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Onwards and upwards…

May 17, 2014

(this blog is about my journey in the last six months)

Last summer I decided to return from Chicago in the winter of 2013 (the plan was to spend two years in the USA and the resolve was to stick to the plan). I was to work full time on weekdays with the Gurgaon office of my employer and volunteer on the weekend (for 25 weekends) with a political party, in the run up to the elections. The first part of the plan did not work out because my Indian handlers dropped the ball miserably in terms of role, location and compensation. The second part of the plan was proposed because of my passion for politics and the possibility of me getting full time in either political strategy or electoral politics in the near future.

I began the new journey I had set out for by taking up a three month assignment as a consultant with a PR firm which was a frontrunner to work with a political party. I refused the overtures from another PR firm who turned out to be the underdog in the race for the same mandate. By then I had met Rahul Gandhi accidentally and was utterly disappointed with his style and approach. A meeting thereafter with a senior party strategist shocked me further, as I realised how ill prepared and chaotic they were. The situation was grim and the writing was on the wall. With that disillusionment I took the call to observe few individuals who I thought were promising Parliamentarians and learn grassroots campaigning and community outreach first hand.

In the meanwhile a friend of a friend got me in touch with Arvind Kejriwal himself to work on AAP’s content and communication. This was the second disappointment as the man is an awesome human being but a novice in politics who himself is learning the ropes. I got connected with a bunch of interesting men including Dilip Pandey and Yogendra Yadav but they were finding a method in the madness and I was impatient. So with no influence whatsoever, through twitter and email I decided to reach out to a few candidates and requesting them to let me be on their campaign trail for a few days. And thus began a journey of watching these candidates up, close and searching for signals of what the future had in store. I saw a Modi wave emerging and was not sure if I was overestimating what I was hearing on the ground. Or maybe I was in denial.

But the time I spent in these few constituencies watching how these young celebrity women candidates handled crowds, fans, voters was fascinating. I could sense they were not in a comfortable position in terms of winning but I could see their ardent desire to fight a system of patriarchy that was staring at them. I’m glad I decided to follow my heart and take the road less travelled. As this was happening a bunch of PR firm head honchos were beginning conversations with me to join their companies at the end of the election season and I had made up my mind that I certainly did not want to be employed as the entrepreneurial bug had bitten me. I knew that I wanted to start out on my own. And I had two ideas I was willing to experiment with. I will share these ideas in detail in a separate blog but one of them is to start a specialised communications firm exclusively for Members of Parliament.

In the last six months I met several of my old connections and at least 50 new people who support the idea of working out a hybrid model. With that advice I am taking up a consulting assignment where I’m offering my time, two days a week to a leading PR firm to be the advisor to its leadership on strategy and insights. And the rest of the time is mine, to build my ideas into commercially viable entities. Thus starting Monday, the 19th May 2014  I embark on a journey into the unknown but with a clear roadmap and Plan B that gets activated if my ideas fail which I will evaluate at the end of the year. For now, I am excited about the new contours my professional journey is taking. And I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my life. Onwards and upwards!

The new political wave!

May 16, 2014

Today was not like any other. It was result day after a well fought election. And very few expected the kind of result that we saw. This was also an election that was projected to be a watershed and indeed it was. Here are my ten takeaways of the outcome -

It was severe anti-incumbency and the way cabinet minister after cabinet minister lost and in some cases coming third and fourth was a story in itself. The External Affairs minister, the Telecom minister, the HRD minister, the Home minister and several others had to all bite the dust.

It was a vote for credible change and we saw it in the way the voters gave a decisive verdict ensuring the leading party got all seats in some states and almost 95% seats in few others. The ruling dispensation was wiped out in states where it is running a government.

It was a clearly laid out war and every trick in the book and every tool in the kit was put to good use. The opponents were caught unaware as the onslaught went on and on. There was one side charging along and no one to lay a counter offensive.

It was well packaged and that is something to marvel about. Political packaging and communication has come of age and BJP showed everyone how it is done and how it is done in utmost style. From merchandise to event properties to road shows.

It was stealthily executed which is how battles are fought. The enemy doesn’t have a clue of what is going on. Most of all does not smell that something is a miss and the ground beneath it is shaking.

It was a disgust for dynasty and across the board. There were exceptions in the ruling dispensation. But in UP outside of the Sangh Parivar only ywo families won – 2 seats to the Gandhi family and 5 seats to the Yadav clan.

It was a no risking on fringe players by what I mean BJP did not let potential allies slip by. They built the right partnerships including bringing back certain elements back to the fold as we saw in Karnataka.

It was divisive. The numbers were far from what the BJP had imagined. They won in one state more than what the Cogress got in all states. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Porbandar to Dibrugarh they won hands down. The Congress did not get double digits in any state. Their final national tally was almost half of what BJP got in one state

It was everywhere and sometimes over the top. The in your face advertising on outdoors, on social media, on print, on TV. They played to win. The Congress played because they had no choice. They did not fight and most of all they did not communicate right.

It was unstoppable. This goes without saying. The juggernaut rolled like a well oiled machine and it made a mark, proved a point and is here to stay.

My MXM India columns in one place

March 24, 2014

51. 16th May - In the end Public Relations won! (Special edition)

50. 12th May - What corporate spokespersons can learn from the Narendra Modi interview on Times Now? 

49. 5th May - What’s new that PR folks can offer clients?

48. 28th Apr - The Accidental Media Advisor

47. 21st Apr - Four major international PR events not to miss in 2014 

46. 14th Apr - On the campaign trail – so much PR to learn

45.7th Apr - The Indian PR scene

44.31st Mar - The Public Relations in the aftermath of the tragedy of MH370

43.24th Mar –  Much action for Indian PR frat this year

42.17th Mar – Holiday (My blog on Raising money for a Cause)

41.10th Mar - The media gift conundrum

40.3rd Mar - 10 years as a PR practitioner

39.24th Feb - The crucible called Media Lists

38.17th Feb - Time to stand up for upright journalism

37.10th Feb - The need for an individual membership-driven PR association 

36.3rd Feb - What corporate spokespersons can learn from the historic Rahul Gandhi interview? 

35.27th Jan - The PR professional-Journalist changing equation

34.20th Jan - The Public Relations of Indian Politics

33.13th Jan - Time to protect our profession from quacks

32.6th Jan - 2014: A year that promises a lot of action

31.30th Dec - 13 PR savvy Indian events and people of 2013

30.23rd Dec - 13 PR savvy international events and people of 2013 

29.16th Dec - Reminiscences of the Global PR summit

28.9th Dec - PR lessons for AAP, BJP & Congress for the general elections

27.2nd Dec - Did you do things differently to be a better PR professional this year? 

26.25th Nov - It’s not about doing the right things, it’s about doing everything right 

25.18th Nov - Public Relations for dummies

24.11th Nov - What’s with the friction between Journalists and PR professionals? 

23.4th Nov –  Holiday (My blog on life in Edelman Chicago)

22.28th Oct - Public Relations and Bad Publicity

21.21st Oct - How Public Relations can win back the respect it deserves! 

20.14th Oct - How PR professionals can upgrade their skills

19.7th Oct - Beggars are not choosers but in Chicago they also know how not to be losers 

18.30th Sep - Musings from India’s only weekend summit for Public Relations

17.23rd Sep - Public Relations has a bigger stake in Social Media than any other stream 

16.16th Sep - How Storytelling has come to become the new buzzword in PR

15.9th Sep - Why our politicians must undertake media training

14.2nd  Sep - Bring back the Credible into Incredible India!

13.26th Aug - Modi’s online Public Relations campaign

12.19th Aug - How PR at a gigantic event is pulled through together… 

11.12th Aug - Learning Public Relations from the Pope

10.5th Aug - The next phase in the evolution of Public Relations

9.29th Jul - Events that make our profession worth being part of

8.22nd Jul - The 6 Cs that are the currency of being successful PR professionals 

7.15th Jul - 5 ways PR in US is different from that in India

6.8th Jul - One size does not fit all!

5.1st Jul - It’s time to give ace communicators their due

4.24th Jun - Why can’t our PR firms win PR Lions at Cannes?

3.17th Jun - Do you know who your biggest ambassador is? (Employee Engagement)

2.10th Jun - The case for Public Relations in governance

1.3rd Jun - To new beginnings!

Elections are fascinating – here is the 2014 schedule

March 5, 2014

Source

India, world’s largest democracy, is once again ready to witness the power of votes. The Election Commission on March 5 announced the schedule for Lok Sabha polls 2014. Polling will be held in nine phases from April 07 to May 12 and the counting of votes will be held on May 16.

General Elections phase-wise schedule:

Phase 1: April 7 in two states

Phase 2: April 9 – five states

Phase 3: April 10 – 14 states

Phase 4: April 12 – three states

Phase 5: April 17 – 13 states

Phase 6: April 24 – 12 states

Phase 7: April 30 – nine states

Phase 8: May 7 – seven states

Phase 9: May 12 – 3 states.

State-wise schedule: 

Andhra Pradesh (40 seats): April 30 (17 seats), May 7 (25)

Arunachal Pradesh (2): April 9

Assam (14): April 7 (5), April 12 (3), April 24 (6)

Bihar (40): April 10 (6), 17 (7), 24 (7), 30 (7), May 7 (7), 12 (6)

Chhattisgarh (11): April 10 (1), 17 (3), 24 (7)

Goa (2): April 17 (2)

Gujarat (26): April 30 (26)

Haryana (10): April 10 (10)

Himachal Pradesh (4): May 7 (4)

Jammu and Kashmir (6): April 10 (1), 17 (1), 24 (1), 30 (1), May 7 (2)

Jharkhand (14): April 10 (5), 17 (5), 24 (4)

Karnataka (28) – April17 (28)

Kerala (20): April 10 (20)

Madhya Pradesh (29): April 10 (9), 17 (10), 24 (10)

Maharashtra (48): April 10 (10), 17 (19), 24 (19)

Manipur (2): April 9 (1), 17 (1)

Meghalaya (2): April 9 (2)

Mizoram (1): April 9 (1)

Nagaland (1): April 9 (1)

Odisha (21): April 10 (10), 17 (11)

Punjab (13): April 30 (13)

Rajasthan (25): April 17 (20), 24 (5)

Sikkim (1): April 12 (1)

Tamil Nadu (39): April 24 (39)

Tripura (2): April 7 (1), 12 (1)

Uttar Pradesh (80): April 10 (10), 17 (11), 24 (12), 30 (14), May 7 (15), 12 (18)

Uttarakhand (5): May 7 (5)

West Bengal (42): April 17 (4), 24 (6), 30 (9), May 7 (6), 12 (17)

Union Territories

Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1): April 10 (1)

Chandigarh (1): April 10 (1)

Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1): April 30 (1)

Daman and Diu (1): April 30 (1)

Lakshadweep (1): April 10 (1)

Delhi (7): April 10 (7)

Puducherry (1): April 24 (1)

Assembly elections:

Andhra Pradesh including Telangana region: April 30, May 7

Odisha: April 10, 17

Sikkim: April 12

Also Read: Salient features of India’s general election

The schedule was announced by Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath along with Election Commissioners H S Brahma and Dr Nasim Zaidi at a press conference held at Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital.

The elections would see more than 81.4 crore voters exercise their ballot; the number of voters is 10 crore more than the last general election held in 2009. The term of the current Lok Sabha expires on June 1 and the new House has to be constituted by May 31.

Sampath said that the EC had taken into consideration factors like examination schedules and weather conditions.

The EC said that electoral roll have already been updated till January 1, 2014 and final rolls have been published in all states.

However, the EC has offered one more opportunity to enroll in the electoral rolls. Camps would be set up on March 9 at all polling booths – around 9,30,000 – across the country to allow people to enroll themselves, the EC said.

The Model Code of Conduct for governments and political parties will come into force with immediate effect.

On the security measures being implemented by the EC, Sampath said, “To ensure free and fair elections we have taken particular care to ensure that people living in vulnerable areas and vulnerable voters are in continuous touch with the election machinery to ensure that they are able to vote uninterpreted by anyone.”

“Adequate number of observers in different categories will be deployed during the forthcoming elections,” he added.

On the neutrality of officials engaged in conduct of elections, Sampath said the EC expects them to discharge their duty without fear or favour.

“Strict action will be taken against officials who are found wanting in any aspect,” the CEC said.

With regards to the steps being taken to curb use of money power in the elections, he said, “The Election Commission has mounted a series of measures for monitoring expenditure; special emphasis is given to check flow of money during elections.”

“Besides expenditure observers, sufficient number of flying squads will be employed to check use of money power,” he added.

An important feature of the polls would be the introduction of paper trail system for electronic voting in some constituencies on a trial basis.

Also, the EC has issued guidelines to political parties asking them to explain the rationale of financing the promises they make in their election manifestos. The guidelines that followed Supreme Court directions in this regard have now been made part of the Model Code.

Another first in the Lok Sabha elections will be the introduction of “None of the Above” (NOTA) option in voting, which came into vogue in the assembly elections a few months ago.

From the coming elections, candidates in a parliamentary constituency in bigger states can spend up to Rs 70 lakh on their campaign, up from Rs 40 lakh in 2011. In the 2009 elections, it was Rs 25 lakh.

350. From there till here – 10 wonder years

February 28, 2014

I’m writing a blog after four months. Last year during this period I wrote hundred blogs in as many days. I decided to take a break from all the conventional things I did in order to give myself a mini sabbatical.

Here I am, back to blogging while other things happen and occupy my time and mindspace. A lot has happened in the last 120 months and most of them good. Here is a round up of the last 10 years as I step into a new phase of my professional life.

On this day 10 years ago a bunch of us freshly minted graduates gathered at Ridgewood Estate in Gurgaon which would be our home for the next 6 weeks. The following morning the 13 of us were embarking on a career and an experiment. A career in Public Relations and an experiment of having done a first – of signing a three year bond with a company we blindly trusted.

The journey that began on March 1st was a foundation of learning from the best, and discovering our hidden potential one day at a time. We were making new friends, for life. We were changing the way Public Relations was done as time flew by.

Some of us decided to move out of Public Relations completely and some of us decided to stay on. Most of us are no longer with GBM except one who is in the same group but in London. 3 are in Bangalore, 3 are in Mumbai, 3 are in NCR, 2 in California and one in Australia.

I had a fabulous 42 months with my first employer across three cities and still cherish great memories of my time there. In fact I spent two hours this morning at the Genesis BM Gurgaon office catching up with Prema, Zorawar, Nikhil and a bunch of others. My favourites are always the office support staff (Manohar, Vinay etc.) some of whom I met this morning.

After Genesis, a quest to be in a start-up and in political communications took me to APCO Worldwide as its first employee in Mumbai and then to be the first head of corporate communications for a media planning and buying company in India within the Publicis Groupe. Having spent eight years in three metros in three companies I figured that time had come for me to get two years of international experience. That quest led me to Edelman Public Relations (again a first for an Indian to be directed hired by a Top 10 PR firm in the US) in their founding office in Chicago, from where I returned three months ago.

While many who care about my career progress have been curious to know what I’m upto and some are aware I thought I will share some of it here. While Edelman and I had an understanding that I would come back and work with them in their Gurgaon office, the HR managers and their handlers in India felt they needed me in Mumbai. In any other year I would have been open to it but not in an election year – the main reason for my early return was to be involved with political strategy and communications on the weekends and after hours.

That was not meant to be and we decided to part ways. I am enjoying being a budding social entrepreneur. While I consult for couple of global brands through a PR firm which takes care of my bread, butter and shelter there is a lot going on. I am building couple of intellectual properties in the events space, working for a political campaign and learning through reading about start ups and businesses.

Most of the last 10 years have gone as per plan and I hope the next 10 are as interesting, if not as planned. The last 10 weeks of the last 10 years have been very unique. I have met a lot of old friends and made several new acquaintances.

I want to end by thanking a series of people who have contributed in big ways and small to my professional growth. If I have missed your name and you believe you made an impact on me please send me an email and if i’m convinced I will add your name here.

GBM – Prema, Ashwani, Sheila, Zorawar, Senjam, Sabiana, Nikhil, Alka, Sheena, Anjana, Ashok, Vikram, Girish, Deepshikha,Ajit and all the 12 ALPmates (Bodhi, Moksh, Chitrangada, Madhavi, Ishita, Meghana, Archana, Vidya, Neha, Preeti, Priya, Greishma)

APCO – Margery, Amit, Sanjay, Mrunmaiy, Sheetal and Surojeet.

SMG/VivaKi – Ravi, Srikant, Mona, CVL, Rajesh, Kaushik, Hemang, Jennifer, Maria, Jill, Lena, Cheri, Ashish, Vikas, Andrew, Nikhil, Sanjay, Madhavan, Girish and a bunch of others.

Edelman USA – Rick, Travis, Christopher, Harlan, Nicole, Tamara, Neil, Laura, Kimberley, Mindi, Rachel, Eileen, Karen and Geoffrey.

And last but not the least Robert Holdheim for letting me go, Anant Rangaswami for being a great sounding board, Indrajit Gupta for teaching me humility, Nafisa Islam for being a fabulous friend, Radhika Sharpoorjee for thinking highly of me and Vishwajeet Ganpate for never letting me go.

That’s 60 people and counting. My family and friends have always been my strength but this blog is for the professional connections who made a difference. Watch this space for more…

343. Is there really a personal brand?

October 21, 2013

Several celebrities end up becoming brands themselves. I am neither a celebrity nor wish to be one. I write this blog because some individuals in the recent past have in a joking way referred to me as one because of the various things I do that may seem unusual, which in reality are not.

I feel my greatness is in my smallness and the only thing I’m proud of is my humility. Contrarian as it may sound, it is what it is. I will soon step into the new chapter of my professional life and I’m looking forward to the future.

Having spent two full years in one of the most evolved consumer markets in the world I feel charged for the next stint back in my home country. While the details of my next innings are still being ironed out I felt it is good to write this blog so there is more clarity for me and those who will be professionally engaged with me in the future. Just makes it easy.

Firstly, I am not a brand and don’t wish to be one. There maybe people who aspire to be brands but I’m certainly not one of them. That being said well wishers and adversaries from time to time will try to paint you as a brand for personal joy or personal gain.

This brings me to the new brand that is selling like hot cake in India. The man who is completely a creation of the mainstream and social media. While time will tell what becomes of him one thing is clear all said and done a lot of time, money and energy has been spent to build this larger than life persona of someone who is nothing more than decisive.

The beauty of life is that each one is unique and each one comes with a point of view that is distinct. In the end what we do with what we have is all that matters. I write these blogs for myself but because I’m open you have access to read this and I’m glad you do.

Furniture for sale in Chicago downtown

October 8, 2013

Barely used furniture in excellent (as good as new) condition available for pick up from Presidential Towers in the West Loop on 27th, 28th, 29th October. Entire set for $650 or individual pieces available – Chest of Drawers [150], Bed (with complimentary mattress, side table, duvet and pillows)  [175], Dining set includes 4 chairs [125], Big sofa bed with 2 pillows [175], Small sofa bed [125].  Anyone who takes it all also gets  3 standing lamps, 1 study table and stool, 1 shopping cart for free, if interested. Contact amithpr at gmail dot com – All colors as seen in pictures except of duvet.Bed frame with optional mattressSmall sofa bedBig sofa bedDining setChest of drawers

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