Marketing of “Acche Din”!!!

No other phrase has caught the imagination of the public – intelligentsia and others as this Acche Din” (Good Days) in recent memory in India. The only others I could think of are – Big B’s ‘Lock Kiya jai??’ during the heydays of KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati). For few years post KBC-Season 1, we Indians were only “Locking” instead of “confirming” or “making sure”😃 . More lately, when Aamir Khan insisted on “All izz well” in Raju Hirani’s 3 Idiots, “I am fine”, “Sab teek hai”,.. got paraphrased by “All izz well”. (“All” being pronounced as “aal” ad nauseum😠)  So similarly these days, it’s raining Acche Din!!! Our Prime Minister has turned out to be so good in marketing that his Twitter bio could very well read – “Narendra Modi. Prime Minister of India. And a Marketing Maven”.

And this is exactly what has set the discourse in the media in a wrong track. Once again. “Your Government is all about marketing and packaging” is a refrain the NDA ministers were subjected to in all the interviews they gave around Modi365. The anchors were different, the channels were different, and the language was different. But the shrill accusation was the same. That this Government indulges itself in Marketing and loud at that.

As if “Marketing” in itself is a crime inflicted on society. And this notion is not something which has sprang up with the advent of Modi Sarkar. In general there is this subtext that marketing is nothing but a con job!! That marketing goes well with people with the Gift of the gab!!! And that marketing is all jazz and no mass.

For a long time I used to wonder where this impression came from! Gradually, I got the answers. First, in general Marketing and Direct selling (one to one selling) are often used interchangeably. That selling or sales is just one aspect of Marketing is a lesson which gets drilled in the first few pages of Philip Kotler. However in real life, people who are in say selling of Insurance policies or vacuüm cleaners or Time share holidays on one to one basis are often called as “Marketing” people. In direct selling situations more often than not we end up buying the product just to ward off the salesperson’s thollai/parishan (torture)😞😞. And the thought keeps lingering for quite some time that he/she has conned us into buying.  And hence the belief that marketing is just that – A royal conning!

Second, Marketing is also equated to Advertising. Even in B-schools many aspire to join marketing stream with a delusion that they will be associated with creating ads all the time in their career. In reality, advertising is just one part of marketing. When we keep seeing ads of toothpastes which promise “Crystal White teeth” in 45 days or commercials for Nutritional drinks which promise to grow children tall automatically in few months and nothing close to those anyway happen – we conclude that “Marketing” is all about taking people for a ride.

(And there is a third one which I get to see these days often. I.e using the word marketing for “going to the market for shopping”😜😜)

Thanks to the above fallacies, Marketing has got a bad name. In truth, Marketing is not hard selling. Is not advertising or for that matter shopping!! But is a more complex process of creating, communicating, and delivering something that have value for customers. (Ouch, that was a gyan overdose😜). Even a damn good product requires damn good marketing of the same.  In political context, the 1991 reforms which are now seen as the game changer for India now, were never marketed that time. So much so, even among the Congress there was such a backlash that Manmohan Singh, the then finance minister had to claw back on the reforms push. If the benefits of the reform programme were marketed well the phrase “Economic Reforms” in India would never have taken a negative connotation. Same is the case with NDA’s disinvestment programme during Vajpayee regime. So this brings to the fore the importance of “Good Marketing” (like the need for good cholesterol – for the sceptics) in politics for Pro bono.

Hence to a large extent, I am glad to see the present Government and the PM going all out to “market” their initiatives whether it is Make in India, Jan Dhan Yojana or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.  Or for that matter packaging the 1st year achievements as ‘Saal Ek Shuruaat Anek’. As long as the PM and Government are good at last mile delivery of the products as they are in marketing of the same, I am certain Acche Din are round the corner for India. And I am also certain that the PM is also aware of the repercussions otherwise. That Abki Baar Modi Sarkar would be branded as Abki Baar Jumla Sarkar the next time around😆😆

Acche Din toon

Postscript: My apologies if the title made you to believe that this post is another post mortem of the 1st year of Modi Sarkar.  There has been 100’s of that in the last few days! So didn’t want to add to the clutter. On the other hand, Perception management is one part of Marketing. I thought Marketing itself needed a dose of perception management 😆😆

Cartoon credit: Satish Acharya

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The Maha Gam(e)ble!!!

Its’ been a real long while since I studied Game Theory. But since the last few weeks in the run up to the State elections in Maharashtra, we have been witness to a live demo of its application by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its now former ally the Shiv Sena(Sena). From the results which have just come today and the possible outcome, it appears that the BJP played the game well and has come out trumps.

Theoretically speaking, Game theory refers to the branch of mathematics concerned with the analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations where the outcome of a participant’s choice of action depends critically on the actions of other participants.

Looking at the sequence of events in this election, the moves by the BJP could fit in the above definition. Right after the big win in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP clamored to be the bade bhai in the BJP-Sena alliance in the assembly polls. The reasoning was quite simple. With Modi, they had a winning horse and they believed that Sena owed it to them for in a way reviving the fortunes of Sena in the Lok Sabha Polls and for relegating the other Sena to the corner. Sena, however wanted to continue with the old existing formula conceived by Bal Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan 20 years ago whereby BJP will contest more seats in Lok Sabha elections while Sena will contest more in Assembly polls. And when the alliance won, the CM will be from the Sena. This formula worked well as along as BJP was not the dominant party as it is today. So in the negotiations that followed, conclusion eluded and the old alliance broke resulting in BJP and Sena going alone competing against each other.

Sena

There were many who felt that this was a big gamble by the BJP and the Sena as a split vote may help the Congress/NCP. (In a very, very strange move almost leading to conspiracy theories, NCP also announced break up with the Congress the next day). Here’s where BJP applied the funda of Game theory and applied it well. As per me it would have been better for the Sena to have kept the alliance together at any cost and if it was just giving away a few more seats than last time they should have. For the BJP, breaking the alliance was a win-win-win deal looking at the probable outcomes:

  1. If they get absolute majority by themselves, nothing to complain.
  2. If they fall short of the majority and emerge the single largest party, they could still form the Government taking support from either the Shiv Sena or NCP or MNS depending upon the number picture.

If the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance would have continued it would have been a landslide victory for the combine. But for the BJP, it would have been less than 100 seats and with no CM post. Sena by virtue of contesting in more seats had a better chance of winning more seats and retain the CM post. Perse additional numbers in the state assembly helps the cause of more Rajya Sabha seats which is another requirement for Modi i.e to establish majority in the Rajya Sabha sooner or later.

And the other subtext is, had the BJP-Sena alliance continued is that it would have been inconclusive as to who is the bigger brother.

By going it alone and by winning double the number of seats as the Sena, the BJP has clearly established how the wind is blowing. Now the option is with the BJP being the single largest party though without a majority to co-opt Sena in the Government and run the state.  For many who believe that the BJP-Sena coalition will be as disastrous as the Congress-NCP combine, the difference is stark. In the former case, BJP is heading the Government at the Centre with a clear majority and a supreme leader unlike the UPA.

Unlike many who believe that a decisive mandate in favour of BJP would have been better than this fractured verdict, I have a different view. In this scenario of Maharashtra where BJP and Sena have been allies till now, if BJP got the majority mandate, Sena would have become the main opposition party. For Sena’s own survival they have to dig in to the same “constituency” to create any impact. Having followed Sena’s politics in the opposition it would be a major distraction for BJP to handle the Sena’s antics every now and then. By making it part of the Government, hopefully Sena will behave more responsibly and try to catch up for the time they lost in the middle without being in power.

For the Sena it is not a bad deal either. They get to share power after a lonnnnnnng while. Uddhav gets to establish his supremacy within the Sena finally. Gets an opportunity to pitchfork the 3rd Gen tiger cub ahead. And got to silence the “other” Thackeray once for all.

At the end of the day, for the BJP,

  • Their vote share has doubled
  • They have added 65+ seats compared to 2009
  • They have emerged as the single largest party in terms of vote share and seats
  • They have successfully got the Sena off their back

So for the BJP it was it was not a Gamble as it is touted to be but a thought out “Gam(e)ble.

Postscript: While on elections, today has been the counting day and if at all if there is one winner who defeated all panelists, experts,… it is Arnab Goswami. No Game theory and all here 🙂 🙂

Toon courtesy :  http://www.newsmobile.in

Blame it on “India Shining”!!!

Indians or should I say Middle Class Indians were ushered into the new year of 2004 with a feel good factor spread by the “India Shining” campaign launched by the then ruling front – the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA ) or rather its anchor constituent the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP ).  The reasoning was quite simple.  The NDA, whose term was to end in Oct 2004, thought that the time was ripe to call in early elections to cash in on the overall positive political climate.  (It is said that the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not keen on this move and felt that there was still work to be done but eventually had to give in to the more vocal party strategists).  The economy was booming, stocks markets were on a high, state election results were favourable, external affairs particularly relations with Pakistan was stable and more than everything the principal opposition the Congress was in a dilapidated state – reasons enough for this early calling of elections.   So, if I remember correct from Jan in that year onwards for a few months we were inundated with the “India Shining” campaign across all media.

1991, when India was in the verge of bankruptcy was when we were introduced to “Reforms” – both Economic and Structural.  While credit must be given to the architects of the Reforms 1.0 – Dr. Narasimha Rao, Dr. Manmohan Singh and their team, it is also not a secret that many of the items in that Reforms 1.0 were mandated by the IMF.  In the period of 1999 – 2004 during the NDA regime, we saw what I would call as Reforms 2.0.  Independent India for the 1st time had a full time minister for Disinvestment (Arun Shourie) who spiritedly fought his detractors to disinvest and unlock value in many of the Public Sector Units (PSUs) including the likes of Maruti Udyog, IPCL, VSNL,.. Petroleum Minister Ram Naik ventured into the now very sensitive area of dismantling the Administered Price Mechanism for Petrol whereby price of petrol will be decided by market forces rather than by the ministry. It was also the time when the Telecom read as Mobile revolution was slowly sweeping the hinterlands of the country.  With the benefit of hindsight one can say that from governance point of view the NDA regime didn’t do a bad job and if one realizes that it was also a cobbled up opportunistic alliance with its own compulsions, Vajpayee did manage to do a great job.

To the shock of all pundits, NDA lost and UPA came to power.  It was easy for all to blame NDA’s “India Shining” campaign for the defeat.  However there was a larger issue – far reaching conclusions were arrived by the stake holders. Some of them were – ‘India Shining campaign’ is a metaphor for reforms.  So that means if people rejected “India Shining” campaign, they rejected Reforms. Period. The political conclusion across the board was that the NDA was defeated because of the misleading “India Shining” campaign where the aam admi felt that he was not benefitted by the NDA rule while somebody else has.  The fact of the matter is NDA lost not because of their “India Shining” campaign or the reforms which they pursued but in spite of them.  While they swept the Hindi belt except Delhi, they lost the 2 important states in the South – AP and TN.  AP because Chandrababu Naidu in his obsession with the IT and the chatter class hype was completely oblivious of the strides Y.S.Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) was making with his “Padyatra’ in the interiors of AP.  In TN, BJP made the strategic error of listening to wrong advisors and allied with Jayalalitha and let DMK go off their alliance.  These 3 states were enough to upset the electoral arithmetic.

This made the political class in both sides of the divide to firm up that reforms were never benefitting the poor.   Since then reforms in India is not a 7 letter word but a four letter one for the entire political class whether the ruling front or the opposition.

The immediate fallout was that UPA –I with the Left supporting them outside decided to “Spend” for growth rather than “Invest” for growth.  The govt. itself had a very limited reform agenda and even that was opposed by the Left.

One thought that in UPA-II without the Left and with a renewed mandate, the PM and his party-the Congress would be in a firmer wicket to push through reforms. However in UPA-II we see the spectre of Mamata who is blocking any supposedly reform initiative of the beleaguered government.  The Left is having a last laugh today because Mamata is espousing what all they believe in and in that in a much more effective way!  While Dr. Manmohan Singh risked his govt. while taking on the Left on the issue of the Civil Nuclear deal with the US during UPA-I, there is nothing of that steely nerve seen in pushing through reforms now.

And on the other side the situation is worse.   The BJP still smarting under that defeat in 2004 opposes the same reforms which they introduced in their time whether it is the GST or FDI in retail or even dismantling the APM completely.  Today while in the opposition it is clear that they are paying lip service to reforms!

I am glad that there is serious debate in the country regarding reforms today. However the political leadership across the board is not on board the Reforms bus. Under the scenario we need articulate political leaders to drive home the economical and therefore the political advantages of Reforms to their party men.  Recently I saw Dr. Shashi Tharoor using the online medium to build consensus on reforms which should be commended. Similarly Yashwant Sinha though doesn’t speak well of the reforms in the parliament has been vocally articulating the need for reforms in his columns.  Let more of this tribe emerge!

In spite of all this if “Reforms” still remains a bad word – blame it on that “India Shining”!

While on this, this piece from The Economist is a relevant read :

http://www.economist.com/node/21556576?fsrc=nlw|hig|6-7-2012|2049894|73958874|AP

P.S: In a recent article in the Economic times, N.K.Singh, Ex Finance Secretary and now Rajyasabha MP wrote, “When I walked into the room of finance minister Manmohan Singh shortly after June 21, 1991, to congratulate him, he told me that “we will change India”.

Dr. Singh – India is waiting to see that change you promised Sir!