Saturday, June 14, 2014

Brand Bangalore: Get Inclusive Or Get Excluded!

Brand Bangalore
Get Inclusive or get Excluded!

By Harish Bijoor

My definition of a brand: The brand is a thought. A simple and focused thought that lives in a person’s mind.
Brand Bangalore is a thought. A thought with a potent imagery. An imagery that has traversed varied positioning stances in the minds of people. It started off as a calm “Pensioner’s paradise” positioned with the blissful weather and the equally blissful and all-inclusive attitude of the Kannadiga at large , as valuable support statements.

And then things changed. In came the Pubs of Bangalore and we became the “Pub City” and the ‘Pub capital” of India.  But then, certainly there was more to our beloved city than just its beer that flowed out of some 860 Pub taps. This imagery had to change.

In came IT and ITES. Add a bit of Biotech to it as well. The city morphed from being a sleepy “pensioner’s paradise” , and most certainly from its image of an even sleepier “Pub city” imagery, to become “IT city”!

Today then Bangalore is the city that is a brand to watch out for. A city that has one of the most mixed populations in India. A city that boasts of the highest expatriate population, and a city that is aggressively young. 63 % of those who live and work and study and thrive in Bangalore, are below the age of 25. The city nudges top-bracket numbers in terms of per capita income as well!

Where is brand Bangalore headed then? What’s its next stop?

The city is today a magnet city brand that attracts the best, never mind the traffic and infrastructure woes that keep getting thrown up. This is an aggressive city today. The city and its people pack fire in their bellies to get moving and going. There is a need to move on and move forward.  That in essence is its beauty. Brand Bangalore is a hungry city.

This hunger then is of two types. The hunger of the ‘haves’ who are more and more hungry to get this city do better and be better. And then there is the hunger of the “have-nots”. And this I do believe is a matter of concern. Bangalore is possibly one of the worst cities to live in when it comes to inflation biting the purse but income not keeping pace.

From my perspective, the acute polarization of these two classes is a matter of concern. Grave concern. Those with money are very, very rich, and those without money are really on the brink. In a city like Bangalore, where overt consumption, show, pomp and display has now become a social norm, this very ostentatious consumption will hurt the city. The city needs to get a lot more inclusive than it is today.

What’s the right direction to go then?
I strongly believe that every home that has money needs to start thinking of its immediate eco-system. One needs to look out of our ‘gated communities’ and there needs to be a community reach-out program that will make Bangalore society more inclusive.

I do not believe in the culture of “giving”, as this is a not a permanent solution. I would rather believe in a culture of “teaching”. Teach the kid in the slums. Teach jobs. Teach skills. Teach ways to grow out of the economic morass most of our poor find themselves in. Teach security. Teach hygiene. Teach literally everything that is needed to live a good quality of life at large. Things that we take for granted.

The one thing that the better-endowed Bangalore person needs to spend is not money, but time. Time with those who don’t have all that all of us imagine they do.

What must we do then? Get inclusive, or get excluded! Touché!
Harish Bijoor is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Twitter @harishbijoor

Bangalore Mega-city and its Micro-cities: An Interview

Interview with Harish Bijoor
Brand-strategy specialist  &
CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

1.     The city has many micro-markets such as Indiranagar, Jayanagar etc. What has led to these acquiring a distinct brand image of their own?
In the beginning there is the city. And then there are the micro-cities.  We live in urban agglomerations that are getting to be bigger and bigger in some ways, and smaller and smaller in other ways. Both these movements work together. Mega-cities happen by the fact that more and more people from all over gravitate to live in these mega-clusters, drawn to the magnet city. And micro-cities happen within them as a reaction to the fact that the mega-city has gotten just too big for liking.

Micro-cities are movements that are spontaneous. These are movements that occur when smaller localities get more and more self-sufficient. People who live in these localities want to travel out less and stay self-sufficient for all their wants, needs, desires and even aspirations. These smaller localities then offer the best of F and B options, the best of shopping locations and the best of entertainment options. When a locality becomes totally self-sufficient with the bank branch, the eating out ‘adda’ and the shopping destination, the micro city emerges. In many ways, a Koramangala, an Indiranagar, a Kamanahalli and a Jayanagar are classic examples of the micro-city.

 Micro-city is therefore a city within a city. A self-sufficient cluster, content on its own. Each of these clusters gradually acquire their own unique identity and brand image. Over a period of time, new settlers in the mega-city pick and choose their own micro-city to live in, depending on the dominant functionality and dominant imagery that each conveys.

2.     Some micro-markets such as the Outer Ring Road are prime office space markets. Do you see these turning into the city's prime business districts commanding a premium in the future? What is driving them?
Even as micro-cities emerge, specialty districts will emerge as well. These districts will be the Shopping District of Bangalore, and the Business District of Bangalore and more. For all you know the BIAL area will emerge as the Aviation District of Bangalore.

The Prime office space locations that have emerged on the ORR and the IRR for that matter, as well as the ones that will emerge on the road to the Kempegowda International Airport, will command a distinct imagery of their own. The more builders and their marketers invest in this generic brand building opportunity of developing district-imagery oriented districts, the more will it benefit their price appreciations.

Imagine the opportunity to develop the BIAL area as an “Aerocity” and the ORR as the “OfficeHub” of Bangalore. And maybe an area in Whitefield as the ‘EntertainmentDistrict” of Bangalore.

3.     What are the attributes that give a micro-market its brand image?
Focus is important. A keen yen to focus on a set of three unique attributes helps the branding process that much more.  Look at Koramangala. It offers the widest range of food and beverage options you can imagine, in mid-price range. In addition to what it offers, if one can focus on street-food and offer an entire street that goes “closed to traffic” on a Sunday, and open to the street-foodies of Bangalore, the brand identity will develop, slowly but surely.

Koramangala then gains a magnet status on Sundays. When you think food, you head to Koramangala. If it is a Sunday, you go Koramangala. These micro-cities then start competing with one another, offering distinct USPs that help position every micro-city as it emerges.
A mega-city will then become a sum of its whole.

4.     Is the city heading towards an agglomeration of micro-markets, each with its own distinct image?

 Yes it is. I have explained this in detail. Bangalore will aggregate at one end. More and more people will throng to Bangalore as it offers more and more jobs. Bangalore will attract people from all types of cities, towns and villages. As the mega-city emerges as an ‘opportunity-center’, people will throng to it. Bangalore the mega-city will then become bigger and bigger. This mega-city will be a mixed city. It will have people form every country, and people from every state in India. It will have urban folk rubbing shoulders with rural folk who have just entered it.
In the midst of all this aggregation, will occur dis-aggregation. The micro-city trend will ensure this. Economic groups will form as a function of rentals in these micro-cities will dictate who can afford to stay where as well.

5.     How does this phenomenon of almost each locality being a micro-market impact the image of the city as a corporate/investment destination? 
As an investment destination, the mega-city will not suffer. The city will continue to attract interest. In fact micro-cities will bring about a better governance structure as well. Ward-level governance will need to deepen and the city will be managed better with boroughs of micro-city interests pushing more and more of local self-governance.

Our villages have local-self-governance mechanisms with Panchayati Raj in place. Our cities need to replicate that through the Corporation Ward level management system. There needs to be a greater degree of autonomy in the management of these boroughs. The locals who live in these micro-cities need to decide how their budgets will be deployed and on what. Citizen-participation, as an adjunct, will need to deepen in these micro-city management systems.

6.     What sort of impact does the brand image of a micro-market have on its real estate prices?
An excellent and positive impact. Real-estate prices will go in tandem with the image of the micro-city. The more you invest in a micro-city image, the more you rake it in, in terms of real-estate prices. I would recommend every real-estate player in the city to invest in the ‘think’ towards the micro-city movement.

7.     Is there need to plan some brand management for the city now with a view to attract global investments?
There is surely a need. Unfortunately, when it comes to brand thinking for a city, everyone puts it on the back burner. In the bargain, the city writes for itself a self-fulfilling prophesy of mediocrity. And that’s precisely what’s happening in and to Bangalore.

Twitter @harishbijoor

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bangalore the Ideas City

Rodin In Cubbon Park

By Harish Bijoor

I live in Bangalore. I love Bangalore. But that’s not why I am saying what I am going to say right now.
I do believe, if New Delhi is the political capital of India, Mumbai the commercial and Kolkata the ‘kultural’, Bangalore is indeed the Intellectual capital of India.   We are a city of ideas. A city of thinking people who think the past with equal aplomb as we think the present and the future.
While most cities today are very besotted with the present, we straddle every aspect of the past, present and the future, in our own true-blue Bangalorean way. Never mind the fact that we live treadmill lives, like everyone in the bog cities does, but we get off at times as well. And that’s the time we think. And sometimes act.
Bangalore today is all of 87 lakh people living cheek to jowl with people from 25 different Indian states and some 39 nationalities that have made Bangalore India’s biggest expatriate island. Bangalore is therefore a true-blue amalgam city of sorts. We are the melting pot city in India, if there ever is to be one, where different cultures, tastes, and most importantly ideas mix, rub shoulders and blend. This then is an ideas-laboratory of sorts. A place where new things are thought out. A few ideas flourish and most die of course. In many ways an idea is a sperm. It lives like one and dies like one as well. Very few germinate.
Bangalore today is really an ideas city. It has been one for a while now. Only thing is we have not noticed enough of it, and not made enough of it as well. This is an innovative city. Innovative at every level. A city of entrepreneurs as well. A lot of credit for this entrepreneurship streak needs to be given to the lakhs of new settlers we have welcomed into this city from every part of India and the world at large.
Let’s first credit every land entrepreneur who came in from Andhra and indeed the immediate neighboring states around us. Lets credit every retailer, whether it be in the space of grocery ‘kirana’ or gold retail, many of whom came in from Kerala and again our very immediate neighbor states. I can go on listing out terrains that cover technology, ITES, IT-end to end services, Biotech, manufacturing, pharma and literally every other idea vertical that has made this city what it is. A city of ideas. A city that has encouraged idea start-ups from the realm of the humble Momo-cart to high end embedded systems that run nations and their many programs.

The basic DNA of this city, from the bottom end of the corner 'kirana' grocer to the top-end of the IT-preneur is a city that is led and bled by ideas.  Look around, and it is not difficult to spot an ‘ideapreneur’ on the prowl. This guy has been welcomed into the fold of this very accommodative city. Never mind where you are from, all are welcome. There is no jingoism here. If your idea is good, you will survive here. And thrive.
The ideas that run here are both small and big. Decades ago we started with Pub-entrepreneurships. The theme pub started in Bangalore really. A space pub called NASA, a car pub called Black Cadillac, and 485 other variants happened here. The food revolution is a reality in Bangalore today. Every food-entrepreneurship is an idea whose time has come. Koramangala today boasts of the highest density of restaurants per square kilometer in India for sure, with its 458 offerings. The Café started in Bangalore with VG Siddhartha’s Café Coffee Day, and now we have 2950 of them belonging to a myriad set of brands all over India. The IT end-to-end services enterprises happened here and sprouted, just as did the BPO outfits that litter our lives, From bottom end to top-end, this is surely an ideas city.
One downside though. The idea sperms are many, but few meet and mate the money that is needed to ramp up the humble idea. One wonders where the moneybags are burying their moneys. Let’s dig.
In a way, if I were to look for an image icon that would represent Bangalore for what it is, it would not be the Vidhana Soudha, which we use so profusely. Neither would it be the visual of the “Namma Metro”.
Instead, I would land up right in Paris, run into the Musee Rodin and fly out Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” and plant it out here right outside Cubbon Park! Sorry Parisians! This is the spanking new thinking city of the spanking new world. Bangalore!
Harish Bijoor is a Brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Twitter @harishbijoor

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Brand Modi

Brand Modi
Modi In, Modi Out

By Harish Bijoor

My favorite brand names in the world are 4-letter word brand names. I wrote a research paper on this some eight years ago. I researched out some 2000 plus brand names from across the world, and the conclusions were simple.

If you are starting afresh in the world of branding, start with a 4-letter word brand name. 4-letter brands are crisp, quick to recall, long enough to be remembered and not short enough to be forgotten. 4-letter brands that have two syllables in it are even better. Even a baby can remember and articulate it. Tata. Bata. Pepe. Fila. And now, Modi!

Modi the brand has surely much more to it than the semantics of brand name itself that is crisp, curt and definitive. I therefore explore Brand Modi in this piece from two perspectives. Firstly an intrinsic view of Brand Modi. A view that emerges from his immediate turf of action, success and paranoia even: Gujarat. The second perspective would be one that comes from the rest of the geography outside of Gujarat. An extrinsic view of Brand Modi, if you will.

Narendra Modi the brand has therefore two avatars. An avatar that is seen, revered and respected within Gujarat (by a majority of course) and an avatar that is felt, perceived and acted upon outside of Gujarat.

The view from within is therefore a strong view. A view that is relevant today, with elections n Gujarat round the corner. A view that has been seeded, nurtured and cultivated by all the careful pieces of good work the CM of Gujarat has ensured across two successive and indeed very successful terms of governance.  Two terms that have turned the tide of sentiment in Gujarat. Brand Modi not only did good to Gujarat in real terms, he succeeded in showcasing all the good as well.  The point is simple. In the world of branding, you must not only be good, but appear to be good as well.

Narendra Modi has played the branding game well. The classical marketing bit has been played out to good advantage in Gujarat. A keen understanding of the market, its demographics, its needs and wants, and more importantly its desires and aspirations was handled first. And having understood it well in terms of both numbers as well as the soft sentiments that drive people in an electorate at large, Modi put his Business Plan for Gujarat into motion. 

He looked at the basics, and approached it all with panache. Just as good work was going on in the realm of irrigation and infrastructure development, he put together the cosmetics right a swell In came the wide roads, in came the movement towards world class sanitation, and in came all the publicity that accompanied it all. Every piece of development had the unmistakable Modi stamp to it. And gauss what, if you peek keenly at the various advertisements that the government would put out, everything was Modi-centric. The government of Gujarat meant Modi and Modi meant Gujarat. This singular focus has helped build brand Modi to what he is today. Within Gujarat. In many ways, Modi is a regional party within a national BJP. And the regional is more important than the national in this case.

Modi did it well. He researched sentiment, he made plans, got them implemented with an iron fist, show-cased everything that was done carefully and subliminally even, and finally used the tool of celebration as the icing on the cake of achievement. Modi brought  “Utsav” politics to the fore. “Vibrant Gujarat” was for a macro audience that comprised NRG’s (Non-resident Gujaratis) and people of foreign origin alike, and every “Utsav” whether it be a  “Rann Utsav” or a “Bhadrapad Ambaji Fair”, was for an audience that was of a more local hue
The idea was simple. Research, plan, implement, evaluate publically and celebrate it all with festivity and pomp. Government moneys and sponsorships alike from all over backed the plan to the hilt. Gujarat has not seen a deficit in its funding plan for a decade now for sure. Thanks to Modi.

Modi within Gujarat is a brand par excellence. A brand that is seen to be decisive, very Gujarati, and very much about development and taking Gujarat onto the path of prosperity and glory.

Modi outside of Gujarat is however an issue. What Gujarat feels about brand Modi is possibly not what those outside of Gujarat feel of the brand at hand. This is where the debate begins about the relevance of Modi on a pan-India platform. Do a dipstick around your own circles of influence. The moment you talk Brand Modi, in comes the stigma of Godhra.

Take the dipstick around to deeper markets still, further away from your own circles of comfort. Take it to your maidservants and drivers, and I am afraid the talk is of divisive politics. The talk is of a certain degree of emotional if not physical ghettoisation. What Modi lacks in brand image terms in terrains outside of Gujarat is the inclusive feel of an entity that can carry an entire nation of divided people along.

Keep taking this dip-stick deeper and deeper into the gut of the Indian nation, or for that matter take it to overseas markets where the Modi brand is known, and you will find the response typical. The response sticks with one dominant memory alone. People outside of Gujarat, sadly do not remember the development that Modi has contributed to within Gujarat. That geography is far way, and so are the positive strokes.  People sadly want to happily remember the negative more than the positive. Particularly people, who do not partake of the positive touch directly, are in the habit of sticking on to the negative. And that is Brand Modi’s undoing when it comes to his ambition in national politics.

In many ways this is totally unfair. Narendra Modi is a CM who has delivered on all his promises and more to the State of Gujarat. He has tried hard to undo every negative aspect to his imagery post the Godhra-riots. While he has succeeded internally in the immediate geography of his immediate influence, externally, the challenge remains.

But, and that is a big but, brand Modi’s imagery outside of Gujarat is totally different from what it is in Gujarat. If Narendra Modi has plans to dominate national politics, there is a need to demonstrate to the rest of India what the can do in terms of inclusive politics that does not depend on divisive language, tone, tenor and decibel.

Unfair. But true. Sadly, the brand is a perception. And perception is more important than the truth in this space.
The author is a brand-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. @harishbijoor

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Must Election Campaigns Be Banned?

Must Campaigns Be Banned Altogether

By Harish Bijoor

Have you noticed? Elections and the campaigns that accompany them are getting quieter and quieter. Even less exciting than the ones that preceded them. It’s a matter of perspective really. While the politician at large feels there is less excitement on the election campaign process itself, from the lay-voter point of view, there is that much more clarity and that much less noise that drowns out the real issues at large.
The Election Commission is to be thanked or blamed for it all. Again, depends on the perspective you come from. I would personally go all the way out and thank the guys at the EC who have made this happen over successive sets of elections. Progressively, over the years, more and more of these regulations have stepped in to halt the otherwise raucous tempo of electioneering and undue throw of money-power.
In the old days, think elections, and you thought noise and clutter. The process was truly un-regulated and therefore the election campaign at large was electoral pollution at its best. There was visual pollution and clutter all around in terms of posters, banners, streamers, buntings, Chennai-style cutouts and more. When you looked around, the election looked like a festival of democracy for sure. In this festival atmosphere however, there was little to distinguish and a lot to confuse. In many ways, the one who put up the most posters looked the biggest and the poor candidate with little or no money looked very small. Never mind the issues and philosophy he or she represented as an individual and minor party in the fray.
Add to this visual pollution,  noise pollution as well. Every place of every kind was used for electioneering. Schools, colleges, temples, churches and mosques were not left out of it as well. Music would blare right through into the wee hours of the morning disturbing schools, hospitals and the sleeping public at large. The election continued to be a festival of noise and sound. Auto-rickshaws with loudspeakers, taxis with folk singing songs and shouting into microphones and more. Remember?
Again, the one with more money to burn on the campaign was a better guy, at least in terms of his imagery in the constituency.
The campaign included more of course. And this part of it is still not as regulated as it can and must be. Biryani-dinners, cricket-clubs in villages with sponsored t-shirts and caps and prizes, mobilization of crowds, grocery-shop coupons to redeem, liquor-coupons to redeem and lots more to redeem, except respect.

The point I make is a simple one. Campaigns at large gobble up money. This money is of different colors: black, grey and white. The ‘black’ is spent in terms of hard cash that comes from God and the Devil knows where. The ‘grey’ money is all about benefactors who sponsor dinners and posters and taxis and helicopters and more, without coming to the fore of it all, and the ‘white’ is the Rs.16 lakhs a candidate is allowed to spend on a campaign.
Campaigns that consume money to 'influence' voters are an insult to the electorate. Why insult at all? Campaigns that consume money must be banned altogether. Why must so much money be spent to 'influence' voters?
Why must a voter be ‘influenced’ at all? Yes, a voter must be ‘informed’ but not ‘influenced’. The process of keeping a voter informed and aware can be well achieved by the EC itself. Why not ban campaigns altogether? Allow for only 1:1 contact programs of the candidate and the voter at large. No support campaigners even. Allow for television and radio debates with clearly allocated free slots for all candidates in the fray. Lessen the noise, and lessen the pollution further. Campaigns in many ways increase the clutter, are cost-intensive and confuse and confound.
Think again from the perspective of expenditure. None of us really believes that all a candidate in a constituency spends is as little as Rs. 16 lakhs on the campaign.  The truth lies somewhere in the number between Rs. 35.84 Crores on the Karnataka election and a number of Rs. 6000 Crores as touted by some.
Will we save a lot of time, energy, money and pollution of every kind if only campaigns are banned altogether? Touche!
Twitter @harishbijoor

Karnataka Elections 2013: 4 Parties and 4 Stories

Four Parties, Four Stories

By Harish Bijoor

As Karnataka wakes up to another summer of election discontent, the noise level in our lives is slated to go up by decibels in the weeks ahead of 5 May.  This noise is not just aural noise, but instead it is all about the clutter of the visual, the confused tonality of touch, the sense of mixed election smell and indeed the delicious taste of an election as well. Not to talk of the after-taste. Bitter or otherwise!
Elections, after all, are very sensorial processes. Sensorial processes that affect our sense of sight, the sense of smell, the sense of touch, the sense of sound, the sense of taste and indeed the sixth sense beyond that as well. The election ahead in the state of Karnataka is therefore an interesting one.
At this point of time, parties are yet to announce their candidates and their party manifestoes are still being cobbled and bound together. To that extent, the election ground of Karnataka is as pure as pure can be as of now. I am really talking about the mindsets of people and their dispositions to parties. The minds of people are yet to be influenced by the campaign that is just about to commence once the last date for withdrawal of nominations is upon us. To that extent, this is a lovely time to assess what each party has in store for itself in terms of imagery. Imagery cues that each party has accrued over the last five years, and in the case of one party, imagery cues that have accrued over the last three months.

I am going to paint a picture from the Brand Positioning perspective of the top four formations, in alphabetical order.
And before I do just that, a definition for a start. The Brand Position of a political party is really the exact pinpointed position a political party occupies in a voter’s mind at a given point of time, in relation to all other political parties that occupy that voters mind. To that extent, this brand position exploration is an as-is-as-of-now kind of an exploration. Do also remember that this position can change with time, change with campaigns, change with crises, and change with an act of God as well. The joy of political reality is change. Constant change that continues right up to the date of polling. And that’s why, none of us can call an election right. Never ever!

Let’s explore the brand positions and high ground occupied by the various parties in Karnataka as of now. Lets remember, every political party is a brand and its leaders are sub-brands that go to either embellish or rob the party of its deserving image. So here goes a quick paintbrush imagery of the four prominent formations that are assembled to face the electorate.

1.     BJP:
The Story So Far: A party in tumult. But then which party is not? The ‘nataka’ of Karnataka politics has bitten every one of them.  The BJP however has many bites to show though. A clear mandate to rule 5 years ago. A leader who rose from the grass roots in the guise of BS Yediyurappa. A good start. The politics of appeasement of groups. Rebellion. The Bellary brothers. Scams galore. Corruption issues that had the leader go to jail as well. And many Ministers as well. The challenger and the challenged all went to jail for sure. Forsaking the CM’s gaddi to a trusted name. The trusted name assumes his own in no time. A demand to change leadership. Resort politics. Brinksmanship. A new leader. But the same old issue. The leader assumes his own, this time causing for division within the Lingayat vote-bank itself. Brinksmanship again. And the leader who built the BJP in Karnataka, BSY, finally leaves the party to form his own. A quick variant of a name: The KJP. From “Bharatiya” to “Karnataka” Janata Party.

The Brand Imagery of the BJP:
Corruption is a non-issue. Performance is. Voters strangely forgive corruption, but not a lack of performance. The BJP seen as a party that squandered the popular and solid mandate given to it, is an unforgiveable image the party has to tide over. This is the key explanation the communication format of the party needs to address in Karnataka.

2.     Congress:
The Story So Far: A party broken in form. While the party ruled the roost in the UPA coalition at the Centre, Karnataka remained a muddled dream of fishing in troubled waters. The efforts kept moving in a straight-line trajectory as any opposition party worth its salt would indulge in. The efforts, despite so many opportunities provided by the ruling party in the state, came close to snatch it all away from the BJP, but the party could never manage it really. A divided leadership in the State ensured that the party’s biggest competition was in-between its own leaders. This continued. Sadly, this continues to date, with the latest bickerings on ticket allocation catalyzing it all even more. Who is the real leader of the Congress party in the State then?  And “real” means real and unchallenged. Unchallenged in front of the leader, and more importantly unchallenged when the leader has turned his back to smoke a cigarette.

The Brand Imagery of the Congress: The party is fighting with itself. The party has a near sure shot chance at governance. The party has however not got its act together. The party is seen to be secular. The party leaders seem to exhibit ability, but the missing element is a common weal and a common driver who all will respect, before, during and more importantly after the elections. This is the key communication the party needs to address. Manifesto apart, leadership needs to be defined.  Announce Siddaramiah as the CM in waiting and sort it all out then? Or will it? Or will an old war-horse of the party in Karnataka need be invited back?

3.     JDS:
The Story So Far: A party that is intermittently awake and intermittently asleep. Are there two parties really, or one? Is there a party in North Karnataka and one in the Bangalore-Mysore region? Kumaranna’s work has been appreciated in the past at the ground level. But has Kumaranna lost out being center-stage for long? Public memory is proverbially short. The party’s stand on the Cauvery and Krishna waters issue has been a point of appreciation in the farmer community. That’s a plus. Is the JDS a party that is family led and family managed? And has this put off a lot of leaders who have deserted it over the last 5 years?

The Brand Imagery of the JDS: Confused as of now. The party needs to address key issues in the eye and has to move much beyond its trajectory of talking about the farmer at large. Rapid urbanization is a reality and the party needs to address these issues that relate to infrastructure, education and more, rather clearly and with cogent purpose. And just water politics may not do.

4.     The KJP:

The Story So Far: A new born led by an old war-horse. BSY is possibly the only leader in the pantheon of leaders around, who can be seen to be a real grass-roots leader capable of rousing the troops into action. The pity however is that the troops are just being assembled, and some of his key confidantes still sit across the party lines in the BJP, waiting to be rejected a ticket to defect. This delay might prove to be just too costly.

The Brand Imagery of the KJP: Nascent and just forming. The party needs to assemble its troops together fast. The key communication piece it needs to address is the fact that many a voter will think voting for the KJP is a waste of a vote. The typical hurdle the best of independent candidates face in elections, where voters want to vote for you, but don’t as they want a winner and not a loser to be the beneficiary of their valuable vote, faces the KJP as well. This is a big communication task.

Over to the election campaign then. Let’s see who says what?

Twitter @harishbijoor

Why We Must Must Vote!

Why Vote?

By Harish Bijoor

“Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
-Abraham Lincoln
This classic Abraham Lincoln quote says it all. The language is the polite and civilized  language  of the  1860’s, but you and I can well imagine what it would sound like, and how rude it would all appear if translated into the lingo of my young daughter and your young son today, circa 2013.

Lincoln packs a mean punch. And this punch is the ultimate answer to the question: Why Vote?

I am going to attempt to add seven more to that. But then, any piece written on the need to vote is seldom read and flossed over cynically. Therefore, allow me to embellish some sets of key thoughts with ‘desi-filmi’ titles that might just make you read this. And more importantly, take heed and act on it, when voting day dawns.

1.     ‘Sahib, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns’: We get the leaders we deserve. When Sravanthi Khan decides to take off to Ooty for a short two day trip on voting day with her family of 5, clubbing the Saturday to voting day (which many are likely to do), she does disservice to herself and her entire family. She gets the type of leaders she deserves. She didn’t vote, but she still gets what she deserves. A leader elected on the merit of her non-vote. A society really gets what it deserves. You and I get leaders we deserve. When we do not vote, we write a self-fulfilling prophesy of being governed by a leadership in place without the consent of our vote.

2.     ‘Dhamaal’: The vote is a source of power. Use it. It just might be the only source of power any of us have. We elect the people who make the laws. We elect the mechanism of governance we get. Have a say in it. Do not give up this source of power. It’s our only one.

3.     ‘Kaminey’: A vote is an opinion. Express it. A powerful opinion really. When you and I vote, we really express both positive and negative. We express our anguish and we equally express our hope for a better society and governance structure. In the one choice we make when we vote, we pack a lot. We pack our hope and anguish equally on issues that relate to education, health, society, safety, governance, corruption, and a myriad other things that affect us. And this chance comes once in 5 years. Normally. And what you and I have felt for these 5 years that have gone by gets bottled up in the one vote we cast. Is this not a heavy one? And is this not reason enough to vote?

4.     ‘Zindagi Na Milega Dobara’: The vote gives you a right to participate and demand. A lot of us are ready to talk the talk, but not necessarily walk the talk. When we vote, we really walk the talk. We stop being what Lincoln would have politely phrased to be bull-defecators!  I really don’t have the right to demand when I have not voted. I really don’t have the right to criticize, when I have not voted. Do you want these rights at all?

5.     ‘Son of Sardar’: We don’t vote for ourselves; we vote for our children really. To those of us with children, when you and I vote, we vote for our children even. We vote for our children who are not of voting age as yet. To an extent every vote we cast represents the positive intent we express for our children. It is therefore right that we vote, if at all not to disappoint and abrogate the aspirations of our children.

6.     ‘Bodyguard’: Education is meant to be a safe-guard of democracy. Really? Those of us who are educated and do not vote, somehow seem to make this statement seem all wrong! What’s the point of being educated, if we don’t exercise our educated franchise on that one day in 5 years? Have you realized that election outcomes are really controlled by those who step out of their homes to vote? Why would you or I abdicate this joy?

7.     ‘Qurbaan’: Your vote need not result in a winner. And lastly, there are people who really think that you always want to vote for a winner in the election. Let’s realize this is not a lottery. This is much more serious. Never mind that the candidate you and I vote for has lost. We have made a point. And every vote in the kitty of the losing candidate is a point made volubly.

Let’s not take off on that nice Sunday outing before we cast that vote on Sunday the 5th of May then! @harishbijoor