Narendra Modi: Let’s help him be the change

(Picture via India Today)

India is elated about Modi’s win. He brings boundless hope to a country that many Indians consider damaged beyond repair, myself included.

Modi steps into a position of power with a vision of prosperity for all. His core focus will be on development that aims to improve the quality of life of 1.25 billion people. He promises better infrastructure; hydroelectric power plants; more jobs; more foreign investment; stronger international relations; a 100 new modern cities; and a united country.

From what I understand about Modi, he is a visionary though fierce leader; intelligent, tough, devoted and clear about what he wants to achieve, and perhaps even ruthless in his mission to achieve it. The corruption free prosperity of Gujarat while he was Chief Minister is proof of his abilities. And he is truly innovative! (I can’t get over his holographic rallies!)

However, fixing one state is largely different from fixing a country with 35 territories running with their own bureaucracy, beliefs and varying levels of corruption. Modi has a herculean task before him but he is soaring with confidence, ready to seize it.

I believe that if anyone can reform India, it’s going to be Modi; and clearly the majority of India feels the same. But there is a minority in India who wish his peril and a foreign community that can’t seem to stop warning the world about him.

It’s naïve and idealistic of me to think that the haters will shut-up and let him do his job now that he has won. There will be people, media and agendas digging up dirt on him and scrutinizing his every action. He has tough decisions to make on a domestic and international level, that won’t make everyone happy. He will be watched like a hawk, as they wait for him to stumble so he can be attacked. Unfortunately that is the nature of politics and fodder for media.

And for Godsake, let’s stop talking about what happened in 2002!

We all want to see change. Modi’s authoritarian nature is feared by critics but perhaps it is what India needs to be whipped into shape.

The situation in India is desperate. We have lost decades with the wrong leadership, and patience is no longer our virtue. But we have to give him some time to deliver.

I plead to my fellow Indians, let’s not expect a sudden miracle or radical changes overnight. Let’s make sure we support our new hope and defend it against the evil eye. Modi’s 12-year corruption free record and landslide victory in the polls has earned him the benefit of doubt.

We must give him the chance and time he needs to rewrite India’s destiny. It might just be the only chance we have.

Radio interview: Nightline Dubai

nightlineA few days ago, I had the privilege to be on Nightline Dubai with James Piecowye. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, it’s a talk show that airs Sunday – Wednesday 8-10pm (103.8FM), and covers a variety of subjects. James is a great host and also happens to be one of the guys who organised TEDxDubai.

The show I was on was dedicated to Adwomen, an organization that brings together women in the marketing and communications industry.  If you’ve been reading here for a bit, you would have seen that I spoke at an Adwomen event a few months ago.

On the show there were four of us from different sectors of the industry, including the founder of Adwomen — Preethi Mariappan. Other than Adwomen, we talked about the communications industry in the region, how it functions, what we do, and as women in a male dominated industry, how we feel. Check it out here if you fancy a listen. Open to thoughts!

Blogging Hiatus

My blogging hiatus for the last month or so has been the result of long office hours, and extreme repulsion to my laptop when I get home.

When I was a blogger I wrote about 70 posts a month, so perhaps I’m also a bit blogged-out.

Today I woke up with an ardent need get back into the blogosphere actively.

So while I attempt to make that happen, I will leave you with an article of mine that appeared in this weeks issue of  Campaign ME.

Unsurprisingly, it’s on Social Media; it’s more of a personal take than anything else. Comments are welcome!

“Authenticity is key” — Abha Malpani on brands and Social Media (as re-published on Campaign’s blog).

Happy Wednesday!

Ryan Air Boo Boo

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Those of you who missed the recent Ryan Air social media engagement blunder can read about it here.

Basically, a web developer called Jason Roe found a flaw in Ryan Air’s website which allowed customers to book a flight for £ zero. He blogged about it and Ryan Air lost the plot in their reply, called him a liar and an idiot, and lots more things.

Now, I found the story and Tweeted it. A friend replied to it by Tweeting the story on Ryan Air wanting to charge £1 to use the bathroom on flight. To which I replied saying “yeah, Ryan Air has gone bananas.”

Ryan Air Twitter hawkers found that Tweet and replied: (not exact words): “The bananas are as bruised as your mothers. Your conversations regarding Ryan Air are as amusing as they are boring.”

Now, they are not the exact exact words because I can’t find that reponse on my Twitter replies anymore because the Ryan Air Online Twitter account has been suspended.

I did get the chance to call them morons on Twitter though. Morons.

Now my questions: Although Ryan Air has its issues, it is one of the most successful budget airlines in Europe. How could anyone in their right mind working in marketing write what they did on Jason’s blog? And also, how can you check whether a brand’s Twitter account is authentic? (Without tracing the IP address, because you know, I don’t know how to do that.)

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

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I come home from watching Slumdog Millionaire with a lump in my throat. The blatant truth of the Mumbai slums depicted in the film is unsurprising for Indians, yet horrifying all the same.

There are a number of off-beat Indian films that shed light on various issues — like Split Wide Open, Water and Salaam Bombay — but never before has life in Indian slums been shown so explicitly, and in a non-victimized, non-patronizing way. What is shown is fact, and that’s exactly how it has meant to be shown — as raw fact.

Despite all the harsh moments that make you squirm in your seat, what makes the film extraordinary is how it has managed to capture the undying street-smart energy and spirit of the slum kids. This energy portrays them as bright and strong-minded individuals who, despite their miserable and disgusting environment, believe in being able to make things happen for themselves. And they do. One even becomes a millionaire.

The main characters of the film, Salim and Jamal, are piercingy powerful. One grows up to be a ruthless bastard who gives up his morals and family to survive, while the other one stays an honest and loyal romantic; yet you don’t feel hatred or pity towards either of them.

This film is so real that knowing it is not an Indian production bewilders me; as a “white man” Danny Boyle has got every detail in this film so right I don’t think any Indian director could have done it better. There is so much truth in the details that even the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” bit becomes believable. It resonates the idea that today in India, there’s an opportunity for anyone and everyone, and that anything is possible.

The only negative thought that I carried out of the film was that it reminds you that you can’t trust anyone; that circumstances can create devils and there is nothing you can do about it, that even your own brother will turn against you in his quest to survive. As someone who trusts everyone unless I have reason not to, it gave me a lot to think about human behaviour.

Some of the cast and crew have been promoting the film saying it’s a “feel good” film. Urrrmmm, I think not. The film will make you laugh, but most of it will make you cry, and feel like vomiting. That said, ironically it doesn’t leave you depressed.

A lot is packed into the film, making it an intense and overwhelming 2-hours. I cried the last 10 minutes and walked out blown away with what I had seen. It’s a hard-hitting film; one of those that keeps you on the edge of your seat and leaves you with much to ponder. Although it is being said otherwise, I really hope that all the slum kids of the movie get compensated generously.

All-in-all, a must must watch.

Book Review: The White Tiger

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One of my 2009 resolutions is to read at least 2 books a month. I’ve just read Man Booker Prize winner  “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga. It spurred a lot of thoughts on different levels, so I thought it was worthy of a review.

Start the book and its English is so bad, you are embarrassed for the writer. This got a Man Booker? OK, the story is a perspective of India – specifically New Delhi – through the eyes of a poor chauffeur, with limited education. It’s written in first person by this driver, so I guess the awful English reflects the character, but it took me a good 100 pages to stop getting irritated with the crude language.

The book is written in form of 7 letters that Balram (the chauffeur) writes to the Chinese prime minister, narrating to him his life story, something that he feels the Chinese premier needs to know before he visits India. He writes about his life in the village (“The Darkness”), and how he makes it to the “light” (New Delhi) by getting a job as the driver of a very rich family in the capital city. The book unravels how he evolves from an honest and naive villager – slave to his master, to this feisty and murderous thief-turn-entrepreneur who was ready to do anything he needed, to free himself from shackles of the cast system and his assumed “forever-servant” destiny.

Other than bad grammar, the writing style is vulgar, and unpleasant. He depicts a corrupt, unjust, and disgusting India.  He spits at the country and the way it functions. If you are an Indian reading it, you will feel sick as you turn the pages, but not at any point will you think he is exaggerating; you know it’s fiction, but it could very much be the hard truth.

I think the book is a great read, but only if you can put aside the irritation you will often feel about the language. It’s a completely different perspective of “India Shining”, one that as an Indian you will not be able deny.

The author has some great credentials, and for a first novel it was a bold and risky attempt that worked. Worth a read, especially if you are Desi. If you are not Indian and have read this book, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Dubai New Media Event – Day 1

Today was the first day of IIR‘s New Media Conference in Dubai, and I must say, for how new the industry is, and for how little information there is about online trends and demographics for the EMEA region, the gathering was certainly insightful.

There was an interesting mix of people: communication agencies, MEPRA, known local portals (Maktoob.com, MBC, MediaME, Zawya), interesting service providers (Effective Measures – can’t find link, Muxlim.com, Newsmakers), and corporate blogging expert Debbie Weil, to name a few. Most of the presentations spurred interesting comments and questions, many of which there were no answers to though.

This element of communication for brands is in its nascent stages, so we in the ME market have a lot to experiment before we can learn and get it right. This is mainly because of the lack of audited data, the fact that conventional advertising channels still dominate this market, and that the consumers in each of the 22 markets across the ME, Levant, and N.Africa are so different! So lots to explore, and I was happy to be part of a smart group of people that are going to try to make it happen here.

Anyway, will wrap here because I’m tired and want some ice-cream. I will leave you with notes from Robin at Cybersoc who diligently typed them all up during the conference and posted them; and here is a link to Debbie Weils presentation as well.

I’m going to be live-Tweeting what I can tomorrow AM, so follow me at @abhamalpani, if you want.