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Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

October 8, 2010 1 comment

Manish Sharma

Yesterday, I came across a poll on Yahoo aimed at judging the fate of Suresh Kalmadi, media’s favourite whipping boy at the moment. Out of sheer curiosity I submitted my humble opinion and got confounded by the result.

Nearly 50 per cent of the respondents (out of more than 1,000 participants) were of the view that he will escape the imminent sacking that was a mere formality till the beginning of the much talked about opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games.

The fact that he was jeered and booed by the crowd present at the stadium when he stood up to deliver his customary address clearly reflected the anguish of people. However, the amazing opening ceremony act that overwhelmed everyone, including foreign media who have been blithe critics, has unexpectedly boosted the chances of Kalmadi survival. 

That got me thinking- why public opinion that was so one-sided against Kalmadi till last week, has taken a dramatic turnaround since Sunday?

Are we a bunch of pompous and carefree citizens who have forgotten all the ills of poor planning, bad management and rampant corruption and got hypnotized by the glare of that helium balloon? Was all the hype generated by those firecrackers and billion watts of sound justify the sufferings of a common man on the street who has been subjected to the miseries of potholes, serpentine jams, water clogging and political apathy these past many months? Is two hours of spectacle enough to seal our place as the fast progressing country when the infrastructure in the backyard is still creaky? 

Perhaps, the ancient literatures, religious texts and deep rooted cultural beliefs that exemplify a forgiving nature and tolerant behaviour could be one of the reasons behind this compassionate approach. Despite being feted as an emerging economy, we tend to follow the idiom of ‘end justifies the means’ wherein the process fades towards the accomplishment of any feat even if it achieved by shortcuts, tweaking adjustments and haphazard procedures. The fact that we somehow have managed to pull up a feat of measurable standards with our limited means has given us a rare moment of pride in our humdrum existence. Over emphasis on the great Indian untranslatable word jugaad that signifies our ingenuity to come up with unprecedented solutions at the eleventh hour is too ingrained in our day-to-day living.

At a social level we are so used to confusion, commotion and disarray at any public gathering that we have made a virtue of a vice. That’s why no eyebrows were raised when the Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Sheila Dikshit and sports minister M.S. Gill equated CWG with a big fat Indian wedding, and reassured everyone that despite all the chaos everything will culminate miraculously towards the end, as it happens at any public ceremony. In a way, the gratification over the dazzling display of the opening ceremony also typifies the subconscious aspirations of the middle class who has a tendency to show-off at any ceremony be it wedding, festival or any social ritual. In fact, this tendency resonated with our government approach also in the lead up to these games, resulting in unnecessary expenditure on beautifying already well laid roads and footpaths, Connaught place and Khan Market for instance.

The pseudo-nationalist approach adopted by a proliferating media of late that epitomize the acknowledgement of a rising India, particularly by western media, with great fanfare has given further legitimacy and credence to Kalmadi’s half baked efforts.

Commonwealth Games were widely tipped to be a PR’s lost cause by all but now seems to have been salvaged just by a colourful show. Any communication practitioner or PR professional can draw lesson from this to come out of an improbable crisis situation. In the midst of a crisis, relying on symbolism, traditional customs and cultural representation could help in turning the things around your way.  

There are leadership lessons to be learnt as well. The thundering applause received by the Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit who did pretty little in the run up to the Games is now basking in the glory of pulling up a Houdini act. This is on the basis of her brief stay at games village which portends popular perception that wants their leaders to be in the midst of action when the occasion demands. The public lapsed on the fact that Dikshit had brushed aside the scandal of the collapse of a footbridge near the main stadium that had injured many, labeling it “minor glitches”. 

Now the focus is on the closing ceremony. Bolstered by the euphoria of the opening event, Kalmadi has claimed of an encore. The expectations had hit rock bottom just before the opening ceremony, which later played a great role in the eventual success. 

It’s ironic while public may be saying Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, it will be Kalmadi who would be humming Hum Ho Gaye Kamyaab!

Nokia – disconnecting from people

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Manish Sharma

Pic source: Toonpool.com

Finnish telecom handset giant Nokia, which not very long ago was enjoying the monopoly over the Indian mobile handset market, has fallen off the clip, and how!

The latest report by IDC India, an IT research firm, has estimated that the market share of Nokia has alarmingly shrunk to 36 per cent this July vis-à-vis 54 per cent last year. Though Nokia has refuted the findings, alleging that the exports figure from its Chennai plant have not been taken into account but it is a reality that Nokia has taken a beating in consumer confidence over the past few years due to which its market share has been eroding continuously.

It is interesting to note that the case of Nokia is not very different from the two other monopolists – LIC and Maruti Suzuki. Both of them have had a market share close to 90 per cent when the competition caught up with them. However, unlike Nokia that failed to respond to the changing market dynamics, both LIC and Maruti showed amazing alacrity and came up with nimble footed response to manage its leadership position. They are still controlling close to 60 per cent share in the territories that matter most – Maruti still dominates the compact car segment and LIC still being the favourite of the ubiquitous middle class when it comes to new premiums.

From their success Nokia can really believe that it can recover the lost territory if it acts swiftly with its rearguard action. What it can do?

Showcase your strength: Maruti has been harping about its massive service network. In fact, one of its memorable commercial showed two lost tourists in Laddakh who did not get food and water but got surprised to find a Maruti Network in the Himalayas. Point is you need to speak about your strengths in your communication. Maruti has also managed to generate word of mouth publicity targeted at first time buyers that they will get a better re-sale value for their cars. Similarly, LIC also boasts of the massive agent distribution network unmatched by its peers so far. Moreover, the quasi judicial nature of its existence has so far been perfectly exploited.

Stay ahead: Maruti has not rested on the laurels of the success of either 800 or its current best selling model Alto. It has kept the competition on its toes with its tactics to unveil new models each year. While its detractors have slammed the strategy to crowd the space of compact car segment, its rising market share has proved them wrong. In fact it has introduced as many as 5 cars – Zen, Wagon R, A-Star, Ritz and Swift in the sub-Rs 500,000 segment that contributes nearly 80 per cent volumes to the car industry. While, skeptics fear that each car will eat into the market share of others but it has kept the customers within Maruti stable by providing them with more opportunities and more models to choose form. LIC also kept its focus more on the unit linked insurance plans to provide higher returns to policyholders. The approach was on providing market-linked products rather endowments policies that have been the bread and butter of LIC.

Follow the trend: Maruti underwent a makeover by offering new designs with the launch of swift. Earlier, its cars had classic line designs be it Zen, Esteem or even Boleno. It changed track with the launch of Swift and adopted a sportier, muscular and aerodynamic approach for its designs. Maruti positioned itself as the car for today’s generation with its trendy look. Similarly, LIC too is focusing on youth brigade in its communication. The new commercials, though less appealing on aesthetics, are being made keeping in mind the demographic profile of below-30 age group. Today, youth is increasingly becoming aware of financial planning practices and hence LIC is trying to pose itself as a company that is aware of their aspirations and needs and hence capable of providing answers to their problems.   

It is obvious that Nokia has fared poorly in following the above mentioned dictum. It has almost got wiped off from the entry level segment. It did not pay any attention to the mid level segment for close to one year and did not care to launch any successful model when the market was asking for it. Samsung stole the thunder with the success of Corby in this segment. Then again its inability to successfully penetrate the market of Smart phone/Touch screen mobiles further turned away customers. On the marketing front, the strategy to rope in Shah Rukh as its brand ambassador too failed to evoke positive response.

May be a massive public relation campaign is the need of the hour than an array of endorsements. What do you think?