Gandhi vs. Anna.


Anna is a simple man, so was Gandhi.

Anna started by changing himself and then his village so did Gandhi.

Anna preaches non-violence, so has Gandhi.

Anna is a stubborn man, so was Gandhi.

Anna rallied young India, so did Gandhi.

Unfortunately the comparisons stop here.

Anna is a Gandhian but not a Gandhi. I respect Anna for his honesty, simplicity, his stubbornness, intent and his peaceful methods. Leaders are always born out of adversity, when India is going through her worst leadership integrity crisis, Anna took upon himself to rally people against corrupt politics and society, a simple, quite Gandhian turned into an agent of people’s conscience.

Anna’s success came because of young India taking to streets, a movement fueled by anger and helplessness of young men and women, who silently witnessed the powerful leaders and businessmen shamelessly looting their treasury.

When corruption reached parliament, when policemen started to rape and molest little girls, when army men stoop to steal wealth, when politicians blatantly amass disproportionate wealth, When educated entrepreneurs cook-up account books, when Baba’s hide rooms full of gold and silver and when temple incomes bulge more then a state’s. You know it’s only a matter of time for a catharsis and indeed Anna became the fountainhead of this revolt.

After Jaiprakash Narayan no other leader mustered as much support as Anna. Jaiprakash Narayan succeeded in changing the government because he supported a newly formed cleaner party with leaders of intent and integrity. The agenda before the nation was clear: vote out the Nazist congress party, people understood and implemented. When people empathize with issues they need an action point and Jaiprakash Narayan provided one.

Mahatma Gandhi too understands this human truth like any other successful leaders in the history, Gandhi always gave an action point, be it making salt or burning British made cloths or asking the mighty British to “Quite India”. Any mass movement should have an actionable end. Even the recent “Occupy Wall Street” had a definitive action point to just occupy Wall Street. Simple enough for people to understand and execute.

Anna should go beyond appealing to people to come onto the streets to protest. He must give an action point, if one were to say “ Vote for Lokpal or Quit parliament” and if one were to give the agenda of pushing every local MP to vote or resign, there would have been an action plan for restless young Indians to execute.

I believe Anna will become a true heir of Gandhiji, if he becomes as shrewd thinker and as clear visionary as Mahatma is.

Why green is transparent?


Today the color “green” is the most fashionable topic in the corporate circles. NGO’s, Media and politically correct politicians have made a point to juice the juice out of the word. In a way the word is abused and bruised, may leave a bitter and ugly scar one day on the face of the earth.  Faking green is worst than destroying green.

This day and age, where the world is virtually live 24×7. it is difficult to fake than ever before. It just takes a tweet to expose. People are connected and empowered.  You can not close your eyes and pee in your pants thinking that the world will not notice.  I have been part of many conversations in the board rooms where tokenism is the biggest remedial action. Plant five trees and PR the pictures, or conduct a painting competition to staff kids on planet earth and dump the industrial waste in the Indian ocean with eyes firmly shut. This is like murdering people and putting coins in Tirupathi Hundi.

Under the garb of CSR, stupidities are been done, which are more harmful than not doing any thing, Imagine distributing 100,000 saplings and letting people killing them by not planting or watering, will you ever do this to a puppy? than why to a plant because it can’t bark back?

Almost every product carries a sign of recycling, have any of them ever recycled? why do we become suckers to such traps? Organic and Untouched by hands are other tags.  It is imposible to create anything without destruction. The intelligence lies in doing things in a permissible/ lawful manner than taking backdoor options. Today if you break anything you’ll get caught because remember your destruction is just a tweet away by the Aam Admi.

Thank god for the luminous and transparent nature of green.

How to end the debate on “cult brands” v/s “iconic brands”?


 

One of the biggest debates in the marketing and advertising circuits for a while has been on what makes a brand cultish? Any popular brand, which is not cultish, is generally considered as Iconic brand. Well does this call for debate or clarification? I am only qualified to do the former, let me try and put forth my understanding and learning before I let others to vent theirs.

Whether the brand has a cult / iconic status or not it must definitely stand the test of time. Both these statuses demand a brand to stand for values beyond functionality and must be rooted in popular culture and find a place in people’s lives over a long period of time.

Cult Brands: Apple, Volkswagen, Harley Davidson, Star trek and Benetton.

 

 

 

The word “Cult” originated from Latin word “Cultus” meaning worship or religious practice. And by extension it had started to connote the cultural aspects of religion like rituals, ceremonies, myths and personal sacrifices, miracles etc only later “Cult” started being associated with obsessive to faddish devotion to a religious myth or a religious leader or object of such devotion.

Now lets look at contemporary meaning of “Cult” in the context of brands:

Cult brands are the brands, which dare to be different and celebrate that difference and therefore posses the power of the loyalist who come together on a common ground for the common values and ideologies.

Cult brands are the brands, which are more evolved to just talk about functionality or the benefits of the category they peg themselves much higher in the human value systems, like upholding truth, honesty, simplicity, perfection and goodness. They intelligently tap into innate reserves of human conscious.

“ Star Trek” became a cult by being a crusader of human rights by juxtaposing humans and aliens, war and peace, racism and space born humanitarians all in an adventure story of planets and space.

Volkswagen” achieves with Beetle, all with utter common sense. Harley with it irreverence sense of fantasy and adventure. Apple does with its child like simplicity and perfection producing magical joy to the end user.

Now try to fit any Indian brands? Mahatma Gandhi? Osho? Thums Up? Old Monk? Royal Enfield? Rajinikanth? Mona darling? Its your turn to pick..

 

Iconic Brands: Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Lego, Rolex, BMW Mini, Marlboro and Vespa.

 

A purist definition of “Icon” means an image; a representation of a sanctified personage; an important and enduring symbol; an object of great attention and devotion.

As mentioned earlier Iconic Brands posses the ability to transcend from product benefits to become part of people’s lives and of their popular culture. And they also have the ability to tap into collective desires and anxieties of people for instance Rolex taps into the desire to be successful, Coca Cola taps into the emotion of happiness, Marlboro into the need of freedom, Lego into the need of imagination for children.

Therefore the brands endure as long as the human needs exist and over a period of time they become synonymous with the values to become “Objects of desire or devotion.

Lets try to fit some Indian brands: Tatas? Amitabh Bachchan? Sachin Tendulkar?

Godrej ? Raymond’s ? Wills? Bajaj? Hero? Scooty? Nalli’s? MTR?

While there will be less debate on what make a brand Iconic or Cult, I recon their will be heated debate on which Indian brands can make it to the list.

The debate has just began.

 

 

 

 

 

“Ganesh” most loved god by people. And most fascinated by artist.


Today Hindus celebrate the festival of “Ganesh Chaturti”, where Lord Ganesh was made head of all deities by his father Lord Shiva, religion apart, Ganesh the half elephant- half human, short, fat and has rat (rodent) as his vehicle is the most loved god in India, he cuts across all religious and physical boundaries. In Bangkok or Barampur  no business is conducted without worshiping him, similarly there is no child in the sub-continent who can not draw Ganesha. His physical appearance and his stature as god of gods and his victory over his smart brother made him as an identifiable hero with kids. And growing up with this affinity is what makes him the favorite amongst the creative people. Like kids there is no poet, writer, painter or a caricaturist who had not dabbled with this lovable god’s image. Great painters right from Raja Ravi Varma to M F Hussain all were fascinated by him which is evident from their work.

The greatest contribution to Lord Ganesha came from the much celebrated Calendar art of Shivakasi a small town in Tamilnadu. Today Shivakasi is the second largest printing capital of the world only after Gutenberg of Germany what started as a backyard litho printing units of British India, developed into rich hindu calendar art/ film poster studios to present day offset.

As a child I used to make clay Ganesha for the festival celebrations, now my daughter follows the tradition.

“Anna” the ultimate HumanKind brand.


How did this 74 year old caught the imagination of Indian youth and made them rally around a 60-year-old bill and a 5000-year-old issue?

Why did loads of tweet-support flood every nano-second of the agitation?

Why did the most powerful television channel go on a record 240 hours of non-stop coverage almost converting news as a reality channel?

Why did I change my Facebook profile picture?

Why did the opposition party go numb?

What made the seasoned politicians make such political blunders?

The answer is simple. “Anna found a purpose to his existence.”

It took years even for Mahatma Gandhi to find a purpose to his existence; lesser mortals like us may not even find one in our lifetime.

Anna discovery of his purpose and mission took the country by surprise, his timing was flawless, scams and toothless actions paved way for his massive and historic modern-day civilian movement in the world’s largest democracy.

People were angry to see the audacity of the corrupt politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders and shameless public display of money in building mansions. A trillion dollars locked in the locker rooms of Swiss banks and toilets of government quarters’, the economic progress stopped to start an economic exploitation.

Clearly someone crossed the line.

Anna’s purpose of “fighting against corruption” caught the imagination of a billion victims. And his stubborn Gandhian and his humble & honest ways attracted people like little iron fillings to a magnet. He was a mere catalyst to a huge chemical reaction destine to happen.

Now what can brands learn from this? Like great human beings find a purpose to their lives, even brands must find a human purpose to find a place in people’s lives as Anna’s life is governed by his purpose to serve the nation, even brands must be governed by its purpose. And finally must walk the talk.

As Mahatma Gandhi says “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

Being Pops.


What the heck if pretty girls call me Pops? What’s the fuch if people think I was born in the same year as Zora Sehgal ? What the hell if people try to find similarities between Balki, and me thinking that I am his Pops? What the shet if Arvind Sharma’s driver introduces me as his saheb’s “papaji” ?

It’s not easy being Pops. Yes. It’s not easy to be Big B’s Popsji, Chennai’s Mr.Pops, Miss Universe Sushmita Sen’s Pops, Chiranjeevi’s Pops garu, Balki’s Pops & Tweetaratti’s kvpops. “Baap re” its difficult to take loads of affection, respect and love.

“Pops” made Kondiparthi Venkata Sridhar a brand, and proved to the world, power of naming and branding. Imagine Mr. kondiparthiji.  What did I do to deserve to be called Pops?

Simply nothing.

In early 90’s when Chax and I joined Lintas as creative heads of one of their Bombay units, Alyque Padamsee was at his wittiest best when he hired an ex- military Major as chief administrator. Now one can imagine the hierarchy and bureaucracy ruling the floors of Express towers.

In such an office there was a quite shy-ish six-foot young copywriter named Sridhar existed. Since the culture did not allow bosses to be nicknamed, poor little baby-faced Sridhar was christened as “Baby Sridhar” and me, months later by default became “Papa Sridhar” and then came a livewire called Asha Rishi an account executive who started calling me Pops.

By virtue of my personality people felt it’s an apt description of me. Chax my partner in crime need to take some blame for not resenting in fact he started a chain of jokes on Pops. Around mid 90’s advertising and marketing media suddenly became big and they took up the mission of making Pops stick in people’s heads.

In old day advertising guys used be real characters with some quirkiness, Alyque with his diction, Kersy with his suspenders, Chax with his Gandhi glass and signature beard, Piyush with his handlebar mustache, Prahlad with his cigars and hat, since I had none, “Pops” helped me to be remembered.

All jokes apart, the changes that came along with the name Pops are: made me look wiser, acquire patience, forced me to listen to people and lend my shoulder, made me stop leching at young girls once they call you Pops. Convinced me to adopt young talented kids and above all reminds me to make my bucket list every morning.

As the cliché’ goes: the rest is history.

( Written specially for Impact magazine.)

Best Brand Acts 2010.



Most of the enlightened brands today stopped doing “Ads” and started doing “Acts”, Ads usually chest thump about how good they are and propagate their superiority in all media channels. Acts on the other hand are the deeds brands do in public domains and are neutral to paid media channels or they put up their act in real life rather than communicate through paid mediums.

Brands today try to behave in a selfless manner and propagate certain values to emotionally connect with like-minded people, like Tata tea never asks you to buy its branded tea instead urges you to be awakened to the responsibilities of a citizen. This action or the behavior of a brand makes you want to connect and live alongside.

Human like behavior of a brand is what Leo Burnett terms as “HumanKind Brand”, brands are trying to find its purpose of existence in people’s lives so that they can play a meaningful role and become a part.

Thus to make this journey possible brands can’t fake things as fake friends are not difficult to spot, they need to be honest and earnest therefore they must “Act” the way they promise.

Now you know the power of ‘Acts” here are some powerful and earnest “Acts” put-up by Indian Brands in 2010:


Gillette “Shave India movement”- by women against lazy stubble.

Women prefer “clean-shaven men” is a universal truth. Men are dumb and they never get it, they all want to look macho by sporting a stubble. This insight had led to an inspired “Act” of “Shave India Movement”

Around November last year “Shave India movement”- by women against lazy stubble was announced and launched by sexy sirens of Bollywood: Neha Dhupia, Manisha Lamba and Mugdha Godse forcing men to get shaved, thousands of women joined soon in the protest against men with stubble. Television and social media transmitted the idea like wildfire, soon shaving camps were organized, media started ridiculing men with stubble forcing them to shave, in the midst of all this Gillette launched its cheaper Mach-3 razor for 125 rupees.

Bravo BBDO, Mediacom and Proctor & Gamble!

Hippo “Crowd Sourcing” on twitter.

Creativeland Asia and Parle Agro had an innovative solution for a complex distribution problem, they appealed to the tweeters to report to them if they have not found “Hippo” in the neighborhood shop and promised to make it available in an hour’s time. Curious tweeters reported and participated in the drill actively making the brand more fun and inclusive.

This cleaver “Act” not just saved the brand’s distribution or inventory problem but also created a bond with the consumers and made a statement to the young social media audience how innovative, young and agile they are!


“Aman ki Asha” an Initiative by Times of India & Jung Group Pakistan.

What can one say to an ‘Act” like this? Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud. Two nations have been fighting bitter wars since 1947 while the majority of the people in both the nations want to live in peace and harmony. Two huge newspapers take plunge of propagating peace in the midst of terror and distrust. Teachers, artist, businessmen, filmmakers, intellectuals, poets, actors, scientist and commoners all came together to exchange ideas and peace messages.

This “Act” I believe had re-kindled the love and affection this two nations once shared.


Virgin Mobile: “Indian Panga League”

When you want to be young and happening what do you do?  Simple. You behave like one. Virgin had a choice of hiring a lesser cricketing star and do a conventional 30 seconds spot or think little different. They chose to do the later and took the trouble of going the extra mile by behaving little “hutke”.

Indian Panga League is launched for the IPL session-3 is a complete digital campaign with 100 viral films on YouTube and the website, allowing young fans to take friendly pangas with their buddies supporting rival teams, this generated huge participation on the micro site over 1 million visitors, 500,000 views on YouTube and 3000 fans on Facebook. Bates and Virgin’s choice proved to be the right one, young janta went berserk.

Gandhiji Font.

To commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 141 birthday, Leo Burnett had decided to create a special font designed from his iconic spectacles to enable a young nation to see Mahatma’s vision. This “Act” will take wings, once the ambitious project get into top gear by launching the font in all 16 Indian languages, currently Devnagari, English, Marathi and Telugu are available awaiting for a symbolic gesture of dedicating to the nation by The Government of India.

The ambition of this project is to make mahatma’s vision relevant to younger generation especially by using digital space to connect.

In the land of Mahatma Gandhi the “Act of Acts” is no new discovery, the symbolic “Salt Production” was an “Act” to bring behavioral change, so is non-co-operative movement. Imagine Bapu trying to explain the significance of freedom in a long copy ad than to a metaphoric act of salt making”