Arvind, I am a little tensed.

Arvind, the principles of marketing remain the same for all products including this affair of politics and I am deducing the logic here much the same way I do with my clients but drastically limiting it to a few critical points.

adve-srinivasa-bhat

Adve Srinivasa Bhat | March 5, 2014



Arvind, I am a little tensed. And I believe the anxiety in me is typical of the feelings of hundreds of thousands of people across the cities, towns and villages of India.

Arvind, three years ago when you steadfastly stood by Shri Anna Hazare on the demand for the Jan Lokpal bill and eventually got the government to agree to enact it I was, and I believe the entire nation was, overwhelmed with that amazing sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The kind of feeling of close association and real participation does always exist in the larger populace in all such hard fought struggles for seizing things that essentially belong to them but held in control selfishly by clouted few. The mass of general public would only – ardently regard the leader with earnest gratitude who gets it for them. And, I too did my bit, in gratitude. With a client I developed a special edition of a product suitably using it to thank Shri Anna Hazare. Of course, the client agreed to the plan eagerly - for the opportunity to express his gratitude as also for the awareness he could swipe out it for his brand. [It is linked here]

Arvind, at that point of time I believed that the massive awareness Jan Lokpal agitation created about the wide-spread and large-scale corruption in the governments and the huge deprivation it was causing the general public to suffer, particularly the poor, would progressively influence further structured action by competent concerned groups towards eventually bringing about responsible governance. Since such transformation, from the ugly depths we live in today, can happen only slowly I estimated that some real change can happen possibly in about a decade and a half – about three full term parliament. But, your decision to float a political party effectively cut that long span of time to less than a tenth of it. Arvind, just for that decision you deserve huge applause and regard of the whole lot of Indians. Your conviction – to cleanse politics one should get actively involved with it – cannot be proved wrong.

Arvind, I don’t understand psephology but my hunch on the Delhi election result was only slightly wrong. Honestly, I did expect you (AAP) to win enough number of seats to convincingly form the government. Nonetheless, the chance to form the government however fragile did stoke the expectations – of having cleaner, competent, efficient and compassionate governance much sooner and that it would percolate much faster across the country. Arvind in the 49 days you were in charge too much was done and expectedly it impelled too many comments from all sides. The pace of work, with the complexity of the issues, looked a bit too hurried and chaotic and the hostile talks of insinuations and insults were all a bit too much - for me (and the lots many like me) to remain absolutely hopeful of the faster transition to a better India.

Arvind, I am a little tensed. And I have no shame in making that submission. Frankly, I am a little fearful of the slight chance of all this opportunity of possible change that you have almost singularly won for us all - all receding back. Arvind, let me clarify; my confidence in you is in no way shaken, my trust in your abilities and intellect has in fact been reinforced by your successive aggressive decisions and actions and more than all else my faith in your leadership remains absolute and steadfast. Arvind, nonetheless, I am worried; because my hopes are all stuck with you, because it is hard to regain as good an opportunity for social change, because some kind of a real set back now douses the hopes of change and pushes it - afar - to be longed for a long, long time.

Arvind, my confidence in your decisions and actions is unflinching because of the thick trust I have in your uprightness and immense abilities. I am absolutely convinced, from what I have seen so far, that your moves being intrinsically very mature can only rarely turn wrong and more importantly I am assured by your humble nature that you would know the mistakes fast and would undo them ably and quickly. Nevertheless, Arvind, my anxiety which has been simmering by this fear of the slight chance of loosing this hard won opportunity to turn the governance in our nation cleaner and efficient – sooner compels me to tell you of certain marketing strategies and branding logic that are simple but critical and are often elusive even for companies in business irrespective of the market they serve. The principles of marketing remain same for all products including this affair of politics and I am deducing the logic here much the same way I do with my clients but drastically limiting it to a few critical points.

Marketing strategies
Arvind, you are in the centre stage and being feared (not envied) by the established political parties because of the perceived honesty in your proposition, in stark contrast to the lack of it in theirs, on the core product, that is; “rule of the people, by the people and for the people” - the simplest definition of the term ‘Democracy’. The product which is exceptionally noble on social values and highly mature by the definition has been sullied persistently over the years by the political parties, as proven by the charges amongst themselves, to the gross mistrust of the general public – that, in time, people because of being helpless have come to terms with the sub-standard delivery of social service – the range of derived products. Corruption the evil ingredient in the supplies has in fact soaked it up to become quite generic to it. The supply system is controlled by the cartel of political parties serving up to customers in business and service distribution channels in the guise of serving the larger consumers – the general public – whose knowledge of the products being supplied is pathetically limited as also the options they have to seek corrections and improvement. Thus, the ground situation is characterized by grossly immature market with desperate demands precariously outweighing fulfilled lot, mature but highly deficient products and mature but disgustingly inverted competition.

Arvind, your decision to repackage yourself as a political party at the right moment is highly commendable because the entry barriers of this privilege club of relatives and friends are tough to cut through otherwise. I have heard of just one brand new party with all the noble intentions – the professional party of India – and just once. And, of course, I have heard of Loka Satta party appreciated for all the noble intentions and good deeds but the outfit has not been able to break into the field as convincingly as you could. The rest are all factions born out of parties that were on play. Nevertheless, desperate demands do seek and invite change and new providers when consumer dissatisfaction breaches nasty limits. And, in the last decade it has been common knowledge that corruption breached heinous levels across services that it upset not just the larger pubic but also the regular members of the cartel and also the reputed leaders in business who in disgust made out a formal letter to the government on the lack of governance.

Arvind, quality of the products in social service is essentially gauged by the integrity and competence of the persons responsible for providing it. Therefore – the product – in politics essentially refers to the leaders responsible for driving the party, particularly those contesting the elections and are judged by the public by their ability to deliver in essence the core product - rule of the people, by the people and for the people. Current level of maturity of democracy in India demands not just integrity but competence also in their leaders which (both) in a collective sense is grossly lacking in the conventional political parties – and, convincingly assuring that, as a fundamental strategy, should be the main driver for AAP. AAP’s hunt for prospective MLAs and MPs is not quite aligned to that important need. I find the very approach of seeking applications faulty. It is highly unlikely that the real pick from the applications can be more than 5%. Leaders are wished and recommended. A process stitched around that insight with clearer description on the character and qualifications and something to prove would have resulted in a worthy set. In fact describing the traits and competence of an ideal AAP – MLA and MP should have been a comprehensive work with very thin flexibility allowed on critical factors such as; age, minimum educational qualification, accomplishments etc. Arvind, AAP cannot afford any compromise on the quality of its primary members and a recruitment drive out of compulsions of time and need can erode latent marketing advantages of the party in no time, possibly irrecoverably.

Arvind, similarly description of an AAP – minister, advisor, leader or for any appointments – constitutional or otherwise should be evolved and prepared meticulously so that they can be easily applied in selecting fit persons to the slot rather than compromising the slot for unfit persons. Old world parties who let the grossly unsuitable in have always had to do that. That is how our nation has come to this pass. Over the years, like businesses governments have also evolved in size and complexity and managing them efficiently calls for real competence and experience (not experience in politics) besides the essential factor of integrity. Arvind, deliberate decisions towards raising the bar on the qualifications and character for the contestants can surely endow a party with competitive marketing advantage. And the intrinsic advantage with AAP is that it can try such decisions out easily – others can’t.

Arvind, it is very, very important to take extra care and apply strict parameters in the selection of active primary members; those who would be relied on for policy and strategic decisions, those who would speak for the party and particularly those who would be allowed to contest elections. AAP has already suffered owing wrong selection of couple of members in its campaign for Delhi. Couple of the high profile personalities who barged into the party also created uneasy noise with unwanted comments. Internal strife and dissidence in political parties tell of only greed for position and money that is always bargained in the name of ideology and the common man. People now know it too well from the quarrels that fill the newspapers daily. The caveat on memberships and positions in the party holds good on partnering with organizations – political or otherwise too. By the very fundamentals of its birth AAP cannot indulge in certain things which conventional parties do as a normal practice. I believe AAP cannot afford to tie-up with other conventional political parties or with members of such parties particularly with those with many years of experience in politics. As a rule, people with experience in politics are not good for the people, excepting rare exceptions, and they can be dangerous for AAP.

Arvind, AAP as a party should uncompromisingly believe in the saying – “no one, irrespective of capability or power, is indispensable”. When ‘expel’ happens to be the solution any compromise would only hurt the party. That is true of businesses and more so for a political party.  A political party being just a gang of diverse mannered and tempered people - do expect misbehavior and misdeeds, more often as the party grows in size. And in AAP you can expect people to join just to create such nuisance. It is important, as a marketing strategy as well, to figure out degrees of reprimand and commensurate punishment for all kind of mischief and even loose talks. We hear of even celebrities doing community service bearing the insult in the US, sometimes for lighter sins as well. I believe AAP should get all its active members to abide by the strict and unusual code of conduct, in case _.

Arvind, I see in your site AAP has a national executive. I keep hearing of many noble and accomplished people joining the party. It is important for AAP to become an organization independent of your power and capabilities. As a fundamental marketing strategy, on the long view, this board should include familiar, reputed and highly competent people. I do expect more persons of character and abilities to join AAP in course of time giving the party scope to enhance and sustain its high-on-values and high-in-caliber reputation by keeping the board on rotation. Arvind, it is very important to ensure that AAP does not become another private club.

Arvind, one good charge other parties make with pride about AAP is the absence of its policies on all things national; finance, foreign affairs etc. I believe, that charge sticks and it is very important that AAP establishes its wisdom on all such things competitively and early. With the eagerness I see of smart and accomplished experts from various domains to contribute to AAP with their wisdom that task looks quite feasible. I believe, contrary to any government’s beliefs much of the sound knowledge on economics, engineering and anything can be found outside the government’s knowledge network. For all the force in the charge, finance and agriculture are two important domains which are highly potential to turn around our nation and the governments over the years have lacked the insights to be able to work around effectively in that area. As a strategy AAP should create conducive situation to receive considered thoughts and solutions in evolving competitive strategies for the nation, on all issues.

Arvind, in business companies do not venture to expand as quickly as AAP seems to be trying to. As a political party AAP should have been a bit more calculative and conservative in the decision to throw up the challenge nationwide. I see similarity as well. Some successful companies indulge in overtrade - beyond their strengths and market constraints - against preset objectives – and loose, not just in the new market but also the all important initial marketing advantage. Arvind, if bringing about positive change in the political scene is the objective, I am sure, the entire country believes that you have already accomplished it by half. Your approach to the game has not just scared the rest of the players it has in fact forced them to change their approach - for the good of the country. Of course, that change can easily slip off and that happens to be all the more reason that AAP does not take on the risk of letting it go in the quest for a larger play for itself. Arvind, democracy in India is only maturing and those who have been at it for long know the tactics – fair and foul – and that can upset the aspirations of millions of people who have pinned their hopes on you.

Arvind, companies win or loose by the quality of their swot analysis. Most companies do not prepare a formal one but succeed because they operate in a flexible manner on the threats and opportunities. A few who religiously prepare one run the risk of failure by the mistakes in it, more possibly those who have it in the paper. For AAP to demonstrate good governance and the big benefits that can flow from it for the society it has to get Delhi back absolutely convincingly and of course besides which the necessary short term targets should have been couple of full fledged states as they become due for elections where the scope to achieve real change is far greater than what Delhi offers. True AAP cannot opt not to contest parliament elections but what can be drawn from that to serve AAPs larger objectives and to support short term targets depends on feasibility. Your first declared strategy of contesting against those known to be chronically corrupt is simply splendid. That is out of the box and meets the public demand bang-on and therefore achievable with fairly good results. The other straight forward - MBA approach is to focus on a few cities and large towns where people are deeply vexed with the grossly deficient service and to a good extent seem to expect the change from you. Arvind, the hard challenge for all parties in this election, largely caused by AAP’s entry, is one of finding right candidates and that ironically is proving to be harder one for AAP itself. The risk in the shot for the larger play being contemplated is very true and can turn in results harshly negative for AAP.

Arvind, AAP’s perceived strength to protest hard is a double edged sword. It can turn negative by the will and grit of your opponents particularly when they are responsible for conducting the government and when tried needlessly. While certain situations do demand determined protests the approach is abhorred by the people for the nuisance, inconvenience and social risks involved which includes damage to public properties and deaths of innocent persons. Protests can easily slip out of control by all chances. Worse, such tactics are closely associated with the traditional political parties and AAP needs to evolve alternative methods of working with structured support and innovative strategies.

Arvind, I am not an AAP member nor do I wish to become one. Nonetheless, I do fervently hope that AAP succeeds - to usher in the badly needed smart and efficient governance. And there are millions like me hoping just that. The advantage AAP has over all other political parties is the genuine demand that is desperately seeking it. Building strong connect with people with reverberating social logic on all things but with priorities and establishing belief in operational capabilities through smart decisions and plans is all that is required to earn itself the absolute power to manage couple of states and to be able to make an impact on the governance of the nation – with a few seats in the parliament – in the short to medium term.

Branding Logic
Arvind, branding is the best marketing strategy for businesses and so is it to political parties too. Putting it in the context of building a political party, branding is all about being socially right and competitively smart in creating a happy and progressive state / country. In business, companies communicate with their customers with the branding perspectives – of claiming good, best and great - but conduct their business with greater focus on profit. And there is always a gap between what is made to be believed and what is true. The gap exists even with large and reputed companies (brands) but is thin and less obvious. In politics, with selfish motives of the members riding high and compulsion of the parties to give-in the gap is awfully wide and that explains the chance for AAP. From the branding perspectives there are quite few decisions AAP can take but the established parties can’t though they are most appropriate. AAP should brand itself resolutely with such decisions.

Arvind, ‘AAP’ is a far lesser brand than ‘Arvind Kejriwal’. Much of the restraint suggested in the thoughts on marketing strategies is influenced by that reality. To survive progressively beyond the medium term the national executive board of the party needs to be creatively made supreme on all kinds of decisions. It needs to be built so as to deserve the attributes – progressive, highly competent and powerful. It is critical to start of with that task immediately so as to draw convincing advantage from it for the ensuing elections. Brand values flow mutually from active members to the party and from the party to the members depending upon their respective brand values and the values they reinforce and create by their talks and actions. It can be negative too from both sides. It is critical to build brand AAP from the national executive board to be able to extend it to the contestants, solely because brand ‘Arvind Kejriwal’ cannot be extended.

Arvind, the world belongs more to the youth of today and tomorrow. By that logic those who are above sixty can only be asked to help with their experience in the governance of the country but should not be empowered to push their views (or the lack of it) and so it should be when it is indeed proved that the younger generation happens to be more mature and intelligent – by the very theory of evolution. Thus, while it should include young members the average age of the national executive board of AAP can be more than sixty but as a rule all those who would hold positions in the governments should be below sixty. A minister retires once he hits sixty. Not a day more.

Arvind, AAP shall always have work and actions to do against corruption and about ways to prevent it. In the short term it should quickly enrich its abilities in arguing cases of corruption and irresponsibility convincingly in the media, which now looks like an all-against-one fight, so as to be perceived as a strong deterrent by all politicians including those in AAP as well. The capability criteria for thriving in competitive politics in India will eventually shift to real competence to deal with complex governance tasks and deliverables - and AAP should work towards creating first mover advantage with this by aggregating critical resources for achieving that and to translate that as a strong brand attribute.

Arvind, innovations change competition equations in the business sphere. Innovation in governance can bring about huge benefits to the citizens and therefore can powerfully impact the play of politics. AAP as a progressive political party should seek innovative solutions to country’s larger issues through facilitating structured research. To begin with AAP should demonstrate thought leadership by seeding and accepting game changing ideas for active discussions and progress with conviction towards implementing them. As said, finance and agriculture are two areas which are absolutely fertile for out of the box decisions and conceptual initiatives which would break opportunities for growth for the vast sets of people who have remained deprived perpetually. These two areas happen to be the necessary bright spots. Considering the on-the-surface management and the immediate customer centric (lobby driven) approach apparent in the administration - scope for breakthrough policies and programs ought to exist across ministry zones. Similarly, bold decisions and initiatives are due and feasible in the very play politics. The thought of paying corporate level salaries to ministers suggested by revered Mr Narayana Murthy of Infosys sounds overdue. As said superior and critical knowledge and competence is not all in place within the government but do exist competitively outside it and the party which connects practically with such resources, beyond the lobbies, for powerful public decisions will do good to the country and do good to itself as well.

Arvind, AAP is a brand that is born with usable brand equity which is essentially infused into it by you. To be able to leverage the ability to challenge traditional powers – as effectively done in the Delhi elections – would be the way forward. But that is unlikely to be as easy as you move forward. Capability to challenge and the other fundamental virtues of AAP can turn negative to the party unless its members across levels are not effectively aligned with the true and calibrated sense of it.

Arvind, in all human efforts, for good or bad, there is always a force that sails us all. I don’t believe in astrologers but I do believe in astrology. Slow moving Saturn which takes about two and a half years to cross through a rashi is currently transiting Libra the rashi in which it is said to be immensely pleased and powerful. Saturn represents the common man and when Saturn is in Libra it is said it would uplift the common man and drive the wicked rulers to jail. Quite a few rulers were convicted and sent to jail in the last two years. The name – Aam Aadmi Party – too is startlingly in tune and it got the chance to rule. What is said in the verses imparted thousands of years back seem to be strikingly true. To debate if these are destined incidences or coincidences is not a topic of this piece. Arvind, note this – Saturn will be moving out of Libra on 14 November 2014. Rejoice, that is a lot of time and you would have 3 elections including the big one well within that. It surely does not mean all will reverse after that.

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