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Cool Bihari: November 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Relaunching The Brand :Bihar

Hey folks,

Just came across this article on Bihar titled "Relaunching Bihar" in Indian Express by Rama Bijapurkar an IIM alumni and one of the most respected market strategy consultant .Its amazing the kind of article's people are writing about Bihar.Sometime back I remember we discussed the same topic in details.

Here's a snapshot: I remember a discussion a few years ago at a strategic planning session of a multinational consumer goods company on how people of India were changing. Lots was said about the positive effects of liberalisation and all its spin-off effects, on the attitudes of the people of India.

Until someone suddenly broke the spell by asking, “If all this is true, then why do millions of people vote for Laloo in Bihar? Do we even know for sure?”

A journalist friend of mine witnessed one of his earlier election rallies, and said it was a bizarre combination of a mega rock concert ambience and shockingly poor illiterate people who comprised the audience. Why then, asked the expat, do so many millions of people vote him, in the progressive and rapidly progressing India that you have just described?

Total silence for a while. Because the Laloo brand, said one person, is about giving identity to an underclass that has been exploited by the upper class forever. It is a brand that emerged to innovatively serve the needs of a post-Mandal society in a state that was the most deeply impacted by virtue of its caste demography and caste history.

A qualitative researcher said, “Because he tells the poor that it’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to come riding on your cow, carrying your spittoon, you don’t have to strive to be like Them.” The sales manager explained: “Laloo created bonding through innovative rituals like the ‘chhat’ festival, making it to Bihar what Ganapati is to Maharashtra; a ritual that even the Shiv Sena borrowed to serve its Bihari migrant votebank, with a mega-event at Juhu beach earlier this year!” A media researcher said, “because they only have 20 per cent reach of television in Bihar, far lower than any other state”, so they don’t know any better about the world outside. “Because they are Biharis,” said someone else, and clinched the argument.

But what of the Bihar and the Bihari brand? The Bihar brand was, till today, perceived as a blot on the New Indian landscape. Perceived as a place that was stuck in a time warp, a bullock cart in a world of cars and jet planes, a jungle of lawlessness where power came from the barrel of the goonda’s gun, and a land which was the feudal fiefdom of a ruthless and eccentric raja, lording it over his half-starved, uneducated, 80 million-plus people. What was worse was that this eccentric raja was repeatedly being elected back by his subjects, who seemed to want to be trampled all over.

But some people were quick to point out, that the “wanting to be trampled all over” view is an uninformed, elitist, chattering view. That in reality, Bihar was the land of the brave that chose, as NDTV said yesterday, perhaps dignity over development. Somehow, when you look at all economic and human development metrics of Bihar, this view is a bit hollow — where’s the dignity? Also when you see all the migrants from Bihar, it appears that it is defeatism rather than dignity that was the hallmark of the brand.

In the past two days I have read and heard a totally different view of the image people seem to have of Brand Bihar. It has become a re-launched, new improved Bihar. It is seen to be someone who after many years is stirring to life, has shaken off its shackles, woken up from its deep hibernation, and decided to join the rest of India. One of the key shifts we have been seeing in the rest of India, post-liberalisation, is the shift from “demanding social justice” to “grabbing economic opportunity”.

It is the shift best epitomised by Amitabh Bachchan. The shift from fighting for the social justice underdog in Deewar and Coolie to grabbing the economic opportunity of Kaun Banega Crorepati.
Frankly, consumer marketers are relieved. If aspiration for a better life can triumph over everything else even in Bihar, then we know that this brand is in sync with the rest of Consumer India, and there’s no looking back on the onward march to deepening consumption.

The safety perception of Brand Bihar has just gone up several notches. If bijli, sadak, paani, padhai, vikas and governance are what people want here too, and not caste-based revenge as in “an eye for a past eye”, then the Bihar brand is not an unpredictable time bomb that could blow up in the face of the rest of India at any time, but a regular guy, who is wanting to do what regular guys do to improve their lot in life.

However before we bring out the champagne and look forward to the Bengal elections, there is this nagging feeling in some of our minds: is this just another trick of electoral arithmetic and split votes? Of upper classes revenging themselves by voting out the patron saint of the lower classes? To borrow a line from an Indian Express editorial, has Bihar truly cast its vote or is this version 2.0 of the state voting its caste? Either way, there is a window of opportunity and I hope we seize it and make our early impressions of a New improved Bihar a reality.

Dont forget to read the complete article .Here's the link

Monday, November 28, 2005

Controversy refuses to die down

Even after two years of his death Satendra's dubey brutal murder refuses to shun controversy.Today's TOI has a report on the input which Dubey has given on the ongoing NHAI projects.Here's a brief of the TOI report.

In his confidential letter addressed to the then PM, Dubey narrated in detail the ongoing corruption and the modus operandi of the scamsters. Dubey also pointed out the shortcomings of the road designs and questioned the credentials of the consultants engaged by the construction companies.

He wanted corrective steps to be taken. One of the most shocking disclosures made by Dubey pertained to the alleged fraud and manipulation in the laboratory where the quality of materials is tested and compared with project specifications.In one of his official reports, Dubey narrated in detail how a sample sent for testing was changed inside the laboratory to cover up the misdeeds of the project executors.

According to Dubey's complaint, NHAI officials showed hurry in the payment of mobilisation advance to the contractors, which, in some cases went upto Rs 40 crore and the contractors misuse the advances and the indulgent officials look the other way.

Taking a cue from Dubey, some activists made a written complaint a few weeks back to the chairman of the National Highway Authority of India, alleging sub-standard materials were being used in road construction and technical specifications are being violated with impunity.

To read the complete report click here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

End of Innocence

The brutal murder of IIM Luckhnow graduate S Manjunath, on November 19 is one of the most shocking incidents. Incidents like these shake the conscious of the humanity and raise some fundamental issues about the subject of governance and administration in small cities and villages. The fact that we are proud of the great strides made in all sphere of our lives gets belittled by such outrageous incidents.

One can imagine the inner struggle the man must be going through when he had to fight against all the odds to do his duty. Imagine folks a man just out IIM's one of the world's most respected management institutions decides to serve in a PSU and do some good for his country, but alas his hopes, aspirations and dream are throttled by the realities of our times.

Perhaps the deep rooted nexus of criminals, businessman, politicians and some unscrupulous officers has been exposed by such dastardly acts. Incidents like this must be condemned in strongest possible words as well as action.

Here’s what the media had to say about this.

Anger and frustration were the two overriding emotions at the meeting of 100-odd Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officials held today, in the wake of the murder of S Manjunath — their area sales manager in Lakhimpur Kheri district. ‘‘When a driver is killed the Prime Minister reacts and the issue is taken up with the Afghan authorities. Here, an IOC official has been murdered but there has been no reaction from the Union Government, not even from the Petroleum Ministry,’’ they pointed out.

“Around 300 students of IIM-L today assembled at the convocation hall for a condolence meeting. Later in the evening, the students took out a silent candlelight procession in the campus. Manjunath, who graduated from IIM-L in 2003 and was working as a sales manager with the IOC, was killed on the night of November 19, just days after he had sealed petrol pump in Lakhimpur Kheri district.
To read more click here and here.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Judgment Day:Democracy strikes back

Hey Folks,

Just can't resist the temptation to share some thoughts on the election results of the Bihar elections. Well let me tell you one thing people all over the country sit back and listen whenever it comes to Bihar elections. The only difference between the elections till now and this time elections was that it was different in all aspects. Well the difference is also to be seen in the final outcome of polls.

I was watching a popular news channel on which a particular comment by a lady on being asked about the likely state of affairs in Bihar after elections really gave me a cool smile. Her punch line was "Since Laloo is in a dock Bihar's gonna Rock”. Man this was a cool sound bite for sure.

Well now that we are going to see change of guards are we also going to see some real time action? Let’s just hope for the best as we have been doing .But one good the results have shown is the fact that our citizens can not be taken for a ride every time on the basis of caste and religion.

I guess the results are going to have a far reaching impact on common's man psychology and popular perception about Bihar as a State and Biharis in general.

The second pertinent outcome of this election is that the status quo is gone. This means the political situation will remain fluid and the common man will have a greater say on the state of affairs. If things can change after 15 years I am sure people can calculate 5 yrs is good enough probation period.

Lets just hope for the best....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Time for Action

Hey Team,I am back after a long break to my fav. group.Hope you guys had a wonderful festive time.God I missed Patna Like Hell.....
Well this whole month of Oct. and Nov. till date I have been moving from 1 place 2 another.
Here's a summary guys "Patna 2 delhi 2 bangalore 2 Mysore back 2 bangalore 2 chennai Back 2 bangalore and now finally back 2 mysore.
Well the journeys have been eventful to say the least.I more I travel the more I long for Bihar and feel sorry for the unfortunate citizens of the state who suffer for no crime of their own.
I missed keying my thoughts like hell and the events happening on the group really makes me feel happy to know that despite the gloom their is a glimer of hope.Let carry the torch ahead and try and make things better.Once I settle down i plan to draw some action plan for the group.
Well lets capture some of the events which happened in last few weeks on the group.
First I would like to welcome our new member Pankaj.Here's what he had to say in his maiden message.
"This is a nice way to get in touch with those bihari guys who want to share their experiences.
Hey first let me introduce myself to all of you.

I am Pankaj Singh ,did my mba from welingkar, mumbai and right now Managing Director of my own company in Patna.

My aim is to make bihar a industrial state, a develop state. and this is 1 of the reason that I came back to patna. I know this is a tough task but anyone who is tough and dedicated can take this initiatives and i know this initiatives may motivate others.
Neeraj replied"Hi Pankaj:

Its a real good thought.Bihar has to develop.It's great that DESPITE BEING AN MBA, you came back to patna.I have the same kind of dream and for once, I feel that I am not irrational in thinking that.

By the way whats your busiess and where is your office.Possibly we can meet when I come to Patna in December.May be I can benefit from yours real life experience about doing business in Bihar and have my resolve strengthened.

Neeraj Kumar
Batch of 2006.
I guess Rajat's comment on his blog has invited some real good views.
Well I agree with Rajat that things have gone worst in some areas.We have discussed several times reasons for this and I guess the debate is unending.I have a final take on this
Guys don't loose hope look at Pankaj's views and Neeraj's views I guess we need just a single saviour .Just be an optimist things can only change for better.
In my next posting I hope to address the matter in detail till then stay COOL Guys.

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  • I'm Ajit Chouhan
  • From Houston, TX, United States
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