The Future of Content is — Video. And it’s Scary!

Have you noticed off late, how the sheer number of videos that we watch from the Internet has exploded. Thanks to the smart phones in our pocket, and the 3Gs and the 4Gs in the air, we now consume videos as copiously as we drink colas. And this transformation has been fairly recent, because till sometime back watching a video on YouTube was like booking a train ticket on the IRCTC portal; frustrating, exhausting and mind-numbing. Buffering was a term that we all came to hate and live with. It was like bad karma, and watching video was like a punishment, no less.

Funnily, the capability/capacity to watch videos has supposedly been around for quite some time. Does, the broadband tingle a bell? I remember back in the times when NDA was in government, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister, the then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan used to make promises of a ‘videod‘ future, where we will be able to see a Dev Anand or a Sunil Dutt film at a just a click at almost every press conference. That was in around the year 2000. But then even as the bandwidth grew, from 128 Kbps to 512, from 1 Mbps to 2 and then to 5, the video revolution was largely limited because of the ‘Pull‘ factor, namely, one had to visit a website or a portal to pull (or download) a video. So be it a YouTube or a Bit Torrent, we had to go to all these sites in search of something specific. We were searching for videos to watch, and since these portals were just hosting the videos they were not pushing the envelope in terms of technology.

And while we talk about technology, we just cannot ignore the role played by the porn portals that revolutionised the delivery of videos over the WWW. Because of all these portals that had to deliver videos to hundreds of thousands of people (at times even millions) simultaneously, they perfected the art of content delivery. The world owes a big debt to these carnal-delighters for making the magic of seamless video possible. Continue reading

Were I the Brand Head at Snapdeal; this is what I would have done

Defining what is a brand is quite like tying up yourself in a knot. Brands (and we are not talking of the material here) are defined by perception than physical attributes of it. As one of the greatest advertising gurus of all times, David Ogilvy had famously said, “brands are the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”

As an article in Forbes put it beautifully;
“Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.  It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic).  Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it.  It’s fixed.  But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.” 

Thus, while Snapdeal, one of India’s biggest online retailer is a company, an organization and so on, which can be defined in material terms. It is also huge in terms of the Snapdeal_Krishab786intangible, a brand that people like, associate or even hate. And in the past couple of days (specifically 2), the edifice of the brand, built with time and money, has developed a crack and all because of an event which was totally not in their hands.

It all started with a brand ambassador they had so ‘heartfully’ integrated in their campaign; namely Aamir Khan.  A little ‘dil ki talk’  by Aamir proved very costly for Snapdeal. It all started with Aamir Khan talking of how his wife had discussed the possibility of leaving India at an award show. Within a short span of time, the social universe burst into a storm of backlash against the Bollywood Star. There was resounding condemnation of the actor and shortly the hashtag #AamirKhan was the number one trend in India. People across the spectrum were pillorying the actor for his indiscretion. And in this maelstrom Snapdeal became a collateral victim. In a little time hashtags like #AppWapsi, #BootSnapdeal became a trend. Since there was no direct way to express anger, uninstalling and giving the Snapdeal app poor rating, demanding the company to remove him as its brand ambassador in the comments section became a legit way of vent their angst.

To be fair to Snapdeal, there was possibly little that they could have done in the maelstrom. Even as the barrage turned into a flood, Snapdeal seemed to be numbed. The Aamirkhan1hyper active twitteratis were devising ways coordinating attacks on the online retailer, who just dug the head in the sand waiting for all to blow away. Sadly like those hurricanes in the gulf of Mexico, this one only got stronger. As of penning this piece the app had received some 92000 negative ratings. Then there was the supposed uninstall of some 6 lakh by users, and claimed loses of some 100 crores.

Every big brand or a corporate these days has a ORM (Online Reputation Management) policy in place wherein they listen and react to things in the online space. While, there is a limitation to how much listening and reacting one can, dependent largely on the tools, team and consultants that are engaged, great brands need always be prepared for disaster management of this sort. Just like in our offices, we keep having this fire-safety drill, wherein we are mentally prepared to react in case of a fire, similarly companies need to have a roadmap ready when things fail.

This is where I believe Snapdeal faltered; it had not prepared itself for an event like this. The company went quiet, and hence suffered terribly. There are a whole lot of steps that it could have undertaken, from big to small to present it’s side, to reach out to the people. To give an idea, here is a small set of things I would have done, were I the brand head at Snapdeal. Honestly, these steps have been arrived at deliberation with my friends in the industry, who have a lot more knowledge and experience in this domain. Thus, the “I” here is a just rhetorical tool, to evince interest and connect with the reader. So here goes my little list of things that should have been done:

 

React
The phrase ‘nip in the bud’ is a rather evocative one, but is a maxim of much strength. As soon as the negative trends started showing up on my dashboard, I would have Screenshot_2015-11-25-12-48-58immediately constituted a task force with the sole objective of listening and reacting. Thus even as messages on Twitter were going all over, there would be an erudite set of copy-commandos trying to diffuse the situation.
Secondly, I would immediately carry a statement from the company on all the social media logins/handles. The message would be brief and succinct, stating that these are personal comments by the star and we are not associated with it. This would have been immediate.
Third I would also mask all the communication that would be featuring Aamir Khan. I mean, if so many people are pissed at him, why would I still maintain his face on the FB cover, on the App front-end, on Twitter cover and so on. Immediately, there would be a generic poster/cover, featuring a Tricolor or something, or Wishing people a happy Guru Nanak Jayanti, just to diffuse the scenario.
Continue reading

Before #SupportDigitalIndia should look at #StrengthWithinIndia

There is this beautiful and candid moment in the Discovery of India, when Jawaharlal Nehru (the author of the book) breaks into an inquiry as to what really is India. In a passage, he poses a series of questions that dig at the very essence of nationhood —

What is this India, apart from her physical and geographical aspects? What did she represent in the past? What gave strength to her then? How did she lose that old Digital-India 6strength? And has she lost it completely? Does she represent anything vital now, apart from being the home of a vast number of human beings? How does she fit into the modern world?

These queries can also be termed as the core essence of the book itself, as Nehru takes us on a long journey to “discover” and uncover India. Somehow, I seemed to recall these words from the very 1st Prime Minister of India, even as the 15th Prime Minister roamed across the plains of the United States, exhorting companies and individuals to partner in his vision of a digital and developed India.

‘Digital India’ is now well and truly a global buzzword, it is already trending on Twitter and Facebook and everyone seems to be talking about it. The program launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in July 2014, seems to have come a long way with Digital india1even the CEO of Facebook sporting a DP in support of Digital India. Google in the meantime announced that it will provide free Wi-Fi at 500 railway stations; Microsoft is planning to take broadband connectivity to 5 lakh villages. There is now so much excitement and so much euphoria around the idea, that one feels that there is nothing that can now come between us and our tryst with digitisation. No power on this planet can now stop us from being Digital India. Yeah! Yeah!

But before we turn into a digital society, or even embark on being one, there is an important aspect that we see to be missing upon, namely, defining what digitisation is, its need and its challenges, its relevance and its impact on Indian society. While it is really a no-brainer that digitisation is required and necessary, the core question that arises is whether we have thought out before, is there an end goal that we are moving towards or is it just a relentless journey that we will keep moving on? How will all this digitisation impact the life of an average Indian? What would be the termed as success or failure? What is the gamut or the sphere of the program? There is much excitement indeed, but is there much sense

Quite like how Nehru had started his journey with a whole lot of definitive questions, should we not too proceed in a similar manner? Say begin with something like: What is this Digital India, apart from the technical and fundamental aspects?

A cursory search on Google throws up the following definition: (Wikipedia)

Digital India is an initiative of Government of India to integrate the government departments and the people of India. It aims at ensuring that the government services are made available to citizens electronically by reducing paperwork. The steps to Digital India program can be jotted as such:

  • Creation of Digital infrastructure
  • Delivery of services
  • Digital literacy

In fact there is a whole website (http://www.digitalindia.gov.in/) that has been created to communicate the goals of program, it has Prime Minister Modi’s image all over, and lot of content on this and that. Yet, there is precious little on the site to show in terms of details of work that has been done, or work that will be done. Since, the devil apparently lies in the details, there seems to be no details whatsoever provided on the website.digital-india2

And so that gets us back at the essential question, a program that is supposedly worth Rs. 125 crores, how come there is no detailed plan for it.  In fact there is not even a special body that has been created to monitor or drive it. The program currently falls under the ambit of the Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) is leading it forward, and it is headed by a “Monitoring Committee on Digital India under the Chairpersonship of Prime Minister” and a “Digital India Advisory Group headed by the Minister of Communications and IT”. So essentially this is a baby of the PM and his ICT minister. Continue reading

Its not Meat, it’s Modi — Stupid!

Frankly speaking the war over the ban on meat in Maharashtra is not just a matter of palate or choice, but is a political war with currents that run much deeper. In fact, the meatban3The controversy over the meat ban in Maharashtra, has less to do with Meat more to do with Modi. outrage against the ban has more to do with Narendra Modi as the PM, than the availability of chicken-koliwada on the streets of Mumbai.
Ever since, Modi has ascended to the top seat in Delhi, there has been much discomfort in Maharashtra, as to how to really deal with him. You see, for a very long time Chief Minister Modi of Gujarat was a big time rival of Maharashtra, and he made no bones of it. On a typical day, he would wean away the corporates with his Vibrant this and that, tom-tom ‘the 24 hours’ of power availability in state (as against load shedding in Maharashtra), or talk about how farmers are thriving in Gujarat (while committing suicide in Maharashtra). Since, there was a Congress Government all the while Modi ruled in neighbourly Gujarat, he invariably always attacked Maharashtra, to showcase how well Gujarat was doing. He was like the schoolboy who spoke most and shone brightest, while the rest sulked, especially Maharashtrians.
meatban5Historically too, Maharashtra and Gujarat were rivals for a long time (even though they did not really exist back then). There is an economic history behind it. The Britishers first established their ‘factory’ in Surat, which essentially was a trading place for Indian goods to be exchanged with those of the British. This made Gujarat (especially Surat) the financial hub. So much so, that when Shivaji was running short of money, he ransacked the city (then under Mughal domination) and made off with much booty. That was essentially the first clash, but it send the agenda for subsequent interactions. When Bombay came into being as a trading post, it were the Parsees from Gujarat that took the lead. When the state of Maharashtra was being created from Bombay Presidency, the Gujjus, especially Morarji Desai opposed it. He had even advocated creating Bombay as a union territory. The rivalry, so, is not really a new one.

Continue reading

Meet the Breakfast Annas of Mumbai

Mornings are an altogether different thing in Mumbai. Unlike the “subehe Kashi” (morning in Kashi), where mornings are king of romantic and melodious, in the urban sprawl of Mumbai it is anything but that. With scores and scores of Mumbaikars (good tens on the roads and on the run, there is no respite, calmness or freshness to be sought in the morning. Sanity is dependent on precise minutes like 8:15 F, or 8:47 S. Omens, good IMG_20150813_084041or bad, are all about whether you were able to find a seating place in the train. Chivalries and niceties are easily dumped, when you need to jump a queue and duck into a share auto, even before the lady, who has been patiently standing there for well over 10 minutes. Thus, mornings in Mumbai are chaos supreme, with blood pressures soaring and people zipping from one point to another.

In the very midst of this madness, there are little oasis of peace and tranquility that abound across the city. And the best thing is that these oases are mobile and agile, travelling along on the back on a bicycle. These are the Breakfast Annas of Mumbai that feed a huge population on the run.

Across the city, from early morning you will find these magical men with their bicycles feeding a population that is constantly on the run. At vantage points you will find them, Picture_000001with their meduvadas and idlis (at times even plain dosa). Quickly consumable and awesomely cheap, these Breakfast Annas are an essential part of Mumbai life. People waiting for a bus or a rickshaw, will quickly converge at these anna-spots and savour the goodies. For 10 bucks a plate, you can wallop down 3 small meduwadas or idlis and continue on. These annas are like small pit-stops for the people to come and charge self before rejoining the rush to work.

One of the things that truly amazed me over the years was the apparent standardised fare that is similar across the city. The idlis, the vadas, the sambar, and even the chatni taste almost the same all across. You move from one area to another, and yet the taste more or less remains the same. It took some investigation and journalistic prodding that I discovered the reason. Typically, the annas seem like householders, who are retailing homemade fare. But then, nothing could really be further from the truth. All the food stuff is actually mass-produced on a factory scale at different designated areas like Dharavi and thereon. The Breakfast Anna are merely retailers, who buy a designated quota everyday and cart it all over the place. This in short, is the reason for the uniformity. These annas are not the creators but merely smart vendors of the fast-food fare. Continue reading

Abstracting with new Tapestry

“Why should there be any purpose at all, can you not enjoy the canvases for what they are, rather than what they represent,” said a rather chaffed looking Gajanan Kabade. I had decided to pay a visit to his exhibition at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery. His show, titled Tapestry, was a representation of artworks that were all dabbed in myriad hues. The unique thing about Gajanan’s work is his use of the ever-common, ever-ubiquitous cello tape. By using overlapping tapes, and paints, he creates a pattern that is much pleasant to the eye, even though it represents nothing. And that was precisely what he wanted to IMG_20150810_190229_HDRconvey to me, when I asked him to explain the “logic”, the “meaning”, of his artworks. “Why can’t you accept and enjoy the abstract for what they are, without trying to place them in a context?” Gaja asked me, though it seemed more like an advice or a complain.

Honestly, this was the second time in my life I had come across such a scenario, where my creative mind struggled to comprehend the abstract. It was some 15 years ago, when one evening a rather generous editor of Free Press Journal, called into his cabin a rookie reporter with long tresses and passed on him an invite to an exhibition of paintings by the celebrated Jehangir Sabavala at the Jehangir Art Gallery. “It will be very interesting for you boy,” said Gonsalves gesticulating with his hand on which was adorned a tribal band of various hues. And so, thinking it to be an arty soirée where costly wine will flow along with crusty croissants, I merrily landed at the Gallery. This was to be my big debut in the esoteric world of art. My brief encounter with the octogenarian artist did not really turn out to be a charm, as the moustachioed man possibly expected a more knowledgeable bloke from FPJ, not a greenhorn like me. Nonetheless, I did not let such incongruities distract me from the task at hand, and after badgering the artist with some terribly mundane queries, in response to which he merely muffled a grumble, I got to the task at hand. Also the fact that there were no waiters carrying platters of veggie snacks, nor was there the associated tingle of half-filled glasses, seemed to nudge to do something worthwhile, something which not many journalists are not known to do.

I looked along the room, it was full of those high-society peoples, you know ladies in clinging shiny chiffons, and bearded men in silk kurtas. There was much chatter all around, and the grandfatherly artist moved in the Gallery like a matador who had just killed a bull. Now and then you could discern a sudden explosion of an orgasmic sigh that went like “ohhhhhhh…” It would invariably be followed by silence and then there would be a few more sighs and then silence again. Steadily, the whole room was filled with such orgasmating creatures, especially the female types. Was frankly bewildered at such sighs, being a young lad with much interest in the birds and bees, these “oohhhs” and “ahhhhs” were pretty distracting. Continue reading

Can we ever #GiveItUp on Sexism?

BTW, have you heard the #GiveItUp ads on radio lately? Frankly, it is impossible to miss them because one is constantly badgered by them on all the FM channels. Before I get into the discussion on or about them, let me describe how the ad runs for the benefit of all those that have been ignorant about this great piece of social messaging.

At the start, we have a man sitting comfortable praising a woman (wife implied by the wayCDA_D3nUMAEeJ9p he calls her by first name Radha) for her “aloo ka paratha“. The women is thrilled at the praise, and in a tone that would befit a “bhartiya nari” — dedicated to the welfare and whims of her husband — duly states that she will bring him one more. The man obviously glad, feels not a pinch about the extra-work his dutiful Radha has to do. In fact, he ever so casually adds to her burden by ordering her to switch on the TV while she is on the way to the kitchen to cook. On the TV, there is our ubiquitous PM Modi delivering a small note on how if people were to give up on Hatheir LPG subsidy, he would provide the ‘gas ka chulha‘ to all the poor homes where women still use wood stoves, and kids are raised on smoke, and diseases are rampant. The PM’s speech touches a chord and the man starts fidgeting with his cell. The dutiful wife arrives with the paratha and on seeing her husband distracted with the phone, enquires (mind you just enquires, not irritated) about the reason for it. The man emotionally narrates the tale from his childhood, how he is reminded of his mother who used to burn her eyes on the wooden chula, and now that he is economically well off, he can help the numerous mothers by giving up his subsidy (through his cell). The wife all gooey-eyed and besotted can only exclaim with a happy sigh, “I am so proud of you“.

give itupThere is even a TV version of the same ad, with minor tweaks. But the overall script largely remains the same. Watch it if you care —

Being badgered by the same ad over and over again (they sure must have huge budgets to run the ads so many times a day on so many channels), I became kinda immune to the words and was able to notice certain things, all of which alluded to the parochial mentality of makers. I mean living in the 21st century, wherein we are sending missions to Mars, we still have a role-model of a man, who makes his wife cook for him and orders her around. Once, I started noting such thing, the whole ad seemed to be written by some guy, who sits in the Khap Panchayat in the day and moonlights as copywriter in the night. Continue reading

Is it only Chutzpah, Mr. Yadav?

Frankly, of the very many words the English language has in its roster (or rather dictionary) today, chutzpah truly stands out for the variety of things it represents. Of Yiddish origin, the term loosely connotes “extreme self-confidence or audacity”. But rather than a straightforward simple meaning, it is more like an oxymoron with contradictions as its rahul-yadavmainstay. So, it could mean audacious at one moment, and mega-stupid at the other, bold at one time and arrogant at another. Effectively, the meaning of the word chutzpah keeps changing in the context it is used. Quite like the affair of Rahul Yadav, the founder and former CEO of Housing.com.

For the past few months, the saga of Rahul Yadav has gripped the corporate world. Starting with his scathing letter to Sequoia India’s Shailendra Singh, to an audacious resignation letter, to distributing his stake to employees, or posting a snap of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka giving him a royal snub. By default or design, Rahul Yadav has ensured that he has stayed in the news all the time. Through his antics like donating his stake and tagging fellow IIT alumni Deepinder Goel of Zomato and Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs to follow suit, he must have thought that it would kick-start an ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ kind of a thing. But that was not to be so.

The saga finally came to an abrupt end with the board of directors called in for a meet and relieving Rahul Yadav on an immediate basis. The message was terse, “The board believed that his behaviour is not befitting of a CEO and is detrimental to the company.” In fact, so unsure were the board members of how Yadav would react that they had called in cops before the meeting started, anticipating a violent outbreak. Though, Yadav walked the plank pretty peacefully, much to the surprise of everyone.

11188275_10153043550393110_7501860590449627804_n In all the conundrum that has ensued, the portal Housing.com has taken a beating of sorts. With loses mounting annually and oodles of controversy surrounding it, the portal that was supposed to solve people’s housing problems, is mired in a whole lot of problems itself. There are talks about a sell out, people leaving and so on, even as competition is catching up. Started in 2012 by a dozen IITians including Yadav, Housing.com claims to have 11 million monthly visitors and raised $120 million in four rounds of funding from Japanese telecom and internet giant SoftBank, New York-based hedge fund Falcon Edge Capital, Helion Venture Partners, Nexus Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. While there were a lot of competitors, Housing.com stood out simply because of its intuitive UI, and the use of technology. For instance, the portal has a whole page dedicated to data analytics that displays in real-time a whole lot of infographics gleaned from the user data that is generated. Yadav is largely credited for being able to think out of the box, or at least letting his team do so. In the tech circles, he is also renowned for his knowledge and passion, and ability to take decisions by his gut-feel. Continue reading

Why barking Abhijeet must be Bitten

Abhijeet Bhattacharya was a decent enough singer, who was lucky to get a good break in Hindi film industry. He made pot-loads of money, so much that it went to his head. And he displayed his rude insensitivity, when he tweeted about the Salman Khan verdict by justifying the murder of the pavement sleepers and referring to them as a dog. This was money power in its most vulgar way in display.abhijeet-bhattacharya

But have you ever wondered how come the likes of Abhijeet Bhattacharya manage to make so much money? How is singing so profitable as a profession? What is their secret of wealth? Well, thanks to my exposure to Bollywood, I am privy to quite much hands on knowledge and let me tell you how it all works.

Essentially,  these singers made their headway singing for Bollywood films, but this is not how they earn the monies. Typically, even the A+ list singer does not command a very high price while singing for a film. The very best that say a Sonu Nigam can get per song say for a AR Rahman movie is a lakh or two, which essentially is a pittance when you compare it to the few crores pocketed by Rahman or any other music director. Thus getting to sing for Rahman is great, but it does not make you rich for sure. Then what does?

ShaanIt is what comes next, is where the cream lies. After the singer has finished his song, the film gets released and hopefully with a good chance the song is a hit. This is when the singer starts milking the song. The most primary and basic way is shows, parties, concerts. Typically, even a little known face can easily demand a few lakhs for a few songs. There is so much demand in the market, for launches, parties or soirées. In fact, there are event organisers that have with them a menu list of such ‘performers’ and at what price they come. Couple of years back for a conference that was being planned, I had chanced upon one such list. Back then, I had the option of having Jagjit Singh belt a few ghazals for 25 Lakhs, Prince (a group of dancers from India Got Talent) for 10 Lakhs, Harsha Bhogle as emcee for 8 Lakhs, even Javed Akhtar ready for sher-o-shaiyri for 5 lakhs. And then there were these bunch of Indian Idols that were available for a Lakh or two. There are scores and scores of small events happening all the time, real estate launches, IT conferences et al, and more often than not the money on the table is in cash form, black and unaccounted for. Recall how Rahat Fateh Ali was caught at the Indian Airport with 50 Lakhs in cash? It was apparently earned at some event, where Rahat was singing. Good manna for the soul-stirring music isn’t it? Continue reading

The People (r) you encounter as an Entrepreneur

Any new venture or project is seldom down in isolation, in case you are not Michaelangelo or Picasso. So long is the project is not externally funded (or till it is), you will have to be dependent on a set of people to help you through. Based on my numerous interactions (not to mentioned ideas discussed or launched) here is a lost of people that you are most likely to encounter:

The Believers
They will stand by your project irrespective of its merits or demerits just because they believe in you, your vision or your capacity.

The Exciters
These are the set that will get excited, discuss grand plans, but they will not commit anything till the idea has taken shape.

The Promisers
These are motley set that will listen all, nod and then make grand promises of collaboration, only to Not fullfill them.

The Backers
These are a set of people who don’t really believe in you but like the idea and would back it up now and then just to be in the loop of things. They are there to back up on things.

The Jealousers
This set will listen to the idea and grumble at how you stumbled upon it. And while they would not help you with yours, they will either start working on a “similar” their own secretly, or starting digging a pit.

The Opportuners
These are the people who will wait to see how your project is shaping. They will concur with you, take time, but only work once the project is truly off the ground. Not before, not later.

The Connecters
These people have a lot of connection, or atleast know a lot of people who can be helpful. If the idea is sold to them, they will readily connect you to a whole bunch of relevant people who can be good help. Continue reading

From Class-less Mumbai Trains to Caste-less Indian Society

Abbé aee— first class hain, First. Chal peeche waala dabba mein ja,” (this is first class, go to the compartment behind) is a common refrain that can be heard in the suburban trains of Mumbai day after day. Depending on the time of the day, the tone and the tenor of the words change; it will be irritated and scruff in the mornings and evenings during the peak hours when space is at a premium and it will be calm and brotherly during the afternoon, or late at night when there is much space around.Mumbai-train-station-main

In 10 cases out of 10, the admonishment above would have been uttered and directed at a person based on how he looks and what he wears. If a man is a short, black fella with oil in his hair and in chappals or slippers, if he is wearing faded shirt and a worn out pant, if he carrying a common bag on his back, a cheap mobile in his pocket; he (don’t know if it happens in a she-compartment) is most likely to be reprimanded so, and reminded of his status in the scheme of trains. In most cases, the man uttering this phrase is right in his judgement, as ridiculed one would look around confused and dazed, and would scamper out to squeeze himself in the ‘other  compartments’ meant for him. In this way the ‘premium’ness of the First Class is assiduously protected. And rightfully too, after all the fares of the First Class are around thrice and more of the Second Class, there are just 3 coupes of First in a train of 12. This economic barrier is what ensures that a corporate executive travels to work comfortably while reading news from a pink paper, and poor peon hanging for his life and trying not to become one.

Pic: http://shoooonya.blogspot.in/2012/07/mumbai-local-first-class-vs-second.html

Pic courtesy: http://shoooonya.blogspot.in/2012/07/mumbai-local-first-class-vs-second.html

Honestly speaking, there is no real physical difference between the First and Second Class in the suburban trains, at least no discernible one. Both arrive at the station simultaneously, the interiors are the same, and so are the exteriors. Even the seats are the same, and the pattern of seating. It is not as if, after paying a premium you are showered with fresh scented air, or extra leg space or something. Neither do you have the privilege to disembark first or something, like you have in planes. In fact, travelling in either class is the same, what really changes is kind of gentry, and so the attitude of the traveller based on his or her perceptions. Thus, a First Classer is much gruff around with his personal space, they will only seat 3 on a seat that on a supposed to seat 3, unlike in the Second Class, where they always ‘adjust’ 4, and even more based on size of the occupants.  Continue reading

The rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the revenge of the Fourth Estate

If you have been following the news from Delhi (and am sure that if you are an Indian or in India, you can’t miss it), one thing is seemingly unmistakable; Modi Magic is waning. The electoral projections have been pretty dour; AAP might just have crossed the laxman-rekha, and might form the government soon. The opinion polls till now had always projected Arvind Kejriwal as the most popular man for the CM’s post, but AAP was never even close to forming the government. BJP was going to win the election, even though rise of aap 1Kejriwal was the most popular. But over the past month or so, the gap has eroded, and now if the latest figures by ABP NEWS-Nielsen and ET-TNS polls predict a landslide victory for AAP. There is apparent defeat that is being foisted on BJP, even before a single vote is polled. The atmosphere is so electric that for the first time ever, the chief of a political party (Amit Shah) openly blamed a network channel (Aajtak) for conniving with AAP, to help it win the elections.

So, what has actually gone wrong for the BJP, has it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, much like the Indian cricket team?

Honestly, if one were to do a serious analysis of the way BJP has gone, there isn’t anything tragically/tactically wrong about all the things they did. Let’s look at what are the reasons that are being presented for BJP’s loss and possible reasoning:

1) Bringing in Kiran Bedi: Almost all channels are unanimous in their assessment that Kiran Bedi was a wrong move for BJP. But considering the choices they had, bringing in Harshavardhan or any other would not have helped either. In comparison, Kiran Bedi has a more ‘mass appeal’ than rest, and her past performance would have much helped her case. Possibly, the timing was an issue, as Bedi has very little time to get in the groove, not much else.

2) Waning appeal of BJP: There is also this talk of how BJP’s appeal is waning, especially so in light of the lackadaisical performance of the Modi government. Yet, the fact remains that in the recent elections held in Haryana and Maharashtra, the party did exceedingly well. There is no governance deficit, and PM Modi is still known to be a popular and strong leader. Relatively speaking, BJP has only reduced much less than their opponents, so this is certainly not the case.

3) Its about team play: Considering how AAP’s biggest detractors are former AAP members, the fact remains that the AAP is certainly not a Barjatya family, so as to say. Right from Shazia Ilmi to Vinodkumar Binny, AAP has been beset with many more desertions in comparison to BJP or even Congress. In fact, even one of the founders of the party was seen thumping support for Bedi, endorsing her credentials over Kejriwal.

4) The dying Hand factor: The only positive thing in AAP’s favour is the complete decimation of Congress. With the latest Jayanti Bomb, the little credibility that remained has now been lost. With Congress not even in the contest, voters are now forced to choose between BJP & AAP.

Yet the fact remains that BJP is losing this elections big time, irrespective of whatever they do. Already the party has deployed its biggest contingent of leaders, Modi is speaking at rise of aap 3rallies, they are cornering AAP on various points, yet the battle of perceptions seemed to be lost, and now the battle of ballot remains.

The loss of Delhi can indeed a big setback for Modi-Shah duo, who risked quite a lot by unilaterally foisting Kiran Bedi on top of everyone. A loss here, could mean a loss of face for sure for duo from Gujarat. So, why are they losing the elections? Or could it be, that, they are being made to look like they are losing by the media, quite like Shah alleged? And in case it is so, why would Media do so?

To analyse that, we would have to make a short trip down the past. Right from the onset of his political career, starting as a Chief Minister, Narendra Modi has had a tenuous relationship with the fourth estate. Post Gujarat riots, the relations were ambivalent at best, with Modi being portrayed as a monstrous villain. And the hatred was pretty mutual. After a few early failed attempts made by Modi to co-opt the mediawallahs, he retreated to his fortress and closed the gates.

Come 2014, and as Modi rose, he apparently softened his stance, gave a few interviews and made a few laughs. Yet the undercurrents of acrimony were still there. Except for a few journos like Rajat Sharma, who made the right bets, the rest were much flustered by the way Modi came to power, riding the wave of euphoria. While, the journalists were now compelled to cover the PM Modi, the fact remained that they still did not like the man that was. And Modi was in no mood to help them do it either.

But while, Modi was a bit accommodating while running for the PM’s post, he turned into a stone wall, once he became the PM. In fact, ever since PM Modi has parked himself at 7 RCR, he has been running the government quite like he did when he lived at Swarnim Sankul in Gandhinagar. The government is mute, the ministers are gagged. There is nothing that moves without Modi’s permission. The government now communicates with the rise of aap 5audience through social media, trying to effectively by pass media all together. Modi is also using radio to reach the masses, every month he takes out time for the Mann Ki Baat address, but press meets, are still a rarity. He will not even take mediawallahs along with him in the plane on foreign trips, which almost all the predecessors did. The angst that media hold against Modi runs pretty deep and they were just looking for an opportunity to get even, Kejriwal in a manner of speaking is their payback.

Unlike other elections like J&K and Maharashtra, or even Haryana, Delhi is a very different ballgame. It is a largely urbanised centre, much susceptible to popular opinions. There is a huge-chunk of undecided voters, who might just go with the party that is most likely to win, so that their votes aren’t wasted. And then comes the minority votes that often does strategic voting — namely transferring the bulk of votes en masse to any opponent who is most likely to checkmate BJP. Hence, all the positive noise, and projections is actually helping AAP formulate the victory many days before actual polling date. Thus, even though there are quite a few issues that could potentially harm AAP, right from the number of charge-sheeted candidates, to how rich they are, or even the funding issue, a lot many channels are actually playing soft with Kejriwal and the party. And they have even thrown the caution to the winds, I mean, for channels that have often got the projections wrong when Modi is in the electoral fray, yet the numbers are anything but fantastic, like one projection was that AAP will get 50 seats. The idea is simple, hurt Modi (and Shah) the place where it hurts the most, a loss in the elections.

rise of aap 6By the way media isn’t alone in desiring Modi’s defeat. The over-arching Sangh is not pleased with the way Modi-Shah are running the show. The earlier campaign (the Ramzaade one) was completely vetoed by Modi-Shah, as they brought in Bedi into the fold causing heart-burn in the Sanghi setup. So far, the Sangh has played a significant factor in crafting Modi’s victories. This time, they have taken a hands-off approach. Even as the size of Kejriwal is growing, Sangh has retreated into the Jhandewala fortress. People there, also wish for a loss in Delhi elections, so the presumptuous duo are thought a fitting lesson.

Thus, the battle of Kurukshetra (or rather Delhi) is a much complex one. There are many factors at work here, many futures at stake. The fact is, in case the Modi-Shah duo emerge victorious, than the ambivalence between the media and them is only going to increase. In case of a loss to AAP, Modi-Shah will have to make concessions to the Sangh, and resolve to play by the rules, especially for the big elections of Bihar and Bengal. The repercussions of a victory and defeat in Delhi would be much widely felt, and only one set would be laughing at the end of the day.

— (Disclaimer: All the images used in the story have been randomly downloaded from the Net. In case of copyright issues, please do let me know, and I will remove them)