Archive for April, 2009

Indian Elections

Posted in Culture, The Truth Is Out There on 30/04/2009 by nicka77

It is by total chance that I am in Mumbai during the Indian elections, and it is understandably dominating the news (superceded only by the ubiquitous IPL). Today has been Mumbai’s chance to vote, and the streets have been eerily quiet in comparison to the anarchy that I have experienced over the last few days.

I have been trying to get my head round the enormity and complexity of these elections, and had given up the ghost until I bought a copy of The Economist, who have cleared it up for me.

Just check out these staggering figures:

“The scale is mindboggling. It will spread over 5 stages, taking 4 weeks and involving 6.5m staff. In 543 constituencies, 4,617 candidates, representing some 300 parties, will compete for the ballots of an electorate of 714m voters.”

That goes some way to explaining why I was completely and utterly confused by the daily reports in the regular newspapers. The next comments, also from The Economist, go some way to explaining the problems that India has in shaking off the chains of feudalism, religious extremism, intimidation and corruption, even as it powers forward to become a global superpower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These comments relate to Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s largest state and one of the key political battlegrounds in these elections:

“Eastern UP, a poor caste-divided and gangster-ridden region, shows Indian democracy at its seamiest. In the 16 regional constintuencies that polled this week, 272 candidates contested, of whom 17% had criminal records. The BSP’s, SP’s and BJP’s (3 of the biggest parties in India) were the most criminal: 44% of their candidates were tainted.”

“The BSP also had the distinction of fielding a famous alleged gangster, Mukhtar Ansari, who stood whilst in a prison cell, awaiting trial for the murder of a BJP lawmaker.

“A nearby BSP candidate and alleged gangster, Dhananjay Singh, got into hot water this week when he was accused of murdering a rival candidate, Bahadur Sonkar, who was found hanging from an acacia tree on April 13th (Mr Singh, incidentally, is a high-caste Hindu, while Mr Sonkar was a dalit).”

“Among the main parties, Congress (who are currently in power) had the cleanest contestants in UP. Only 25% were criminals.”

This seems quite astonishing to me, but is obviously commonplace within Indian politics. There has been no mention of this in any of the newspapers I have read.

From further reading, I have become aware that the burgeoning middle class in India simply wash their hands of Indian politics due to the inherent corruption and feudalism at its heart. This leads to most of the 300 parties focusing on rural and regional issues, rather than national policies, in order to win votes from the poorer sections of the population.

Another factor to consider is that, because there are so many parties, no one party has any chance of achieving a majority, and what follows the ballots is a melee of unseemly trading and deal-making, leading to unwieldy governing coalitions that will rule the country with timidity and impotence.

Check out the articles from The Economist here (leader) and here (special report).

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Mumbai – next impressions

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 28/04/2009 by nicka77

Having had the chance today to travel beyond the tourist zones of Colaba & Fort to spend some time in the business district of Parel, I can see even more clearly the dichotomy of Mumbai.

Towering office blocks of chrome and glass encased in highly policed compounds house multi-million dollar business empires, while street traders and children haggle their wares in shacks of rotting wood and corrugated iron on the crumbling pavements outside.

There is still a surprising lack of any Western influence, and I am obviously a novelty to many of the people I pass as I walk around both inside and outside the gated business areas. And this just confirms my view that the entrepreneurial spirit and success of India is indeed wholly Indian born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I am a strange figure to many of the people I pass on the street, and am acutely aware of dozens of pairs of eyes watching me intently everywhere I go, the people of Mumbai are incredibly friendly. People are constantly coming up to me to chat, or wave and say hello, or offer help and assistance if I look even remotely lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had many people coming up to me to ask me where I’m from, and on hearing London will talk animatedly about cricket, or that a friend of theirs is working in Europe, or that they are studying for an MBA and hope to one day work in London. I had one man run up to me, asking me questions about Aberdeen because he was going to work at a solicitors there.

The overwhelming sense of acceptance and friendship is not something I had expected, but that is almost certainly due to my own prejudices and stereotypes, and indeed due to coming from a city that is famously un-welcoming to strangers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cab drivers have all been incredibly interested to find out more about who I am, and always ask for my opinions on the elections, the IPL, the terrorist attacks, and indeed of Mumbai and India overall. They ask all these questions, watching me intently in the mirror, whilst driving through seemingly packed traffic at breakneck speeds, a hand constantly on the horn, barely missing cyclists, pedestrians, motorbikes and other taxis. It’s a miracle that I haven’t been involved in anything more serious than a couple of clipped cyclists.

I also love the fact that the Routemaster is very much alive and well in Mumbai. They are sorely missed in London, so it’s heartwarming that they play such an important role in transporting thousands of working men across this sprawling city every day.

The longer I’m in Mumbai, the more I grow to love the riot of colour, chaos and camaraderie that explodes from every street corner. This is a city that inspires and reinvigorates, overwhelming and energizing the senses everywhere you look.

‘Lead India’ – The Times of India / JWT

Posted in #worldview, Advertising, Brand, Culture, Marketing on 27/04/2009 by nicka77

This is a campaign developed by JWT India for The Times of India that won a Grand Prix at Cannes in 2008.

I have to say that Lead India is a phenomenal piece of marketing that is touching, poignant and inspirational, as well as achieving the aim of driving mass engagement and participation across a huge cross-section of the Indian population.

The campaign celebrated India’s 60th anniversary as a democracy, and utilised every channel to deliver a truly integrated, interactive experience for the many, many Indians who got involved. It also achieved the aim of generating awareness country-wide and reached every one of India’s 1 billion citizens in one way or another.

 

The Lead India campaign asked every Indian what they would do if they could lead the country, and then created an architecture around the idea including town hall meetings, online applications, video upload sites, SMS voting, reality TV shows, celebrity and political endorsement, and traditional TV & Print executions. This architecture enabled mass participation, and 34,000 Indians actually entered the race to be able to stand in the general elections of 2007, with one winner finally being chosen by the public from a final selection of 8 candidates.

This campaign is a benchmark for truly great marketing, and it’s well worth watching the attached video.

By watching the video, you not only learn about the campaign, but you will also get an understanding of some of the tensions that exist in modern India, a nation that is growing exponentially as a global powerhouse, and has a thriving commercial heartbeat, but that in democratic terms is still young, and continues to experience the pains of adolescence.

#worldview_newyork

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Economics, Travel on 26/04/2009 by nicka77

This is all a bit ‘arse about face’ as I’m currently in Mumbai, but here’s a post about my trip to New York a few weeks ago.

I’ve pulled together a short film using some of the pics and vids I took during my visit to the big apple, and below have written a few words about my experience of the great city during this period of severe economic turmoil.

 

The atmosphere in the fabulous, diverse metropolis of New York had changed markedly since last time I was here, barely a year ago. The mood was darker, the streets more sombre. There’s still the hustle and vibrancy and dynamism of the city I know and love, but the recession has definitely taken – and continues to take – it’s toll.

The newspapers and TV stations were full of angst and vitriol, much as they are in the UK. The front page of the New York Times was running a story about the tent cities springing up across the USA as more and more people lose their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Announcements of a 6.3% reduction in GDP from the last quarter of 2008, the fastest decline in the US economy since 1982, flashed across the bottom of the screen on every news channel every 30 seconds. The Barclay’s logo swept across the digital signage of what used to be the Lehman Brothers building, sending a chilling and symbolic message across the neon diorama of Times Square.

Obama’s new administration continues to push through stringent regulations on the very financial system that has brought unprecedented wealth to America, in order to prevent the kind of systemic risk-taking that has brought the global economy to its knees. But the very concept of Government intervention and regulation is anathema to an America that has grown exponentially under the free market ideology of Milton Friedman. And one could sense that there is a deep concern that it will no longer be the land of possibility it once was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the feelgood factor from Obama’s election victory seemed to be wearing thin – only 66 days into his Presidency – as journalists began to snipe at his perceived fetish for media exposure (an appearance on the Jay Leno show; the cancelling of American Idol to address the nation), and pounce on his errors of judgement, such as his unfortunate comment whilst on Jay Leno about disabled athletes.

And all of this amidst the glare of being the most important man in the world at a time of unprecedented economic challenges, with politicians from both sides of the bench questioning and belittling his proposed $3 trillion bailout package. The G20 summit in London a couple of weeks ago may have been a success, but domestically Obama is under extreme pressure to turn the economy around and lift America back onto a positive footing.

I absolutely love New York, and have no doubt that it will be at the forefront of America’s surge back to growth, but times are tough right now and NY is feeling the heat.

 

Mumbai – first impressions

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 25/04/2009 by nicka77

Mumbai is a heaving, thriving, chaotic mass of dynamism and vibrancy, colour and commerce, ostentatious wealth and abject poverty. The streets teem with soon-to-be millionaires selling everything under the sun.

I’ve only been here for 2 days but the city oozes business and prosperity, and everyone wants a part of it. From the fruit juice sellers on the corners, to the silk shops in Colaba Causeway, to the high-powered businessmen striding purposefully through the teeming crowds, the sense of possibility and opportunity is almost as overpowering as the oppressive heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mumbai wears its capitalism on its sleeve and, as the financial heartbeat of one of the world’s fastest growing economies, it stands tall and proud as a global centre.

The flip side is that there is incredible poverty here. There were literally hundreds of men, women and children sleeping on the streets on my short walk back from Colaba to my hotel in Fort last night. And I was dumbfounded by the immeasurably vast, sprawling slum cities that I flew over yesterday when coming into land at Mumbai airport.

This city is one of extreme contrasts, from the slick high-end bars, hotels and restaurants to the children begging for food outside their gold-plated doors.

There is virtually no Western presence, as far as I have seen, other than at the infamous Leopolds bar, which is a magnet for travellers and visiting businessmen alike. I have to say, the place serves good food (especially the sweet and spicy prawns) and the doorman was proud to show off the bullet-holes from the recent terrorist attacks. Absolutely brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the most impressive buildings in the city are from the colonialist era, and it was throughout that period that the roots of Bombay’s commercial focus was borne. The East India Company leased the area from the British Government in 1668 for the princely sum of £10 per year, and the place became a thriving port, importing and mainly exporting goods to and from the West.

Two hundred years later, during the American Civil War, the population sprouted exponentially, when Bombay became the principal supplier of cotton to the British. Mumbai has never looked back.

Interestingly, as opposed to other burgeoning global economic hubs, Mumbai has been built from purely indigenous roots. Indian endeavour, intelligence and creativity have made the world sit up and take notice.

There have been dark times for sure. The bitter rivalries between Hindus, Muslims, and Maharashtrans has led to rioting and bombings throughout the recent past, and of course the most recent terrorist strike that is purported to have emanated from Pakistan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, the city is still gripped by those shocking terrorist attacks that happened barely 2 months ago, and there is a very noticeable security presence on the streets, in the banks, in the bars and restaurants, in the shops, and in the markets. People are obviously very wary of the threat, especially now with the hugely important national elections literally a few short days away.

This is a city on high alert, and my attempts to get a pre-paid sim for my time in India have been thwarted by the increased security measures. Because I can’t prove residency, or persuade my hotel to write a letter for me stating that they have no objections to me having a phone, I am still without phone and will have to make do with email and twitter for the time being.

I didn’t even try to take any pictures in the train station, where the security is particularly fierce, which is a pity because it is a sight to behold… a wonderful cacophony of chattering, singing, commerce and brashness, all to the backdrop of antiquated trains spilling thousands upon thousands of commuters into the city for another days toil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a couple more days in Mumbai before I head to Goa, and I’ve set up a few meetings as part of the #worldview project. Fingers crossed that those meetings go well, and I’ll be up and running on Campaign’s blog in the very near future.

Check out the pictures on my flickrstream. The colour and dynamism of Mumbai literally jumps out of every shot (despite my ropey photographic skills). 

Tweetle-dum and Tweetle-di

Posted in Digital, Social Media on 24/04/2009 by nicka77

It’s been confirmed as the new vogue – the twitterati are here to stay!!

The microblogging masses are taking over the world and tweeting like canaries on heat… figures recently announced show that worldwide visitors to Twitter.com increased 95 percent in the month of March from 9.8 million to 19.1 million… impressive figures no doubt.

This is the start of their mainstream growth spurt a la Facebook, My Space et al… So you can bet your bottom dollar that an exorbitant $billion figure will come floating over from a Google, Yahoo or Microsoft in the near future…. all before any tangible revenue model has been established of course… that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

#worldview_prologue

Posted in #worldview, Advertising, Brand, Culture, Digital, Economics, Inspirational People, Marketing, Social Media, Technology, Travel on 22/04/2009 by nicka77

It is now less than 24 hours before I get on a flight to Mumbai, and begin what promises to be the adventure of a lifetime.

After some last minute technical emergencies with the mac, I think I’m finally ready to leave sunny London to embark on an adventure that will take in India, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Brazil. 

The trip could take anywhere between 3 and 12 months, depending on a variety of factors – but the main aim from my perspective is to get out there, have fun, immerse myself in alien cultures, and have a phenomenal life-changing experience.

But it’s not all about play (although there’ll be plenty) – there is a business angle to this trip as well.

I’ll be meeting a wide variety of people from the world of advertising and marketing, asking for their opinions and perspectives on some of the big questions facing the industry today. It seems like an apt time to be undertaking this type of project, with the twin towers of technological innovation and global recession combining to create an era of unprecedented change.

The blog you are reading now will predominantly be for my personal experiences of the trip, and there will be plenty of photos, videos and anecdotes from my journey. I’ll also be on twitter (@nicka77 or search #worldview), and will be geo-tagging photos and videos on my flickrstream as I go.

The opinion pieces on how the industry is changing will be featured on campaignlive.com, and the idea for the #worldview project is to explore the global themes i am focusing on through a plethora of local and regional lenses.

Although Mumbai is the first stop on the world tour, in reality the #worldview project started a couple of weeks ago when I went to New York.

I was able to discuss how advertising and marketing is changing both globally and within America with Bob Greenberg & Chris Colborn at R/GA, Bob Jeffrey at JWT, and Mark Wnek at Lowe. The guys gave me some fantastic insights, and I’ll be talking about the conversations we had over the coming weeks and months, comparing and contrasting their perspectives on the industry with opinions from the countries I’ll be visiting.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve also spoken to a number of people in London to get some great (and varied) perspectives on the shape of the industry, both in the UK and worldwide. Again, i’ll be referencing those discussions in forthcoming posts.

I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks to everyone who has found the time to talk to me so far, and who has helped to kick start the project in its embryonic stage. 

Now the project is about to begin for real.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I do.

N