I spoke with conviction that without a feasible model that generates enough money, there is hardly a soul who would like to invest themselves whole heartedly into the pursuit of sustainability, and this explained the lack of talent in this field despite good intentions.
What we have been brought up to do is follow small practices in our everyday life, the 4Rs wherever possible. However, when I was given a picture of what complete sustainability looks like, it freaked me out. It meant going back through the ages and living on hand-me-downs for your entire life. It meant living without producing any waste at all. Whatever comes out of the earth should go right back into it.
This is the picture that Padam Shri Ms Janak Palta McGilligan conjured in my mind as I spoke with her between her sessions and throughout her talk at IRIS 2016. I have been firmly advocating the sustainable development goals since the day they got adopted by the UN, however this made me stop and think about if I was sufficiently dedicated to the cause. I realised I wasn’t.
The question isn’t whether you stand for sustainability. It is how much are you ready to give up for it.
I never waste electricity or water, even for a second, sometimes to the annoyance of my friends who have no regard for nature. I stare at people if they litter – until they feel embarrassed enough to find a dustbin. I fight with my parents if they begin to throw something out of the car window – since 5th grade when I learnt it is bad at school. Our house was the first one to stop bursting crackers in the entire colony when I was in 6th grade and participated in a painting competition that was based on this theme. I hesitate to throw anything away until I am certain it cannot be used anymore. I am highly mindful of what I buy to an extent that my mom considers it necessary to shop with me so that I can have some comforts we can afford. Is this enough? I don’t think it is.
I am stuck in the path of negotiation where the only limits are those I put. Sometimes I try to argue myself out of the dilemma thinking that the world and the markets will adjust themselves to a state where humans still manage to sustain. This is nothing but self serving logic though and I understand this is not how things work. I am easily taken by any argument that proclaims apocalypse unless we adopt certain practices. However going the full way is too much. Our civilization as a whole has worked towards creating a comfortable environment and if we do not take full advantage of it, then it would be disrespectful to their genius.
Having said that, it is also not right if we are partial to our comforts when we take advantage of our progress. We should be humbled by nature – because we now understand its bounty much better than our ancestors. It is thus the pursuit of knowledge that I advocate more than anything else.
How much do I wish to give up for sustainability? Nothing at all. Sustainability needs to be sustainable in itself – not a communist concept which fails when it strikes against basic human nature. Nevertheless, if your nature is so noble, as was of the great person I had the pleasure of meeting, I wish I could be more like you. Your ideas add to the pool of knowledge that we are ever hungry for. For the rest, strike your own informed balances.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of Hiral Arora, an IPM IIM Indore student. They do not reflect the ideas of the institute in any way.
I thought it was just another boat party but I was not aware of the adventures that awaited me at the canals of Xochimilco, also known as the xochimilco trajineras because of the canoes that take people for a ride. The place is filled with tourists, mariachi bands, and lush floating gardens.
However, wait for sometime and you will see the adjacent island with severed limbs and cracked heads of severely weathered dolls.
Welcome to la Isla de la munecas, the island of the dolls.
The legend is about one man, a lost relationship, and a dead girl’s doll.
Hundreds of photographers and thrill seekers travel to this haunted island of dolls every year, but it was never meant to be a tourist attraction.
It all started with Julian Santana Barrera, a reclusive Mexican man who found a doll floating at the same area where he had found the dead body of a drowned girl some days ago. To honor the girls spirit and save himself from further tragedy, Julian started hanging more dolls.
Julian was apparently haunted by the spirit of the girl and started hanging more dolls in order to get rid of the spirit. He soon realized that the dolls themselves were possessed by spirits when they started blinking their eyes and moving their heads. He continued hanging dolls all over the place. Apparently, he was marked by the fact that he was not able to save the little girl’s life.
After 50 years of collecting and hanging dolls, Julian was found drowned at the same spot where the girl died.
Yet la Isla de las Muñecas lives on. Locals tend to the island, while travelers from around the world seek out the site. Some even arrive with new dolls to hang in the trees, continuing Don Julian’s eerie tradition.
Stories from Mexico, brought to you by Niloy Jain, IIM Indore IPM-5 participant on student exchange. Stay tuned for more adventure!
An interview with Neeraj Gutgutia ( IIMI Alumnus), the founder and CEO of “Right2Vote Infotech Pvt. Ltd.”
Here is what he has shared with us :
Interviewer: How was your stay at IIM Indore as a student?
Neeraj: It was a great learning experience. Apart from studies you get to do many things and manage them well.
Interviewer: So were you involved in any club or committees?
Neeraj: Yes, I was a part of media committee in first year. Then in second year being a part of media committee, we came up with the college magazine I-Mag (known as Management Canvas presently). We also initiated entrepreneurship and consulting society in the college with the name of E&C.
Interviewer: You worked with Reliance and then with Hiranandani group. How was the experience?
Neeraj: After working with Reliance for 4 years, I got a chance to work with Hiranandani group. They needed a guy with Gas Project and Finance experience. As I worked in Gas sector with reliance and I was a CA and MBA, so they asked me if I would like to join and lead it.
Interviewer: Then how did you move towards entrepreneurship?
Neeraj: I always wanted to start up on my own, even before MBA but didn’t actually know how to go about it. Then at Hiranandi, I got to lead the project. It gave me exposure, confidence, everything you could ask for. I also starting saving money as I had a mental mapping that I need to start soon.
Interviewer: What was the thought while leaving such an interesting job at Hiranandani?
Neeraj: Actually, while leaving, I wasn’t too sure of what I wanted but had a rough idea on what to do. O had this “Right2Vote” in my mind. I wasn’t sure whether I could do the Technology part of it.
Interviewer: You also started “Guts Unlimited”, so what was the idea behind that company?
Neeraj: Just after leaving my job, I was very interested in start-ups , so wanted to start investing in them. “Guts Unlimited” basically was into advising and investing in the start-ups, helping them set up the whole system. As a backup to make revenue and financial support, “Guts” is still running but my major focus is “Right2Vote”.
Interviewer: When did the idea of “Right2Vote” come first into your mind and what was the reason behind it?
Neeraj: During 2014 election, I was working with Prashant Kishore, helping in the election management. I was also pitching people to come out and vote. But it was difficult for some due to various reasons like they were travelling, meetings at office etc. So I thought if there was an App where you could vote from anywhere, then people will vote for sure. And that was where it all started. I researched a lot and it was such a obvious thing, that everything is going online then why not voting.
Interviewer: What is the vision and mission of the company?
Neeraj: “When the 2019 election happen, that should happen on our platform”, this is the target we are aiming at. Our mission is to at least target 10 corporates to use the app for shareholders’ voting, etc so that our revenues start rolling in and also sign up big corporates which will also enhance or credibility.
Interviewer: What would you say about the present start up Ecosystem in India?
Neeraj: In last 2 to 4 years, the trend is really picking up. There is a lot of scope. In India still the ticket size is very small. The risk people are taking are not big enough. The Tech start-ups are the high risk and high gain, they are the ones which are in maximum number today. We have to boost the ticket size here in India. Also as a start-up, hiring people is very tough. Giving a good salary along with good office and confidence in the company is becoming a heavy task.
Interviewer: What has been the learning till now in this journey of entrepreneur which you would like to share with students?
Neeraj: There has been many highs and lows till now. During job I got a fixed salary but now it is a challenging task. Sometimes my family and others judge me and have a lot of doubt on my success. There is a lot of opportunity cost involved here but we have to keep moving on and believe in our idea.
Interviewer: So what would you like to tell to the budding entrepreneurs here at IIM Indore?
Neeraj: You should be well prepared before entering into the start-up idea. You should be financially stable, have support of the family. Also, the main focus should be on executing the idea. That is the most important part. Plan for at least 2 to 3 years ahead.Hope you gained an insight on how the journey unfolds from being a student to an entrepreneur.
There are some things we feel are far too big for us to care about. They seem irresolvable – distant – not our problem.
But they could very well be!
Today was a tiring day, we went snorkelling and kayaking (and the best part was the open bar on the boat!). We finally headed back to our hostel to relax for a while, perhaps just lounge in the balcony.
I think I dozed off for a while because I didn’t even realise when Roger came and sat down next to me. He smirked in my direction, I must have fallen asleep with my mouth hanging open again. He offered me a can of beer and a cigarette (which I obviously refused, lol).
Roger had served in the US Military for 30 years before he took voluntary retirement. He had no one. No mom, no dad, no cousins, no wife, no kids. No friends either.
He had always lived a life of loneliness. He discovered his sexuality very late in life, at a time when people did not know that gay people existed. He was sent to a mental correction facility for treatment. He was never married. He never had the right to marry anyone (Thanks, Obama). Now at 61, he longs for company, a partner who he can talk to. Someone who can just sit with him and watch the sunset. He is lonely.
I beg you to look in his eyes. Does this look like a face of a lonely man? It looks to me like a face of a happy man, someone who has had many laughs, his face wrinkled with signs of happiness. He does not deserve to be alone. Any one would be lucky to have him as his partner. He looks like popoye goddammit! He is so young at heart, I sometimes don’t remember he is thrice as old as me. I want to be his friend.
Roger has been receiving his monthly pension and living in Mexico for the past month. He spends his days drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Sometimes drugs come to the rescue.
He says, everyone in America hates every other person. There is so much hatred and sadness in the society, that an individualistic culture just burns a man up. There is no one to share an emotion with. People are too engrossed within themselves and everyone carries a fucking gun. Why do you need a gun?!
He told me to be careful when in Mexico and just call him in case I need anything. He’s a good man.
What are the chances of running into a man like this, on your foreign exchange stint? The same as BEING that man.
Now that we all have met Roger, this problem is not so distant anymore.
Learn all about Mexico from the eyes of Niloy Jain, 5th year IPM Student currently on his student exchange program. He is enthusiastic about travelling and photography and he writes amazing diaries! Hiral Arora, reporting live from a facebook chatbox.
Forsooth, even these labels fall short
For these mercenaries of art
Are complicit to a different crime every day
Switching tastes sporadically
For fear of over-familiarity with one
Switching choices, opinions, stances
Whenever their conscience bids them to
For in their heads, to make an uninformed choice
Would be worse than not making one at all
And that is what pits them at the opposite end
Of the war with the rest of the world
A war which they haven’t waged but are forced to partake in
A war waged by a society that regards
Stability of thought and consistency in devotion as virtues
And all else? Seditious. Reprehensible.
“Artistic”, they say with contempt
Spitting out the word as though it be a wretched disease
It does not belong here
The makers do not belong
These artists. They do not belong, they say
In our kingdom, our land, our territory
In the kingdom that they have created inside their heads
And that is their greatest folly
For do they not realize that laws do not apply
To those who do not know how to live inside walls?
Lines have no meaning for them
For these creators of art can make their own
And those are far, far more beautiful
These mercenaries of art
Are warriors of a different ilk
Ostracized for their beliefs, their ways
Their little oddities that made them so different from the others
Only result in bringing them closer to each other
For they paint the world in a myriad of colors
Writers, Painters, Sculptors, Singers, Dancers, Scientists
All artists in their own right
For it is their creations
Their words, their canvases that shall adorn the walls
Their symphonies that shall echo through them
Their art that shall live on in the kingdom
Long after they have been turned away from it
Ms.Lalitha Vaidyanath (Senior Creative Director at J.Walter Thompson Hyderabad) recently visited IIM Indore as a speaker at Colloquium – the annual business conclave organized by the Industry Interaction Cell of the institute. The theme this year was ‘Marketing – Strategy, science or sorcery?’. Ms. Lalitha delivered an engaging talk about how targeting the right people the right way through advertising can change lives and even impact communities for the better. She added that advertising as a process has changed from being a one-sided monologue to an enriching conversation or an experience that has become pervasive. We caught up with her after the talk, and here is what she had to say about the field of advertising–
Jasmine: So one very interesting thing that I found out while reading up about advertising was that the first female copywriter was from JWT. In fact JWT even has a scholarship for young creative women in her name – the Helen Landsterne scholarship. It definitely appears then that JWT has particular interest in encouraging women to join this field. How strong is that spirit in the Indian advertising industry? How are female copywriters treated here? How far do they go?
Lalitha: Women actually do bring a lot to the table in the field of advertising. In fact, not just as copywriters but across the board, you have a lot of women making significant contributions in JWT and every other agency. But then advertising itself as an industry has quite a few women. There aren’t a lot of hierarchical issues, as the organisational structure is relatively semi-flat and flexible, so the concept of glass ceiling is perhaps not as reinforced in advertising because of that.
Hence it draws women to these jobs. Personally, I also feel that on an average, women have good aptitude for writing and graphic art. So there is a lot of scope for them in art and copy, and now a lot of women are playing a huge role in planning as well. Advertising is all about striking a chord with the consumers. By nature women are empathetic, so perhaps that’s why they fit in so well here. Honestly, it’s a very fascinating and interesting industry to work in, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Nike’s Da Da Ding song ad
Jasmine: That’s right. Even as outsiders, we see advertising as a very dynamic industry. In popular culture, like say movies, if one of the characters is from the advertising industry, they’re shown to be staying up nights, doing a lot of creative brainstorming, and also being quite a bit of a social butterfly. How true to reality is this image?
Lalitha: There’s actually a lot of hard work involved. What you see there is the glamorous part. For example, when I showed you guys the Da da ding ad for Nike featuring Deepika Padukone during the presentation, I could see all of you collectively thinking ‘wow this looks really amazing’. I myself have shot ad films with different celebrities. And I can vouch for the hard work which goes on behind the scenes. You can’t be over-awed by these elements while working. What you see as the consumer is a very snazzy TVC; what we see as the creators is the grit that it takes to make it.
Jasmine: So on an average how long would a good TVC like that take to make?
Lalitha: It depends. If you’re talking about going right from the ideating process, then it could range from anything between a week or two. Sometimes you just get a good idea in a flash; sometimes it takes a lot of time. It depends on the product, on the briefing, on the approval etc. Some clients just lap up the first idea because they liked it instantly. Some clients keep coming back to you asking for more improvements, giving suggestions, till they get the wow factor. But usually for a TVC to be produced , right from the ideation, going through the pre-production, going to the shoot, then the post-production, and then finally the final edit and bringing out the film, it could take 30-45 days.
Jasmine: At the beginning of your talk you spoke about how being right brained or left brained can change your approach to things. As management students a lot of us aren’t very sure which side we come from because we more or less learn just about everything between hard core analytical skills to interpersonal skills. How likely is it for management students to enter a creative field like advertising and make it big there?
Lalitha: I’d say most management students are left-brainers. I’ve seen them to be more verbal and analytical. Right now there are so many management grads in advertising. Recruiters from advertising agencies are loving the mix of skills that they get from these graduates. So I’d say the chances of management student making it big in advertising are pretty high.
The Life Saving Dot campaign
Jasmine: Another thing that we regularly get to hear in management school is the whole spiel about how we need to brand ourselves as individuals. ‘Self branding’ as a concept is becoming so important now because everyone is becoming increasingly competent and in order to make yourself stand out in the madness of the job world, you need to work smart. As someone who deals with the concept of branding on a daily basis, could you tell us how to get it right as individuals?
Lalitha: It’s true that ‘self-branding’ is becoming really important these days. Even recruiters today don’t look at students as just black and white. They recognise that there are many parts of you and they actively seek out more well-rounded individuals. They don’t just look for pure academics anymore. There is so much more beyond that, especially in a field like advertising.
Jasmine: One last question that I’d like to pose to you is this – since creative industries like advertising are so much about real time reactions, could you give me one example of a crisis handling situation that you’ve had to go through which really taught you a lot.
Lalitha: Every campaign is a crisis, Jasmine *laughs*. I say that because every client believes that they need to have what they want right NOW otherwise their world will end. They want their campaigns out within unrealistic deadlines, which is why it gets pretty crazy in there sometimes, but we signed up for the challenge!
About Lalitha Vaidyanath: As the senior creative director at J.Walter Thompson India and an advertising doyenne, Lalitha has worked on a hard range of sectors and clients like Hyundai Santro, Royal Enfield, Mitsubishi Motors, TTK Healthcare, Sun Direct DTH, ColorPlus, Sify, Eenadu, Murugappa group, Cholamandalam Finance, Muthoot Fincorp, UNICEF, World Vision among others. She has been at places like Saatchi & Saatchi, Everest, Maa Bozell, Mudra, McCann, and a clutch of creative boutiques across Hyderabad, Bangalore and at Chennai. She brings over 2 decades of experience to the table besides enthusiasm and passion for the written word. Her interests include yoga, voluntary service and armchair psychology.
Mr. Rajeev Arora (Business Development Manager, Rural Marketing, Agri-Business Division, ITC Ltd.) recently visited IIM Indore as a speaker at the Colloquium organized by the Industry Interaction Cell of the institute. He spoke about ITC’s innovative e-choupal system, which is a unique combination of CSR and a rural penetration model. He sat down for a detailed interview with us, and here is what he had to say –
Darsheeka: Since the introduction of e-choupal 15 years ago, what do you think has been the shift in marketing approach when it comes to rural customers? Because, like you said, they are also shifting towards branded products.
Mr. Rajeev Arora: There are various kinds of shifts that have happened. Now, the consumer or maybe the end customer is more educated; they have various means of reaching out to their requirements; and people have started thinking about health, hygiene, education, and a better future for their kids. This has definitely led to a change, which is improving the quality of their life. They have also become technologically driven, as far as agriculture is concerned and ultimately, they are not the same kind of rural. The change has happened in every sphere of their life, and made them more educated and demanding.
D: As we know, the rural markets have not been doing well for FMCG companies due to drought situations and inflationary pressure. How has that affected the adoption of systems like e-choupal?
R: As far as adversity in any part of the country is concerned, the companies are not there to make profits, rather to support the system over there. There are a few product categories that are needed during emergency, and our approach has been to reach out to consumers so that scarcity is not there. As far as the ITC’s own Sanchalak infrastructure in the 4 states (UP, MP, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra) is concerned, it has always been a kind of support function. So, if anything positive happens over there, it is to be shared with the colleagues; and if something negative happens, there are ways to find out the solutions to overcome those issues.
D: Therefore, can we say that there is a predominant element of CSR in this initiative and it’s not just about rural penetration? If so, how does ITC balance between the two?
R: Yes, there is a heavy CSR element. The approach is not to go into a rural market and get business done; the approach has been empowering the rural people. This empowerment has come through various means – getting the right value for their agricultural produce, and providing them with facilities required for producing those commodities. So, whether it involves getting KCC (Kisan Credit Card) availed to them, securing them through life insurance policies, or educating them about how to avail weather-based crop insurance, these activities have always been done so that farmers are aware of what is good for their agricultural-related requirements. Beyond this, there are things not directly related to agriculture, but directly related to CSR. For e.g., health and hygiene of the females in the villages, employment generation, education of kids. Through these activities, ITC carries out a support function. Sanchalak is not working like a broker over there; he is a point of contact from the same geography as the people, present for support in agricultural as well as non-agricultural needs. This has definitely given us an advantage of deep rural penetration, and generating the confidence of the people in rural areas. So, this can be called a symbiotic approach.
D: Talking about the bottom line, do you think the investment in e-choupal is justified when we measure it against the increase in rural affordability?
R: Investment has been made over 15 years ago and it has given a different image to the company. Our Agri Business division has got strengthened in the rural areas. Perhaps, ITC is a company of its own size delivering results in India, and globally. Whenever our Food Business team comes across any new idea or are in the process of launching a new product category, they get back to us in terms of sourcing capabilities; this has only been possible because of e-choupal. Entering the rural market is not easy, and getting things done over there is also very challenging. The only advantage we have is our team member and channel partner, the Sanchalak; we support each other mutually in various day-to-day activities so that he can convince the villagers about what is good for them. The choice always lies in their hand.
D: If I am not wrong, ITC has partnered with a competitor like Coca-Cola for this initiative. How do the dynamics of this unusual collaboration work out?
R: While talking about the platform of rural marketing, Chaupal Haat originated 7 years ago and we had a pool of partners who joined us. These included TVS, Maruti Suzuki, State Bank of India, and the rural-centric brands from ITC (Superia, Sunfeast) as well. The agenda was to have a network to support the brands with good quality and social value that want to enter the rural market, and get connected with the consumer. In this case, the cost of reaching out to the consumer would be justified since it would be a mutual effort. Your point is very valid. We have never been into tie-ups with direct competitors like HUL or P&G. In fact, as far as Coca-Cola is concerned, we have been supporting them since the past 3-4 years in getting their rural distribution more aligned and intensive. As of now, both this companies do not have the product category where there is a mismatch, or a common functionality. So, this collaboration is able to work. The rest of our partners include TVS, Mahindra Finance, and others. For rest of the product categories, the product is one that is needed in the rural areas but it is not possible to make that available from the house of ITC. So, it is a demand in the rural market that is currently not possible to be met through us, so why not help out other companies if it addresses the need.
D: You mentioned the words ‘Rozgaar Duniya’ in your session. Can you tell us about that in a little more detail?
R: It was an initiative wherein the Agri Business Division (ABD) got into a partnership with Monster.com in order to support rural youngsters through availing various employment options to them, related to their educational qualifications. Through Sanchalak, we supported a set of youngsters in villages to obtain job profiles such as security guards, mechanics, masons, carpenters, and others based on vocational skills. It worked well. Normally, in any of our support functions, the Sanchalak is a catalyst and does not need to go beyond a certain threshold. This is because he is also, ultimately, a progressive farmer. He has his own liability, family, and various business responsibilities. So, he should be in a support function wherein things happen on their own and he does not need to worry much. There has to be some kind of passion, such that not much of a push is required. Support is definitely there, but it should not be from a 0 to 100 kind of a thing; it should be lining around 75-80% from his end and the rest of the support will come from our team members.
D: As one last question, the impending challenge of rural digitization and digital literacy in rural areas combined with issues of electricity can be a test to the effectiveness and efficiency of e-choupal. How does ITC tackle this?
R: When e-choupal originated, there were certain characteristics that were attached to it. The most important one was reaching out to farmers in the villages, and letting them know prices prevailing in various markets to enable them to make better and informed decisions. We were giving them an opportunity wherein, if they were interested, they could come to our buying locations where we provided certain set of product features above and beyond the traditional mandis. That was the basic agenda. But, there was also other content they needed in their daily lives like information related to better agricultural practices, and health. Therein, limited content is telecast at the kiosk fortnightly or monthly. The villagers can come and watch that content there. In order to address the power issue, we provided solar panels when this system originated. So, power is not that big an issue. Anyway, over the years, technology has changed – people are using smartphones with freely available content in villages as well. They have better connectivity with the nearby cities, or tehsil areas. It is no longer the case that they can only visit these areas only once a month, rather someone or the other from the villages visits these locations weekly to obtain information. So, access to information is not that tough now. Having said all this, there are various companies, organizations, and bodies that have a very fair way of trading. For example, the MP government is definitely doing a good job. So, there is a set of people trying to replicate our model after seeing our initial success, and doing a good job. In fact, more of such people are needed also. It is a win-win arrangement for everyone. We are not thinking just from our perspective and saying we have to be the only ones and the best ones. We are one of the good ones, but other players are also there. As a nation, we need more of such people.
This article is part of our Colloquium’16 series (Marketing – Strategy, Science or Sorcery)