Here we discuss the basic ingredients of Public Relations: Topical Issues, The backdrop - economic and social, What makes PR tick, the pain points, the problems, the positives, the negatives... almost anything under the sun related to the communication industry!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lighting-up the Parliament with incandescent bulbs

Image Credit:
On the occasion of 69th Independence Day too, as has been the norm over the last few decades, the government lit-up the Parliament House and all Government Buildings in and around the Rajpath and Central Delhi. These buildings looked beautiful and this was a fitting symbolic tribute to our independence.

But what was amazing was that the Government which is leading one of the biggest campaigns for energy efficient lighting, actually used the most inefficient way of lighting up the buildings – they used incandescent bulbs – each around 10 times more inefficient than the LEDs that the Government has been promoting. To give you an idea – and this is strictly from the newspaper reports that I had read - About 40 incandescent bulbs were installed on one pillar and there are around 144 pillars on each floor which comes to around 6000 bulbs on one floor. The bulbs were also being installed in the library and corridors of the Parliament house. Around 62,000 bulbs were installed in the south block and north block also. At 60 W each, the sheer energy numbers are staggering.

Image Credit:
This created a big Question in my mind: On the one hand, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is wooing the masses with offering subsidies for conversion to LEDs and talking about Energy efficiency at all forums, and on the other his government is using incandescent bulbs to light up their own offices during festivities. Should the Government not follow the clause of Preacher – Follow Thyself? If the Government is indeed serious about the mass adoption of this amazing technology, then it should lead by example, which unfortunately is not happening.

Being a PR professional and handling a client who is the leader of this industry, I am worried on this situation and the impact that it can have on the industry per se.

The industry as a whole has been very happy with the public support of the PM on Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme and the efforts of EESL in furthering the cause of efficient lighting. Yet, this focus on incandescent bulbs will send mixed signals to the consumers at large.  

Talking about the mindset of the Indian consumers at large, it will be a difficult job trying to explain why the consumer should use this relatively “new” technology, paying upwards of Rs. 200/- for each light bulb that they replace with LEDs. The sheer economics of the situation is also an issue - A 60 W bulb costs around Rs. 10/- while a 15 W CFL costs around Rs. 100-120/- A 5W LED will cost the consumer, anything around Rs. 200/- with Government schemes and much more in the open market. Why should the end consumer pay more for the replacement here? Return on Investment(ROI) as a concept can not be explained to the ordinary consumer, as the cost differential is still huge for them. I mean, why should a consumer, who is still somewhere confused about buying this new technology and its “real” benefits, pay through his nose, when he sees that the Government is not really making this change themselves??? If bulbs are good enough for the Government to buy and showcase, why should it not be good enough for me, would be the rhetoric?

So far as the industry is concerned, if the Government is really wanting to be the “guardian angel” of energy efficiency, then it needs to ensure that all communication that flows from the top – not only talk, but also “action”, speaks the same language.  The 4,500 Cr LED industry which is aiming to be around Rs. 21,000 Cr in the next five years will benefit immensely if in the next major festivities, it changes all incandescent bulbs with LEDs. This will send the right signal to the people at large – We walk the talk!!!
There is no denying that LEDs are not just the technological answer for tomorrow, but also a real boon for Energy Deficient country like India, where outages are huge. Today LEDs are the most energy efficient light source, where the energy savings can go up to 90% as compared with some other conventional light sources. The LEDs have a life span of 50,000 to 60,000 hours reducing the need for replacement and maintenance. Adoption of LED Lighting solutions has other inherent advantages like lesser heat emission as compared to traditional lighting sources like CFL and incandescent lamp. This results in lesser energy consumption while cooling the surrounding area, thus resulting in further energy savings. The flexibility in application afforded by LED’s is another factor which makes the use of LED’s highly desirable.

And therefore when Mr. Modi and the Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who are promoting LEDs from all available avenues, there should not be seemingly a difference between “Kathani” and “Karni”!!!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Crude Oil, Copper, Gold indicate that slowdown is not yet over...

Image Credits:
There is no clarity yet on whether economic growth will revive

It is that time for the global markets when all eyes are trained on the world of commodities. It provides the surest way to understand which way the markets will turn over the months ahead.

The law of gravity has gripped crude oil for the past few months, where traders are closely watching the economic indicators coming from China. With the pace of economic activity slowing down sharply, crude oil traders are expecting demand to slow down in the world’s second largest economy.

With nearly 11 million barrels per day, China is the second largest consumer of crude oil in the world. That is about 12 per cent of the daily global consumption of around 87 million barrels per day. When the second largest consumer goes slow on the consumption of your produce, it is time, as some countries will soon realise, to press the panic button.

Russia’s stock markets are driven by the performance of its oil industry. As the largest exporter of crude oil outside of the OPEC nations, its foreign exchange earnings are dependent on crude oil exports. With oil prices in a tailspin, its policymakers have a lot to worry about.

The price of copper is often considered as a benchmark of the health of the global economy. Because of the widespread industrial use of the red metal, the trend of its prices is closely watched, along with others, by market analysts and economists.

Spot prices for copper have corrected nearly 20 per cent from the recent high seen during May 2015. Its spot prices over the last one year have fallen over 30 per cent. Copper stocked in warehouses (awaiting demand from customers), during the last one year, according to data from the London Metal Exchange, is at its highest level. The warehouse stocks is at its level seen during the end of 2013.

The message is clear – factories that drive demand for the best know industrial metal are just not seeing enough demand.

Gold is perhaps the most widely tracked commodity in the world and its price movements are very closely watched. Its prices have been on a declining trend since May 2015. But during the current month, with all the pessimism being driven because of the weak global economic indicators, its prices have seen a sharp reversal. Its market prices, tracked on India’s commodity exchange, has risen about 12 per cent. More money is now being used to buy gold, seen as a safe haven for investments during times of uncertainty.

The devaluation of the yuan has the potential to trigger a currency war, particularly among export focused countries. However, if the Federal Reserve does raise interest rates for the first time after over six years, it could spell trouble for gold.

The global economy is on the proverbial tenterhooks. It is an interesting time if you are an avid stock market watcher.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Modi’s magic needs to work for the economy: Without radical steps, it will be difficult to turn around the sentiment

Image Courtesy:
The wheels of the economy are not whirring at the pace that it was promised by the Modi government when it assumed office in May 2014.

The economic indicators have been anything but on the upswing for a better part of the 15 months since the new Prime Minister has moved from Gujarat to Delhi to steer the reins of India.

As India’s merchandise exports fall for the seventh consecutive month, there are more creased foreheads that ever among India’s top policy makers.

Just a couple of week earlier, the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for May 2015 had shown a growth of a dismal 2.7 per cent. With banks still reeling under the shadow of bad loans, they are not lending aggressively. That has meant jobs, fuelled by hopes after the BJP win in 2014, that were expected to be created seems a far cry.

The monthly trade figures are painting a picture that the government would not want to talk much about. With India’s gems and jewellery industry is seeing a drop in fresh export orders by nearly 20 per cent.

Leather export orders are trickling in but the hectic activity for Christmas that has the factories running at full capacity is perceptibly missing. During the first quarter, leather exports have slipped five per cent. India’s biggest markets for its leather exports – China and Europe – are not showing growth signs.

The seven consecutive months of slowing exports is soon going to hurt more. During the April-June quarter of the current financial year, India’s exports slipped to $67 billion from $80 billion, a drop of over 16 per cent. It is the same story across for gems & jewellery as well as textiles sector too.

This secular decline in exports across sectors that is hitting policymakers exactly where it hurts. With sentiment that is anything but upbeat, Make In India cannot become a reality until some of the basic issues are addressed. The promise of jobs, made during the 2014 election campaign will fail to materialise if neither manufacturing nor services exports fail to take off.

If the monetary policy is loosened, inflation will again get the better of the central bank’s targets. If the government is unable to kickstart growth, the hopes raised after the BJP victory in 2014, there is only the government itself to blame.

Prime Minister Modi used to tweet some details about the economy as and when it would come out. That communication has now gone down to a trickle. Does that indicate the Prime Minister now has less of good news to share?

The tough decisions that were to have been taken during the first year of its tenure have not been taken. That will haunt the Modi government through the rest of its tenure.

Friday, August 7, 2015

भारतीय संसद : धरनों एवं विरोध से जूझती

Image courtesy:
भारतीय संसद को हमारी लोकतंत्र का मंदिर कहा जाता है। जहॉ हमारे देश के विभिन्न राज्यों से चुने गये 543 सांसद हमारे देश की विकास एवं समस्यों से जुड़े मुददे पर सरकार एवं पुरे देश को अवगत कराते है एवं कानून को पास कर उसे पूरे देश में लागू करते है। 

लेकिन संसद का हर सत्र विरोध, धरनों एवं प्रदर्शन की भंेट चढ़ता जाता है। इस संबध में हमारे पूर्व राष्ट्रप्रति एपी जे अब्दुल कलाम ने भी कहा था कि संसद को सही तरीके से नहीं चलने से हमारे देश को काफी नुकसान होता है। आज के समय प्रत्येक मिनट संसद चलने का खर्च 2लाख 50 हजार रूपया है। इस बार संसद का मानसून सत्र भी सुषमा स्वराज एवं ललित मोदी प्रकरण पर टिका है। जहॉ विपक्ष सुषमा की इस्तीफे को लेकर अड़ा है वहीं पक्ष संसदीय चर्चा की बात करता है। यह कोई नई बात नहीं हैं क्योंकि जो आज कांग्रेस कर रही है, वही काम पिछले कुछ वर्ष तक बीजेपी ने किया था। 

सरकार द्वारा बुलाये गये सर्वदल संसदीय बैठक भी इस विरोध को रोक नहीं पाये। ऐसे में नेताओं पर गाज गिरना स्वभाविक था। जो कि कांग्रेस के 25 सांसदों पर गिरा, जब लोकसभा स्पीकर सुमित्रा महाजन ने उन्हें संसदीय सत्र को नहीं चलने के विरोध में निंलबित कर दिया। इस धटना के बाद कांग्रेस बौखला गयी है। यह धटना कोई नई नहीं है। इससे पहले भी निलंबित होने का प्रकरण हो चुका है। संसदीय कार्य मंत्रालय के अनुसार 1989 में 63 सांसदों और 1987 में 12 सांसदो और 13 फरवरी, 2014 को 17 सांसदो को निलंबित किया गया था। 

विरोध का एक मात्र कारण ललित मोदी प्रकरण है। इसके तहत विपक्ष सुषमा पर आरोप लगा रहा है कि उन्होनें अपने पद का गलत प्रयोग किया है। उन पर ललित मोदी को सरकार की तरफ से सहयोग देने की बात कही गई है। वही पक्ष सुषमा की बचाव में लगा हैं । अब तक 64 बिल पास होना बाकि हैं लेकिन मोदी प्रकरण मानसून संत्र को ख्ा गया। 

आज देश में बहुत सारे ऐसे मुद्दे है जो इस विरोध के आगे नेताओं को दिख नहीं रहें है। 

  • देश की राजधानी में हर रोज प्रदूषण से लगभ 80 लोगों की मौत हो रही है
  • हमारे समाज में गरीबी जस की तस है
  • क्राइम एवं भ्रष्टाचार का ग्राफ हर रोज बढ रहा है
  • समाज का एक बहुत बडा तबका आज भी सडक के किनारे अपनी जीवन गुजार रहा है
  • लोग रोजी-रोटी की तलाश में शहर की तरफ पलायन कर रहे है
  • कृषि विकास दर हर रोज गिरता जा रहा है
  • देश का एक हिस्सा नक्सलवाद ही भेट चढ रहा है
  • नौजवान अपनी शिक्षा हासिल कर नौकरी की तलाश में भटक रहे है

शायद इन मुद्दों पर हमारे देश के नेता कुछ कर पाते। आज के समय जरूरत है कि ये नेता हमारे देश के वास्तविक मुद्दों पर ध्याान दे ताकि हमारा देश विकास की दिशा में आगे बढ सके। हर सरकार विकास के लिए एक मापदंड निधारित करती है, लेकिन शायद ही वह समय पर पुरा हो पाया हो। अगर संसद नहीं चलेगा तो बिल पास नहीं होगा और विकास की गति जस की तस बनी रहेगी। यह सच है कि विपक्ष को अपनी आवाज सरकार के सामने रखने का हक है। लेकिन हक विकास की गति में पत्थ्र बन जाये तो यह हमारे लोकतंत्र के लिए सही नहीं है। इस  समय सरकार सामुहिक विकास की बात कहती है। लेकिन यह तभी संभव है जब हमारे नेता देश के मूल मुद्दों की तरफ ध्यान देना शुरू करे।

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Yakub Memon: Justice or travesty of justice?

Image courtesy: Times Now
Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, a Chartered Accountant by profession, the 1993 Mumbai blast convict, brother of Tiger Memon, the “mastermind” behind the blasts, was hanged to death in the Nagpur central jail at 7 a.m. on July 30, 2015. The court held him guilty for being the driving spirit of and financing the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that killed 257 people.

On March 12 1993,  thirteen explosions took place in Mumbai, killing and injuring hundreds of Indians. The series of trials and hearings started and he has sentenced to death. In May 2014, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s mercy plea. In April 2015, Supreme Court dismissed Memon's petition seeking review of death sentence which was upheld by apex court. A three-judge apex court bench headed by Chief Justice on July 21 2015 rejected Memon’s curative petition opposing that the grounds raised by him for relief did not fall within principles laid down by the Supreme Court in 2002 in deciding curative pleas. This was the last legal remedy left to avoid execution of death sentence.

In this whole scenario, the death of Yakub Memon gave rise to a lot of questions about the judicial system of our country and about us as the biggest democracy. The rejection of plea after plea does not give a fair view of the law and order we follow. A man who "supposedly" surrendered himself to the authorities after almost a decade, and revealed Pakistan’s role in the whole conspiracy was kept behind bars for as long as 20 years, more than the time served by people sentenced to lifetime imprisonment,  and eventually hanged to death.

The parody of justice in India will lie in him losing his young life, not because he was directly involved in taking lives of many, but because he happens to be the brother of the main culprit, the Mastermind "Tiger" Memon, who is still hiding out, well away from the grasp of our investigating authorities.

Will someone ever again, in good faith, accept their mistake and trust the Indian judicial system as Yakub Memon did? Did the Indian law and order system actually offer him anything in return - possibly that he retain his thin thread on life in exchange for telling all to the police and the prosecutors???. The questions are many and a number of them are left unanswered as usual…

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Make in India"

When the current Prime Minister talked about the need to create a programme to boost manufacturing in India, it was seen as just yet another speech from the Red Fort from yet another politician to pacify people who were reeling under tremendous pressure from slowdown in the Indian economy. 

After 3 months of the announcement, DIPP organised a workshop that was attended by the PM along with his cabinet and several state Chief Secretaries to showcase the seriousness of his commitment towards making India a self-reliant country in the manufacturing domain.

The major objective of this initiative is skill enhancement and job creation in 25 important sectors including Automobiles, IT and Railways.  The initiative aims to increase GDP and revenues from taxation as well as  creating an impact of Indian craftsmanship on the world.

To propel this initiative, foreign equity caps in various sectors has been increased by the government along with the validity of license which has been increased to 3 years.  The FDI in Defence sector was increased from 26% to 49 % to decrease the military imports so that companies would find it easy to invest in this particular sector. India is amongst the largest buyer of Military equipment’s in the world.

Companies like Spice, Huawei, Hitachi, etc. have shown their inclination and committment to invest in India.   It is predicted that approximately 300 million people will join India's workforce between 2010 and 2040 and the country requires 10 million jobs every year to accommodate the work force. It is perceived that this initiative by the Prime Minister will be able to generate approx. 100 Million Jobs by 2022. 

The move if strategically implemented, will not only augment the purchasing power but also help in reducing poverty and curbing brain drain. For this the major policies needs to be overhauled like ease of doing business, single window clearance, ease of policies, and the most important issue is to curb red tapism. I am glad that the Government is "Walking the talk" and trying to create a policy framework that will make a difference in how India attracts FDI. 

The vision, if correctly implemented, can once again put India on the world Map as one of the most competitive manufacturing markets in the world. With more than 120 Crore people in the country, the median age of India's population  is 28, than that of  China and Japan at 37 and 44  respectively, according to data from global market research firm Euromonitor. The "make in India" campaign has the potential to harness the capabilities of this huge population and offer "gainful employment" to the employable. 

If rightly channelized, this campaign has the potential to become PM's secret  weapon for the next election.