In defense of Rajat Gupta

Yes of course I am prejudiced. Rajat and I are from the same school. I have known him for many years, and though I cannot say I was one of his closest, his profile being far too big for that, I still shared a warm relationship with him and his family.

The problem of being friends with Rajat was that you can not help but admire him. Admiration creates a thin wall between friends that never really allows you to be too intimate. You admire Rajat for his sheer breadth of vision and knowledge. But you also do so because every one else does. It did not matter that the person you spoke to was a Head of State, a CEO of a Forbes top 10 Company, an NGO that benefited from his tireless support, the name Rajat Gupta inspired awe and appreciation.  I have heard Rajat constantly described as a Rock Star by young management students who aspired to emulate him.

So why did Rajat Gupta not make deal with the US justice department, accept guilt and pay  a fine ? Yes , his reputation would have suffered.  But a man with his capability would have soon put the past behind him and create new paths that were equally productive to himself and society ? Yes, there would be no more high profile Board positions, but any number of Institutions and Corporations would still beg for Rajat’s talents.

Why then go down the path and sue the SEC itself and risk being prosecuted in court? Why risk a jail sentence ?

Because this was not just about Rajat Gupta. Not just about him and his family. Rajat actually believed in all that he stood for. He believed in the institutions he helped build. He believed in the system that allowed him to express his hard work and talent. Rajat went to court and risked everything to try and uphold all that he believed in, so the world would not lose faith in the very institutions he believed in.

And he lost.

He lost to an environment of hostility. To a world rightfully angry at banks and Wall Street, ready to bring down the so called  upper echelons of privilege. But also a world that failed to see the vast difference between the intent and modus operandi of Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Hedge Fund and Rajat Gupta.

Rajat  believes he is not guilty. As do I and all his friends. But the courts found him guilty in face of ‘overwhelming evidence’ and we have to  accept that, circumstantial as that  evidence might be.  I hope he wins his appeal, and if in the outside chance that he does not,  his (unjustified) prison sentence is very short.

The world needs people with the talent, foresight and commitment like Rajat Gupta.

Advertising in the changing world of Social Media

The argument for advertising is compelling. It gives information. It increases competition. It creates awareness of alternatives and brands.   It creates brands that people aspire to and therefore drives consumerism which is good for the economy.

Today the same arguments against advertising are equally if not more compelling. It gives misinformation.  It tries to replace awareness by subtle messages targeting consumer’s fears, insecurities and self worth, especially kids.  It actually tries to decrease competition. It drives a false consumerism that is environmentally unsustainable, especially on issues like water etc.

The truth lies somewhere in between.  But increasingly the consumer and communities are beginning to doubt the intentions of the advertiser. While the advertising professional is getting better at selling his/her product, they are doing a terrible job of selling themselves as people working honestly towards the good of the community they claim to serve. And in doing so they are serving their clients badly.

As the world becomes increasingly competitive, and quarterly results and stock market valuations drive corporations towards profitability at all cost, consumers and advertisers are moving dangerously apart.  And the loss will be completely the advertisers if they continue to do so.

Much of the reason is Social media. Advertising usually looks deeply into the mind of a single consumer and creates within him/her a desire to buy a product. All advertising affects the community of course, but it is believed that ‘chatter’ will come slower and later.  Rarely has advertising reached out to large communities unless they are public service ads. Of which they are many great ones.  The advertising professional is just not trained for dealing with the size of communities being created by Social Media, and certainly not the speed at which they relate/share/chatter with each other.  Before they realize it, the message has spread and could turn negative even as the initial Media Buy has not played itself out.

A great case of community creation is the Apple Brand.  Of course the product is great :) (I’m a fan)  , but it created a cultural following that allows it to put great premium on its product and thereby become the most valuable companies in the world. So much that the founder Steve Jobs became a cultural icon. Comparable only to Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory !

However culture is very very sensitive to change.  Which explains why Apple was so quick to explain/redress the news that the Apple brand was being supported by malpractices in use of Chinese labor.  Social Media opinion can turn a wave into a tidal wave and even into a tsunami before you can counter it. And that tsunami is about to hit a lot of advertising that is not realizing the sheer strength of a community and its power in Social Media that can overturn the best laid marketing plans.

Nestle’s would have never sustained with it’s campaign in Asia to against  mothers milk in favor  of powdered milk for as long as it did if Social Media was around at that time.  Social issues are hugely predominant in Social Media as information is actively shared. The community will express itself with force.

So what do you do if you are an advertiser ? How do you promote your product/brand in a world where Social Media is exploding ?

a. You must be far more sensitive to the community. You must find ways to relate to them from within the community to understand their fears and desires.

b. Talking to communities from within the community rather than from outside as Advertising tends to do will be really important. You relate amongst the community rather than outside  it.  Those days when genius minds sat on a table churning out brilliant ideas that will take over the minds and hearts of the consumers are numbered. The new ‘advertising  genius’ is socially aware, caring, emotionally connected and active member of the community who ‘serves’ and not ‘manipulates’

c. Always be aware and sensitive to messages from the community when they are mere waves, and before they turn into tidal waves. If the community is trying to tell you something, listen. Understand.  Don’t wait for marketing feed back reports. Social Media is a great listening post, and is usually free. The advertising professional  is too used to thinking of the community as targets – target groups , target demographics etc. Communities have begun to resent being targeted.

Advertising is becoming more and more suspect in the collective mind of communities. Often with good reason. If there is to be honor in advertising, the professional must evaluate him/herself as a caring and concerned part of the well being of the community.  And act according to that.

Social Media offers huge opportunities too. Interaction with the community could help create a ‘Social Brand Identity’ which is far more powerful than just a Brand Identity. It could do more.  Active participation with the community could help product development for your client too. This is just the beginning.

I go to Cannes Lions to speak on these and other issues, and welcome comments/debates on this forum from advertising/creative professionals.

Are Cell Phone Towers ‘cooking’ us ? From Ganesh

Another subject that has been bothering me much is about the ‘Radiation Dangers’Magda Havas demonstrates how WiFi connects your laptop, iPhone and iPad to the internet via microwave radiation. You will also learn how WiFi base stations, portable phones and baby monitors constantly radiate microwave radiation. The Swiss Government feels that all of these devices have the potential to do great harm if used incorrectly and warn their citizens.

Please watch the brief youtube video on the subject:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTISuhLjgCA

This is another longer video on on Cell / Transmission Towers & Your Health:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmK6r0ntroE&feature=related

I have a Huge BSNL tower just next to my house? He has also given a portion of the building to the local BJP counselor, whose only primary motto is to distribute sarees for votes. I doubt, he himself is aware of these hazards and is even bothered about these!

I was discussing with my friend, about these huge Telephone towers found in many residential areas. It is no secret these days how harmful there towers are. My friend told me that in India they use primitive technology that radiates high radiations and are extremely dangerous for everyone, and even more specifically for pregnant woman and babies. I asked, if it is so dangerous why is the government allowing these things on? he said, the companies have invested huge monies in all these towers and unless they are able to recover their costs, they are only going to hold us on ransom. For the companies, money is important than the people. For the government, their power is important than people.

I guess, cigarate smoking is much better than these radiations (just kidding) some time back the media had some reports regarding these towers, but there was no response, and, thereafter, the media themselves forgot about all these. There are more interested in sensationalism than real welfare.

We are living in dangerous times. Where just meditation is not enough. These radiations definitely interfere with our mental energies.

I have noticed over the past 10 years how so many people, who previously had good memories have become totally forgetful and easily distracted.

Perhaps the digital age itself is partly to blame, because in these days of instant communication memory is not required as much (most of it in my experience being unnecessary chatter), but I am almost sure that the radiation from these towers is not helping matters.

I was told that some westerner brought a detector from the west and measured the output from the towers. According to the story I was told, they were either 1600 or 16,000 times the radiation level permitted in the west.

We are all being slowly cooked from the outside by the sun and the inside by the microwaves.

Can we do anything? Let us hope that it improves.

Regards
Ganesh

Thanks to you, my friend, by Eshla.

 

There are days that I wish to empty myself.  Empty myself of everything.

Of all the clutter that distorts.

 

So I can make room to breathe.

So I can make room to imagine.

So I can make room to love.

So I can make room to forgive.

So I can make room to listen,

to listen to you that is.

 

Listen

to your worries,

to your fears,

to your aspirations,

to your hopes,

to your dreams,

to your passions.

 

That way, I have little to do but be still,

be silent,

be kind,

be empathetic,

as I listen to you.

 

And in understanding you,

I become me again,

I become hopeful,

I become gentle,

I become uncluttered,

I become quiet.

 

For your wishes

are like mine.

For your dreams

are like mine.

For your fears

are like mine.

And so my hesitations are silenced.

 

I no longer wish to be empty.

Rather, I want to be drenched,

saturated,

in the beauty of life.

 

Thanks to you, my friend.

Bottled Water : Coca Cola’s conflict with Grand Canyon National Park USA

>Very inspiring and informational!! A gentle reminder that there are so many heroes like Abdul Kareem working silently towards helping mankind and mother nature.During my visit to Periyar and Eravikulam National Parks, Kerala in 2008, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were plastic free zones. Tourists weren’t allowed to bring in plastics and dispose inside parks, a feat that National Parks in USA are struggling to achieve !! Alarmed by the rise in plastic litter, the world famous Grand Canyon National Park, USA decided to ban sale of plastic water bottles inside the park last year but had to halt the decision because of the fierce resistance it met from Coca-Cola, one of the major donors to the park. The reason for Coca Cola’s resistance? Shops inside the park sold bottled water “Dasani” , a product of Coca Cola. Now given the huge popularity of the park (about 5 million people visit the park each year), loss on revenue sales from Dasani was a significant one for Coca Cola , thus triggering a red flag. Fortunately the park has overcome the obstacles now and the ban on bottled water was announced by the park authorities in February, 2012. Following the footsteps of Zion National Park, USA, Grand Canyon National Park would now have water stations inside the park and tourists are expected to refill reusable bottles.This story encourages each of us to take some baby steps towards preserving our natural resources. There was a time when I would get annoyed at my parents at their obsession towards carrying water from home when heading to railway station. I thought it was much more trendy to just buy one at the station. With time I realized how cool my parents were and how uncool I was in my approach !!

USA has safe tap water almost everywhere. Yet, why did this country become the biggest consumer of bottled water? Who brainwashed us into believing that bottled water was a need? Why didn’t we question the obvious? Bottled water poses two big menace – (1) huge wastage of resource and energy that goes into preparing one bottle. One bottle needs 3x amounts of water to prepare it (2) The plastic litter that never decomposes !! Yet why didn’t we stop it?
Now extend this to India, a country that is facing severe shortage of drinking water. Tap water at home and public places is unsafe to consume in many parts of India. Add to that the huge middle class with rising income that is willing to pay for “convenience”. A perfect breeding ground for predators !! Bottled water business is becoming one of the most attractive businesses in India, a sure shot success. As ground water continues to go down, plastic waste continues to rise. As water will become more scare, these companies would further expand, feeding on our water miseries. A chain reaction, a ticking bomb? Shudders to think!! Carry boiled/filtered water from home wherever possible. say NO to bottled water. Spread the word NOW !!
Thanks,
Shikha

Inspiring story of Abdul Kareem restoring nature’s delicate balance
Dear Shekhar,

This article found in “http://www.theweekendleader.com/Nature/248/Green-Dreams.html” may be of interest to you and the readers.

Since 1986, P Abdul Kareem lives inside a 32-acre forest, which is host to hundreds of bee-hives, snake pits and nests. Point out any wild tree to him and he comes out with its local and botanical name instantly. Of course, it’s not something one needs to be surprised about. For, Kareem is not just the owner of the forest but also its creator.

Kerala’s Forest Research Institute sends scientists to study the trees planted by him and the state’s textbook committee has introduced a chapter on this ‘man-made forest’ in the sixth standard textbook. Agricultural scientist, M S Swaminathan, who once stopped by, has been a frequent visitor ever since. And Kareem was one of the 20 persons honoured in 2009 by Limca Book of Records as “People of the Year”.

In 2005, Indian Oil Corporation released a full-page newspaper ad in its ‘India Inspired’ series, extolling Kareem’s efforts, and followed it up by gifting him a fuel station to sustain his conservation efforts. However, behind Kareem’s success lies a strong will and years of hard work, propelled by a dream. When Kareem first set his eyes on the lateritic hillside during his weekend getaways at his wife’s house in Puliyankulam, the entire stretch was barren. In 1977, he bought five acres of land with an almost non-functional well for Rs 3,750.

Next year, he planted mature saplings of wild trees, but all of them withered soon. The second attempt too was unsuccessful. However, in the third attempt, several saplings survived and started growing. In those days, Kareem used to fetch water in cans on his motorbike from a source a kilometre away – several times a day. He cared for passing birds too. He put small water-filled pots around the land to attract them. They brought in more diversity to his land, discharging varied seeds through droppings.

He planted 800 species of forest trees and 300 medicinal plants. He has never weeded his land, never cut a tree, never swept or set on fire the leaves ever since. “The most important revelation for me was the impact of humus on the hard rock. The fallen leaves form a thick layer on the rocky surface and get decomposed over the years. This accelerated the disintegration of laterite into small gravel and slowly to fine soil which in turn helps seeds spread by the insects and birds to grow roots and germinate,” he says. He kept away all fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. He dug rainwater catch pits and raised walls with boulders across the slopes in order to capture soil carried by run-off water.

Soon, the ground water rose to a comfortable level. He stepped up his efforts. Weeds grew amidst the rare herbs and medicinal plants – many not chosen by Kareem. In 1982, he bought another 27 acres of rocky land and today, “you dig five metres and you’ll get water here,” says Kareem.

With hare, fowl and other small game appearing in the forests and sack-sized beehives emerging, Kareem built his house inside the forest in 1986. From a tank in the forest, he can now pump 100,000 litres at one go and the level will bounce back in a few minutes. Today, Kareem supplies drinking water to the 100-odd families from the two wells and four ponds in his forest, situated in Puliyankulam.

Regards
Ganesh

Ads we don’t buy. Our health and self esteem is important to us !

A few days ago I started a hashtag on my twitter account  shekharkapur@twitter.  It was #adswedontbuy.  I was basically pointing out :

a. Cola’s that are draining India’s ground water to bottle and sell the water either as fizzy drinks or as bottled water. In the process farmers, to whom the ground water resources have traditionally belonged, have found their farms, and so themselves starved of water.  Communities have been destroyed. Farmers have had to give up farming to become laborers on stone crushing quarries.  Farms are sold. And farm produce goes down.

b. Packaged foods targeted at kids that contains chemicals that are bad for growth, transfats that can cause diabetes. And salt content so high that it is sure to cause you high blood pressure. India has now the highest rising incidence of juvenile diabetes. Doctors are throwing out alarming statistics on the number of kids developing diabetes at such a young age. And they are putting the blame squarely on high sugar content of fizzy drinks and colas, and high salt and transfats content on packaged foods like chips etc for kids.

Everyone knows my concerns about water issues and how we are running out of the worlds most precious resource.  But as a parent too,  I fight a running battle to stop  irresponsible advertising influencing my 11 year old daughter. As every parent does. On issues of eating high transfat/sugar/salt content food. I want her to grow up to be a healthy and happy person. Like every parent does.

So I did a hashtag on #adswedontbuy. What happened was amazing. Within an hour it was no 1 trending topic in India and stayed there for 24 hours. Concerned people came out in millions and blasted the ads. At the top was ads designed to make you lose your self worth. Like Skin fairness creams that said you could not get a job if you were not fair, or get married if you were not fair.  A close second were food ads that targeted kids.

I have no issue with commercials. In fact I have long held that some of the most creative work and edgy film making was done in commercials, especially in Europe. I have no issue with advertising. But I do feel that advertising in India needs to get a lot more responsible.

I was targeted by the Media. I was targeted by my friends, actors, film makers, senior executives Advertising firms and Brand Managers.  But I said why are they not looking at the millions of people telling them that they were upset by their ads ?  Why not ?

It then struck me !  These millions were mostly urban and those that had access to twitter. They were not the real target.

The long term  target is not urban but  the rural areas. Where the soft focus glamor commercials , or star driven commercials are hugely aspirational.  If Sharukh Khan uses skin fairness cream as a weapon of success, then surely (they think) there must be some value to that ?

Rural India is the real target. Thats the mass consumption every brand is going for.  Potentially creating a population of young people that are diabetic and diseased at a very early age, and that lack self worth because of their skin color (for no skin fairness cream lasts a long time)

And what is the Government doing as they stand by and watch big brands effecting the psyche and health of our people ? And what are the stars and cricketers doing joining in this mass exploitation ?

TV is controlled by advertising. Advertising is controlled by big brands. Many of which are targeting the health and self esteem of our kids for their profit.

Thank God for Social Media. At least we can have a common voice and have concerted action by refusing to allow our kids or friends participating in those brands.

 

Is Social Media making Nations Sates irrelevant ? The rise of Blogistan

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A female American Soldier’s letter from Afghanistan who was in Kandahar when Robert Bales killed 19 innocent civilians.

Written in response to my blog on the killings by Sgt Robert Bales and whether Afghan lives are less important than Western ones. She was in Kandahar at that time and took care of the those wounded by Sgt Robert  Bales.  Please read as there is pain, patriotism, understanding compassion  and questioning in this letter , and written from the heart in the middle of the battlefield, which is why I  am putting it up as a blog :

“The writers ( thats me) point was made very clear- and received.

As a female solider- I have another question for you-

I did take care of the wounded that survived that awful day near Kandahar (my note: when Robert Bales went on a killing spree) – but also just this week I took care of a multiple wounded from an Afghan boy about 12 years old that walked into a military collation formation with a suicide vest on and detonated himself…
What was is name? Does anyone know?  No I do not- but where is the media of that coverage of carnage over here, near Kandahar? Or in the States. I see many Afghan wounded ANA, ANP that we take care of- and no mention of our medical service- we did not shoot them- they were shot by their Afghan brothers. Again where is that in the media?

How did that boy mentioned above get that suicide vest?  If it wasn’t from an adult Afghan male to serve a purpose? Death is never justified.  Definitely not to use the innocent as an explosive device.

Media will always be one sided… but understand- there are plenty of Americans being killed- from trusting their “afghan counterparts” and the children that we try to teach and give supplies to- where is that story? I spent a year up North embedded with the Afghans as well prior to this deployment- I have had to put my trust in them as I worked with them- solider to solider- but even their lives were threatened for wanting us to help them.

No life is better than the other- just different. Many Americans have been beheaded and placed on display on Al Jazeera TV as justified killings- no one side is perfect or with out blame in this war.”

 

The Great ‘Who Me ?’ Dancing Master.

Early every morning all the Jungle would wake up to the distant wail

‘whooooooooo meeeeeeee ? ‘whooooooo meeeee’ ?

It was time for the great dance to begin. The wind would whip up to the call of “Whooooooo Meeeeee” and the trees would begin to sway to the opening rhythms of the  thundering tapping of the animals on the ground, to the chattering of the monkeys, the twittering of the birds and the rustling of the leaves. Then as the sun’s rays would emerge from behind the great mountain, it was time to stop the dance. And yet a great wail would come from somewhere in the mountain

“Whoooooooo Meeeeeeeeeee ? Whoooooooooo Meeeeeeeeeeee ?

It was then time for the creatures to go about their daily business. The earthworms that were out all night would see this call as the time to scurry home and burrow into safety, as this was just the time the birds would wake up hungry, and even the little sparrows would look for a delicious breakfast of a slower than normal baby worm. Animals would go around searching for food, mothers would protect and feed their babies, young baboons would show off and fight over pretty young things showing more of their red parts than they ought to, often admonished by their mother’s saying ‘ stand up straight, you little hussy !’

As the afternoon set in came the ‘happy hour’, where the animals would joyfully go to the great Watering Hole. The centre of gossip where no animals were allowed to kill each other, but just drink the cool water and trade gossip. The monkeys were the greatest gossips of all, followed closely by the twitterati of the Robins and other birds. They would tell stories to each other, but non was more hotly debated than the the story of the Great ‘Who – Me’ Master.

It is said that The Who-Me? Master was once the greatest of all Dancing Masters. It was said that He was the most beautiful of all creatures. A Pelican radiating with the brilliance of every possible color. It is said that when The Great Master would dance, his wings would spread out as if an embrace of nature itself. A dance worthy of worship. After all the Great Dance between the animals, the birds and the trees and the wind was what kept Nature in balance. It’s what kept the Jungle alive.

The jungle needed a Dancing Master. The great teacher. For  how else would the animals teach their young that the The Great Dance was what kept the Jungle going and growing?  Without the great dance the winter would not turn into summer. The great migratory birds would not arrive with their fresh gossip from other lands. The young female baboons would not feel the urge to love and elope with the young strutty male. The summer would not turn into spring. The joy of a new leaf replacing one that fell in autumn would turn to grief rather than a celebration.

And yet since the “The Great Who Me Master’ went, the whole jungle was no longer dancing in unison. There was disharmony creeping in as the young un’s would not find an inspiration, someone to follow to dance. And without the great dance, the jungle would wither away.

The Master was once merely called just ” The Dancing Master”. But one day the Master forgot how to dance. No one knew why. Least of all The Great Dancing Master himself. Tried as he might, he did not, could not , get one step in harmony with another. He lost his smile , his radiance, and looked around and said

” If I cannot dance, then Who Me ?”

The black twaterring Monkeys with their spidery claws and quick staccato speech caught in an alphabet of 140 letters revelled in it. For they were the only creatures that did not dance. They did not nurture the forest. They were the scavengers. They stole the eggs of the young mothers and would watch with glee at her agony. They plucked the little saplings that even hungry baby birds knew to leave alone. For without nurturing birth the cycle of life and nature would cease. The Great Dance would come to an end. They were bad. And they did worse. They got the the Great Master addicted to their wicked brew. What they themselves survived on.

And so, gradually the Great Master lost everything. Filled with the poison brew. Flopping around in his once beautiful Pelican Body, he forgot who he was, what his purpose on Earth was. So all he would do is moan all day and night ‘ Who Me’ ?

Finally one day, The Great Master just disappeared. and no one ever saw him again. Yet every morning and every night before the jungle went to sleep, there was this great moan that spread from the mountain, across the red sky , through the shivering fearful leaves ..

Whooooooooooooo Meeeeeeeee ?