POV from India

Seeing this and that, here and there, and joining the dots from a branding POV

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maslow and the Indian Guru

What is it about the Indian Guru that attracts multitudes? What really are the payoffs people seek, consciously or unconsciously, what role in life does the Guru play in an Indian’s life? A Brand Chakras* study on just this, done amongst disciples of various gurus, revealed some interesting angles and insights.
In India, one does not go up stage by Maslow stage, only after each stage is satisfied. All stages can exist simultaneously, although in different proportions for different people in different stages in life – and this is not necessarily dependant only on how much money one has for day to day living, but on your inherent inclination and inborn characteristics. The study showed that a spiritual Guru actually helps in different ways across the hierarchy of needs.
The Guru as Survival Strategist: giving a sense of security and stability, reducing restlessness, encouraging persistence. “Spiritual gurus help more to deal with everyday life than to reach the beyond.” “You come back like a charged person. Now you are ready to face anything.” “He has given us the courage to face problems, difficult situations.”
The Guru as Problem Solver: “If I just close my eyes for a few minutes and tell Baba, now come on, try and give me the solution, try and give me the right light. Immediately I go back and something strikes up.” “He views problems in a different perspective. Whatever problems I put forward to him or discuss with him, he sees them in a different perspective and proves that every problem has got a solution.” “If there’s something to tackle…we just say, ok Guruji, you tell us what to do.”
The Guru as Temporary Escape: “The moment we see him, we forget everything. We live in such peace there, only after coming back everything comes back to our mind… our illness, our worries, our problems. As long as we are there we are at peace.” “I just say come on Baba. Let us sit and chat with each other so that I can disconnect myself from all these worries.”
The Guru as the Pleasure Principle: There are two aspects to this. One, proponent of “living in the now”: “He says live a natural life and enjoy nature. Enjoy the innocence, laughter of the child. Enjoy the birds. That’s something he talks about. And this is one aspect that influences me highly.” “He makes you feel, just relax and enjoy life.” The other, learning to depend less on material pleasures: “Spiritual powers overpower pleasures of life. There is no end to pleasure. Today no materialistic things allure me.” “At a younger age I thought earthly pleasures were more important, I thought making more money, was a pleasurable thing. Yes, I’ve achieved detachment from earthly pleasures after my association with my guru.”
The Guru as Performance Enabler: builder of confidence and self belief, giver of courage, empowerer of goals. “When I go to Baba in the morning, I feel I have shed off all my fears and insecurities and then I’m like a free bird to conduct my level best during the day.” “He empowers me in a way…Certain things that I cannot do, he makes me able enough to do”. “I never knew all the things I could do. I never used to think I could go on stage and talk. We have never been trained for all that…This is not something I believed I could do.” “We put limitations in our mind…but this becomes a limitless thing…you can do whatever.” “I do more and much more than a normal person would do. I do so much now.”
The Guru as Parent, giver of unconditional love: “He loves us, in spite of all our faults, in spite of the things he tells us to do and we don’t…we are not able to do…some people don’t even try. For me that is the greatest love.” “Guruji loves everyone. It’s unconditional love. It’s not like he loves you more or me more, his love is for everybody and its equal.” “It’s like a mother and child relationship” “I have felt that every relationship in life is a give and take. For him, its only give. ”
The Guru as Relationship Therapist: helps maintain relationships, accept people as they are, say the right thing at the right time, and face unfriendly situations politely. “Definitely, my attitude has changed. Within my relatives, I used to be a very arrogant person before becoming a Sai devotee… but now even they say that I have changed.” “He, by giving so much advice regarding behaviour of human beings, he gives us a different outlook in us by which we see other people totally differently.” “I used to expect a lot from a relationship…since I used to give in a 100% in my relationship, my expectations were very high, which now I have learnt to let go.” “Even when people behave in an erratic manner which is not acceptable to you, instead of getting upset, I sympathize and I try to guide them, counsel them, reform them. And that improves the relationship and my credibility also goes up.”
The Guru as proponent of Social Responsibility: brings out kindness and compassion. “I’ve been attracted to the service side… as it makes me feel good when I help someone out. The thing that I liked about this organization is that there isn’t much money involved… It’s more about personal involvement.” “In Puttaparthi… I was surprised to see, many of them… For example a scientist, a professor and a big organization’s head, who liked to serve in the canteen. ” “Sometimes we just live in our circle and what we can do for our children and what we can do for ourselves. He makes you get out of the comfort zone. Move out of your comfort zone and just go and do.” “There are other ways to help out. I want to do new things to help… It was there in me before, but it was in different style. Mostly in trying to show off to people, to make money or something like that. But now it’s mostly social work.”
And finally, the Guru as Catalyst of Self Actualisation: inner growth, learning that obstacles are stepping stones .“I have learnt to live with less expectations. Guruji says no expectations because expectations bring sorrow, no expectations bring joy. “ “I would rather be at peace with myself…connecting to god. There are times at night, when there are so many thought provoking things, now I’ve learnt to switch off.” “I feel that life is not only this…there’s something beyond.” “Life is about growth of your own self also.” “The stronger you become, the tougher lessons come in life. “Now I am trying to rise myself to a higher plane. ““Pleasure is inner happiness of mind, that is peace.”
Guru seekers are therefore in essence, solution seekers (Maslow’s safety – not necessarily physiological but mental and emotional), performance seekers (Maslow’s esteem), parent seekers (Maslow’s love and belonging) and inner peace seekers (Maslow’s self actualisation).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Has the Indian employee brand become an idea to reckon with?/Published articles/The Financial Express - Brand Wagon/February 17, 2009

“Our people are our greatest asset”.
Is there anyone out there who has never skimmed over a sentence such as that? How many times have we written, read or heard such a sentence in corproate ads annual reports, corporate brochures and chairman’s speeches? But will we, ever again skip such a sentence?
Surely no employee branding programme could have prepared either the staff of the Taj or Satyam for what they had to face? Would VD Zende have ever even heard such a sentence?
Till now, when we talked about employees as brand evangelists, we imagined – at best - someone who was emotionally engaged with the work and the company, a good salesman of the company brand, a showcase employee to customers, and perhaps loyalty. Not many employee branding gurus would have included “courage under fire” as a defining quality of brand evangelism.
A news item (the DNA 19 Dec 08) talked of Taj employees sharing their motivational ideas. "Every staffer comes up with new ideas for motivation. I came up with the idea of singing ‘Ae malik tere bande hum’ the other day. Singing a song like that brings joy and enthusiasm to the group. Some people write poems and recite them, and those who are good at painting create posters”.
While at the Taj, the enemy was from outside, and the whole country rallied in support, Satyamites may have felt tainted as the crisis was from within, and they continue to face uncertainty. But there is something in the tone of Satyamites in blogosphere that is worth noting. “I have been more inspired by these employee actions and expressions of core values than anything that I’ve seen in a long time” says Dov Seidman ( Corporate Dossier, The Economic Times, Jan 23)

Here are some excerpts from the many Satyam bloggers.
“When one man can create Satyam as an organization of 53,000 people, why not 53,000 committed people can rebuild one Satyam?”
“Don’t you think that we really owe it to Satyam for having provided us with a golden opportunity to start our career, and launch us in this IT sector from a very strong platform. Didn’t Satyam really bring us up as its own children . This is our way to show that, “United We Stand” and tell our Leaders that Sir please go and tell the clients, both existing and upcoming, that we are ready to face any challenges”.
“The entire Satyamites might turn into entrepreneurs by opening a new era with their mighty experience of having worked in Satyam and with a view to surpass the fame earned by Narayana Murthy. The entire nation is looking forward to such a situation. Arise! Awake!! Stop not till you succeed.”
And here is what their supporters from outside are saying: “Focus on increasing the deliveries to your customers in quality and fast and do some extra hours these days. I am sure 3 % profit to 20 % profit can be reached in jut 3 months. Just in this time, retain the customer, think of customers only. Forget any thing, rest every thing will be fine.”
“ Satyamites have not done anything wrong and believe me nothing wrong will happen to you. I'm sure you people will come back stronger by this ongoing events. Have faith and trust in yourself. I know these are difficult times in your life, but we the people of India are along with you. I hope everything would come to normal very soon. Please be with your company during this crucial time as you work for the company and not for any single person.”
Two years ago The Power and the Glory, a JWT Brand Chakras study among young “global Indians” exactly of the Satyam kind, reported the complete centrality of “work is worship” but only at the altar of fame and money. (Employee engagement and the new age Karma Yogi, the Economic Times, Nov 16, 2007) Employees were willing to work hard, invest intellect and energy and generate ideas; hoping in return to “build my name larger than the organisation”, and be a part of the India story. 28 year olds were talking of “one day give back to my village”. But most importantly they were in fact becoming very demanding of their leaders, expecting a high degree of inspiration and nurturing.
Now, suddenly they have had a close-up view of feet of clay. Irresepective of whether the feeling is really widespread, and irrespective of what may finally happen at Satyam, the fact that the employee-task-customer has emerged as the real unit of value and can weather the storm, makes the “Our people are our greatest asset” statement come alive.
Lucian Trasa in “Beyond Lovemarks”, (Strategid 2006) says, “Company culture is such a manifestation of a transpersonal brand, being able to keep together the employees of a certain company, more frequently and more successfully than it can be done with the aid of financial and material benefits. There are numerous cases of companies in financial difficulty which continued to activate and kept their employees – sometimes without paying them for their work. Such a display of loyalty and love cannot be explained as the employee’s respect for management or the company, but we have to take into account the fulfilment of a stronger need, beyond primary human needs – the need for spirituality and transcendence felt by the man who is “standardized” on all levels, and who invested his power and his desire for spirituality in that company’s brand.”
With VD Zende, with Karambir Kang and the staff at the Taj and the Trident, with the young Satyamite on “We the People”, and with the Satyamite bloggers, surely the Indian employee brand has climbed out of chairman’s speeches, and become an idea to reckon with.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mumbai: Where "Survival is the Art of Living"/Published articles Adage.com/2 Dec, 08

A Street-Level Look at the people, culture and temperament of Mumbai, India's Sprawling City of 13 Million Shaken by Last Week's Terror Attacks
Indifferent sadness." "Impotent love." "No whining. Accept hardships and keep going." "The show must go on." These were but some of the comments from consumers during a study by JWT India on the character of Mumbai just a few months ago. In the aftermath of recent events, the value of Mumbai-ites' resilience became a subject of debate. Many felt what one of the respondents said: "Riots, bomb blasts, floods. ... The city bounces back by forgetting and that, I personally feel, is a bad thing. The city should come to a grinding halt. That is when there will be considerable thought given to what led to these adversities and real steps will be taken to prevent these from happening."
So, according to the study, what makes Mumbai what it is?
*First, day-to-day life is a struggle
"Mumbai is a draining city in a physical sense; one requires tremendous amounts of energy to get through the rigors of every day life in Mumbai."
"Traffic is chaotic, most people have to spend five to six hours commuting. Mumbai's productivity is reduced by half due to traffic related delays."
*Yet, it's a city of opportunity
"Setting goals and achieving them is what people come here for and they focus on that." "Strugglers here continue to have their dreams despite their failures; especially in fields like media, films."
"Mumbai has a culture of intense competition. The number and scale of opportunities available are immense."
*Be competitive and you'll reap rewards
"Survival calls for competitiveness as well as preoccupation with own matters; hence being self-absorbed and indifferent is natural to the seasoned survivor in Mumbai."
"People do not mind being right or wrong as long as they get ahead in life and achieve what they want."
"Mumbai has no sympathy for the newcomer. He or she has to be ready to compete and work hard, suffer and endure to get going in this city."
"Don't resist the hectic pace, go with the flow, the current will carry you forward."
*Therefore, there is no time to dwell on the difficulties
"If your car is bumped, then you abuse that person and move on. You do not get into terrible rage like in some other cities. They do not want to get trapped in such situations ... it is smarter to move on."
"If you are traveling in a train, there will be so many times that you will be trampled, jostled ... but you have to pick yourself up and move on. That is the attitude that surviving in this city calls for ... forget and move on."
"Despite the frustrations, you do not find a lot of violence. If people are stuck in traffic jams for a long time. You might find a lot of horn honking but not physical violence."
*Mumbai is often trapped in situations that it cannot control.
Terrorist activities are situations which Mumbai cannot control. Politician's actions also trap Mumbai in a way."
*Indifferent sadness and impotent love
"Mumbai only feels sad. Imagine a person hit by a train. People here will feel sad, but there is not enough action as a result of the sadness because people do not either have the time or the inclination. They leave it at feeling sad. They will tide over the guilt of not doing anything by thinking that 'I at least felt sad ... so what if I could not do anything about it.'"
*People do not speak out
"The average person in Mumbai is not inclined to speak his mind out on controversial issues; the fear of repercussions as well as the 'mind your own business' attitude act as deterrents."
"They cannot afford to spend time on such issues. People generally refrain from making political statements openly. They want to avoid trouble, not get trapped in situations."
*There is no 'Voice of the City'"
"Power is in the wrong hands. The sentiments of the political power does not necessarily reflect the views and sentiments of the larger Mumbai public."
"Though Bollywood people are representing Mumbai, they are not doing anything personally for Mumbai."
"Though there are personalities in Mumbai who appear in TV interviews, all these people have no power ... nobody listens to them ... they only cater to the elite class. ... People who are really affected, they do not have any voice. Whatever leaders that they have are those who try to take advantage of the situation."
"The social fabric of the city is quite complex. The class divide is quite stark. So you do not have people responding to or uniting on larger city issues that do not directly affect them."
"You will have a group talking about pedestrian spaces being misused and another group talking about the attack on open spaces in the city. But you will never find people coming together as one group and talking about larger issues like terrorism that threaten the city."
*Mumbai does not have a vision of its future
"Mumbai lives in the present and does not think too much about the future. If they thought more about the future, then there will not be too much of dirt, filth lying around."
"Those here do not have the time to plan for two, three years down the road. They do not think of planning for the future, think of larger causes like environment, etc."
*"Survival is the art of living in Mumbai. "In Mumbai, it is difficult to survive and also easy to survive ... you just have to be a little street smart."("Art of Living" refers to one of the biggest offerings in the new age "spirituality for wellness" domain in India.)
Now, even the definition of street smart has changed. For the people who will just honk and move on, for the people who just want to carry on with their goals, for the people who just want to live and let live, being street smart now means dodging bullets.
~ ~ ~ This article quotes entirely from "A Tale of Four Cities," a proprietary JWT India Brand Chakras Study that set out to uncover the forces that make the character of each of its four metros: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata; and understand how citizens relate to their cities. The qualitative study involved Depth Interviews with journalists, radio jockeys, psychiatrists, advertising professionals, HR consultants and Focus Group Discussions amongst citizens of each city, a mix of men and women, young adults and older, long term residents and recent settlers. Mythili Chandrasekar, executive planning director at JWT India, steered the study.
See original article at http://adage.com/globalideanetwork/post?article_id=132935

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Also Want to Write About Barack Obama!/Article in adage.com/14.11.08

Lessons Learned in Learning Lessons From the Most Spherical Campaign Around

The marketing fraternity gets excited when there are lessons to learn, especially when these lessons come from outside the corporate world. So of course, when someone like Barack Obama becomes president, we can pick up many new instructions in management and marketing, mainly from the marketing gurus who love to rush and write about them in the papers. The faster you can figure out the lessons, the better. Now don't get me wrong, they are really good articles. It's just that being somewhat connected to marketing, and also an occasional writer of articles ... I also want to write about Barack Obama.

The first step in Writing About Barack Obama is figuring out whether you have five, seven or 10 lessons. Then you discern who these lessons could be for. CEOs, marketers, organizations and brands have already been targeted.

I'm a planner by trade so my first thought was to reach out to my ilk. But Umair Haque, who wrote "Obama's Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators" for Harvard Business Publishing, beat me there. Sample: "Obama's campaign took a scalpel to strategy -- because they realized that strategy, too often, kills a deeply lived sense of purpose, destroys credibility and corrupts meaning." So "Six Lessons Strategic Planners Can Learn From Barack Obama" was out. As was "Seven Lessons for Radical Innovators."

Also, you need some new concept words to make your lesson unique. You know, like "blue ocean," "flat world," "long tail." According to Mr. Haque, "Obama's organization was less tall or flat than spherical." That's right, spherical. And his organization was "self-organizing." Gosh, I need something like that for my article too.

In this regard, Al Ries' "What Marketers Can Learn from Obama's Campaign," published on this website, was not very helpful. He says Mr. Obama teaches us "simplicity, consistency, relevance." No new concept words there, just good old horse sense. And not at all what I'm looking for. In fact, Mr. Obama does not really teach us any new lessons; he has simply applied the lessons Mr. Ries taught us long ago, but we never learned. (He also says something sarcastic about chief marketing officers who keep changing jobs and slogans, but never mind that for now.) As Mr. Ries points out, we learn from Mr. Obama that we shouldn't change our slogans often; our slogan itself should be about change. And as they all point out, it's not about small changes. We have to change the world itself.

Then there was John Quelch's "How Better Marketing Elected Barack Obama," also for Harvard Business Publishing. The lessons from here include: Be charismatic, be a great public speaker, convert empathy into tangible support (read: money) reach out to all, have consistent messaging, combine functional with emotional benefits, use new media, outsmart the competition, fight the ground war brilliantly and have an excellent marketing and campaign team.

Phew ... if only.

Even still, that leaves me with many brands for which I have no world-changing ideas, no compelling biographies, no funds and, worst of all, no concept words. It also leaves me without a title for my article.

I suppose it could have been "Three Lessons the Advertising Industry Can Learn From Obama." (Just three should do, because some feel the advertising industry takes a long time to learn its lessons.) But apparently Mr. Obama put his money where the ad industry's mouth is now -- in digital! (In this regard, there are anything from 23 to 52 lessons.) He has taught us lessons in logo design, website design, messaging, twittering, mobile alerts. He has schooled us in how to build social networks and e-mail lists, to distribute widgets and to bring in the under-30s. And most of all, a key lesson in domain names. It's not barackobama.com but my.barackobama.com. That's right. Co-create, put the customer in the center of the universe. (See, he has only done what the advertising industry has been saying for five years now.)

And of course the ultimate lesson is his central message: "I can't change anything, only we can." Actually, no. The ultimate lesson is getting that "we" get to pay for his campaign.

Aha! An aha moment. A lesson. If the competition runs expensive TV ads, and your client does not have the money, raise funds from your consumers -- through the internet! That's co-creation. That's the 21st-century organization. That's spherical, surely.

See, we don't want to just run a great campaign with our client's money. We want to change the world ... by launching My.consumerspayforads.com. Ahhhh. There's the title: "One Lesson on Marketing Budgets From Barack Obama." And for all you disbelievers in advertising out there, who think we can't pull this off, there is of course only one message. "Yes we can."

Giving Fairness Creams a Fair Shake/Post in Adage.com - Global Idea Network/28.10.08

How the Messaging Surrounding the Controversial Product Has Evolved

Women's fairness creams -- which work to lighten skin color -- is a large product category in India and has from time to time attracted the attention of feminists as being a regressive offering that perpetuates fair skin as an yardstick of beauty, a symptom of our "colonial hangover." Over the years, the promise of these creams has moved from you can find a husband if you are fair to the idea that a lighter skin tone will get you a job. Progressively, ads have shown women having the upper hand in choosing partners, and the jobs they can get have moved from air hostesses (traditionally a "modern" profession according to the large Indian middle class) to cricket commentators, reflecting a more recent male bastion that the Indian woman has stormed! Meanwhile, realizing that a fair (pun unintended!) percentage of users were men, the market has seen the launch of new brands of fairness creams for men, like Fair & Handsome. Lowe's latest ad for Unilever's Fair & Lovely, the largest brand in the women's fairness creams category, has moved the needle further. The story revolves around a man who is pushed to extreme measures to get his bulging waistline into shape because of the effect the woman has on him, with the tagline "The power of beauty." Surely, a telling comment on the changing status of women in Indian society. From "I'm worried about whether the man will accept me" to "See what an effect I have on the man." You really have come a long way, baby!

Indian Women to Get Tools to Break Glass Ceiling/Post in Adage.com - Global Idea Network/15.10.08

New Program Trains Unskilled Indian Women in Trades

From breaking the glass ceiling in boardrooms to using micro-finance at the grassroots and driving rural entrepreneurship, from working night shifts in BPOs to teaching foreign children online from home, from biking in the Himalayas to being employed by banks to recover loans from defaulters, Indian women are breaking into so many male bastions -- even as the better-off spend more and more on looking more beautiful and showing more skin! Here is a small news item in The Hindu dated Oct. 13 that made me salute the gender, one more time. Take a look. They are now being trained by the Building Association of India in electrical work, painting, carpentry, plumbing. Said M.K. Sundaram, chairman of the Builders Association of India: "The women have been deprived of the opportunity to effectively contribute to the industry. As they are unskilled, they get low wages. This initiative of providing training in painting, plumbing, electrical and carpentry work for women unskilled laborers will help them earn more. It will also contribute well to the construction industry." May the idea spread. This is not just a positive step forward from women carrying heavy loads in construction sites. Maybe our problems with the slippery tribe of male household maintenance jobbers will come to an end!
Original post here

Bollywood's Oscar Submission: A Film With a Message/Post in adage.com - Global Idea Network/30.09.08

Bollywood has the largest film output in the world, making at least twice as many films as Hollywood does in a year. And that's only the Hindi-language films -- there are at least five other thriving vernacular-language film industries in India. So you can imagine how difficult it is to choose just one entry for the Oscars! First, the arguments: Was it really the best? Were politics involved? Did the right movie's team lobby well enough? ... And when we don't win: Are we really not good enough, is it racism, is it lack of marketing, or is it that "they just don't get it"? But this year, all Indians will be proud of the entry "Taare Zameen Par" ("Every Child Is Special"). The choice reflects two trends: the rise of "message movies" and the rise of the film star as activist. In this movie, actor Aamir Khan -- known to do fewer films than others because he chooses his themes with care and also known for supporting causes offscreen -- pulls off an outstanding directorial debut. "TZP" (we like to abbreviate our movie names) is the story of a dyslexic child and how a sensitive teacher transforms him and opens the eyes of the parents. At a time when Indian parents are increasingly "pushing" their children to higher academic and all-around performance, the film makes more than one statement. The last time Mr. Khan was at the Academy Awards, in 2002, his movie "Lagaan" lost to "No Man's Land." His "Rang De Basanti" didn't make it to the shortlist in 2007. Now, India crosses a billion fingers and waits with bated breath, hoping the phrase "third time lucky" is true!