AAP – Media Bias and Double Standards

India is going through a very difficult time right now. Most politicians are complaining that media is misquoting them, giving false information and promoting an agenda. People who follow news closely too are feeling miserable seeing the way Indian media is handling news. Media is acting like a Mafia doing whatever it feels like, knowing well that they can get away with it. Media has become the king maker today. 

 

We soon might have to introduce some laws to regulate media and to ensure that it is held accountable for atleast the facts published if not the opinions. But as of now, we expect people of influence to not encourage cheesy headings and misinterpretation of quotes. 

 

While Arvind Kejriwal has spoken openly against media bias and the way news is being handled in India, I find it strange that he himself has no problem when the same style of Journalism is used against his opponents. I am well aware that there was a phase when Indian news channels were telecasting rubbish against Aam Aadmi Party. That was unfortunate. But having been a victim itself, I was hoping that AAP would not indulge in such cheap tactics of misleading people. 

 

Whenever the verified account of Arvind Kejriwal or AAP shares a news article which is very misleading, it saddens me. This is because the youth of India (Including me) have a high amount of respect for AK and AAP. It saddens me because it looks like he is encouraging media to publish groundless data, without worrying that he is breeding a monster which would some day come back to haunt him. 

 

These are some of the examples. All the screenshots are taken from the timeline of respective VERIFIED accounts and you can check them on Twitter/Facebook. 

 

1) BJP is using Google Ads extensively to publicize itself. Google shows ads based on user’s browsing history and the content on the website. In one such case, some users might have seen BJP ads on www.dawn.com which is Pakistani news portal. You can see such ads on any website of the world which uses Google Ads. Either Kejriwal was not aware of this before retweeting the content, which would mean he does not understand simple things like Google ads and just retweets anything which looks anti Modi OR he was aware of the system and willingly tried to misguide his followers. 

 

2) Modi’s Interview on IndiaTv clearly said that Vadra should be punished on the basis that judiciary feels he has done something illegal and not just because he is ‘Vadra’ . We can not go about throwing people in jail because they are close to the opposition party (witch hunt) and instead we must follow the judicial process. 


If the verified and official account of Aam Aadmi Party Uttar Pradesh shares such misleading news without actually watching the video then this is very unfortunate. I am in no way suggesting that other parties do not follow such cheap tactics.

 

 

 

3) Wal-Mart Pvt Ltd runs 20 wholesale stores under the Best Price Modern Wholesale brand. These are cash and carry wholesale stores and can not be considered as retail stores. AAP can always oppose FDI in wholesale as well. That is acceptable. But saying that Gujarat has allowed FDI in retail is misleading. 

 

Microsoft, The Biggest Beneficiary of Piracy

“The actions of the pirates have merged with the interest of Microsoft to create a near monopoly in the operating systems market for the PC.” - Dagens Politik

Microsoft seems to be fighting hard against piracy and claiming huge losses due to piracy. But the fact is that the biggest beneficiary of software piracy has always been Microsoft. Some of the reasons below will help you see through this claim.

1) Piracy is okay. Indifference is not.

The biggest fear of any company is that nobody cares enough about it’s software to steal it. While the ideal scenario would be to have 100% of the target market becoming paying customers, we don’t really live in an ideal world.

The next best thing would be to have a lot of users and then hope to convert them to customers one day. Piracy helps Microsoft have a huge user base which eventually drives revenues. This is what happened in China and India around the year 2007.

Microsoft Piracy

2) Price discrimination

Piracy helps Microsoft achieve a very effective price differentiation strategy. Instead of down pricing/going open source to avoid loosing customers, it can simply choose to ignore piracy.

Corporates/users who are able and willing to pay the steep price of Microsoft softwares become paying customers. Those who can not just use the pirated copies.

3) Maintaining Monopoly

It is extremely difficult for any company to sell a product slightly inferior to Microsoft’s at even half the price. The users in emerging market or the value conscious users tend to buy the pirated copy of the real stuff for a couple of dollars instead. This has also helped Microsoft, to some extent, counter the attacks from open source softwares.

“It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not,” – Bill Gates

4) Corporate sales

Imagine how much pain it would be for large companies (non-tech) to move to open source operating systems. All the employees will have to be given basic training and the productivity of each employee would take a dip.

This is because employees themselves are used to using windows all their life. Piracy has ensured that most people are very much familiar with Windows and in most cases only Windows.

5) Adoption. Third party applications.

Since piracy ensures that Windows OS is the most widely used operating system around, most developers take all the pain to make their offerings perfectly compatible with Windows. This is true even for web developers. This trend in turn makes Windows even better and makes the job of its competitors even more difficult.

As much as Microsoft likes to crib about piracy, piracy is it’s single biggest weapon against open source. To quote Matt Asay, the COO of Canonical (company behind Ubuntu),

To hold its lead, Microsoft may well need all the piracy it can get/afford. The question is, how much is that?

 

10 Marketing Lessons From Narendra Modi’s Chai Pe Charcha Campaign

‘Chai pe Charcha’ is the latest campaign by the Bhartiya Janta Party with a target of reaching two crore people.

The campaign unfolds at a very crucial time with the Lok Sabha election just a few months away. As part of the campaign, Narendra Modi or any senior party leader would interact with people through special video conferencing using internet and custom TV monitors.

The one of the biggest ‘hangout’ would take place through 1000 tea stalls located across 300 cities.The locations are strategically chosen from all the constituencies where the party plans to contest elections. The campaign plans to have 10 rounds of tea-time discussion separated by an interval of 5 days each.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha‘ campaign along with the ‘Statue of Unity, iron collection’ campaign will act as the 2014 version of the earlier public outreach programs like ‘Rath Yatra’.

While this has, for sure, attracted a lot of attention from the people interested in politics, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt for marketers as well.

I have jotted down some of key lessons from the campaign.

Image

 

1. Bring-in outside perspective

Citizens for Accountable Governance or CAG is the organization behind the campaign. Though the professional support group defines itself as “not-for-profit organization to build a substantive and purposeful engagement with various establishments in the country and engage the youth in a movement to further strengthen accountable governance in India.”, the organization can be treated as a task force for the Modi Campaign. CAG is guided and mentored by Prashant Kishor, one of the behind-the-scenes Modi strategists and former UN mission chief in Africa.

The setting up of CAG was in itself a marketing master stroke. Any business / organization trying to find innovative ways of positioning itself better should include people from outside the industry to bring fresh perspective to it’s marketing. Experts from other industries bring with them ideas and processes which not only seem radical but also help organizations unshackle themselves from age old mentality and conventions. CAG serves this purpose extremely well.

CAG has 70+ members from IITs, IIMs etc and have strictly no prior association with any political outfit. The members come from diverse backgrounds such as journalism, law, consulting, investment banking, technology etc.

After its formation, CAG created multiple marketing and outreach programs like Young Indian Leaders Conclave, Manthan, Samvad etc. These programs were possible only because of the fresh perspective of CAG and no amount of political experience within BJP could have resulted in such initiatives.

2. Understand your target audience

The campaign hits the nail right on its head when it comes to the target audience. The BJP is known to have a strong support from educated middle and upper middle class. The party also has a strong backing from upper caste Hindus. But the party has always struggled when it comes to low income groups and uneducated masses.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign might turn out to be the best solution for the problem. The campaign will allow the party to reach the lower income and uneducated population easily and directly. The format of the campaign too is simple and inclusive with higher chances of appealing to the audience than the format of conventional rallies.

3. Choose the right platform

The platform you choose for communication is always of utmost importance. It makes absolute sense to advertise an MBA college at CAT/GMAT forums or at career fairs. This is because people are already discussing about the pros and cons of certain MBA colleges and often form their opinions on such platforms.

Similarly, tea stalls have always been the preferred platforms for discussion related to politics, weather, cricket and everything else which is not personal. You often see people debating at tea stalls about the current state of economy and the performance of current government.

People influence others and get influenced here. Opinions get formed about political leaders and generic issues are discussed at length. This makes tea-stall the perfect platform for such a campaign.

4. Reach your audience. Do not wait for them to reach you

Another key learning from the campaign is that it is extremely stupid to wait for your audience to reach you. If your audience does not read newspapers or does not watch your speeches on Youtube, you do not ask them to change their behavior. You do not wait for them to start caring about you and get interested in you. Instead you get outside your comfort zone and reach them in theirs.

Live QnA is never the comfort zone of any politician. They always prefer to give monologues instead. But when it comes to marketing you need to do what best helps you reach your audience and do it with conviction.

5. Embrace Technology

No matter what your product is, no matter what your educational background is, in this era you can not be excused for being ignorant about technology. Technology can enable you to reach your audience effectively and if you don’t embrace it, your competitors certainly would. Also, if a 63 year old politician can be open minded to technology, you and I certainly must.

6. Make marketing a two way process

Gone are the days when marketers could just grab people and tell them about their products. Nobody cares about monologues and communication can no longer be one way. Organizations must include their customers in the process of innovation and interact with them constantly.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign focuses on allowing people to talk, listening to them and making them feel that they are a part of the effort towards rebuilding India. This is vastly different from political rallies and even TV interviews where only a selected few get to be a part of the debate.

7. Focus on subtle branding

The campaign also serves a very important purpose of reinforcing the image of Narendra Modi of a man who sold tea in his initial days and rose to power from a very humble background. The campaign very effectively and subtly focuses on the branding which BJP considers important to win some additional seats. It uses the right symbol of tea in its communication so that it would not have to explicitly publicize about Modi’s chai-waala origin.

8. Integrate various communication channels

It is high time that marketers stop treating individual channels separately and instead try to create strategies to exploit synergies among different channels. They can not continue to differentiate between online, offline, conventional and new age channels. Most successful campaigns integrate all channels to get maximum impact.

The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign takes the advantage of on ground kiosks to gather people in the offline world, connects them to party leaders and people from other towns using cutting edge technology and broadcasts the discussion to millions using new age media. The TV and print media would then talk about the discussions and further increase the reach and visibility. This kind of integrated campaign is what most companies need.

9. Associate your brand with things people already care about

Coca-Cola tried to associate itself with the word ‘Thanda‘, Maruti tried to associate itself with the phrase ‘Kitna deti hai‘, Oreo associated itself with the dunk biscuit before eating ritual. All companies have tried to associate themselves with something people are already familiar with.

Discussion over a cup of tea is something every Indian can relate to. And hence the campaign makes a lot of sense in this respect as well.

10. Do something which people will talk about

I am not sure how many suggestions related to national issues would emerge from the campaign nor am I confident that Modi would be able to communicate his agenda to the people, but what I am sure of is this:

There would be a lot of charcha about this ‘Chai pe Charcha’ and in the times like now, charcha is good. Charcha is ‘people talking about you’. Charcha is ‘trending’.

Aam Aadmi Party: Branding, Communication & Inconsistency

Aam Aadmi Party: Branding, Communication & Inconsistency

AAP. There is no denying that the word itself gets people interested. There is so much content being produced and consumed about the Kejriwal team, that no blogger craving for a larger audience can afford to not write something about AAP. Having given a hint about the purpose of this blog, I would like to go ahead and make it clear that I am not anti AAP or anti Kejriwal. The promise of a transparent and corruption free government is bound to make every Indian excited, and I am no different. In fact, for the first time since I started taking interest in politics, I am finding myself with the luxury of choosing between two leaders who deserve to lead the country. This is exciting news. Because so far, India has always seen the problem of lack of choices rather than the problem of making a difficult choice.  




Equally satisfying is the fact that for the first time, my generation has started taking active interest in politics. We are no longer indifferent. We are debating on key issues. Issues like malnourishment in a state and the economic growth under a chief minister. We are talking about the transparency in a party and the merit of candidates. We want to hear the opinion of PM nominees on key issues before we cast our vote. For the first time we are monitoring the steps taken by a CM during the first two weeks at office. This I think is the biggest success of both NaMo and Kejriwal. These are the signs of a healthy democracy. 

Now let me mention a few areas which I find concerning. I will exclude all the issues which are already being discussed in the mainstream media. I will also avoid commenting on the policies which were announced post the results of Delhi assembly elections. 

1) Target Audience: Who is Aam Aadmi? 

The AAP team has repeatedly focussed on the fact that unlike other parties, they are here to serve the common man, the aam aadmi. But who is a aam aadmi? From the public statements of party leaders, it seems almost everyone is an aam aadmi. From riksha waala to doctor. From an IT engineer in Bangalore to a professor in Jaipur. AAP’s definition of aam aadmi includes everyone whether BPL person or someone earning 2 lacs per month. 

This surely does not look like a niche to me. From my experience of talking to VCs and entrepreneurs, I can say one thing for sure: If you say that you will cater to a segment which is unserved to by your competitors and in the same breath you say that your target audience is 95% of all users, you will be kicked out of the meeting room within five minutes. 

Why does not the party simply say that it aims to serve all Indians equally instead of focussing on the word ‘Aam Aadmi’. Isn’t this misleading. 

Though I can understand Kejriwal’s point that other parties are corrupt and criminals, I know for sure that they can go to any extend to get votes. I fail to understand Kejriwal’s claim that these vote thirsty parties are intentionally ignoring 95% of the voters. Does not make sense. 

(On a lighter note, I find it strange that the Shobha Des and Mayawatis of the world have not called Kejriwal sexist yet. What about the Aam Aurat? Why is she excluded from the party name) 

2) Merit: What Are The Metrics?


As a transparent and democratic party, shouldn’t there be more details regarding the metric for selecting its candidates? Unlike AAP, other parties have been in existence for years. There is supposedly a system in other parties where either family members of prominent leaders or businessmen with spare money to put into campaigning or party workers who over the years show there mettle in politics are given the ticket from specific constituencies.

Tata Tea – Neta ke job ka qualification


The metric made public has been that we will give ticket to honest people who want to serve the country. Both these parameters are not only subjective, but also have a ceiling. One can only be 100% honest, not more than that. I am sure that the party would claim that all its members are 100% honest. So how do you choose from so many honest people? 

Though you can personally talk to some shortlisted people and understand their past work, But with the loksabha nomination form available online, there are bound to be many applicants. How would AAP do the first screening? CGPA cutoff? GMAT score? Aptitude test? 

Aptitude test would be good start considering we would never want to have an honest yet foolish person leading our constituency or state or nation. 

3) Inclusion vs Autocracy

I love the AAP agenda of inclusion in politics. It sounds good that everyone will get a chance to represent his/her people. It also sounds good that all party decisions will be taken in a democratic way keeping the opinions of key people in mind. But somehow this promise contradicts what I see on the AAP membership form and on the loksabha nomination form.

Take this for example: 

Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form
Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form



What if I am an honest and patriotic citizen of India who wants to see his country grow, but I believe in some cause which conflicts with the Party objectives and want to continue working towards that cause? Am I not allowed to join AAP? 


Or take this for example:

Screen shot of clauses in the AAP Loksabha nomination form



What if I sincerely believe that acquiring land for the greater good of the society is a necessary evil and do not not want to bring laws which can impact this process? Should I forget about joining AAP and instead join the corrupt parties? 

How is this democratic in any way. A bunch of you guys have defined the party ideology and now new people will be added to that bunch only if they agree to your ideology. How will the party have any meaningful internal debate in future if everyone in the party has exactly the same ideology. Are you not creating too much selection bias? Stuff your party with people who have all left of centre views? 

Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form



The one above too is debatable. What if someone who has been convicted of a crime, served his sentence and is now a changed man. Is he not allowed to participate in your ‘Aam’ movement. Even after serving his sentence, he has lost his democratic rights? 

4) AAP Supporters: What Is Your Stance? 


I wrote a blog post long back where I tried to give my analysis of NaMo as prime ministerial candidate. Soon the NaMo and Congress fan brigade started abusing it though I was being as neutral as possible. This is exactly what pisses the neutral people off who are trying to have a healthy debate. Are AAP fans doing the exact same thing now? 

Whenever anyone criticizes AAP, the fans would start giving example of other parties and how they are worse. That is meaningless. We have already agreed that there are problems with the existing political system and AAP gives us hope that they will be different from the existing players. So when someone says that AAP is doing politics of appeasement, I do not expect a counter argument that even others are doing it. 

Also, if AAP stands for aam aadmi and making them our representative, why are we rejoicing when CEOs of investment banks, editors from paid media, owners of companies are joining AAP? How are these people different? Every party has industrialists and journalists as its members. Does it mean anything? 

5) Means vs Ends


Kejriwal wanted to get the Lokpal bill passed. He also wanted to implement some other policies which he believed in. I will not start a debate about those policies, but I find it commendable that he seeks power to introduce his policies. It is a good stance. 

But the AAP team must understand that we support them because they seek power only to implement their policies. If it starts looking as if AAP is implementing certain policies, just to get in power, then the cycle is reversed. 

The clarity of means vs ends needs to remain intact. AAP is here to serve the nation, not to win elections.


Want To Save The Indian Economy? Get Married

If you are of my age then you would probably empathize with me. Every time I login to Facebook, I see the wedding pictures of some or the other friend of mine. Though I had anticipated this scenario long back but I could have never anticipated the fury with which it would strike upon me. If you are not going through this phase, then brace yourself. Because sooner than later, those pics are coming. It is bound to happen. With 1.25 billion people and almost 50% of the population below the age of 29, the ‘wedding pictures flood’ is unavoidable. So sit tight, coz as they say, winter is coming. 

But it is not just about the wedding pictures. After a couple of weeks, people follow it up with the ‘honeymoon pics’ post. These posts are like ‘click baiting’. I click on the pics, super excited, only to see a fully dressed couple with mountains/sea/highway/FatUncle in the background. Not much of a view if you ask me.  

Free Tip : Unless you are planning to post some indoor pics, do not imagine too many people getting interested in your honeymoon pics. 

Also, what is with people going on wildlife safaris and trying scuba diving on honeymoon. Din’t they have an overdose of adventure recently. Do they forget that they just got married. And is watching tigers eat, in company of a guide and 20 other people, even considered romantic? 

The fact is, if you are having too much ‘fun’ on the beach or on the hills, then the trip is less likely to serve its true purpose. Get the priorities straight.    

Anyways, enough of introduction. This post isn’t really about couples and wedding pictures. Its more about the economics of it. Recently, I read an article about online matrimony classifieds space. With players like Shaadi.com and BharatMatrimony, it is poised to become a Rs. 1500 crore industry. This got me curious and I tried to read more about the Indian wedding industry. And this is my conclusion:    


If you think you should do something about the sorry state of Indian economy or want to help in the fight against poverty, then this is what you should do


Get Married Now. Make it Grand. Do it as often as you can. 


If, because of such behavior, your spouse kills you one fine day, you will die a martyr.

Apart from enjoying the obvious benefits of having multiple life partners, a ‘serial’ groom or bride does a big favor to the country. Well we all know how important is the rotation of capital for any economy. The faster money changes hands, the better it is. But also, its important to understand that weddings probably have the highest multiplier when compared to other government/private spendings. The amount of activity induced by every rupee spent on a wedding is staggering. Let me tell you why.  

Let’s see some simple facts first. 

Indian wedding industry is worth $25.5 billion (Almost INR 158062 Crore). This is more than the GDP of Afghanistan and 20 times of the Indian cloud computing industry.

  • No. of Indian marriages in a year: Approx 1,00,00,000
  • Gold and diamond jewellery market worth: Rs 60,000 crore
  • Apparel market (wedding) worth: Rs 10,000 crore
  • Durable goods market worth: Rs 30,000 crore
  • Hotel and other wedding related market worth: Rs 5,000 crore 
  • Pandal and venue decoration market: Worth Rs 10,000 crore
  • Wedding invitation card market : Worth Rs 10,000 crore 
  • Bridal Mehendi market in India: Worth Rs 5000 crore

Source: IndianRetailer.com

And guess what, this this is just the tip of the iceberg. These figures only indicate the amount of money spent by the families of groom and bride. But we all know how much preparation guests do before attending a wedding. 

An invitation to a wedding invokes more trouble than a summons to a police court. - William Feather 


Remember the cute girl who swept you off your feet at your cousins wedding? Well that kind of cuteness does not come for free. There is a lot of preparation that goes into it. Everyone tries to look their best. Money spent on looking good in someone else’s wedding is an investment they say. (I tried this at my brother’s wedding. No ROI yet)

Add to it the boost to tourism which wedding related travel provides. Apart from pilgrimages, no single category boosts tourism more than weddings. Travel agents make a killing and traveling by bus or train becomes an adventure sport. 

Then there is the gifting market. Largely due to the concept of giving return gift to close relatives. Though its going out of trend fast, it still beats valentines day and other such festivals hands down.

And we’ve got a toaster and everything. So there is no reason for the wedding. – Karl Pilkington  


But the numbers only tell you half of the story. The fascinating thing about a wedding is the number of people involved in the event and the number of lives it touches. 

If we try to create a list of all people involved, it will take forever. The ‘tent house waala’, florist, eunuchs, match makers, wedding venues, event manager, DJ, caterer, bus operator, car rental guy, IRCTC, everyone who makes money on railway stations, beauty saloons, clothing stores, accessories stores, fragrances stores, pandits, printing press, mithai waala, Ghodi Waala, band baaja, dhol, dance trainer, stage decorator, electrician, gardner, camera man, hotels. 
The list can go on and on.

And this is exactly what makes weddings so special. This is what gives it a huge multiplier. The fact that the money goes to so many different people. The fact that many industries rely fully on the wedding season. The fact that the industry is recession proof. The fact that the nature of the wedding season is cyclic yet not uncertain. 

So go ahead, celebrate consumerism, raise a toast to the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ and keep it coming.