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Guest Column

Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Editorial

Rajita Chaudhuri

K.K.Srivastava Guest Column

K.K.Srivastava
   
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K. K. SRIVASTAVA, ADVISOR,IIPM BUSINESS PRESS
BHARAT KI BULAND TASWEER
PR practice is as old as the history of civilisation itself. King Kroesus of Asia Minor had his face put on the first gold coins. During the World War II, RAF bombers dropped tonnes of propaganda leaflets over Germany. What’s up in India?
 
Imagine the Government to be a corporation. Then our PM will be its CEO, Rahul Gandhi the heir apparent, and Sonia the family matriarch. The citizens will of course be the stakeholders. Such a Government and its divisions (read ministries) will have clear set of objectives, a five year roadmap, a statement of basic issues and challenges, and an action plan. The stakeholders will monitor the progress while the regulator (Parliament) must ensure compliance. KPIs will be created, communicated, and worked towards. And to ensure brand loyalty a constant dialogue needs to take place between the management (the PM, the council of ministers, and the bureaucrats) and the citizens, the stakeholders.

The record of this corporation is not bad at all. PricewaterhouseCoopers, in its latest report, says that India will have the highest growth rate in the next few decades, surpassing even the current favourite China. But then naysayers abound in equal if not greater number. IMF for one will certainly scoff at this line. And it is in good company; the local nabobs of negativity, including PM’s own Economic Advisory Council, mandarins from finance ministry, or Planning Commission too, contribute adversely towards creating a perception of gloom. A classic case of self-deprecating communication. Indian opinionista refuses to recognise that the coming decades belong to India.

CONNECT TO COMMUNICATE: INTERPRETING INDIA

In Orissa, anti-Posco activists kidnapped company officials while Nandigram simmered in West Bengal. Locals felt anguished against being left out by the changes taking place in their neighborhood. The local Governments failed to ‘sell’ the advantage of having such projects to these people on their land. Heartburn and violence ensued. Stern warnings were issued where confidence building measures should have preceded project site allotments.

At an NRI conference organised in New Delhi a member of Indian diaspora showed the gumption to ‘express’ disapproval of official attempts at drumming up investment from the community. One minister reacted incoherently in return. Instead of making any point wise rebuttal of the complaints, he just hurled abuses at the hapless victim, using epithets like ill informed and ill learned, in front of a congregation of nearly 150 potential investors.

The signals are mixed actually. With Manmohan Singh, the great liberaliser turned social entrepreneur as its mascot, Congress weaved a winning election campaign around loan waivers and NREGS. Then a fresh faced Rahul started dining with the dalits and talking to the tribals. With their people first policies the troika of Rahul, Sonia, and Manmohan is wowing the aam aadmi. The PMO has asked for report cards with vision and mission statements. The Sardar (used as a designation) has set the deadlines while Sonia and the king in the making work to the socially correct causes. But while the semantics are in place (‘governance with conscience’), the conscience keepers – the ministers and the bureaucrats – have to necessarily put their act together.

 
India is trapped in Liliput state. Since 1991, the liberalisation phase India has become home to ever increasing number of rupee billionaires; this meant a shift of power from the ruling classes to the entrepreneurial clan. India’s leaders have of course resented it. Under the Soviet form of communism, Indian development effort got strangulated and poverty got accentuated. However, due to the vote bank politics, poverty became a saleable item. Indian leaders thus have become reticent in claiming success with the new recipe of economic freedom and rapid growth as being the best bet to greater inclusion. The linkage and multiplier effect of rapid economic growth on employment and poverty elimination are not communicated, and deliberately so.

BUT WHY SHOULD EARLY 70s BE THE NEW 40s

The Parliament elections last year, with 700 million voters, certainly made India proud. According to the 2010 Quality of Life Index published by the travel magazine International Living, India is up 35 places in the list of 194 nations, leaving behind Russia and China. According to an Economic Times-Dentsu survey of ‘Top Hits’, the Indian growth story in 2009 even in face of worldwide recession occupied top rank. There is plenty to talk about.

Even though the vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s Summit in 2009 was a big success, the No.1 state in India has decided to adopt a modified approach for the oncoming 2011 summit. Now, it will partner with the leading industry associations (CII, FICCI…), which will be entrusted with the job of undertaking a pre-event warming up exercise like special seminars for the investors. A professionals PR agency will handle the whole event.

The phrase public relations (or, PR in management lingo) was invented by Edward L. Bernays who was deeply influenced by psychology precepts. He professed that it pays to be proactive in the battle of winning public opinion. If there is an information vacuum, then either the grapevine communication or one’s opponents will fill it with damaging assertions. The lazy minded information gathering (as against active information seeking) audience will soak it in to our detriment. We need to actively undertake public opinion building.

Political philosophy from Plato to Montesquieu had advocated that the truly free State must have tiniest possible existence. But we are living in an age of bigness. Every subsequent government is becoming increasingly inclusive in terms of the roles it plays in an ordinary citizen’s life. At the same time the resultant size, complexity, and remoteness of the government have created barriers in the path of fruitful communication between the state and the subjects.

          
 
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