Cash and beyond in RK Nagar elections

In one of those sultry mornings, my history teacher, introduced the word ‘democracy’ to us. In her inimitable style she went on to explain its origins in Greek and added ‘Demo’ means people and ‘kratia’ means power and summed it up as ‘people’s power’. Three decades hence the RK Nagar elections results have indeed given us impetus to look at democracy differently.

I don’t remember in my recent memory, if there was a bye-election that got national prominence as much as the RK Nagar elections. Every national channel was telecasting the vote counts live after every round underlining the importance of the poll.

The results were a tad unexpected especially the victory margin, if not the victory itself. The rebel independent candidate TTV Dinakaran polled more than 50% of the votes defeating the ‘official’ AIADMK candidate and the opposition DMK candidate.

Allegations came thick and fast with every losing party crying foul over the impact of ‘cash for votes’ as the sole reason for their losses.

While ‘cash for votes’ cannot be discounted, I feel there were other factors at play which didn’t receive as much attention.  Cash for votes became a convenient reason for those who lost as it certainly gave the victor a sense of illegitimacy.

The extent of turnout (close to 80%) and victory margin certainly indicates that there was a certain ‘wave’ which influenced the voting patterns and had something to do with the results beyond the distribution of cash.

A wave often has underlying factors influencing them. Typically, in Tamilnadu anti-incumbency does have an influence in the election results. This is evident from the fact that the state witnessed alternate governments in the recent times. Everyone believed there was widespread discontent with the ruling regime and that would certainly influence the election results.

While it can’t be ignored that the constituency was an AIADMK stronghold, if not a fortress as the media dubbed it, the anti-incumbency, split within AIADMK and opposition consolidation under DMK should have make it an easy victory for DMK.

Only the results proved otherwise. This essentially means that the anti-incumbency wasn’t the factor that decided the poll results. This is evident from the fact that both the AIADMK factions fared better than DMK. Therefore, the campaign narrative that yielded results was something else.

In my opinion it was the anti-BJP sentiment. If you look at the series of events that led to this election, right from the AIADMK supremo’s untimely death last year, there was a wide spread perception about BJP meddling in the affairs of Tamilnadu as a back-room player.

Right from Sasikala ending in Jail, split within ADMK, the NEET verdict, Jallikattu unrest, AIDMK reunion, allegations against Dinakaran, the popular perception was that BJP had a hand in everything. High decibel media coverage and panel discussions further seemed to endorse this belief though there was no evidence on ground to support this perception.

This perception gained strength with pretty much all the current woes including the issues with governance were attributed to BJP trying to get a foothold in Tamilnadu. And if there was sense of angst against the non-performance of current ruling dispensation this anti-BJP sentiment subdued it and stood out as the dominant political capital waiting to be harnessed.

If the anti-BJP sentiment was the currency, it is important to look who stands to garner maximum mileage by harping it.

Ideally the opposition DMK should, given that they are the principal opposition and congress ally. However, as it eventually emerged TTV Dinakaran stood a great chance of gaining mileage as he claimed ‘victimhood’ from BJP. The recent events in terms of accusation of bribing election commission, jail terms for him and sasikala, CBI enquires, enforcement directorate raids across 180 locations fed in to this narrative further lending credence to his claims.

DMK on the other hand while criticizing central government wasn’t victim of any such action in the recent past, with even the PM visiting the patriarch at his home. So DMK stood less chance of capitalising the anti-BJP sentiment.

The other question mark that arises is the credibility of the individual. Dinakaran and the mannargudi family along with sasikala were persona non-grata till recently with public opinion against them. The results further show that public conscience is fickle and their memory short term.

Dinakaran with his constant presence in the media presented an affable persona quite in contrast with the perceptions around the family. His genial manner, easy approach to answering difficult questions has certainly paid dividends. To that extent he managed to shed the family baggage and cast himself a fresh alternative.  While it is too early, but it looks like he had put himself at a vantage point as a capable leader, potentially emerging out of shadows of Amma’s legacy  creating a unique identity for himself distinct from OPS or EPS.


Bharathy – An ode to a Memory

Turban, twirled moustache and fierce gaze

Stood out from my childhood haze

A rote-routine across my school pages

Bharathi, a constant feature all those years

Years went and exams passed

Scoring marks, missing his points


adolescence is flippant – sprightly and sullen as its whim

his melodies celebrated, messages missed

ballads and their beauty stood

mission, meaning and the zeal lost


years pass and grey whiskers sprout

sans exams and frivolous adulthood

wisdom reveals behind Bharathi’s words

simple they are, speculative they aren’t

his craft forged with the valour of innocence


poet he was, political he wasn’t

devout he was, fanatic he wasn’t

learned he was, narcissistic he wasn’t

inclusive he was, supremacist he wasn’t

sympathetic he was, unjust he wasn’t

fighter he was, vicious he wasn’t

spirited he was, spurious he wasn’t


Fictional than factual in the prevailing times

Bharathi, is a message that is lost in time

The story of a romantic, idealist, liberal reduced to its symbols


His name etched everywhere, values flouted

Turban, twirled moustache and fierce gaze

Everything else is lost in worldly haze

Is Hardik Pandya the next Kapil Dev?

Who will be the next Kapil Dev? This question has haunted at least two generations of Indian cricket fans. The great Kapil Dev who hung his boots in the early nineties remains the lone genuine all-rounder India has produced. His extraordinary feat has ensured that nobody came close to being called all-rounder even after two decades after he hung his boots.

While many burst in to the scene hoping to be his replacement none stayed the course. The closest India came to having all-rounders were Robin Singh in the mid nineties and Ravindra Jadeja recently.

Fast bowling all-rounders. none really.  Ajit agarkar was considered a promising bet given his domestic outings. But came a cropper with a batting record that rivals Danny Morrison. Irfan pathan after a great start to his career lost his pace, swing, batting and eventually his place and has vanished from our collective memory, except being an instagram celebrity.

It almost sounds ominous that when someone gets compared with Kapil Dev their career heads southward.

Given Hardik’s exploits across formats recently, should we really burden him comparing himself with the legendary Kapil Dev? I say not. Atleast for the time being!

As one can see from his recent outings, Hardik is perhaps the most transformed player in the Indian team baring speedsters Umesh Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.

In the recently concluded IPL one could see glimpses of his big hitting prowess with him outshining the mighty pollard on many instances. On the bowling front, he increased his pace and added bouncers to his armoury. He was difficult to get away in the middle overs with a steadfast line and great control.  He is one of the fittest cricketers around and is a great fielder too.

If he continues this performance and avoids injuries he can be a constant presence in all the three formats and given his drive. One could do well to remember his knock against Pakistan in the champions trophy final where he threatened to take away the match from them. Something Kapil Dev could have pulled off in his prime.

The current Indian team would do we well if he could match someone from the current crop of cricketers. Ben stokes the English all-rounder should be his first target.

Ben stokes has played in the English team for a little over five years and is the mainstay across all three formats now. To be a regular in all the formats and  being the most value player across formats speaks volumes of his importance and the contributions he has made.

One could see a lot of similarities between him and Ben stokes. They play in  similar batting positions. They both are fast bowling all-rounders. They both are aggressive stroke makers too and have oodles of self-belief.

A look at their careers so far gives us a clearer idea on their similarities.

Hardik Pandya:

In the seventeen ODIs Hardik has played, he has averaged an impressive batting average of 41 with a strike rate of 135. In terms of bowling he has managed to pick up 19 wickets, contributing at least one wicket a match.

Ben stokes:

In the 59 ODIs he has played , he has averaged 34 with a strike rate of 97. In terms of bowling, he has taken 50 wickets equivalent of a wicket in a match.

In lesser number of matches Hardik’s performance is a shade better than Ben stokes. It looks like if young Hardik continues to play to his potential with both the bat and ball he can do better than Ben stokes by the times he calls off his career.

And perhaps address the void left by the greatest all-rounder India has ever seen. He would have indeed emulated the The Hariyana Hurricane!


Who is the liberal anyway?

Never in the history of mankind has the word ‘liberal’ generated as much interest as it does today.

Today, the word evokes extraordinary polarity with people more than willing to take sides on either side of the argument. Increasingly ordinary happenings get dragged in to this narrative as the common man haplessly engages in to this argument becoming ever more faithful to his divisive self.

The etymology of the word traces its history to Latin word ‘liber’ meaning free. Living in a democracy and constitution that promises liberty as its core ethos one is surprised find it evoking such acerbic reactions.

One assumed that as the society becomes more progressive and modern it embraces liberalism more fervently steering itself clear of the dogmas or race, religion, caste etc. On the contrary one witnesses’ reversal of sorts with increasing disenchantment towards liberal values among countries that have vibrant democracies that are on the economic growth path.

An array of articles by experts point out liberalism in its true avatar never existed with only our deepest prejudices have taken centre stage now. And what construed liberalism was essentially a public posturing among closet conservatives because it made sense to speak about liberal values at that point of time.

What it means is that true liberalism never existed and what one heard and saw hypocrisy at its best.

To me it is far from truth.  This is same as looking at the world in binaries.  What makes somebody a liberal? The problem I feel lies in our perception of liberals. Who is a liberal anyway?

  • Does he have to be an atheist?
  • Does he have to be a socialist?
  • Does he have to be a supporter of minorities?
  • Does he have to be English speaking?
  • Should he work in the NGO?
  • Should he have studied in JNU/TISS?
  • Should be anti-establishment?
  • At the least is it necessary for him to be a Bengali?
  • Or is he the chap who calls himself ‘unofficial subramaniam swamy’ or drunk Vinod Mehta

If you speak to someone who mocks liberals, it is very likely that he would consider him to be one of those, if not all.

The problem lies with the beholder, who holds a narrow definition of who can be liberal and who cannot be a liberal. A similar example of who is popularly perceived as not liberal.

  • Who is religious
  • Who is supporter of BJP
  • Who is from RSS
  • Who is from Gujarat
  • Who likes Narendra modi
  • Who doesn’t like Rahul Gandhi
  • Who likes Arnab Goswami
  • Who doesn’t like Barkha dutt
  • Dislikes Jawaharlal Nehru

Among many who consider themselves liberals, they are likely to have a strong conviction that people who have the above traits are not likely to be liberals.

It is indeed ironical that a liberal would fall in to a same trap and surrender his objectivity to the commonly held beliefs.

Contrary to what is being written and popularly believed, a lot more of us are living a liberal way of life than one can imagine. It is up to us to believe in that and wear it proudly. This is something our country and our society is capable of and our entire history is a testimony to that.

Personally, I have never found it too hard to spot a liberal around me.  In a country like India, how you were born makes a considerable influence on your way of life. The tag one gets in terms of religion, caste, socio-economic position casts a permanent label on your beliefs, attachments and your value systems.  And it lasts a life time.

To me if someone can overlook the tag that he inherited through birth and lead a life that is not coloured by inherent prejudices, that marks him out as a liberal. And I can count many in my life who are leading a life that is devoid of such prejudices and driven by empathy if not objectivity.

Look around you and you will find more liberals than you had initially thought of. After all the world is not such a bad place. It is not doomsday yet.







Form is temporary and class is permanent. A cliché that has been often used in cricket commentary to describe batsmen of great skill.

The tenth edition of IPL concluded recently with Mumbai Indians being crowned the champions for the third time. The heartening thing about the biggest showpiece of international cricket is its ability to showcase promising young talents and much needed alternate mode of sustenance to domestic players.

As a cricket fan who will completing three decades of following cricket, I would remember 2017 IPL differently though. Hashim Amla a dyed in the wool test batsman making significant contributions and emerging as one of the top scorers in the tenth edition.

When he made his debut around 2004 when T20s was still in its infancy nobody would have guessed that Amla would make an impact in this format. After all he is known to exhibit great composure, persistence, steadfastness qualities valued in test cricket. T20s on the contrary preferred their heroes to be mercurial, edgy and volatile and that came in handy given the harried nature of the format. In T20s bound by time constraints one’s instincts take control of their game with no time for deeper analysis and patient control. On the contrary test cricket one had infinite time at their disposal.

Teams have understood this and have different people playing in each of these varied formats with hardly anyone who is considered a test speciality playing the T20 format. This makes Hashim Amla’s feat unique is the way he plays all the three formats with due adjustments and style suited to the needs of each of the format. On the contrary, David warner plays the same way across all three formats.

Among the younger generation of fans who have taken up watching cricket post the 2000s, test cricket is seen a sort of skulduggery of sorts compared to the entertainment quotient that comes with T20s.

Any keen follower of amla’s cricketing career would certainly notice that he has certainly made adjustments to meet the changing needs. Those cuts in the test matches are replaced by slaps outside of the offs ump lending elevation. More sixes in his repertoire in the T20 format compared to the boundaries.

In celebrating his performance in this IPL, I would like to call in a change in the time tested adage often quoted in addressing class batsmen. “Form is temporary, class is permanent and format is indifferent” to them.

Bahubali : Lessons from reading the cover

Some confessions first. I haven’t seen the movie Bahubali yet. I am more than eager to judge the book by its cover without giving it it’s due and not feeling guilty of doing so. I am biased with indignation here.

Recently the Tamil film fraternity requested people who critique movies to defer their opinions by three days post the release. And this they hope would ensure them recover the ‘making costs’ and make them immune to the critic’s wisecracks and any adverse impact consequently.

Now that SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus has earned more than 1000 crore across the country, one feels morally less burdened to be candid. My in-laws who haven’t stepped in to a movie hall in over a decade watched this movie and happily reported that it was like yesteryear mythological movies and found it enjoyable. That news made me more comfortable as it ensured that my potential to inflict any financial damage to the movie was none.

More than the movie, the celebration of the movie maker’s efforts even before it’s theatrical release got me wondering. That Bahubali would be a commercial success across India was a foregone conclusion even before the movie was released. Only Salman khan and Rajinikanth could have pulled this off. And their films ride hugely on their individual charisma with the quality of film making often redundant.

This is perhaps the first time a period drama, that too from south with actors hitherto unknown to the rest of the country, managed to evoke this kind of excitement. One of the columnists in a popular south daily lamented how this movie threatens the renaissance that started happening in Tamil movies, with stories getting precedence over stardom.

A casual look at the movie reviews clearly indicate that the movie is a winner for all the wrong reasons. Despite typecast characters and a storyline utterly lacking novelty the film glorifies feudal hierarchy and celebrates pseudo machismo – that has no relevance today.  We as a nation are better off without that. I wouldn’t even go to the extent of comparing the visual effects with Lord of the rings or Mahabharata for inspiration. With an insipid story-line and characterization, the graphics only reminds you of the popular children’s game ‘Temple run’ and certainly not Lord of the Rings.

This movie has become such a phenomenon it has become impossible to criticize and argue on its demerits. Like many things currently in our country there has been a groundswell support for this movie and any lone voice that was critical went unheard. A spectacular canvass is proving to be good enough to stifle critical thinking that it may encounter. One could sense it from the support it received from all quarters, especially the big stars who often have millions riding on them. It is great endorsement for their stardom which gives them the license to demand obscene fees.

Unless you are overcome with nationalistic zeal of supporting an Indian movie maker attempting special effects of international standard, there isn’t a good reason for you to watch the movie. But then we live in different times. Refusal to play a part in such acts invites the collective wrath of the society or makes you a cynic who can’t see goodness in everyday goodness.

But then the overriding message is clear. We all fall for the primacy effect. We fell for the cover as nothing inside the book mattered. A glossy expensive cover than can earn you more than 1000 crores even if it had nothing in-between worth talking about. Markandeya katju’s in his moment of epiphany was right about us.

The reality check!

If reality shows are indication of our country’s performing talent, then we are nation bursting with singers, dancers and Jokers (or clowns if you like). I will just take an example of one of the regional channels that I follow. They have singing reality show, a dance reality show, a comedy reality show. I am sure this applies to every channel that operates at a national or regional level in this country. That will bring the number of performers to thousands who are entertaining us on everyday basis.

It has almost become a defacto template for every entertainment channel as they continue to host song, dance and comedy shows indicating a huge demand for these kinds of shows among Indian viewers. Effectively this makes us believe that every Indian is an art patron whose day will be incomplete without his daily dose of entertainment. Or is it because there is extraordinary talent that is waiting without a platform to showcase their skills? I wonder?

What could perhaps explain the incredible following for these kinds of shows? Certain trends emerge when you give it a closer look

  • Source content: if one examines the nature of content that is part of the song and dance shows, one typically sees the movie based content that gets played out in the form of songs that are being sung or dances that are being choreographed. Given that Bollywood (or any other regional movie form) has huge popularity, one could see them riding on that popularity. A smart and conscious choice of not reinventing the wheel.
  • People: This is a place where ordinary people are ushered in to the world of stardom. I guess this aspect of the show where you see ordinary people achieving celebrity-hood makes the narrative compelling. A typical rag to riches story wherein a commoner achieves extraordinary fortunes. One can see the attention paid to their personal stories, that are brought alive during these programmes. Many viewers are fixated on certain contestants not just because of their talent but also because of who they are.
  • Drama: It is also noteworthy that all these shows are not just about performance and showcasing talent. There is a fair degree of drama that is played out around wins and losses, judges anger, contestants behaviour, problems surrounding their personal lives etc. The drama adds more flavour to these programmes and ensures  interest levels are sustained on an ongong basis
  • Humour: The other aspect is humour. In the past humour was confined to specific sections and larger public discourse was devoid of humour with a lot of serious talk. However today humour is more widespread with social media fuelling this trend with memes being the new order of expression. One positive thing of all these is that no one is spared. One could see this reflecting in these reality shows as well. The downside is the kind of humour that is in circulation. In an all-time low, calling people names, ridiculing one’s physical traits have found  large scale acceptability under the guise of humour and have become the order of the day.

In a nutshell one could see content created with minimal effort, with ample drama and ridicule branded as humour finding mass acceptance across the country. Our country needs a ‘reality check’ on the idea of entertainment.

Can the Modi phenomenon by undone?

I am writing this just before the results of UP elections. It’s been two days since the exit polls were out and there has been plenty of debate on the veracity of it. Many who have been actual part of the actual exercise are debating whether it should exist at all.

If the actual results of UP, toe the line of exit polls, India’s politically most important state would have a BJP government. All credits should go to one man, the remarkable Narendra Modi and rightly so. But for him, his party stood no chance of pulling this off.

Ever since he won the 2014 election, Narendra modi has only gained in strength and stature. He commands an incredible aura and seen by many as someone who could do nothing wrong. He creates an incredible first impression as somebody who is not corrupt, hardworking, business friendly, speaks for hindus/Hindutva and as an active proponent of nationalistic zeal. These impressions mask any other negatives that may exist. Modi makes a classical case for ‘Halo effect’ where first impressions mask everything else, especially negatives.

On the other hand, any attempt to tarnish his image has misfired so far and ironically further strengthened his image. That is quite a rarity among contemporary leaders. One can compare him to the mythical ‘Vali’ in Ramayana, as anyone who challenged him would immediately lose half of their strength to him.  This is evident from how he emerged unscathed after demonetisation with his popularity intact. In fact, it further enhanced his credibility as the crusader against corruption, purely for the attempt regardless of the results. Today as things stand, nobody is arguing against the success or failure of demonetisation, the very fact that Modi took the effort is good enough and places him head, shoulders and knee above the rest. Since I was too young when Indira Gandhi was around, I don’t think any leader commanded such position in my lifetime.

I fundamentally think this extraordinary image and aura of invincibility is due to our fascination for messiahs. It is evident in the demigod status we accord to our heroes. A quick example that comes to me is Sachin Tendulkar, who was accorded such status early in his career. Before the advent of dravid, ganguly the efforts of other players in the eleven didn’t get counted. Mythology is abundant with crusaders from Srikrishna to Rama who were there to pull us out of our misery and save us from the evil forces. A hero is often whom we look up to. The success of Modi is a testimony to our continued fascination for the one man who would rescue from the evil forces that are plaguing the country. He is clearly seen as the ‘chosen one’ who will rescue us from our state of penury and restore the grandiosity of the past.

All this brings us to an important question. Is this position permanent? Is he completely invincible? Especially with him completely owning the nationalism rhetoric, can anybody dislodge him at all. A great hero he has become. But like the great heroes of the past, is there a weak link – an Achilles heel?

Indeed, there is! One must look slightly south for answers. Tamilnadu is one state where he is yet to open his account. When the entire nation chanted Modi and gave him a popular mandate, one state stood out and voted for the indomitable ‘Amma’ without any signs of Modi wave. This defiance has an interesting subtext to it. It is a case of regional identity toppling the so called national identity. Tamilnadu has a history of such defiance with the popular anti-hindi movement which set the stage for Dravidian parties to capture power. Till date tamilnadu has been a fortress for regional parties where national parties made little headway.

Modi unlike in other states is clearly handicapped in wooing the voters here given that he doesn’t speak the language and cannot stoke the nationalistic sentiments to an electorate with strong regional bias. Therefore, the only narrative that can counter the rise of modi could be subaltern feelings that doesn’t necessarily getting reflected in the larger nationalistic sentiments of the country. It is the triumph of regional over national.

One could see that in Bihar, where the voters chose to support local established leaders over Modi. The electorate didn’t take it too kindly to the fact that BJP projected Bihar in poor light. Nitish and Laloo were quick to cash in and campaigned as a matter of regional pride.  I felt their stand against reservations and painting a poor caricature of Bihar went against them in Bihar elections.

Modi, being the astute politician he is has deftly managed regional sentiments so far. By donning local attire, approximating local icons he has ensured that he didn’t antagonize local sentiments. For instance, in tamilnadu he did that by wearing a dhoti and taking a photo-op with the Tamil superstar Rajnikanth.

While I narrated the case of Tamilnadu, this can happen in states with strong local subcultures that have unique counter narratives like west Bengal, Orissa and even Maharashtra. Especially in states where they have strong regional leaders who embody these sentiments, Modi hasn’t enjoyed similar levels of invincibility.

In the longer run therefore Modi’s success in places where there is a strong regional subculture would depend on how he effectively weaves his nationalistic bombast with regional fervour. Addressing local issues, honouring local tradition and giving due regard to local language would aid his success. Any threat to local pride would prove detrimental in the consolidation that he is aiming at.

On a personal note, while I am not a fan of Modi, I do recognize the fact he has brought credibility and buoyancy to his role which didn’t exist with politicians generally in India. One hopes that he accepts that there are many Indias that exist within the broader idea of India and he needs to acknowledge and appreciate it sooner than later. From what I see on ground, it seems like wishful thinking.

Post-truth: Ageing wine in a new bottle?

When I look back at 2016 two major political events caught my attention. Many call these changes unprecedented and are touted to bring in seismic changes to the world we live in.

  • Donald trump will be the president of the most powerful democracy in the world
  • United Kingdom an important constituent of Europe exits the European union

In another less popular development the revered Oxford Dictionaries declared, ‘post-truth’ as the Word of the Year 2016. Post truth defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’

Many wise men attributed these events as a post-truth reality. And ‘post- truth’ emphasizes the importance of emotions and personal beliefs over objective facts in influencing decisions. They also added how these events stumped rationality which essentially means individual ethos and emotions are prone to erroneous judgement not bound by reason. A look at the recent events (Jallikattu, Ramjas college issue, Boycotting fizz drinks of MNC origin in tamilnadu etc) gives us an indication of how emotions wreak havoc on reason.

For those who are in the business of marketing research this comes  as no surprise at all. After all many brands, have been built forging an emotional connect with the consumers. The question is what is different to those involved in studying brands and consumers. What does ‘post-truth’ offer us?

It is more about the times we live in makes the impact of post-truth a bigger threat. We are living in an information age, where access to information has become easier than before, consumers are on a constant state of exposure to information. This makes their action and reactions extremely dynamic as they are in a constant state of flux.

On the other hand, time has become more precious commodity with one’s attention constantly divided in to job, family, entertainment etc. As the time pressure increases one’s attention span is extremely challenged.

Where does this all lead us to. We are looking at the consumer who is overloaded with information, has less attention and is bound by emotions and ethos. Consumer are increasingly more susceptible to process information and make decisions that defy logic. The current situation creates a fertile ground for this to happen at an alarmingly high frequency. The recent developments are a clear testimony to that. Moreover, information that has emotional baggage affecting larger population has the potential to spread like a wildfire and any intervention to drive logic subsequently becomes futile and misplaced.

There is a lesson here for marketers as well. Once on the wrong side of emotion it becomes difficult to handle when issues like nationalism comes in to play which could affect larger cross section of population. Even in an increasingly heterogenic society like ours, issues pertaining to ethos and beliefs have the potential to unite large swathes of population.  The consumer has greater affinity for binaries than ever before.

While brands have always been built after studying individual beliefs and societal ethos, I believe what has become crucial is the time one is left to manage these kinds of challenges. The rise of social media has blurred the difference fact and fiction and inflicts lasting damage to years of credibility in no time. A critical endeavour would therefore be to understand the changing perceptions especially in social media about brands. This would mean going beyond measuring standard brand metrics and study the nature of conversations about the brand and ascertain if it is at odds with the ethos in the society that it operates in on an ongoing basis. Given how technology is poised to take over individual lives, brands would do well to look out of for these potential landmines and address them beforehand.

Born with platinum spoon!

Two incidents narrated by my wife recently made my write this.

Incident -1:

This lady who lives in the gated society next to us is a working mother with a toddler to take care. This is what she does every day before she starts for her office. She picks up her child from the bed and drops her at the day care half asleep. The responsibility to take care of the child falls entirely on the day care centre right from giving her a bath, managing her bowels, feeding her, being her playmate, teaching her the necessities of life and putting her back to sleep. To me that sounded a whole lot to do. I would be happy if somebody managed all that for my kid. Recently I got to know the lady got extremely upset with her day care centre as she found to her dismay that they did not give shampoo wash to her daughter’s hair. My wife and her friend concluded she was overreacting and it certainly didn’t warrant the kind of dressing down the day care centre received from her. I concur.

Incident -2:

I came across a kid, all of 8 years with strong views on life. Both his parents are professionals working, reasonably well settled and holiday abroad once in a year. I am stating this to drive home that they are reasonably affluent and are financially able to meet the demands of their kid. They have their parents living in their ancestral village in their grand farmhouse surrounded by a lush green farm which few only can dream of. They have recently decided to spend their annual holiday vacationing abroad as their only kid couldn’t adjust to the earthy environs in their village. The mother proudly declared, after all he was born with ‘platinum spoon’

The above two events made me reflect on the approach I had towards studying consumers. Often in consumer research studies, our client would ask us to come up with ways to position their product. I always considered this one of the most exciting part of my work as it gives me an opportunity to think through and strategize for the client. Further it made feel part of something big, a childhood aspiration.

I also loved simplifying complex subjects in the way it made sense to me. In my attempts to identify positioning I always looked at two key elements,

  1. Address an existing pain point or a need gap
  2. Address a relevant consumer aspiration

This simplification helped me in making sense of the research data (Qualitative) and present my thoughts with clarity. The above two incidents left me with a question mark on how to best reflect the mindset of the above consumers. To me they are the ‘entitled lot’ born with a ‘platinum’ spoon. I don’t know if today we as market researchers are addressing them as we ought to.

These are not isolated incidents as we do see these consumers in every walk of our lives. Many among us wouldn’t see anything wrong with sense of entitlement. One could see them at a restaurant, in the flights that we take, in the shopping aisles, etc. You could identify them in the way they speak or address others from a position of deep-rooted superiority sans humility .

This is fast becoming a national phenomenon too. The famed middle class anger about the ruling class is all about this entitlement. High taxes, poor roads, urban slums, issues with freebies to the poor, issues against reservation. The whole establishment and it’s ways comes in the way of their purported privilege.

This has only strengthened with the advent of e-commerce and the increase in the role of technology in our lives. Technology has brought in convenience and knowledge literally to one’s finger tips. Consumers have never had it better with every e-commerce player falling over each other to offer discounts.

In the past, any access to knowledge beyond your text books were only available in the libraries and one must invest the time and effort to gain knowledge. Purpose and obsession were essential.  If I compare it with today, with ease of access, one can claim expertise with twitch of their index finger.

One might argue that ease of access to information has given us a sense of empowerment. Unfortunately, this also breeds a sense of entitlement among those who are already privileged in terms of class, caste and cash even if their knowledge is just a delusion.

While empowerment and convenience in terms access have made our lives better (especially mine) an unpleasant fallout has been this growing sense of entitlement.

This puts the position of market researchers like me who are in the business of studying consumers a unique challenge as we advise our clients to improve the customer experience. I must confess it is going to be a hard task to buy loyalty and keep them satisfied with their current mindset.

Maybe it will be worthwhile to measure how brands today are performing in terms of meeting the entitlement quotient as they brace themselves to woo this consumer. And it will be interesting to see how it gets reflected while measuring brand equity and customer satisfaction. Consumer is really the king here and he knows it. We better heed to his voice or perish. i promise to study them and see how it get’s manifested in brand choices.