Business, Leadership, Politics

Modi, the management guru

I first heard of Narendra Modi, like many others, post the unfortunate Godhra incident and the subsequent riots that shook the collective conscience of the nation. Before that, I must admit, I had never heard of him. In fact, in those days, the only two CMs of any state I knew of was the West Bengal CM and the Tripura CM – Bengal because of obvious reasons and Tripura – because the person concerned had a long reign at the top. And I knew vaguely about the Delhi CM, and knew that “one of the two” were CMs in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh

In those days, I, like most young men of my state, were enamored of so-called “leftist” ideals, and found Modi to be a hate figure. Over cups of coffee, reading about his interviews, his “methods” in various magazines, I had a strong dislike for him. Then I got admitted to an engineering college, and started concentrating on my studies. NaMo gradually slipped out of my mind, almost _ though some reports of the Best Bakery case, the Sardar Sarovar Dam protest, the “ban” on Fanaa just about kept him alive in my mind

The next time I heard of him was when a professor in the college where I was doing my MBA came out with a report on how NaMo had used masks of himself to spread his message and keep his persona alive and kicking. We had a long discussion over cups of coffee in the canteen over this strategy, and the parallel it had with the world of marketing, specifically, brand positioning

It is at this point of time that I began to take interest in the management guru (not the politician, not the stylish gentleman). Here was a man who did not have much formal education, yet symbolized and stood for many of the principles and theories taught in long lectures and to which many people owe their PhDs

I have picked here 5 aspects based on 5 incidents of NarendraBhai

1. The masks before 2007 Elections and Swami Vivekananda in 2012

It’s a oft repeated statement in marketing that if you keep reminding a customer something over and over again, chances are – he will not forget to buy the product. Here the “product” was an idea – “Brand Modi” or rather, the implicit message “Vote for Modi”. Now there is a risk in this – “what if the idea is oversold? What if the customer, here the voter, gets angered and refuses to vote?”

The answer to this is simple. Again, using a marketing parlance, if we consider the 4Ps of marketing – first P would be the “product”. If the “product” is value for money, “positioning” will bring a smile on the face, rather than irritate the customer. An example of a bad “product” over positioned and angering the customers, in the world of politics, would be, without going into great details, celebration of birth and death anniversaries of “certain leaders” in all leading newspapers, and crediting anything under the sun to them. That does not apply to NaMo. He has delivered over the last 5 years, hence the “brand recall mechanism” created through masks worked to a great positive effect (

In the past few months, NaMo has made Swami Vivekananda as his own. It is said that he is a big fan of the 19th Century Great and has spent a significant time in Ramkrishna Mission in Calcutta, which was established by Swami-ji himself. (it is rumored the respect towards Swami-ji also comes from sharing the same first name – Vivekananda’s real name was “Narendra Nath Datta”). It’s also a matter of luck for NaMo that Swami-Ji’s 150th Birth anniversary falls in 2012, election year in Gujarat. And NaMo made great use of this as a political weapon – tweets, blog posts, youth fairs, yatras, even cricket kits given away as rpizes – everything had a brand association with the great Ascetic. NaMo projected him as a symbol of great Hindu pride ( Here the management lesson seems tobe a clever association with a well known “brand” (personality in this case), who has great brand potential, yet has not been used by anyone else for some reason

2. Focus on women and children

This is not an attempt to be sexist, but the ladies generally make more rational voters. They vote based on issues which affect their livelihood, budget and less on matters of caste or religion. Modi understood this perfectly well. Right from day1, his focus has been more towards the women and the first time voters. He was faced with a serious challenge as far as women’s literacy and health and nutrition issues were concerned. And he took on these issues head on – he introduced several schemes for girls – “kanya kelavani”, giving away money earned from selling gifts given to him as charity to organizations fighting female foeticide etc ( ) . The message was clear and simple – “Ladies’, I care for you, something very basic which many leaders in this country don’t”. This simple message found a lot of takers. Today he has a dedicated vote bank. He followed a simple management principle – choose your target wisely and kept on persisting with his promotion

3. Modi, the darling of the corporates

It’s an old fact in the history of politics that businessmen and politicians are the best of friends. The reason is not hard to fathom. Each one of them feed off the other. The politician needs funds; the businessmen need the right business environment. Modi was clever enough to realize this fact very early. He had realized how the incidents of 2002 had damaged his reputation in certain sections of society. He had to find an alternate way to build a reputation. And he chose the path of development. Development would require funds, and for most of his tenure he had had to deal with a hostile government at the center. So he thought of an alternate way – business

The people he governed are ones with good business acumen, he reasoned. So why not give them an ideal opportunity to carry out business? There is the story of how when the Tatas decided to pull out of Singur, Modi immediately send an SMS to Ratan Tata welcoming him to Gujarat, and a dejected Ratan Tata didn’t have too many alternatives but to invest in Gujarat ( ). Uninterrupted supply of power, almost unheard of in other states of India barring a couple in the North-East, broadband connectivity in almost every village of Gujarat means both large and small scale industry has thrived as well as benefits of mdern technology could be used by the people

He has made business easier to be carried out, and this has been an invitation for investors, from not just in India, but from other parts of the world as well to flock to invest in Gujarat. The “Vibrant Gujarat” summits” have seen MoUs worth lakhs of crores being signed, and a significant portion implemented as well, which has brought huge investments to the state. Corruption has almost been eliminated, setting up business is easier than many parts of India, and the infrastructure (road networks, ports etc) compares to best in the world. Reduced costs and red tape has made investing attractive, bringing down unemployment significantly. This has had domino effects in terms of healthcare, sanitation etc and education. People have more money to buy better agricultural products, thus bringing up agricultural productivity. Higher returns mean they have more money to send their children to school; arrange for more nutritious food and make better sanitary arrangements. Thus Gujarat has entered into a virtuous cycle of higher income -> more taxes -> better quality of life. A simple lesson of finding what your customers (in this case the voters) need the most and provide that service the best turned out to be a trump card for Modi

4. Use of technology + social media and great back-up and PR-team


Narendra Modi has 1 million followers on twitter ( ). Now, that is no mean feat. Leaders far bigger to him as far as constitutional authority is concerned, heads of state, etc have far fewer followers. It is here he scores big. He understood the value of technology and social media, something which would appeal to the youth and place from where he can take direct feedback from. It also helped him spread his message quicker and cheaper. He has taken potshots at his political rivals, showcased his methods and results and has connected to a segment of the population that is rarely given too much attention – the aspirational middle class. His use of 3-D hologram technology turned out to be a huge hit wherein he could be heard and seen, as if live in a number of places at one time ( ), as did his Google+ hangout hosted by actor Ajay Devgn( )

NaMo has a great back-up team and an efficient PR-team, which not just keeps posted about him, helps spread his message on the social media, but also does great research for him. For example, when he went to China earlier this year, he had his visiting cards made in Mandarin, besides of course, having done solid research on the business environment of the country ( ). The Management lesson obviously is  have a good back-up team and to be well prepared when visiting a potential client (here he was wooing Chinese investors to Gujarat, and created the simple analogy of being the “two fastest growing economies in Asia”

5. Turning adversity into advantage

Narendra Modi has inherited a state ravaged by an earthquake and jolted by communal riots. Red-tapism, nepotism, poor infrastructure almost engulfed the entrepreneurial spirit of his subjects. However, in 10 years, he not just turned it around for the state, but for his own image itself – his lack of immediate family members barring his ageing mother and estranged mother (rumors of a wife were later found to be unfounded) kept him away from own personal gains, aided by his RSS-background discipline. He has cleverly molded his own image with that of Gujarat. Any insult to him was turned into an insult to “6 crore Gujarati”, his own portrayal as a “CM = Common Man” and “servant of the masses”, evoking of “Gujarati asmita” or pride has made him a man of the masses he lorded over. And the opposition – Congress, has fallen time and again into cleverly laid traps. In 2007, Sonia Gandhi called him “maut ka saudagar” or “Merchant of Death”, and he immediately used this to his advantage by claiming this was an insult to the state. Needless to say, he won by a thumping margin (–maut-ka-saudagar–sonia-cong-tread-carefully-on–muslim–issues/1042507/ ). Even this time around, during the campaign he was called a monkey by the Gujarat Congress Chief (  ), which he immediately turned into “Lord Hanuman out to serve Lord Ram – the people of Gujarat” argument ( ). Here the management lesson is “take stones thrown at you and turn them into milestones”

It is difficult to predict whether Narendra Modi will win Gujarat, leave alone to go the national scene as a possible PM-candidate. But history will remember him as one of the longest serving CM of Gujarat. And his legacy of trying to bring all round development as well as his methods of electioneering, bringing in industries and taking care of deprived sections of the society will remain for long, a lesson in management for a lot of people

It can be argued none of this matters as far as voting is concerned, people vote a host of issues; even if he wins in Gujarat, he won’t be able to replicate it elsewhere and such claims. Well, all these can be argued, statements and counter-statements put in, but what matters is that these are some of the traits that very few leaders in India has shown. It is of little wonder then, that he will have several spokespersons who will speak on his behalf, not out of fear or greed, but out of love ( )

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What you didn’t know about the most powerful Indians in the Gulf region!

The has released a list of 100 most powerful Indians in the gulf.( It is interesting to note that the majority of these come from industries like banking and retail; with 18 of them being CEOs.

The top slot is taken by Kerala born Yussuffali MA. He is the boss of the EMKE Group which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi and has offices in 29 countries and has an annual turnover of $4.5bn. V Shankar, the CEO of Standard Chartered occupies the 8th slot. Based in Dubai, Shankar is regarded as the most senior executive of an international bank to be located in the Gulf. An interesting personality is Raghuvinder Kataria who occupies the 2nd slot. In June 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis, real estate valuations in Dubai were in freefall.That time Kataria quietly acquired two buildings in Emaar Square The value of that investment has increased by over 40 percent in the past three years.He turned out to be one of the savvy investors at that time.

Some of the other diverse personalities in that list are

Tennis Player Sania Mirza: She occupies slot 30. She is the current Indian No.1 in both singles and doubles and has held this position since 2003. In her career, Mirza has notable wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Marion Bartoli and former World No. 1s Martina Hingis & Dinara Safina.

Chef Vineet Bhatia: Vineet Bhatia trained at Mumbai’s prestigious Oberoi Hotel before immigrating to England where he became the first chief of Indian cuisine to be awarded a Michelin star at Zaika.

Lawyer Ashish Mehta: Ranked 86th in the list, Dubai-based Indian lawyer Ashish Mehta’s list of clients is both impressive and diverse. It ranges from Indian celebrities, to members of the Dubai ruling family and Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007.

Ophthalmologist Dr Pramod Warhekar: He specialises in a range of techniques and procedures including Lasik eye surgery. He is also a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons

So yes the list indeed comprises of diverse and interesting personalities! What say?

You can view The downloadable excel file – top indians in gulf  here.

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India 3G subscribers at 40 mn
Business, Technology, Web

Learnings for India from KPCB Internet trends presentation

Quick highlights for our readers –

100 mn mark breached – So, a lot of talk over the weekend about the Internet trends. India had a full 20 slides devoted to it, thats how seriously the global media takes India. First thing to note that India Internet users have crossed 100 mn successfully and now are at 120+ mn.

India Mobile users of Internet surpass the Desktop/Laptop – Next, Mary Meeker sees India’s unique phenomenon where Mobile users have passed Desktop users as a Good / Bad news. What I feel is that in terms of Mobile, India – and not any other country will act as a bellwether for the rest of the world. Reason is simple – In India, lot of mobile users don’t know enough English to use the laptop/desktop yet, in fact they get too intimidated to use the laptop/ desktop. Besides the mobile is extremely convenient to use too.

LOW ARPU – Average revenue per user problem on mobile – Another very interesting thing to note is that while ARPU on mobile has increased in Japan, it hasn’t done so in the US. The current models, both of Google and Facebook are being challenged as mobile proliferation hots up. Note that even Facebook’s billion dollar acquisition – Instagram – hadn’t even come close to solve the monetization problem yet. Clearly, putting ads within apps and waiting for ad dollars is not the way to go as far as mobile monetization is concerned.

Re-imagining life in India – As far as India goes, adoption of mobile and smartphones particularly will keep happening. Especially with dual sim smartphones coming to the market, expect an amazing tug of war for email users, social networking users, e-commerce junta and so on in India!

For those who missed the presentation, check it out below!

View more presentations from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Perhaps one of the most comprehensive presentations I have seen in recent times about the internet.

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IPL 2012
Business, Entertainment, Sports

IPL 5 – Is it bigger than EPL and Superbowl ?

And yet another year for the sporting extravaganza that has made everyone in the world take notice of India. The Indian Premier League, despite all the controversies has been attracting audiences year on year, not only for the sport, but for the things off the cricket field as well. In marketing lingo, the mix has hit the sweet spot – cricketenment. Now, a bit of the zing was off in the 4th season with dwindling TRPs and empty stands for some matches. But that has been dismissed as a one-off thing with the last IPL being scheduled immediately after a world cup which India won.

IPL 2012

Now, the question that so many of my friends have been asking is where does the IPL stand vis a vis the global properties such as EPL, Superbowl etc . Well the answer to that is not too simple. I try and break it down –

Audiences – In terms of audiences, IPL wins, but does not quite as easily as one would have thought. EPL has a global audience, with great following from Asia, Africa and Europe in particular. Besides, IPL has been a recent phenomenon, while EPL has a bigger tradition. Now, in terms of audience numbers, IPL is a winner. But what about the ROI?

Sponsor view – (a) Branding – In terms of branding, fewer properties may be as lucrative as the IPL. IPL has given known and measurable returns to brands. Before IPL 2011, hardly anyone had heard of Floriana. However, IPL 2011 sponsorship and the branding spend later on has catapulted Floriana into a national level recognised brand. Similar stories have meant that a lot of brands have wanted to buy IPL teams. Sahara for example, entered late into IPL , and bought the costliest team – Pune .(b) Returns – IPL has had decent impact on sales. While, I cannot quote names, some of the leading brands have seen good jump in the months following IPL. As they say, cricket works in India and how! However, still the returns aren’t anywhere close to something like EPL or Super Bowl.

Viewers – IPL has made cricket more viewable for the women audiences in India. The 3.5 hour time limit has worked for sure in attracting family audiences, not only to the television sets, but also to the grounds.

Overall, while, IPL is a hot property, it has some while before it becomes bigger than EPL or superbowl, simply because, the per capita spending power for the average EPL/Superbowl audiences is much higher. Thats my opinion, whats yours?

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