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!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In today's "breaking news" focused media, how to create media space for positive social initiatives...

For some strange reason, we as a consultancy, got more than our fair share of "different" businesses - social causes, not-for profit and for-profit social businesses, organisations working with marginalised society, children, differently-abled children, culture and heritage, and the list is long.
In media parlance, these are not "breaking news" or "sensational" stories, but things that actually make a difference in people's lives and therefore "boring" and "soft-stories". In the world where the negatives far outweigh the positives, there is not much space for stories such as these, though these are the ones that really make a difference. 

All of us know about a Sheena Bora who was killed by her mother - how many of us know about NGOs that works with millions of children from cradle to livelihood??? All of us know about the Kejriwal - Jung spats, how many of us know of the hundreds of organisations that are ceaselessly working with differently-abled children and trying to create a possibility of their reaching main-stream?  The media cries foul when there are power outages in the main cities - but what of those who have no energy access(some 600 Mn Indians according to the Planning Commission)??? 

The reason for this is not that simple to understand -  Are we fast transforming into a "I, Me & Myself" generation, so whatever does not affect me isn't important? Or are TRPs impacting the industry to such an extent that we have lost sight for all else? Or is it that the topical and the "here and now" has become way too important than the "what should be"? Or is it that flowing with the mainstream is so much simpler than actually looking at stories that make a difference?  I think it is all this and much much more... There is a huge amount of "peer pressure" in the media as well - Almost all the media is looking at the How's and Why's of a story gets traction and then emulate successes. Sensationalism is the new "in".

In this context, creating positive stories, especially about the developmental sector, is a herculean task - especially when we do not have the wherewithal to share revenues, numbers(a large number of these organizations are still taking baby steps), high-profile investors/promoters, and the like - the typical ingredients of a story.

In our experience, when nothing else does, "experiential learning" works the best. We have seen that any journalist/blogger who has the "first hand experience" of witnessing the workings of the projects or participating in their programs is most likely to follow them regularly with interest. Easier said than done! The challenge is getting the media to "sample" the offering in the first instance. And contrary to whatever the PR specialists say, your "links" or "networks" don't really work here.

Our core philosophy has been to share and keep sharing the right "triggers" with the "relevant" target group, till the time they are piqued enough to talk. Plain media relations and press releases do not really work ("Where is the space?" is a constant refrain from journalists), so creating what is called the "nuggets of wisdom", is really important.  

The focus is on creating different pitches and sharing them with different people based on their interest areas.  And one size DOES NOT fit all here... For some plain triggers, followed by data on the segment works, for some details do, for some it is why and the where that is more important... It all boils down to creating content that is focused, relevant, of topical interest,  and looks at adding on to the "expertise" of the media person in question. So in this context, more than any other, Content is indeed the king!!!

Experiential learning can create indelible impressions and therefore it is important that every bit of the time available is utilised optimally! After all a journalist who is giving half a day of his time, is making an investment and if he sees no return on it, he/she is going to be a very unhappy person. Once handled well and convinced, this person is an ally for life and will ask for details and updates on a regular basis.

Cribbing about "no space" isn't good enough, especially when you have clients for whom every bit of awareness counts - they need funds, participation, volunteers, new projects, etc.  These are typically the low budget, zero advertising clients and therefore solutions, out of the ordinary, are called for that have the potential to work! 

Perseverance, content, perseverance, content,... is the mantra for success for creating positive and eventually impactful media stories for the social or development sector!!! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

सरकार की विकास रफ्तार पर बन रहे हैं किसानों के कब्र

भारत कृषि प्रधान देश है, जहाँ देश के एक बड़े तबके के जीवन उपार्जन का यही साधन है. लेकिन आज किसानों की हालत बद से बदतर होती जा रही है. ख़ासकर मोदी सरकार की नीतियाँ किसानों को लेकर फेल होती दिखाई प़ड़ रहीं हैं.

एक समय था जब कृषि का GDP में बहुत बड़ा योगदान होता था, जो वक़्त के साथ कम होता गया.आज हमारे देश के "अन्न दाता" आत्महत्या करने को विवश हैं. राज्यों के आँकड़ों के मुताबिक़ 2006से 2010 के बीच हर साल औसतन 1555 किसानों ने आत्महत्याएँ की थी. 

2011 में ये संख्या शून्य हो गयी, 2012 में महज़ 4 बताई गयी. अक्सर उन  किसानों  ने आत्महत्या की जिनके पास या तो कम भूमि थी, या फिर ठेके पर खेती करते थे या फिरखेतिहर मज़दूर थे. कई राज्यों में किसानों की आत्महत्या को राजनीतिक तौर से नुकसान पहुँचाने वाला मुद्दाबनाया गया. लेकिन गजेन्द्र सिंह की आत्महत्या को आपदा पीड़ित किसान कहना मुश्किल है, क्योंकिउनके पास 10 एकड़ ज़मीन थी जिसपर उनका परिवार गेहूँ, आँवला और सागवान की खेती करता था.

किसानों की आत्महत्या से सबसे ज़्यादा प्रभावित राज्य महाराष्ट्र है जहाँ कि 2014 के दौरान 6710 खेतिहर मज़दूरों ने आत्महत्या की जब कि आंध्र प्रदेश में 160 किसानों ने आत्महत्या की. महाराष्ट्र सरकार के मुताबिक़ 2013 में 1296 किसानों ने आत्महत्या की थी. महाराष्ट्र में किसानों की हालत पहले ही बहुत खराब है और उसपर 22 फ़रवरी के आसपास जो ओले पड़े, उससे 19 लाख हेक्टेयर ज़मीन पर लगी फसल पूरी तरह बर्बाद हो गयी.

किसानों की आत्महत्या का दौर उत्तर भारत के अन्य राज्यों में भी है. इस साल तो यहाँ तक हुआ की मध्य प्रदेश में किसानों ने अपने बच्चों तक को गिरवी रख दिया.

आज पंजाब के ग्रामीण इलाक़ों में 35,000 करोड़ रुपये का क़र्ज़ है. इसमें से करीब 38 फ़ीसदी गैर संस्थागत क़र्ज़ है. सरकार ने पिछले साल 4800 करोड़ की बिजली सब्सिडी दी, 1000 करोड़ की उर्वरक सब्सिडी और 700 करोड़ रुपये की सिंचाई सब्सिडी दी. मुश्किल यह है की इसका बड़ा हिस्सा 7-8 एकड़ वाले किसानों को चला जाता है, छोटे किसानों को सब्सिडी का लाभ नहीं मिलता. इस त्रसिदि का अंदाज़ा इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है की आज के समय में भारत में 65 प्रतिशत किसानों के पास सिर्फ़ 1 एकड़ या उससे भी कम ज़मीन है.

किसानों के आत्महत्या के बहुत सारे कारण हैं, जैसे कि किसानों पर क़र्ज़ बहुत बढ़ गया है, खेती की लागत बढ़ गयी है, फसलों की कम कीमत और खराब मौसम की दोहरी मार भी इस स्थिति के लिए बहुत ज़िम्मेदार है. अंतरराष्ट्रीय स्तर पर कमोडिटी की कीमतें पिछले 10 साल के निचले स्तर पर हैं - कपास, आलू और रबड़ पैदा करने वाले भारतीय किसान इसके सबसे बड़े शिकार बने हैं. बहुत सारे कारण आज की इस हालत के ज़िम्मेदार हैं जिनमे से मुख्य हैं आयात एवम निर्यात नीति, बीजों की कीमत की समस्या इत्यादि. हमारे कृषि वेशेषगयो ने पिछले 15 सालों में आम किसानों के लिए कुछ नहीं किया है.

मोदी सरकार को कृषि नीति में काफ़ी सुधार लाने की ज़रूरत है एवं कृषि के लिए मौसम के पूर्वानुमान को बेहतर बनाने की ज़रूरत है. साथ ही ज़रूरत है की किसानों को मौसम की जानकारी उपलब्ध कराई जाए.

अगर सरकार ने समय रहते इस कब्र के ढेर को रोका नहीं तो संभव है की एक समय ऐसा भी आएगा, जब कोई खेती करना ही नहीं चाहेगा. और ये हमारा सबसे बड़ा दुर्भाग्य होगा.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The e-commerce space: Reality or Fluke

1997-2000 was a period in which stock prices of the companies working in internet and technology sectors, specially in western countries, soared. The stocks were highly overvalued, responsible for creating an image that the companies are making huge profits. It appeared that anyone with an idea could get funds to create an internet based company and transform it into a billion dollar enterprise. And then the bubble burst!

It was in 2001-02 that the investors lost approximately a Trillion Dollars and the great American dream finally crashed. Since the period was witnessing only the beginning of the internet arena in India, we were mostly insulated from the severity of the issues that were created as  a result globally!

Today with more than 300 million internet users in India, the internet penetration is still a long way to go. The internet population is around 19% and there is still very very little penetration except in Urban and Semi Urban areas.  India’s first advent of e–commerce came with IRCTC, which allowed passengers to book tickets online which led to easing the congestion on railway stations and became the first real success! Soon major airlines started offering tickets online.

Though online shopping in one format or another, was present since 2000 but the real popularity came when retailers like Flipkart, Fashionandyou, Bigshoebazaar (later started offering huge discounts and in a way re-launched online shopping in India.  Afterwards other portals like Amazon, eBay and several others joined the chorus.

Today anyone can log in and purchase anything from a needle to home appliances, clothes to jewellery, etc. with an option to return if not satisfied. The portals surprisingly   are attracting huge investments from venture capitalist and moreover are getting valuation beyond anyone’s imagination.

High profile people like Ratan Tata in his individual capacity are investing in such ventures and indirectly endorsing this model.  The only hitch/confusion with the model is the huge price differential as compared to organized offline retail model. This makes the offline model suffer and is causing unfair comparisons. Secondly authenticity of the products also poses a very serious problem.

The only issue is whether this is a viable situation? The huge discounting that is leading the numbers will end sometimes, but by then the shift to online medium would have caused irreparable loss to the offline retail, with huge losses and closures. Once the discounting stops, will people actually use the online model? Or is it that we are in for a huge correction, as they say in the stock markets and on the verge of another dot com bust??? This is a thought provoking question!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Image Courtesy:

Demand for more jobs growing in different parts of the country, economy’s faultline getting exposed

Patels are among the most industrious and enterprising community in Gujarat and they have been demanding that the community be declared ‘backward’. That will include Patels among the ‘Other Backward Castes’ or OBC in India, making them eligible for reservation in government jobs.

Earlier this month, undergraduate students who had passed out and earned a degree in Physical Education in Lucknow clashed with the police. They were demanding jobs in primary and secondary schools. The group of students resorted to violence as they burnt government vehicles. At least 30 students were taken into custody in the police action.

In Manipur, rioters torched the homes of the state’s lawmakers in protest against a new legislation which defines who can claim to be from the state of Manipur. The law demands that people provide proof that they were staying in Manipur before 1951. The new provision in the law is apparently aimed at preventing settlers in the state from neighbouring areas and even those from neighbouring Myanmar. Locals are worried that jobs are being taken away by those settling into the state from outside.

Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh to Manipur – the battle for more jobs are being seen in different parts of the country. Earlier this week, the government released data that showed that India’s GDP growth for the April-June quarter – the first quarter of the current financial year – slowed down to 7 per cent against 7.5 per cent for the comparable quarter last month.

The hunt for a job is suddenly getting mainstream across the country as the economy slows down. Companies are not hiring at a pace that matches the numbers of students being churned out by the professional colleges. Some of the traditional industries like IT services, business process management (earlier called BPOs) textiles, gems and jewellery that would attract youth of different skills in big numbers are not growing fast enough.

Bankers are not lending to companies enough because of the fear of loans turning bad. With companies not committing to capital expenditure, there is lesser to suggest that there will be demand for more jobs in the domestic economy in the next 12-18 months. 

Gujarat, the hub of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other industries, is often seen as one of India’s engines for industrial development and accounts for nearly 20 per cent of over $300 billion exports. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised ‘Maximum governance, minimum government’ repeatedly during his rallies leading to the 2014 election, where the party won the biggest mandate in India in the last 30 years.

With the macroeconomic situation not quite friendly, any company that can create jobs or expand its operations is great news for its publicity.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

The EU Immigration Issues and the Indian Cauldron...

Across the globe there is talk of massive influx of human refugees into EU nations. Heart-rending images of the body of a 3-year-old kid washed ashore in Turkey have been flashed by the Media across the world.

People seeking asylum have besieged Budapest in Hungary. Many countries in the EU have been forced to take unprecedented measures to stop this massive influx. When we look at the larger picture and try and understand the reasons, we will realize that this was a human tragedy waiting to happen. Fawned by political unrest in the Middle East, decades of poverty in Africa, genocide like conditions being created by the Islamic State: all have contributed to this flashpoint.

At the core of the problem is the inequitable growth across the globe. The rich nations have grown richer while the not so prosperous nations and their citizens have grown poorer. It is not only the monetary indicators, which are defining the rich versus the poor debate. Other factors like freedom vs oppression, health, sanitation and education are dictating the discourse. Even the global economies where there is growth, it is not equal. All across the world, the inequalities are becoming stark.

Herein lies the Indian Cauldron or rather the parallel. There are hordes of immigrant labour, which throng the bigger cities in search of employment and better living. The government has tried through schemes like MNREGA to try and decrease this movement by promising some minimum employment. But rather than this minimum employment resulting in improvement of infrastructure and linkages to the mainland, the scheme has become more of a dole to satisfy the constituents of the politicians.

There are large rural parts where even today there is no electricity, leave alone any other form of development, and these are not even remote, often they abut towns and prosperous villages but it seems they have been forgotten.

Why rural India? Walk to any Tier II and Tier III city in India and there are just no jobs for the youth. If you study the demographics you will find that the elderly population in these cities is increasing since the youth tend to migrate towards the Tier I cities in search of jobs. This is creating immense pressure on the basic infrastructure of the already “bursting at the seams” Big cities. This internal immigration has to stop if we are not to face a catastrophe.

The political leaders of all parties must realize this immediately rather then engaging in one upmanship, before it is too late. The youth is growing impatient, the recent violent demonstration in Gujarat, which is considered to be one of the most peaceful and prosperous states, is just the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere one travels in India, one will find well educated youth either unemployed or doing jobs which have no correlation to their educational background and skills.

Recently a qualified diploma mechanical engineer applied for the job of a driver in our office, which not only shocked me but also forced me to hang my head in shame at the country we are building. When quizzed why he wanted a job of a driver, his reply was telling – he had not found a job for more than a year and did not want to be a burden on his parents. We did not employ him but found him employment as an engineer. And this is not an extreme or isolated incident; you will find thousands of such examples.

We all must realize that if this continues then we are heading for a flashpoint as has been seen in the EU immigration problem. Here I must also highlight the irresponsible role being played by a certain section of the Indian Media. One particular publication which is widely read, has almost 25% of the paper devoted to “ gets $100 million, valued at $1billion, 20 year old sets up a $10 million startup etc”. When one reads this publication one feels that he/she has wasted his/her life compared to these so-called millionaires and billionaires. Bombarding readers with these super success stories, day in and day out, hides the fact that for every one of these new age entrepreneurs who has made it, there are thousands who have failed.

They make it sound like Indian roads are paved with Dollars waiting to be picked up. The youth of today inspired or rather misled by these stories want to become millionaires and billionaires without any hard work or trying to learn on the job. This leads to unreasonable expectations and creates further unrest.

In our office we have had youngsters leaving the jobs because they did not find enough glamour, or because they did not like the coffee or they were asked to be properly dressed, etc. In our times we could not think of staying without a job after our educations. These youngsters all belong to the “haves” category, who have never seen any hardships and whose parents are willing to foot all their bills – including an expensive but largely “useless” education!

Today there is so much dichotomy – those who have jobs do not want to work and those who want to work have no jobs. And it has become a serious issue!!!

We must all, in our own way, try and address these issues. As parents we must tone down our kids expectations, as teachers we must teach our students the value of hard work and learning, as youth we must realize that for most there are no shortcuts to success, as leaders we must realize that we have a larger responsibility to the society as a whole, as the media we must make it a point to give a balanced view of life rather than highlighting just a few blips and raising sky high “wrong” expectations of the youth.

If we all collectively do not address the issue of inequitable social fabric in the country then we must all be prepared to face the consequences. What is happening in EU today can very well be the story of India tomorrow!

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Image Courtesy:
The hunt for growth in jobs seems to be never ending 

Quite unfortunate, but it is turning out to be a case study for students of economics.

The real estate market in the National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Delhi and its peripheral cities of Gurgaon, Noida and Faridabad, is nothing short of moribund. After nearly a decade of relentless growth, upstarts who rode the realty boom after finally facing the reality.

Cement production grew 0.9 per cent during the quarter, way below the 9.6 per cent during the April-June quarter, during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office after the biggest electoral victory in 30 years.

With companies still cutting down on headcount and cautious on new hiring, jobs are few and far between. According to realty consultants Knight Frank, during the first half of the year, housing starts, one measure of economic activity for the economy, fell 40 per cent during the first half of the year. A few months earlier, another realty consultant Jones Lang LaSalle had estimated that there were 12 million unsold apartments across the country.

India’s GDP for the first quarter of the current financial year is expected to remain flat against 7.5 per cent for the January-March quarter of the last financial year that ended on March 31, 2015.

Ahead of India’s GDP figures ratings agency Moody’s cut India’s growth estimate to 7 per cent against the governments estimates between 8 and 8.5 per cent.

Rohit Raj Modi, Director at Ashiana Homes, told Reuters that “from a labour point of view, the peak is over”. 

With margins being squeezed, and as the big players come in, increased mechanisation at the locations for construction will mean lesser number of workers will be employed. Delhi-based realty companies like Supertech and Amrapali have set up plants that will mechanise the process of constructing apartments.

Prime Minister Modi may have given his party a political edge by promising more jobs during his election campaign. At the moment, economics seems to be driving the market more than politics.