Category Archives: ON PURPOSE

The Myth That Is Freedom

As I grew up, I started looking back at history as a map of events, a process, that involved different stages that have led to the present. The specific days did not really matter. I celebrated the stories. I celebrated every event in the thread of events.

The country celebrated its 73rd Independence Day recently. We, being a part of an industry that thrives on capturing the mainstream, processing it, and narrating it through our stories, and constantly working to find a way out of it, were surrounded by bold messages of freedom.

Being the ones telling the stories, we need to be reminded that we also hold the power to change them. We hold the pens. We are on the screens, and screens are everywhere. Even if we don’t believe in the days, we are a part of the celebrations. These are complex times, and the narratives are complex too, and it is almost impossible to know which two stories are connected (or is it just one, big story?). This would certainly mean that we are very near to the truth, even if we don’t have the eye to identify it.

In this overflow of narratives, how do we make sense of the days we are celebrating? How do we make them a part of our journey and not let go of what could be an important piece of our own puzzle? How do we write our own stories of freedom?

Here, let me point you to what I believe is the beauty of the work we do. It is that the ambit to know, understand and acquire is endless, and we have access to all of it. We are not confined by specialisations, if we do not wish to be. We can create our own definitions. We create our own stories.

So, before you start “celebrating,” give yourself a little time to think about what these days really mean to you, what freedom truly means to you. To think about how free you truly are from your own biases, and what you’re doing to overcome them. Remember, this is not a script. This is about reflecting at the narratives your minds consciously or unconsciously chose to stick to while creating elaborate brand stories.

Freedom to me is freedom from archetypes, freedom from dated, stone cold methods that refuse to die, the ones that prevent new learning.

What about you?

Why the Renewables Industry Needs PR

Climate change is real. We have ample evidence to suggest this. It is mind-boggling though, that some people are still questioning the authenticity of climate change and backing out of climate agreements!

We live in a world where it is getting easier by the day to manufacture truth, most palatable to you, but even the manufactured truth can’t refute the hardcore scientific facts that point to climate change. It is time for action, time to shift to a sustainable way of living. And when we think sustainable, one of the foremost answers is a shift to renewable energy.

As the fossil fuel reserves rapidly dwindle and demand for fuel grows; renewable energy becomes the obvious solution. Renewable energy forms like wind, solar, hydropower etc.  cause little or no pollution and hold the key to a sustainable, energy secure future. Not to mention their longevity and availability, across the globe, unlike fossil fuels which are concentrated in certain regions, makes for a viable solution.

The renewable energy industry while in its nascent stages is growing rapidly. With India’s push towards sustainable development, renewables are now a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels. And, like any other industry starting out, it needs a case built for it. Here lies the opportunity for the communications industry.

With climate change growing worse by the minute and the push for sustainable development, there is a dire need to build awareness for and educate more and more people about the renewable industry. In addition to the most obvious, environmental benefits, renewables offer energy security and economic opportunity.

Renewable energy is being recognised as an investment opportunity that provides economic advantages, propels local economy and creates significant job opportunities. Not to mention the resultant innovation that will restructure energy markets.

As communications professionals, it is a great opportunity for us to be able to see an industry built from scratch, internalise and imbibe it, and become ambassadors for it. Only then can we work to educate others. While a niche industry right now, it offers great opportunities for the communications industry to explore perspectives, opinions, evaluate facts and help shape the future of renewables in India.

Why We Love Music In Films

“Is it a film or a musical?” My friend from New York asked me, amused as we left the movie hall after a 2 hour and 35-minute-long movie. Unlike in the west, in India we’ve rarely separated one from the other. Music and dance have always been an integral part of Bollywood, providing creative expression to our identity and sense of being. The words stay with us longer when put together in beautiful lyrics and good music.

In India, we have songs for weddings, baby showers, child birth and even death. It helps us capture the transient nature of our lives and give expression to our feelings of love, loss and joy. Music allows us to be more present and relate with our emotion completely. Our ancestors also chose the medium of music to pass on folklore and ancient wisdom down to generations. Clearly, they were well versed with human psychology and understood music’s role as a compelling form of communication.

Our first documented relationship with music dates back to 2nd century B.C when the ‘Natyashastra’ was written. The text consists of 36 chapters with a cumulative total of 6000 poetic verses describing performance arts. The Shashtra asserts that the primary goal of the performing arts, with music being key, is to transport the individual in the audience into a parallel reality, full of wonder, where they experience their consciousness in every part of their being.

Today, a number of films in Indian cinema are remembered more for songs than their storylines. Alam Ara, the first Indian film with sound and music had 7 songs dedicated to love, vengeance, separation and union. The film’s music had a spellbinding effect on its viewers with its relatable Urdu couplets, used widely among masses in pre-independence era.

Barsaat (1949), Bobby (1973), Aashiqui (1990), Komaram Puli (2010) are some of the top grossing Indian albums of all time. These films couldn’t have had a solid opening week without their music. In a time when films would reap in revenues in the excess of lakhs, Aashiqui’s music revenue topped 1.5 crores.

Music marked the various milestones at different points in the history of Indian cinema. Jatin Lalit’s Pehla Nasha defined the innocent ’90s, with Aamir Khan’s dreamy, slow-motion leap in the air amid picturesque hills, Lalit’s melody and Udit Narayan’s velvety voice. Just like the movie, there was something fresh about the soundtrack of Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It was Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy at the top of their game. Emosanal Attyachar became the new cool for the young people. The composers won a National Award for the strikingly original Dev D album (2009). Tum Hi Ho, the haunting love ballad from Aashiqui 2 (2013), turned Arijit Singh into a phenomenon that still hasn’t ended.

The allure of songs is indeed infectious and hard to resist.

While the music in Indian films is evolving in fascinating ways, it will continue to play a disproportionate role in defining and redefining Hindi cinema.

The Chilly Winter Special: India’s sordid relationship with Political Consciousness

Politically charged discussions abound in all corners. Everyone is glued to their TVs to finally concur if the exit polls matched with the actual result. Some bets are won, others feel forlorn and dejected.

By now you would have realized that it’s that time again when promises will be made in abundance, freebies will be distributed far and wide and all kinds strict oaths will be undertaken to ensure the ‘common welfare of all the people.’

The politics of consciousness refers to the idea of a person who is self-aware.We have got to continually engage with politics in our often-limited capacities. Being cynical or indifferent to the idea only adds to the problem. We understand that it’s easier said than done because of the bad name and colour that the word ‘politics’ has acquired over the years. We can blame the politicians, corrupt officers and even the justice/ judicial system but that is exactly where our job begins, not ends. Because politics affects us and it takes consistent efforts on a societal basis to affect any positive change.

The essence of a democracy is in understanding, analysing, criticising and reacting to issues. We need to account for the fact that politicians are elected representatives, that we chose to elect them and they are an extension of the society we all are a part of. We’ve got to live up to the fact that we are the world’s largest democracy. Let’s show the world what we’ve got, people! Because it doesn’t matter how many slaps/ abuses/ insults we throw at our representatives but rather if we made honest efforts in fully engaging with the system.

Also, don’t forget to vote this election. Make an informed choice and all the best!

Yours for the revolution,

Karan Kampani

Make the Business Purposeful, The Brand will Follow

Bangalore, Dec 4, 2017

I was fortunate to attend #e4mSouthConclave, the first of e4m’s flagship events in Bangalore and was impressed with the quality of speakers and the well curated event. Given the theme, “How to Make Brands Purposeful” I couldn’t miss it.

Here are my three key takeaways:

1. Great brands solve problems: Mathew Chandy, MD of Duroflex, a mattress company, while deflecting a tough question on ‘What keeps you awake at night’ answered, “Whether sleep will someday become irrelevant.” He then went on to describe the importance of a good night’s sleep and its effect on how we see our lives and impact those of people around us. That’s purpose. It doesn’t have to be complex, overly clever or elusive. Plain and simple will do as long as it responds to our emotional needs as much as our functional ones. Mathew also used cats and the Simpsons in his slides. Bonus points for Mathew.

2. Make the business purposeful, the brand will follow: There are two types of organisations – ones that are business driven and the others that exist to fulfil a role in our lives, beyond the business of wealth creation. When organisations are built around a central principle and have a clear reason to exist, they set a firm foundation for growth – one that is sustainable and scalable. In these instances, brand purpose is central to the business model of the organization and drives a vision that brings people together around shared beliefs. In other instances, when brand purpose is identified as a marketing tactic to tick a box or send a one-off message and create some fuzzy good-will, it back-fires with irreplaceable damage to the brand.

In his talk on ‘Humanising Brands’ Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Group delivered a single case study on Amul, its origin as a business, its journey as a brand and role in the lives of farmer communities and the many billions of us who use its products today. Dr.Kurien, the brand’s founder has always been a legend in Indian business case studies. What Shashi also shared was how the company has had a steady relationship with its advertising partner for more than 25 years and is one of its rare clients that sticks to paying a healthy 15% commission. A large part of building your brand is how you behave with your stakeholders. No amount of marketing spend can build a brand without the business living the purpose it wants its brand to stand for.

3. Brand purpose is little understood, but that’s changing:

In India, the concept of brand purpose is still emerging. Brands are still catering to demands from consumers to fulfil functional needs. Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR has become a buzz-word for reputation management consultants to offer as part of an image building exercise. The Companies Act of 2013 that stipulates 2% profits to be used for a company to demonstrate its commitment back to society has made CSR largely a compliance led activity, with lots of meaningless photo-opportunities, award exercises and a new industry for impact measurement and reporting.

I was pleased to see #e4mSouthConclave feature a number of business leaders (beyond just marketing) from brands like Fujitsu, Lenovo, ITC, Xiaomi, Toyota and Indigo. Purpose needs to be led from the top. As markets become more commoditized, the ones that are able to offer people an opportunity to see a better version of themselves through shared values and aspirations, the ones that are able to create shared identity and ways of being, the ones that are able to inspire employees with a bigger sense of purpose – will build more authentic relationships with the people they work with and the communities they operate in. On purpose.

How to Get Started with Diversity and Inclusion in an Organisation

On Dec 1, I had the privilege of moderating a discussion on ‘Turning Diversity and Inclusion Practices into Action’ with a fantastic set of panelists. Here are some learnings that may be useful to others:

1. Start with Why: Any change program in likely to fail unless we’re unable to recruit the people concerned as allies. This means starting from the top. We need to sensitise the leadership first and then the rest of the organization on why building a diverse and inclusive organization is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business.

As Madhumitha Venkataraman, a D&I Champion, put it, “Diversity begins with I/me and recognizing our unconscious biases.”

Yeshashvini Ramaswamy, Managing Director of e2e People Practices and a venture capitalist made no bones about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), as an integral part of employee wellness, being the future.

I’d listen to her, she knows where the money is going.

Here are some more resources with evidence to demonstrate that D&I is good for business:

Why Diversity Matters – A McKinsey publication

Designing a Bias-Free Organisation – Harvard Business Review

2. Get Some Data: Measure the status quo of people employed in your organization broken down by different types of diversity dimensions for e.g. Age, Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Disability, Personality, Socio-Economic Status, Education and Life Experience. Keep the data collection process anonymous to help those not yet comfortable with disclosing sensitive personal choices like sexual orientation or religion. It’s ok if the numbers aren’t pretty. The good news is now we can start making changes and measure progress.

3. Identify Areas Where Bias is Likely to be Rampant: Especially recruitment and talent management. Ban ‘culture fit’ as a reason for rejecting a candidate. Taking this from Jennifer Kim’s Linkedin Article on 50+ Ideas For Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace – “When interviewers want to reject candidates for ‘culture fit’ or ‘gut feeling’, it’s an indication that unconscious bias is at play. Also, review the recruitment language – scrutinize job ads for language that unconsciously discourages either men or women from applying. When it comes to appraisals and promotions, again, rely on hard data. Take the boss’s feelings about them out of the equation and objectively measure performance.

4. Articulate D&I as part of your DNA: There’s enough literature to confirm that companies with diverse talent are more innovative, dynamic and deliver stronger returns.

As Co-Founder of rydS, Madhu Menon said, “We’re all more interconnected than we think. We can’t afford to exclude anyone.”

This means stating your commitment to building a diverse and inclusive culture in your company messaging everywhere – on the walls, in the recruitment ads, how candidates are sourced, making it a part of the induction process so new employees understand why the company cares about D&I, printing inclusive bathroom signs, allowing flexible work hours and above all listening to employees and making an effort to hear everyone, not just the loudest ones.

“We don’t need namesake actions, we need deeply-rooted policy and a different culture.” Aparna Prasad, Director HR at Jain University echoed.

5. Constantly look in the Mirror: We’re all a bit inherently biased. We have to avoid the temptation to only listen to and connect with ‘people-like-me.’

Priya Chetty Rajagopal, CxO Consultant and Co-Founder of Multiversal Advisory had some strong words for leadership teams, “Just spend one day a month walking in someone else’s shoes, doing what they do and you’ll know what to do to make your organization inclusive”

Hiring employees with varied perspectives and backgrounds is only one step. How we make everyone feel valued and embrace group differences will determine how our workforce is empowered.

Dolly Koshy, a thought leader on Gender Neutral Perspectives said, “Diversity is being invited to the workplace. Inclusion is being allowed to re-arrange the furniture”

Speaking on the issue of mental health in the workplace, Ashwini NV, Founder of Muktha Foundation said, “Like physical first-aid, we also need psychological first-aid.”

Representing LGBTQIA concerns, Prashant Y of Solidarity Foundation said, “We may have the skill-set, but we may not have requisite documentation to get the jobs.”

LGBTQIA activist Suman Sana agreed, “Post #Section377, there are policies on paper, but their practice still lags behind terribly.”

“The constant fear is – how will I be treated if I reveal my positive status?” PLHIV ctivist and radio-jockey, Radha Mani expressed her concern

Sonali M Balgi, an engineer and mother of an autistic child spoke about sensitizing the workplace with the needs of persons with disabilities and their caretakers.

Sandesh H.R. from Enable India demonstrated a range of examples of how organisations were making workplaces disabled friendly and how targeted training and solutions could help. For more information, click here: Enable India

As Deepa Narasimhan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at DellEMC said, “D&I policies become actionable when there is dialogue. In India, we have a long way to go and taking action is the only way to really change anything.”

Thank you to RadioActive and the Deputy British High Commission of Bengaluru for hosting.

How To Be Happy With Less – What Minimalism Means To Me

We are the most informed generation and have access to almost everything ‘material’. We have so many options from which we can choose that often we forget the value these things are supposed to add to our lives. To quote lines from one of my favorite movies Fight Club, ’Advertising has had us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so that we can buy shit we don’t need’. We are subscribed to the idea that a good life is found in accumulating things and that happiness can be found in stores.

This passion to consume is detrimental to our consciousness and can keep us from leading truly fulfilling lives. To live a life marked by clarity, purpose, and intention is Minimalism. At the core, Minimalism is the intentional promotion of things we value the most and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It opens new avenues for people to seek happiness from something other than consuming. It is a way of life that enables you to consume less but enjoy more. Minimalism is not against consumerism, it is against wasteful consumerism; it allows you to recognize the clutter of this modern life and frees us from this modern hysteria to live faster. It invites you to live a life intentionally without the things you really don’t need.

Most people live life differently around their family, coworkers, and friends, Minimalism is a way of life that is simple and united and it eliminates the element of duplicity from our lives. But let’s not confuse it with monk-like sterile life which is absolutely not the case. There are no set of rules, there is no one way to live but to follow one general principle – to live without too many unnecessary possessions, distractions, clutter or waste and live a frugal, debt-free, sustainable natural life.

A minimalist life for me will be the one where I do some introspection and figure out what’s important to me and what adds value to my life. I am a motorcycle enthusiast and I am a proud owner of a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350. I take good care of it and ride with my friends. It’s something I enjoy doing very much, I feel it adds value to my life. But if I were to own a fleet of motorcycles, which by the way, will be awesome but not practical – I would not be able to enjoy them or have the attachment that I now share with my motorcycle. It would be wasteful, expensive and honestly, not as enjoyable. I am against wasteful consumerism.

Eliminate the clutter, you know what they are. Your life will be much easier and less expensive and you will be able to focus more on the things that matter. And be happy.

Celebrating Small Steps. The #DiwaliOnPurpose Campaign

This Diwali, with a ban on firecrackers firmly in place, we were inspired to look beyond clicktivism and to find out what people were actually doing to make the festival season easier on the environment. We sought out passionate people who walk the talk, and have been for years leading by example, through a campaign titled #DiwaliOnPurpose.

Srishti Sharma, Associate Manager at OnPurpose Consulting, led the way by purchasing earmuffs for all her friends’ pets! “The idea was to do something. Plain and simple. Even the littlest of actions that made the festival a little more special, not just for you but for someone else too.”

Paarul Chand, the editor of PRmoment India magazine, who is also a mental health activist and a therapist, joined the campaign and told us about protecting her adorable pet, Linus from all the noise with the help of cushiony velvet earmuffs as well.

The cuddly pooch raised the baton for the people who suffer helplessly during the Diwali season – our pets and other animals.

We were stoked to receive a video from Delhi-based businessman (and wonderful flautist) Varun Sharma expressing his happiness about the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to ban firecrackers in the Delhi-NCR region. “I am going to be gifting people indoor plants this Diwali,” he says in the clip.

For Bengaluru-based graphic designer and illustrator Kshiraja Krishnan, going green this Diwali was a no-brainer. Her #DiwaliOnPurpose statement mentioned the abusive production trail that firecrackers travel before landing in our homes. We loved her no-nonsense explanation!

This campaign aimed to highlight stories of action. Because a deed done right, and on purpose, can help change the world!

Teacher’s Day Special: “I want to build my own unique pre-school, maybe along a beach!”

On Teacher’s Day, Swati from Pune tells us about her journey as a teacher and recalls how her childhood experience as a student moulded her approach later as a teacher.

Please introduce yourself and briefly tell us about your career

I reside in Pune. I am a Pre-School teacher and have been in this profession for nearly 12 years now. I am currently working at Modern Montessori International School. I joined 2 years back.

What made you choose teaching?

I have loved kids from the start! They are the most innocent human beings on Earth. After my graduation in Psychology I joined a Pre-School and loved being with kids and teaching them. I pursued it further and did an Early Childhood Education diploma from Pune and became a full-fledged teacher.

Do you have a ‘philosophy’ as a teacher? Does it keep evolving?

No, I don’t have a philosophy as a teacher. I am a hands-on teacher. I always see my children’s potential and work around it. I believe learning should be done in a fun way and should spread happiness. A child should look forward to coming to school the next day in anticipation of what he/she will learn that day. My teaching methods evolve every day and I always strive to bring new things in the curriculum every day.

Tell us an anecdote from your own childhood about a teacher, favourite or otherwise!

I really don’t remember any teacher because I was a slow learner and was always a last bencher, and a very shy kid. No teacher during that period recognised my slow learning and always told my parents that I am not intelligent. They never saw what my potential is. This stuck in my mind and I decided that when I become a teacher, I would make learning interesting even for those children who are a little special.

How do you think your own approach to teaching differs from your teachers’ in the past? Are we better or worse off now, and are we heading in the right direction?

Like I said earlier, I don’t believe in sticking to some philosophy in teaching. Our teaching methods should evolve according to the current time. I always try to teach children in a new way every time so that they don’t get bored and really learn the concept. Overall, I just want to see my children happy and for them to feel secure in the school surroundings 🙂

I think that we as teachers are heading in the right direction as earlier, some people used to take up this job as time pass, a means to just get out of the house; and just because they loved kids, they used to pursue this profession. The current teachers are really thinking about new ways of teaching, preparing a curriculum according to the children’s intelligence and and thinking of different ways to execute them. Nowadays, they take courses to upgrade their skills and then take up teaching. So that’s good to see. I think we are heading in the right direction to make a better future for kids.

This Teacher’s Day, make a wish! And tell us about it!

This Teacher’s Day, or rather for every Teacher’s Day, I wish that I go one step closer to building my own unique pre-school, maybe along a beach!

Film-Making and Communications: Twin Powers that Can Effect Social Change

Research need not be confined to ivory towers, nor films to Bollywood.  Make them application-oriented; and they can very well be used to our advantage in ‘communications to drive social change’.

Making place for differentiated skill set in communications for social change

Here is a sector brimming with stories waiting to be shared (with stakeholders, or internally), and decisions waiting to be made, (whether in boardrooms or production studios).  We lend the narrative a framework for visual storytelling, and/or collect and analyse hard data from the field, something the decision makers can thoroughly rely on.

Films and its variants for the social change sector

Few formats have the ability to bring an issue to life the way a film does.  Use them to share experiences, explore, persuade, and create awareness.  In a jiffy, your viewer is magically transported to the place of the action – whether in the heartlands of Uttar Pradesh or the highlands of Manipur.

Use films to document processes – either through a fictionalized format or a series of live shoots, you can document the ground work, processes and outcomes of a particular project.  When implementing the same in a new region, simply get your new partners together and watch the film through a neat 15-20 minutes and it tells all.  Films have an added emotional dimension; and case study films give us a peek into the lives of the people we feature.

  

Next, the promotional film creates awareness about a project. Tight and succinct, it can help bring different players of the sector on the same page, share knowledge and perspective, and garner support to work towards a common cause. Finally, when films are made to study impact, it combines perspectives and experiences of people who have benefited from an intervention and also the learning and experiences of the planners and executors of the project.

Research and its applications

Using research is the best way to help organizations invest their funds in the right place.  Use it also to determine the future course of your projects.  By and large, research can be clubbed into baseline or endline surverys, need and impact assessments. While qualitative research comes with smaller sample sizes and uses interviews, case studies and focus group discussions, the quantitative kind uses larger sample size with statistical analysis.  Some situations demand combining the two, and this is where research design comes in.  By using research, a radio station could profile its audience and understand programme preferences, for example.  Or go into the tribal pockets and examine how agricultural patterns have changed – if you’re looking to understand what kind of training would be most suitable for the farmers.

And then there are by-products of these formats: case studies, photo-features, articles, reference guides.  A customized product can emerge using any permutation and combination and even be a stand-alone product. In creating all of this, we combine the academic, journalistic and the creative, drawing from its skills and capacities, values and philosophies. As much as it brings value for the company who employ these skill sets, it creates an equally soul-searching and fulfilling experience for us communication professionals.