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!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Make in India" and a level playing field for domestic manufacturing

Image Courtesy:
What gets my goat, with unfailing regularity, is that we talk in platitudes and really do not keep the "ground realities" in mind. "Make in India" campaign is another such thing that comes to mind.

"Make in India" is a brilliant concept on paper, but are we only looking at foreign investment here or actually looking at boosting domestic industry as well? Alright, as we understand it, "Make in India" is completely different from "Made in India" and lets talk about the angst of the domestic industry.

As an organization, we provide strategic communication inputs to clients, a sizeable percentage of who are manufacturing companies - quite a few in the B2B segment as well. We are therefore unfortunately aware of their issues and "plight" possibly a little more than your average person. And I am taking specially of the plight of the SME sector, where the "ticket" size of the investments are not all that big, but these are the industries that provide the most important ingredients to the industry.

When on a daily basis there is all this talk of "growth" and how the Government is bending over backwards to facilitate investments in the country by foreign companies, one feels strange since the domestic companies still have to jump through hoops to get the same clearances. If we are talking about the investments of around Rs. 50-250 Cr., there are very few takers. There are no resources available for capex or greenfield expansions, huge amount of bureaucratic interference, a 100 different permissions required, and the list is really long.

I have come across a large number of "frustrations" in day-to-day running of the organisations and therefore I am worried that if the domestic manufacturer is not really happy, should we go overboard in promoting ourselves as the "liberal economy"? I fear that a time will come that the domestic industry in its own country will become the "untouchables". 

I believe that we should put our own house in order first before we go ahead and invite the biggies to invest in India. Afterall, if the domestic industry is happy, only then will it be able to provide the best to the newbies who come in.

And this isn't an unsurmountable task either. It only takes a few interventions to make this happen. When I began my career in PR, I worked with Government of Rajasthan and their Bureau of Industrial Promotion. There were already a few biggies in Rajasthan, I am talking about mid 90s, almost 20 years ago. The importance of keeping the existing players happy before we went out and promoted Rajasthan as the investment destination was felt and BIP went out of its way to streamline the processes, made themselves approachable and began a regular dialogue. The results were there for people to see. 

If one Mr. Arvind Mayaram, the then BIP head, could have the foresight to create a good atmosphere amongst the  the organisations already present in Rajasthan, then I see no reason why that the collective might of the central government can not make the life of the manufacturing sector easier! 

After all, before we unleash the "Roar of the Lion", we need to create a level playing filed for the domestic industry, so that the chirping of the birds is also heard!

Monday, October 12, 2015


From governments to companies, the citizen and consumer is always facing the wrong end of the barrel 
Everyone claims to fight for the rights and welfare consumers. But when it comes to guarding their interests? That is when you feel everyone may be skating on thin ice.

Last week RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan made an unexpected 50 basis point cut in rates. Given his tough stance against a cut, because inflation had not been fully tamed, his critics were surprised. Some even went ahead and said that it was a decision taken by the Finance Minister and/or Prime Minister and announced by the RBI Governor!

Banks have a reason to be happy. A cut in interest rates means leading can become cheaper and drive companies and individuals to borrow more. Little wonder, they were quick to react. Buoyed by the cut in rates, they have announced a cut in lending rates for various products.

Companies whose standing gyrates with interest rates – banks, finance companies, realty, consumer goods, automobiles and others – have been demanding that the Reserve Bank cut interest rates so that demand can pick up.

Unfortunately, banks have chosen not to pass the entire rate cut to their customers, leaving them high and dry, alone in their battle. Despite the tough words from the RBI, banks have managed to get away with what some call daylight robbery, adding to what is called the net interest margins – the difference in rates at which they borrow and the rates at which they lend.

It is the same story with governments. Citizens have been left high and dry on a number of issues. 

The government of India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh has hardly managed to present a creditable face on the issue of its resident being killed on the beef issue. Every political party has visited and met the family members of 50-year-old Akhlaq, when a group of people believed that he ate beef. But the politicking on the issue continues. The Indian Air Force (IAF), where Akhlaq’s son is employed has had to step in and move his family to a safer area, away from the prying eyes of politicians and frenzied mobs. 

As Bihar goes to polls to elect members of the state Legislative Assembly over the next few weeks, the Janata Dal (United) government had been talking about development. That, ideally, should have resulted in jobs for the residents of the state and increased industrialization. As BJP and its rivals, the combine of JD(U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and others, slug it out there is little mention of the issue of development. The election campaign has deteriorated to name calling and raising issues that appeal to the emotions of the masses. 

Now, given the heated political exchanges, and the lack of mention of development issues, residents of the state cannot be faulted in believing that the development story may have several fault lines that could cost Chief Minister Nitish Kumar his chair.

A somewhat similar story is now brewing with the NDA government in Delhi, which was voted to power by the biggest popular mandate since 1984. The promise of jobs, development, transparency and fighting corruption has, definitely in popular perception, been relegated to the background. A policy move asking people to declare black money to the taxman by the end of September or face prosecution has been an embarrassing failure. The BJP had promised to bring black money back to the country, believed to be stashed in overseas tax havens.

Farmers in Punjab and Maharashtra are perhaps going through worst times. Exports have been slipping for nine consecutive months. Capital expenditure by companies, which could fuel the next wave of jobs creation, has vanished in thin air. 

While several emotive issues take centrestage, the country will soon be restive for action.