despite domination of service sector by private companies, baring telecom, virtually in all other arena public sector organizations continue to command higher trust than the private sector companies. India remains a difficult place to do business but on the corruption front private sector companies have been found to be worse off than public sector.

Organized retail in India faces no public sector competition and FDI restrictions have kept the global competition at bay, but still is has failed to take off. How could one exonerate India’s corporate giants for failing in retail sector?  Once FDI is allowed into retail India shall see the rise of global retail corporations & reap benefits in terms of expansion of economy.

To upgrade human resources of India government allowed private capital into high education sector to boost the infrastructure. The story here too is no different. None of the higher education enterprise set up in private sector has been able to offer any competition to the autonomous public sector institutes. A management institute was launched in Hyderabad with much fanfare to augment talent creation in business management education but it has failed to offer any competition to even newly set up IIMs? The scenario in related field of health & pharma is not different. ?  India is globally known for its Information Technology firms too but unfortunately some of them have been called as chop shops due to their lack of going up the technology curve to become true tech corporation.  Story in aviation is no different private sector companies as doing as bad as public sector behemoth. Banking & Insurance services sector too portrays same picture with SBI & LIC leading the pack by miles.

Maruti Suzuki began its journey as government owned company and it remains the number one player in passenger vehicles segment.  All major Oil companies are also in public sector. Reliance despite huge industrial base could not compete with public sector companies. It would not be out of place to mention consumer electronics sector too. The moment global competition came in consumer electronics, all major Indian companies melted away like snow flakes.  Indian corporations except TATA group failed to dominate consumer goods & fmcg space despite having head-start in form of understanding local culture critical for success in distribution led businesses. Some Indian companies have made their mark in industrial goods & telecom sector that shows the private capital in same light as it’s seen globally.

India is no UK or USA. Private companies in India are run differently than global standards & practice. India has failed to romp up quality & create large capacities in private sector.  Private sector companies have failed to create & nurture talent as they are led by families in unprofessional manner. There are many factors responsible for dismal performance of Indian private sector companies that has led to enormous pains to fighting poverty in India. The Government has rolled out red carpet to private sector for close to two decades now but its performance has disappointed everyone. It’s ridiculous to give better report card to private sector over public sector in India.  Government need to accelerate state capitalism to kick start the economy.  

My inquisition into search for finding factors that show private sector in poor light than public sector has thrown up various reasons that need verification & further research.  But most prominent factor is the quality of management in private sector, the governance. Families run private sector companies assisted by small group of top executives from bureaucracy generally fail to recognize, nurture & reward the talent. Recruitment in private sector are done in arbitrary manner and religion & caste play a major part in profiling a candidate.  Private sector in the name of merit has been rejecting the state’s affirmative action initiatives for long which has led to low quality of human resource pool that is out of sync with reality of India. Failure happens due to absence of talent and private sector companies in India are no exception either. India is faced with horrendous poverty that need faster economic growth and the private sector must prepare for the responsibility. 

August 29, 2012

GOI Bans Social Media

Just half an hour ago Social Media has been banned in India. You can't access Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook but TED is still on. Today is a historical day in India when judiciary has shown the gumption to convict a Minister Dr Mayaben Kodnani for her role in massacre of 85 Muslim children & women in Naroda Patiya in Gujarat, India in 2002.Today is also a day of the SC upholds sentence of Ajmal Kasab a Pakistani terrorist involved in 26/9 attack in Mumbai. Text messages had already been under ban for the past week.

I am not sure how to react to GOI ban on social media. The govt must have its reasons for doing so as NE  India has been embroiled in communal clashes for almost a week. Indians are used to all kinds of restrictions and shortages. We take it as part of life and squeeze our-self in the continuously shrinking space for living due to over population.

Social media allows ordinary people to have a voice on issues that matter to them. It is damn empowering tool that scares the shit out of people who want to regulate information. Social media may limit an individual's  social interaction in the real space but it offers enormous opportunity for connecting virtually with global audience. So if you are the only one in your group who enjoys poetry you could go online and share your experience with the connoisseurs.

August 28, 2012

Congress Vs BJP: Political Marketing 2002-14

If you tell a big enough lie, and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed-Adolf Hitler

India’s oldest strongest & most suitable political party is upset. Congress is upset by calumnious propaganda tirade let loose by the principal opposition party BJP. The party takes solace in its domestic & global achievements and expected a pat on the back from citizens as well as opposition parties in India.  

Congress wants BJP to be accepting & approve good work done by Cong & criticize wherever they go wrong.  It is upset over BJP’s frontal attack on the party & its leaders. On its part BJP, a Hindutva supremacist RSS backed organization, is completely consistent in behaving as per its DNA.  Did it walk any differently on the ramp in 2009? Perfect Competition is a Utopian economic concept that envisages that one must continuously keep working to have equilibrium state for level playing field. We live in real the world.

Congress has a convincing case against BJP but it has to do more as it’s not a two horse race. A secular Congress has been secure in the thought that since rightwing BJP is a Hindutva supremacist party therefore a diverse India has no choice but to vote for it. This deduction looks very attractive but is it enough? Now let us examine the fundamental premise of this logical conclusion.  

A Hindutva BJP has no chance of winning against modern secular Congress unless it discredits Congress on some serious secular all encompassing factor.  Well the BJP/RSS strategists got to work in their usual manner, which is to go back into past to discover something that they thought made a lot of sense to Hindutva ideology and then try recreate, rejuvenate & bring back that into present. Essentially dig up something from past to throw at people to embrace it for a better future.

Congress in its present avatar cannot be accused of being tough & undemocratic with state governments-Modi despite serious charges get to keep his job- therefore corruption seemed to be the other original idea for BJP. You would recall in 2004 & 2009 BJP failed to convince citizens that it has ‘strong’ & ‘nationalist’ leaders that can lead India in twenty first century. So the opposition party had no choice but to paint the incumbent party as corrupt.  

BJP cleverly orchestrated campaigns led by organization outside sangh privar to accuse the Congress. Anna, Kejriwal & Ramdev were mounted to launch attacks at the incumbent party to achieve their political objective. BJP plan is simple. Create a bigger specter of corruption to camouflage the demon of racial cultural supremacy so that masses begin to see it as foremost present danger from among various other general threats. It looks fairly simple game plan.

BJP thinks that since Congress led UPA is the incumbent coalition therefore corruption issue could not boomerang on them. Well incumbency in politics also referred to as ‘Winner’s curse’ has been investigated in depth & many papers are available on this premise in political marketing literature. As political marketing student let me say that ‘corruption’ as an election issue in India has limited appeal.

India is land of perennial elections. Elections are so frequent in India that you wonder why not outsource the work to some private corporation to lower the cost. There are large companies conducting test & research activities with six sigma accuracy, they certainly would be able to plan & execute election at much lower cost in these crunch times for governments all across the globe. If the government gets out of business of conducting elections it would bring more transparency & neutrality to the exercise.

Marketing concepts & tools are often used by political players to establish & grow their relationship with citizen voters.  Political players in India are no stranger to use of it. Let me flag some critical marketing issues related to current tug of war in India. BJP has succeeded in getting far higher SOV (share of voice) at present what is has to do now is to achieve similar SOH (share of heart) & SOM (Share of Mind). What the incumbent Congress need to do now?

Congress surely has greater SOH & SOM amongst all segments of India. It needs to recover the lost ground in SOV. But let me caution that it has been established beyond doubt that incumbent party would be better off without winning the race for higher SOV. Congress party should not get carried away by media’s need for 24x7 sensational entertainment and continuously work towards having greater acceptance among elderly & youth segments in India.

India has seen Anna & Ramdev events put up by BJP strategy team and is looking forward to a Congress show of strength outside Parliament to enable the masses to determine the winner.  Congress needs a new social media strategy to counter the opposition media war. A winning strategy should be clearly differentiated one so as to counter the challenger & present your brand equity rather than engage with opponent on their turf & conditions. Congress has to augment its current media strategy.

August 4, 2012

Decline in Higher Education in India: MBA B.TECH

The Goal: Education has always been associated with higher achievement in life. Aesthetics, Health, Wealth, and Kingdoms could be created & experienced by an educated mind.  Ancient India gave highest regards to teachers by addressing them as Guru.  A Guru is one who dispels darkness by enlightening human mind.

Innovation vs. Tradition: Couple of decades ago India allowed private capital into setting up of higher education Institutes & Universities.  AICTE & other regulatory bodies were created to oversee the quality of education so that suitably trained human resources are made available for nation building activities. The initial focus of this move went into creation of capacity in Engineering, Medical & Management field. This led to proliferation of large number of Education Enterprises across length & width of India. Since Indian society do not encourage independent  original thinking therefore everything new can only be allowed if there is enough evidence of its existence somewhere else on the planet.

Wrong biz model: India is a land of happy number two unlike some other cultures that encourage & reward original thinking & innovation. So to justify the case for privatization of higher education, the success of privately managed US universities were cited.  Our bureaucracy did not bother to study the financial model for independently funded higher education institutes.  It’s criminal to allow such institutes to meet their finances entirely from students’ contribution.  Did the Babus in government borrow the model from infamous tuition shops in India? Receipts from tuition fee do not make more than 20-30 percent of the revenue of such higher education institutes in the world. They have other fund raising routes & the head of institution spends most of his time on raising funds leaving academics to the faculty.

Private vs. Public: A society needs to invest in education for sake of its future. No reasonable country leaves the task of educating its citizens to parents alone. That’s why Indian govt too provides free compulsory school education to all citizens.  Why the same government does not rationalize the financing of higher-ed institutions in India? This has led to deterioration in quality of education and entry of questionable people as promoters in this critical sector. For instance if you look at the profile of such institutes you shall find that most promoters themselves have had no education at all and they do not understand the value of core purpose of education which is to enlighten a mind. So many of such institutes have names from our ancient past that shows how much freedom such institutes would allow to students & faculty to prepare for a better future.   

Education & Employment: Student in India struggle to enroll in courses & schools that could ensure them a campus placement since employment scene in India is getting darker by the day. Rise of IT sector in India led to large number of students opting for IT related courses.  Investments in infra sector attracted students to go for civil & mechanical courses. MBA had emerged as all encompassing route to enter corporate sector which changed many lives in a significant manner.  Architecture courses attract many looking forward to join construction design boom. Medical education in private sector has expanded a lot despite many controversies.  Even after more than a decade of opening up of this sector the craze for government & autonomous higher education institutes have not diminished.  B.Tech  & MBA seem to have lost their attraction as reflected in dwindling admissions in private universities & institutes.  

B.Sc or B.Tech? Why the students have begun to opt for traditional of or B.Sc instead of B.Tech or BBA/BCA? Why Industry has refused to offer higher salary to MBA grads in comparison to other courses.  It wouldn’t be inappropriate to mention that they syllabi & teaching methodology of B.Sc courses & B.Tech is exactly same.  Even the hallowed IITs teach Engineering science rather than technology. There is hardly a privately funded institute that is treating B.Tech program as a technology course. So a student has the option to enroll in a B.Sc course rather than wasting time & money on a B.Tech program. Market forces have played out and student enrollment in B.Tech courses have fallen in 2012.

MBA Edge: As the industry left Hindu rate of growth behind and economy began chugging along with an unprecedented 8 plus growth rate millions of jobs in corporate sector were created. The corporate began recruiting MBAs in 1990s on higher salaries in droves. This fuelled mushroom growth of MBA institutes across India. Unfortunately an MBA from an average institute cannot find a job these days so new admissions have become a challenge.

Experience vs. Degree for Faculty: MBA has lost its sheen primarily for the same reason which led to unpopularity of B.Tech program which is lack of suitable faculty.  B.Tech & MBA courses require industry experienced faulty with or without a master degree or PhD.  AICTE dominated by academicians from public funded institutes cannot appreciate difference in approach to teaching of B.Sc  & B.Tech course. MBA is taught by faculty that can handle MA Eco or M.Com courses. So what’s the difference in the two programs?  A B.Tech with 10 years of engineering experience would be an excellent replacement for an Engineering professor with PhD.

No institute can guarantee a job unless economy starts gaining momentum once again. Main purpose of education is to open a mind and develop new skills of an individual. Unless an institute gets down to teaching courses in right manner it would find difficult to survive in mid to long run. And students who could master appropriate skills & attitude would not find it difficult to get a great invitation to put their learning to test. 

July 16, 2012

True Sales Manager Leads by Example

Sales teams often complain about seniors who repeatedly demand target achievement but do not provide with solutions to their problems.  Teams require leadership that could lead by example but that is easier said than done. By the time a sales pro shifts into corner office there are many changes in the sales universe.  Only solution to such crisis would be to institute regular training to the sales team based on the primary as well secondary feedback.  Following three rules could proper assist you in galvanizing your sales force.

1. Do you have a Sales Bible? Does your company have a written plan for selling?  A senior sales guy had told me once that he had the eye to spot a good sales person from an average one, and therefore success of his job depended upon recruiting a sales professional with healthy resume & pay him on time each month.  According to my friend a great sales guys would find his/her way to achieve target. Companies generally forget to standardize the selling process leaving the teams to their abstract devices. A Sales Management bible is essential to minimize the risk of weak calls to closing ratio.  A comprehensive manual of sales management would reduce the time in induction and preliminary training of new recruits.

2.Can your team asses a prospect? A star sale pro would tell you the difference between various types of prospects and align the sales strategy to suit the situation. Need & immediate want may not be the trigger for customer to reach into his pocket.  A sale pro can walk into an office and analyze the personality type of the buyer. Subsequently the sales wizard could assess the nature of the buyer and pull out matching sales-speak.

3. What’s New you got to offer? Everyone loves a new experience. People seek excitement through consuming new experiences. A marketing professional knows it fully well the value of keeping the offer in the ‘new & fresh’ quadrant. Not man would buy an iconic cult brand of yester years howsoever good that may be. A sales team requires regular infusion of new product, sales style, markets, customers & promotion to keep them engrossed in the process.  Just look into what new your sales team has got in the current cycle and analyze how much it has contributed to expansion.

Gurinder Ahluwalia is a marketing consultant & professor of marketing from Chandigarh, India. You could contact him at or 

June 12, 2012

Business Innovations & Family run Enterprises

Business life cycle, like product life cycle, is getting shorter with changes in attention span of the consumers.  This actually means that a business organization must not take itself grated to last several generations as it used to be in the past.  Average life of a business organization in the twentieth century were around twenty five years that has considerably been contracted due to factors like technological obsolescence, decreasing attention span & higher consumption propensity and proliferation of competition.  The age of Life time jobs & near immortal organizations have long been gone.

Indian businesses have to innovate to survive & succeed. The scenario in emerging economies looks little deceptive as overwhelming family ownership and government protection perpetuates the notion of continuous successful presence of the family empires.  Look round and see in how many Indian business families two consecutive generations have remained in the same business? As every generation seeks to blaze its own new trail therefore it is imperative for the family to create & nurture the innovation structure & process within.

Major Indian business houses have undergone transformation in terms of their core sectors of activity. Besides new players continue to challenge the established the existing ones. The telecom revolution in Indian markets, that succeeded the information technology boom, saw the leadership baton passed to new players despite the presence of the established giants in those sectors. Similarly when the organized retail sector was opened in the last decade for domestic players to enable them build competencies to take on global players it did not yield expected results.

Majority of established domestic corporate giants could not achieve major goals that they set out for themselves in the unfolding saga of organized retail. Most have still not been able to discover a suitable model fit for Indian consumer. The answer lies in intensive study of Indian consumer profile & habits rather than force fitting the alien business models of supple chain in India. Let us wait for the approval to multibrand FDI get nod of the Indian parliament and watch how the competition plays out depending upon the strategic stance of these existing organizations. There are several indicators that point out that subsequent to multibrand FDI comes into force most existing players would take an exit option or go for strategic joint venture.

Family owned enterprises have to learn to allow innovation to walk into their enterprises from the front door rather depend upon a small carefully controlled window. Business Model Innovation should get a strategic priority for companies to last an average lifetime.  There is need for giving strategic priority to BMI on the lines of product life cycle. 

May 28, 2012

Double your sales revenue through training of your Sales Force!

Sales teams often complain about seniors who repeatedly demand target achievement but do not provide with solutions to their problems.  Teams require leadership that could lead by example but that is easier said than done. By the time a sales pro shifts into corner office there are many changes in the sales universe.  Only solution to such crisis would be to institute regular training to the sales team based on the primary as well secondary feedback.  Following three rules could proper assist you in galvanizing your sales force.
1.       Do you have a Sales Bible? Does your company have a written plan for selling?  A senior sales guy had told me once that he had the eye to spot a good sales person from an average one, and therefore success of his job depended upon recruiting a sales professional with healthy resume & pay him on time each month.  According to my friend a great sales guys would find his/her way to achieve target. Companies generally forget to standardize the selling process leaving the teams to their abstract devices. A Sales Management bible is essential to minimize the risk of weak calls to closing ratio.  A comprehensive manual of sales management would reduce the time in induction and preliminary training of new recruits.

2.       Can your team asses a prospect? A star sale pro would tell you the difference between various types of prospects and align the sales strategy to suit the situation. Need & immediate want may not be the trigger for customer to reach into his pocket.  A sale pro can walk into an office and analyze the personality type of the buyer. Subsequently the sales wizard could assess the nature of the buyer and pull out matching sales-speak.

3.       What’s New you got to offer? Everyone loves a new experience. People seek excitement through consuming new experiences. A marketing professional knows it fully well the value of keeping the offer in the ‘new & fresh’ quadrant. Not man would buy an iconic cult brand of yester years howsoever good that may be. A sales team requires regular infusion of new product, sales style, markets, customers & promotion to keep them engrossed in the process.  Just look into what new your sales team has got in the current cycle and analyze how much it has contributed to expansion.

Gurinder Ahluwalia is a marketing consultant & professor of marketing from Chandigarh, India. You could contact him at or   

Strategic Marketing for SMEs

You know very well that in order to continue to thrive, companies must acquire, satisfy and retain customers. Marketing usually does that job for you. Anahad MC is a strategic marketing management firm with a focus on improving our client's return on marketing investment.

AnahadMC specializes in measuring and improving marketing productivity and developing strategies for driving top-line growth with innovative marketing. You could be B2B or B2C player within various verticals such as FMCG, Retail, Education, Durables, IT & Telco, Manufacturing and Services, you can benefit from us.

All too often in India, businesses do not have a clear plan or strategy. Several companies follow unplanned trial & error approach, at the most they try follow the competition with the hope to survive & beat the competition some day? They invest in the typical advertising such as yellow pages, newspaper ads, even radio and television just to throw it out there to see what sticks. Then sit back and wait to see what happens. Isn’t it? Without planning, research, tracking and analysis, your marketing efforts could lead to wastage of resources thereby postponing the break even and/or a healthy top line. A successful marketer connects & bonds strongly with customers, never takes off his eye from them.

Your marketing must be able to convey your message consistently to your ideal client. We help you discover what your customers want and need and where to find them that will most likely buy repeatedly. Our integrated marketing process consists of understanding your customer’s needs, developing a marketing strategy, building and implementing an integrated marketing plan, and tracking the results. Although the process appears to be simple, most companies have a hard time developing a marketing strategy that includes an interactive approach that actually ENGAGES their prospects & customers.

Most firms ends up focusing inwardly on their products& processes alone without realizing that it’s the customers who need greater attention. To be effective, a company must decide its targeting and positioning carefully depending upon strategic parameters and make it as an integral part of a marketing plan. A marketing strategy consists of a cohesive melding of whom you are targeting, positioning to differentiate yourself from your competitors and what features your product or service will have. It also addresses what message to send and how to send it and how you will respond to customer service.

Anahad MC helps you formulate a marketing strategy that reflects the needs, interests, habits, and behaviors of your customer through research and by getting to know your business. A comprehensive marketing plan differentiates a great company from just good ones. Let us find out what your customers want and then help you give it to them.

May 25, 2012

Will Walmart do to big Indian retailers what Samsung, LG did to BPL, Videocons?

Indian corporate has not understood that mass marketing in India is completely a different ball game as compared to the developed countries. India is unique diverse country therefore mass marketing needs qualified strategic approach different from the west. Our masses are divided by many factors other than economic or color of skin. Therefore despite opening up of the organised retail almost a couple of decades ago and entry of India's largest business houses alongwith unprecedented GDP growth resulting into 300 million middle class no domestic retailer can claim victory. Most companies are operating at scaled down version gasping for breath. In fact the large players in retail industry in India are looking forward to government's nod to FDI in multi-brand so that they could sell their companies to Walmart & Carreffour.  

Indians people lack the social skills to run service industries based on trust. See what is happening in our service sector like telecom, electricity, education & medical services etc. Service sector survives on values like trust, fairplay, equality & honesty. We have many religions, castes, languages, skins colors, eating habits but most uniting feature of our Indian society is overwhelming distrust of other. We put too much currency on smart play over fairplay. One retail company believes that India was a Sone Ki Chiriya ( Gold Sparrow) & they shall once again strive to achieve it. I would prefer India to be a Sone Ka Hathi ( Elephant of Gold).

We must keep in mind that we are not USA or Europe where people generally trust each other. We are a society that’s fractured by insidious mistrust that keeps people from behaving like a cohesive them. First step towards success of retail is to build a trustworthy team that in turn could inspire trust of the buyers, Till such mindset is achieved even Walmart would have to struggle in Indian market. Without inculcation of pride among the team working at the outlets its impossible to run such an operation.

If you examine the reasons for failure of organized retail in India many factors have been cited by various experts but no one has pointed out the most critical issue of absence of trust as the prime culprit. After all there is enough growth in economy leading to healthy demand for goods & services, some players have deepest pockets too, there is reasonably good transport backbone and India has quite a few well established fmcg majors present for long enough periods too.

We witnessed huge customer interest in buying at such outlets in the beginning & any research could reveal that customers could return to buy from organized retail if the players could get their act together. Quantity, prices, packaging, buying convenience, availability, variety and experience are few given factors that are in favor of organized retail.

Though most retail players failed due to absence of managerial competency for such operations particularly in marketing function lacked the understanding & creativity required to maintain a robust interest of customers in the stores. Across the board players focused on product images to lure the customers without strategizing the brand pull in an effective manner.

I have deep conviction that most Indian retail players would happily sell off their unmanageable companies to the new entrant into the market. Without exception Indian companies lack the competencies to take on the competition in b2c space. We are heading into times when Indian corporations would be relegated to b2b space whereas b2c would be dominated by the global giants. World's largest democracy would have global companies operating in b2c arena going into next decade. 

May 19, 2012

Watch the Stars on your Sales Team

Whenever you want to pump up your sales team, take them to the nearest multiplex to enjoy a hindi potboiler. Hindi cinema has predictable storyline comprising a hero, heroine and the ubiquitous villain. You would wonder how it would help in improving the target achievement. Well let me explain the relationship. The sales guy (hero) has to constantly fight the villain (competition) to wrest the heroine, which is the sales target. And the story is complete with few songs & dances. Therefore lots of rehearsals would be required before the actors face the audience. So training sales team can not be a onetime activity, it must be an ongoing process.
India is land of SMEs and these businesses face unique challenges, particularly in organizing the sales & marketing function. Many a SMEs that have regional & national sales organizations are still straddled with teams that were relevant 20 years ago.  Sales teams are full of people who have minimal education & have never received formal training. Such teams function in a loose bureaucratic manner and lack creativity essential for real success in the market.
Few years ago I got an assignment reengineer a b2b sales team at an enterprise led by an amiable technocrat engaged in manufacturing of capital equipment of high speed packaging machines for FMCG companies. When they decided to scale up their manufacturing operation sales team refused to generate enough orders. Such businesses traditionally depended on agents led sales team to generate orders while they concentrated on manufacturing & finance. Most companies are currently going through this transition of restructuring their sales teams from agent led model to captive & committed sales force. If your company also depends on agent led least control model then chances are that you may have to invest more time in training the sales-force to achieve targets & give a real fight to competition. But shifting from existing traditional sales teams to modern hyperactive sales teams needs careful planning. Agent based teams are hardest to control and scaling them up is extremely difficult.

Another company engaged in manufacturing of bath fitting had similar problems as half of their production was dependent on one agent only over whom they had no control. Such challenges are to me met with robust knowledge management systems. It is time to organize professional sales teams rather than depending upon self taught sales people.

There is an interesting case of one of my client in b2c space where the sales & marketing head refused to achieve the higher targets & kept pointing figures in the direction of poor product quality & commercial issues. It is common for sales team to blame everyone else for non achievement of higher targets except their own limitations. And generally no company would take head on with their stars on the sales team. The way out is periodic training in sales tactics & motivation of the team.

Several SMEs are in awe of the power & hold of their sales people on the market. The company is held hostage to the ways of the existing team that controls the top line. There is need to create & train the sales teams to face the challenges of the contemporary market scenario in India. SMEs need to audit their sales team periodically and organize them based on their objectives such as nature of the competition, product handled, type of market and demand structure in the market. The top management must keep two paces ahead of their sales force to get the desired results. Companies need to have a set calendar of training for sales team to achieve the stretch targets

May 4, 2012

Its time for Marketing

We assist our clients to grow fast by strategizing their marketing for
Optimal Returns on Marketing Investments

You would agree that in order to continue to thrive, companies must acquire, satisfy and retain customers. It’s the Marketing function that usually does that job for you. Does your marketing team have enough innovative ideas to beat the competition? Are you satisfied with the motivation level of your Sales team? Have you identified your star products needed to convey your branding to customers? Does your marketing communication reflect your vision clearly?

All excellent companies face such situations when they examine their portfolio & identify the stars. This involves review of your Marketing plan? Don’t you think it’s time to revisit the plan to infuse new life in your Marketing & Sales teams? We would be another support to you for communicating your thoughts to you sales & marketing team.  

A Strategic approach to marketing: A comprehensive marketing plan differentiates a great company from just good ones. Anahad MC helps you formulate a marketing strategy that reflects the needs, interests, habits, and behaviors of your customer through research.
Please be assured that while plan for long term objectives we never lose sight of short term targets. We would assist you on cutting the wasteful expenditure so that you won’t have to expand the marketing budgets. We would assist you on significantly improving the quality of marketing communications & boost up morale of the sales team.

AnahadMC assists its clients to have a strategic view of marketing to take on the competition. You would get better return on marketing investment. We specialize in measuring and improving marketing productivity and developing strategies for driving top-line growth through innovative marketing. We serve both B2B & B2C clients across several sectors.

Better Quality Marketing Communications: You must have noticed that some companies do not have a clear plan or strategy to achieve their marketing goals. Several companies follow a trial & error approach. Some try following the competition with the hope to survive & beat them at it someday? Others may invest in advertising such as yellow pages, print, radio, television & internet without setting clear objectives. Isn’t it? You would agree that without research, planning and analysis, the marketing efforts could lead to huge wastage of resources thereby hurting a healthy top line.

Sales Motivation Training: Sales is an exhaustive profession that depends upon psychological motivation of the each member on the team.  Sales teams have often been referred to as Sales Forces. This requires periodic timely interventions on sales tactics to enable them achieve targets.   Do you want your sales team to become a true force?

Differentiation thru Innovations: Innovation is the key to success. We would design marketing innovations as per your demand in any area of product, packaging, promotions, selling, new launches & branding to bolster your positioning & enhanced productivity. Innovations help in cutting lot of costs from the marketing budget.

Your marketing must always convey your message consistently to your customers. Our integrated marketing approach consists of understanding your & customer’s needs, developing a marketing strategy, building and implementing an integrated marketing plan, and tracking the results. Although the process appears to be simple, most companies have a hard time developing a marketing strategy that includes an interactive approach that actually ENGAGES the prospects & customers.

Please feel free to call us anytime as per your convenient timing. Thank you,

Gurinder S. Ahluwalia
P: 9417723313, 0172 4679791

April 5, 2012

Political Marketing lessons from SP’s UP victory in 2012 Elections

There have been several political & journalistic explanations flying around in media of the stunning victory of Samajwadi Party in UP 2012 but nothing much has been said from a purely marketing point of view.  How Akhilesh got it right & Rahul could not? Majority opinion blames Congress party’s lack of feet-on –street. Well then by this logic the BJP should have fared better as it always has the advantage in this department. On the contrary it could only perform equal to the Congress party in UP.  

Let me attempt to explain the SP’s victory in UP elections 2012 in the light of marketing theory & practice. Firstly let us examine the benefits of listening more to core voters during election mode. Most journos, political pundits & politicians are lamenting the lack of INC cadres on the ground in UP to get the citizens vote in favor of party despite high recall levels & awareness generated through media & personal campaigning. In my opinion & from marketing perspective it is incorrect to blame lack of troop numbers in such situations. No size of team could push a ‘bad’ product or service that customers do not want.  As I have mentioned above that BJP has always had the benefit of using RSS cadres but it has not been able to get past the pole first.  INC did not got enough votes due to lack of Feet-on-Street in UP but because it could not target differentiated offers to various segments in such huge market.

Secondly most politicians do not have any idea how much publicity they should garner. It has been proven time & again in India and globally that political players must follow classic marketing concepts when using marketing tools. Excessive publicity could harm the advertiser seriously. I have pointing it out this since NDA’s ‘India Shining’ days and recently during Punjab 2012 elections too. SAD-BJP alliance had almost hurt its prospects in the run up to elections with overdose of publicity during pre-campaign phase. Had PPCCI prompted SAD alliance in Punjab to advertise with greater frequency the results would have been different?

Every marketer knows full well that when a new entrant or rank follower try to expand the category by accentuated activity to dislodge the leader then the number two in the market benefits more than the aspirant in the short run. INC led by Rahul Gandhi failed to portray itself as an alternative to the market leader BSP therefore all its efforts went on to benefit SP. Now if INC maintains the same momentum in UP then it could have great results from UP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rahul Gandhi must continue his campaign in UP without any interval to get to numero uno place in UP 2014.

Couple of marketing lessons from UP 2012 elections are that size of cadres did not fatally restrict Rahul Gandhi from controlling UP  and secondly marketing thrives on ‘newness’ of the campaign and Congress failed to differentiate their product from the competition. 

April 1, 2012

Enlightened Self Interest: Fair or Foul

Technology & knowledge for a long period in human civilization remained an exclusive preserve of the elite. The elite forbade common man to get anywhere close to getting access to knowledge so as to maintain their stranglehold of few vicious people on the entire population with the sole aim of exploiting the people & keeping them poor & sad. There are numerous incidents in Indian mythology & history that points to existence of such abhorrent practices.

Despite being an Indian myself I am appalled by the ‘divide & rule policy’ propounded by a court teacher by the name of Manu in his work Manu-smriti that in my opinion is the main reason for most of the unfortunate happenings in our past. How could you take away self pride of millions of natives in the pretext of high or low caste and then except them to defend themselves against foreign invasion? Such divisions in society resulted in vast majority of Indians losing all self respect and pride in their talents & skills. Thus it led to establishment of hideous social structure based on master & slave relationship. The philosophy got further institutionalized with marching social rituals of folding hands, touching feet of authority & burning the dead.

No wonder that whenever India was attacked by foreign invaders, we lost every time. Why? How so many people brought up on two famous war epics of Mahabharta & Ramayana, could lose on the battlefield?  I wonder how we forget our Chandragupta & Eklavaya and remember Chanakya & Daroncharya? Who is more important achiever or the teacher?  We need to find answers so that our future could be better than our past.

India needs double digit growth for a couple of decades to be able to get noticed & counted among respectable countries in the world. India was never ‘shining’ despite projection by some politicians for sake of getting back into power. Even they agreed privately about the real state of economy. In order to achieve continuous double digit growth, most if not all Indians must agree on basics of progress. Firstly we must guard against those leaders who do not speak truth generally. I mean we could live with those who speak more often than lies. We must reject politician who keep their own enlightened self interest before the national interest of India. Of late we have seen politicians & people alike who would not mind hurting India for their own sake. Enlightened self interest must be aligned with social objectives of our India.  

February 4, 2012

Desi elections in Digital Age

Punjab recorded the highest turnout of voters (77%) during an election year that allowed no blaring speakers, road shows, high decibel advertising campaigns and minimal social media promotions. Even so, a significant number of youth and female voters came out to state their choice.  

What can we infer from this positive response to a dismal lack of the politics of persuasion?  
The great India divide between the think-global; act-local and Bharat segment of the Indian electorate was bridged to an extent by mobile media penetration but (Alas!) the internet does not network them seamlessly. This despite the fact that India has one of the biggest presence on social networking sites. At the last count, it was 38 million active Facebook users, 13 million Twitter, 12 million LinkedIn and 4 million Google + users.   

Political marketing strategists in India have been using internet-based solutions since National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA’s) India Shining campaign in 1990s.  Micro blogging, voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and social media platforms were used extensively during the subsequent elections. But surprisingly, modern technology has not found wide-scale use during the political campaigning in the five states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Uttar Pardesh.  

We did not see any YouTube videos going viral in Punjab or Uttrakhand. Jassi Khangura, the Congress candidate from Halka Dakha constituency in Punjab although kept a very sticky profile on Facebook ( and had an equally impressive website ( his poll managers failed to make the most of it during the campaign period.
To some extent the Election Commission’s model code of conduct can be blamed for it. It bars all political parties from putting out outdoor hoardings, posters and banners, or making public proclamations and promises ahead of the polls, a media vacuum that astute poll managers could have easily filled with a clever use of the digital medium. Sadly, this was nowhere in evidence.  

Indeed, when Akhilesh Yadav came out with a full-page print campaign in a leading daily in December inviting his constituents to “voice their thoughts and questions” through email, Facebook or Twitter accounts, one expected that his minions would at least update his account but save for a few videos this more less frequently than expected.      
Repetitive forms of campaigning can make politicians net savvy, cynical or desperate, but in Samajvadi Party’s case the use of "guerilla marketing" through Facebook and Twitter was completely lack-lustre. Ditto for Congress Party, while Behen Mayavati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has yet to make its debut on Facebook.   

In neighbouring Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal’s (SAD) campaign hinged precariously on their success in the 2007 elections and comprised of nothing more than a string of unimaginative, achievement- listing claims, that sounded hollow, to say the least. This time round however, the game plan may not really pay off, as voter profile has changed significantly during the interim.

Individually, both SAD and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) felt comfortable using conventional media to persuade voters to bring them back to power. Each took a 360 degree approach, evident in the use of integrated marketing communication to connect with voter segments, across territories, with very little, if any, use of the social media websites.

In contrast, Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee tried injecting humor to leverage anti-incumbency with a viral campaign, released in both online and offline format, albeit with disastrous consequences. They chose a unique political advertising strategy featuring two male caricatures, Jeeta & Jaggi, to carry forth their messages to the denizens, forgetting that the happy-go-lucky Punjabis are also overly sensitive and take affront easily. They forgot, to their detriment that the stereotypical portrayal may not work in a scenario where Manmohan Singh’s (MMS) suave image has already cut through the boisterous hyperbolic persona of BJP MP from Amritsar, Navjot Singh Sidhu. Reports are that in three days of its debut, MMS’s Facebook profile managed to garner 23,968 followers.  

Voters were quick to take umbrage at the turbaned, lathi-wielding Punjabi mascot who posed dumber-than-dumb questions. The campaign lost steam mid-way and had to be eventually abandoned. Humour sells only when it’s saleable humour. PPCC advertising campaign instead raised a sad spectre that no one appearing willing to buy into. To also lacked an identifiable core strategy and coherence. 

This is an important lesson for the users of digital medium. It’s not just cost-effective, it’s also highly interactive. All offending piece can quickly be taken off the medium. Digital also yield accurate data – more accurate than any other conventional medium – that can be used to engage different segments different and the results of all these efforts are also immediately observable and measurable.

Twitter is a more reactive platform, which is one reason why it’s more effectively used by Indian politicians. The old joke doing the round of political circles is that Shashi Tharoor’s career ended the day he started tweeting. But of course there can be other more effective ways of using social media - to collect links of events and news stories; air personal opinions; to post video links of pad yatras and door-to-door campaigning; and invite reactions and comments to have a two-way communication with one’s constituents and stay in the reckoning. Other imaginative uses could be gathering e-petitions and endorsers digitally, or for recruiting youth volunteers.
Political advertising came into its own from the days Rajiv Gandhi hired Lintas Bombay to handle the Party’s public image. Thereafter, others took cue and Samajwadi Party came out with a print campaign featuring Amitabh Bachchan, followed by National Democratic Alliance’s ‘India Shining’ campaign by Grey Worldwide that did create a buzz but, did not deliver the goods and NDA lost the 2004 elections. And therein, hangs a tale; a different tale.

Ground rules of political campaigning 

Rule No#1. One size does not fit all. Don’t have ‘one message’ for all voters. Craft different messages for different voter segments.
Rule No#2. Good work doesn’t always lead to good results. Don’t make the mistake of blowing your own trumpet.  The voters are very well-informed these days. They will see through the smokescreen and reject your efforts, outright.

Rule No#3. Start second to finish first. Wait for the challenger campaign to kick-off and study its impact. A psychographic profile of Indian voters should tell you that we harbor a huge trust deficit. If you are in the opposition, you can use that to your advantage. Greater share of voice, without equivalent share of mind and heart does not lead to positive outcomes.

Fixed vs. floating. In your message, try to woo the fence-sitters. They are the game changers. 
Don’t just do it for a lark. Everybody is not Navjot Singh Sidhu or Shekhar Suman. Don’t go overboard with your humour dose. 

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