Sunday, July 10, 2016

Why do even educated Kashmiris support militancy and terrorists like Burhan Wani and hail them as martyr?

Burhan Muzaffar Wani, often described as the ‘poster boy’ of the new phase of insurgency in the valley, is the new district commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen and a most wanted militant nowadays. Upon entering his house, I see a Wagon-R and a modified motorbike parked up front; the family is well-to-do by local standards. His father, Muzaffar Ahmed Wani appears from the rear entry of the house with his hand out for a shake.
“Last time I spoke to the national media, I was disappointed. My full statement was not used. They used only a portion of it,” Wani tells me straight away.
He is referring to a report by a mainstream Delhi-based newspaper. What it used was,“Islam allows you to go for Jihad (struggle) against cruelty and oppression. My son has chosen this path for himself.”
Wani, while holding his beard in his hands, adds that he was hoping they would show the reason behind Burhan picking up the gun. “They didn’t include the root cause. And that is what India is doing to our children here. Their policies towards the population here are the real reason for that (the militancy). Young boys are getting radicalized because of the everyday torture and humiliation they face.”
Wani adds, “Burhan is not the only one or the first one. ‘Yahaan aag pehlay se lagi hui hai (Kashmir is already burning). Toh us aag ko bujhanay kay liye pani chahiye, petrol nahi. (So to douse that fire, you need water, not petrol).’ They didn’t use this statement of mine.”
Wani, the principal of the Higher Secondary School of Tral, also alleges that another statement of his was twisted. He says that the statement which they twisted was that “if guns would be readily available, the majority would decide to use them.” According to him, they omitted the reasoning behind the youth taking up such steps.
He further clarifies, “Now anyone can claim that I promote gun culture. But I don’t. I just wanted to highlight the reason (behind it).”
As a father whose one son was allegedly killed in an “encounter”, and another is the ‘poster boy’ of militancy, how does he stay calm? Wani says he finds solace in the belief that a ‘martyr’ never dies. “First of all, I am mentally prepared for that. I do get disturbed sometimes that one day I will see him (Burhan) dead. Then I remind myself that Allah is above everything. I know my son (Khalid) is with Allah and alive. Burhan is away from me, and I do feel for that. But I know that if he dies on this path, he too will be a martyr,”Wani asserts.
He says this is what keeps him alive. “Otherwise, if I start thinking that my 24-year-old son was murdered and the other will die any day, then I don’t know what will happen to me. I can’t take care of worldly affairs then.”
Khalid, Burhan’s elder brother was shot down by security personnel last year in August in the forests of Tral. The security establishment claimed that he was shot down in an “encounter” while trying to meet his brother Burhan. They also claimed that he was getting young men to join the HM
Return With Respect
Wani, like others, believes that Burhan was forced to pick up the gun. He expresses his wish of seeing him return home one day, but with respect. Wani also ‘prays’ that the renewed peace talks between India and Pakistan should succeed.
“Maybe if there is some kind of reconciliation between India and Pakistan, in which our representatives, the Hurriyat, are on board, they might devise a policy under which rebels can come back to normal life,”he says. He adds, “We pray to Allah that something comes out of the talks. We want peace. I want my son to come back, but with respect. Not shackled or chained.”
However, he feels that when the Hurriyat is left out, it shows that India’s intentions are not honest. “When they don’t involve the Hurriyat, that shows that India doesn’t want to settle this issue. If they involve Hurriyat, NC (National Conference) and PDP(Peoples Democratic Party) will lose their chair. There are and will be three stakeholders- India, Pakistan and Kashmir. All three have to be included. Two cannot decide our fate. We have to be a part of it,” Wani asserts.
Illegal Detentions During VIP Visits
When President Barak Obama come to New Delhi in 2014, Wani and his now-deceased son Khalid, sitting miles away in Tral, were detained for a couple of days, he claims. The same thing happened during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last year, he says.
“I have faced a lot of problems after 2010, especially in 2012. They (police) used to detain me whenever militants used to strike. One day, unknown men snatched rifles from the police; they detained me and Khalid for 5 days. When Obama had come to Delhi, they detained Khalid! He missed his exams due to that,” Wani adds.
Wani alleges that every time a bullet was fired by someone, he was detained along with Khalid unnecessarily. “A Sarpanch (village head) got shot and again Khalid and I were put behind bars. During the elections (Parliamentary as well as assembly) we used to be put under detention. Khalid on an average used to spend two months in a year in jail. Most of the time they used to take us to the Tral police station, sometimes to Avantipora station,” a dejected Wani rues.
He also mentions that with him, Imams (prayer leaders) were also detained, which he feels was a direct attack on Islam. “I was detained for two days during Modi’s visit. Why? Also, Imams of various mosques were detained. They thought we might incite people in the mosque. We discuss Islam in the mosque. So according to me they put a curb on Islam by detaining the Imams.”
Being A Principal And Burhan’s Father
Wani had to face problems on the professional front as well for being a militant’s father.“They (Govt.) transferred me to another, far off location. I came here (Tral) on public demand as principal of the Higher Secondary school. Just after three days, I was transferred to district Shopian, that too in a far-flung village, just because I am Burhan’s father. Now I am back after two years. It was very difficult for me,” he alleges.
He feels that regular raids don’t bother him now. However, the police troubling him and his family without any reason remains a matter of concern. “They (police) raid our house every now and then. That is a routine for us now. And we don’t have a problem with that. It’s their duty. But when they unnecessarily used to detain and trouble Khalid and even me, that used to mentally disturb every one of us. They have searched our home may be a thousand times. Not only rooms, they check the walls to see if anyone is hiding,”says Wani.
Not Burhan’s Fight But Everyone’s
Wani also feels that the media and the people have put an unnecessary focus on Burhan.“I don’t really like it when people talk too much about Burhan as if he has started it. I always say that he is not the first one,” he says.
He adds, “I saw his first video on the television on a news channel. They were translating what Burhan wants to tell India. Since 1989, Kashmiris want freedom from India. It’s not just Burhan’s fight. It’s the whole of Kashmir which aspires for that. Burhan is one of them. If you go back in time, (you can) see how many were killed in Srinagar, Sopore,Anaantnagand other districts. More than a lakh people have died. What were they searching for? Azadi (Freedom). Even the separatists, (Syed Ali Shah) Geelani, Mirwaiz (Umar Farooq), (Yasin) Malik, (Shabir) Shah, what do they want? The same thing. Their way is different. Some of them picked up the gun first too. They are fighting it politically now. But at the end, the aim is the same. When all this started, Burhan was not even born,” notes a smiling Wani.
NC Was Bad, PDP Has Crossed All Limits
Khalid was the first civilian who was killed after Mufi Mohammad Sayeed took over as the state’s CM. (This interview was conducted before Sayeed passed away).
“At that time we thought a new government is in place and Mufti might do something,”Wani recounts.
However, Wani alleges that PDP has crossed the limits set by NC. “We had some hopes from PDP. Maybe, 10 percent more as compared to National Conference. But the role they have played in the current government, they have crossed the limits set by NC. They (NC) were cruel too, but not like them. Right now, Muslims have no value,” feels Wani.
When reminded that Mufti had said in the same video report by the Delhi-based paper that boys have no option but to resort to the gun, Wani says, “They have their own politics to take care of. If free and fair elections are held here, a new ‘Jamaat’ will emergevictorious. They won’t even be politicians, but unknown faces. It’s their duty to oppose each other (PDP and National Conference).”
Five-year-olds in Bijbehara, a town in South Kashmir, like to play a game. One person pretends to be Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the most wanted commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen. Three or four others pretend to be soldiers of the Indian army. The game revolves around how Wani escapes from the clutches of the army.
burhan when he was 16
Kashmiris who are now in their late-20s remember playing the same game in the 1990s, when thousands joined the militancy. Branches or pieces of wood did duty as rifles and the two sides engaged each other in fierce battle. Now these games seem to have returned to the Valley. Except the militant has a name.
Burhan Wani is a legend in these parts. He’s a local boy, after all, born in Tral, in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Six years ago, when he was 15, Wani left home to take up arms against the Indian state. Since then, the government has announced a Rs 10 lakh bounty on his head and taken out most of his close associates. But Wani survives, defying all expectations and leaving a trail of stories behind him.
Some say he visits his home dressed as a girl. Posts on social media claim Hindu girls from Kanpur want to marry him and write his name in their blood. If your name is Burhan, it’s best to stay off the streets at night – security forces might hear people calling out for you and mistake you for the Hizbul commander. Friends meeting up over chai trade stories about him.
One involves the time Wani went to the town of Anantnag. He called up Tahir Sheikh, a commander of the Territorial Army, to say he was in town and bathing in the Jhelum, using Lifebuoy soap. By the time Sheikh reached the river, there was no one to be seen. But there on the river bank lay a bar of Lifebuoy soap.
“What do I say?” said Burhan Wani’s father, Muzaffar Ahmed Wani, when asked about the legends surrounding the young Hizbul commander. “He is my son. I can only call him my son. Other people can call him a hero or something else.”
Celebrities and folk heroes
And so they do. “Burhan has become a narrative,” said a journalist in Bijbehara, who asked to remain unidentified. It is a narrative of heroism constructed around the new militancy that is said to have taken root in four districts of South Kashmir: Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian. Local boys, mostly educated, mostly from affluent families, are taking on the might of the Indian state and security forces.
Wani and his cohort signed up with the Hizbul Mujahideen, an indigenous, pro-Pakistan militant outfit. A number of others are joining the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. Ask young men in Anantnag why they admire the new militants and they ask you why Bhagat Singh is considered a hero. Even police officers ruefully refer to the Robin Hood aura surrounding the new crop of militants. "We wish he comes out alive," said one senior police officer.
These are not the nameless multitudes who crossed over in the 1990s and came back as masked men. There was always a certain glamour attached to becoming a militant. But now, individual figures are thrown into sharp relief. Local memories and personal ties are hopped up on technology. This is the age of celebrity militants who are also folk heroes.
To begin with, their numbers are much lower than in the 1990s. Accordingto the ministry of external affairs, 14,356 “terrorists” and 2,358 “foreign militants” were killed in Jammu and Kashmir between 1990 and December 2001. According to data compiled by the criminal investigation department, 143 militants were active in the Valley this year. Of these 89 were local militants, 60 of them from South Kashmir.
To hunt them down, the Indian state has put thousands of boots on the ground. According to popular estimates, 7 lakh to 10 lakh security force personnel patrol the region. These troops are scattered across the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir and only part of this number is engaged in counterinsurgency. But, going by popular perception, all the guns of this formidable force are trained on militancy in the Valley.
The asymmetry of the battle has captured the local imagination, the idea the of strength of India being unable to catch a small band of militants. “In Tral, there are 10 militants and 10 lakh soldiers, why aren’t they catching them?” said the brother of one militant, taking a liberal view of the numbers.
Second, with security being tightened along the Line of Control, militants can no longer cross over in thousands to be trained and armed in camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Wani and his band of boys are believed to be operating from the mountains and forests of South Kashmir. Their activities are concentrated in a relatively small area: the entire Valley is around 135 kilometres long and 32 kilometres wide and the four South Kashmir districts make up less than half of this territory. So this strain of militancy is an intensely local phenomenon, generated within the crucible of the Valley and spending its energies there.
And, by now, it is well documented how Burhan Wani and cohort use social media to project their armed struggle – the famous Facebook picture where Hizbul members pose with guns; the solo shot of Burhan with green slopes in the background; videos of the boys playing cricket, sacrificing sheep, training with their weapons. These posts and videos have made the militants recognisable faces, reached their thoughts and motivations to thousands of youth glued to cell phones and desktops. They have also created a star cast of militancy.
There is Wani, of course, the class topper and cricket fan who liked Virender Sehwag’s upper cut and Shahid Afreedi’s big sixes. From Bijbehara there are the two Adils who ran away together: Adil Sheikh, the quiet, pious teenager, and dashing Adil Reshi, who looked like a film star, say those who knew him.
Sheikh, the 17-year-old son of an autorickshaw driver, was deeply religious. He led prayers at the local mosque, was particular about following rituals and forbade his sisters from using mobile phones. Shortly before he left home, he had saved up Rs 20,000 and contributed to a mosque being built in the area. It was a lot of money for Adil. Unlike the others, he had dropped out of school in Class VIII and earned money loading cement on trucks. That is how he met 24-year-old Reshi, whose family distributed the cement. The two Adils got close and decided to join up last June. The older boy still lives. Sheikh was killed in November.
From Laribal in Pulwama district, there was Ishaq Ahmed Parray, called “Newton” because his first name was the Arabic version of “Isaac” and because of his academic brilliance. His family paints the picture of a thoughtful, sensitive genius who was pained by the atrocities he saw around him. “He spent all his time studying,” said his brother, Masood Ahmad Parray. “He came first from nursery to 12th standard.”
Last year, Newton left home saying he was going to fill in forms for a computer course. He had even taken money for the examination fees. The boy never returned. A week later, the family was told by a police officer that he had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. In March, he was killed in an encounter in Tral. He was 19 years old.
From the village of Karimabad, also in Pulwama, there was 29-year-old Naseer Ahmed Pandit, the policeman who battled the local drug mafia and spent his time in social service. The day he left, says his father, Ghulam Rasool Pandit, he donated Rs 2,000 to someone who had cancer. “He was against stone pelting,” added his cousin, Zubair Pandit. “He was always the first to vote. Most people boycott elections here. But he voted in the 2014 parliamentary elections.”
The former policeman was one of the militants posing in the Facebook picture. By then, he was a trainer for the Hizbul Mujahideen. In April, he was killed in an encounter in Shopian. Naseer’s father now collects articles about his son, who has been written about in national dailies and local magazines. He shows them to visiting journalists with quiet pride.
The mourners
The new militancy bears a sheen that has worn off the older generation. The armed movement of the the 1990s eventually degenerated into extortion rackets, violent squabbles between various factions and the settling of petty local scores. As their numbers increased, militants were forced to rely on the civil population for food and shelter. Supporters faced the wrath of the security forces as well as the Ikhwan, a force of mostly former militants who had changed sides and been co-opted into counter-insurgency. Relations between militants and civilians soured as the decade progressed.
But the current militancy, with its smaller numbers, has not yet put the same pressures on the local population. “Today’s boys don’t take money, they don’t become renegades,” said Ghulam Rasool Pandit. “Aasman aur zameen ke farq hai." It’s a difference of heaven and earth.
So for now, there is a groundswell of support for the new generation of militants. It is evident in the crowds that pelt stones to distract security forces during encounters and the protests that break out afterwards. “Earlier, when there was firing here, people would run away 20 kilometres,” said Pandit. “Now they come towards it. People are willing to give their legs, arms and lives.”
Admitted Liaqat Ali Khan, a former militant who later headed Ikhwan in South Kashmir: “This kind of support, people intervening in encounters, was not there in the 1990s.”
Support is also counted in the attendance at funerals, the serpentine procession of mourners trailing behind the bodies of dead militants. At Naseer Pandit’s funeral, militants even performed a gun salute while the army stayed away. “No else had such a big funeral,” said Ghulam Rasool Pandit. “People came from Baramullah and other places. Lashkar, Jaish, foreign militants also came. I didn’t see it because I didn’t go, but I was told. If you saw him once you would remember him. He was just such a guy.”
The funerals have become a matter of pride for grieving families, a validation of the armed struggle that killed their sons. “When Dawood [Sheikh, a top Hizbul militant] died, they read his janaza [funeral prayers] six times,” said Nisar Ahmed Parrey, Newton’s brother. “If they are not heroes then who is?”
funeral of burhan wani
people assemble at burhan wanis house to pay tributes
a kashmiri sikh bro bids fare well to Burhan

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Why is Mr. Narendra Modi so eager to get India a permanent membership in United Nations Security council?

Let us get a background about what the UNSC- United Nations Security Council really is and what its functions are.
As the name implies the Security council has the responsibility to intervene in civil wars and resolve conflicts among nations. Thus if the member nations deem necessary, the UN will take action against the government of any nation and has the power to dismantle the nation's power structure.
UNSC has a few temporary members and five permanent members. The temporary members get a term of two years each. USA, Russia, France, Britain and China are the five permanent members of the security council.
The permanent members have a veto power over all the decisions of the UNSC. What does this imply? This ensures that no big decision is taken which will make a powerful country unhappy. This veto power serves well to the five members as it helps them protect their interests.
There have been countless wars and massacres which have taken place in the world since the World War Two but the UN did not even blink an eye. This was because all these wars served the interests of the five members from that elite permanent group.
In 1971 when the Pakistan army massacred millions of innocent Bengali people, the UNSC did not bother to castigate Yahya Khan for he was an US ally. India received a massive inflow of poor, diseased and hungry refugees but was the only country shouting about it.
Not many countries at the UN supported India back then. The USSR had to even veto a resolution which was against India.
The UN conveniently ignored the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in 1975 only because the regime served the interests of nations from the security council.
The point is that the veto power and respect a nation gets from a place on the Security Council permanent membership is vital.
Also the permanent seat provides a lot of influence in the decision making process of the UN. Does French- a language spoken by a hundred million- deserve to be the official language today when Hindi, which is spoken by three hundred million people, is not an official language? ( More people understand and speak Hindi, but this is the figure of people who speak it as their native language.)
I speak fluent Spanish and I work as freelance interpreter and I get paid a shitload of money in Pune. I am only nineteen years old but I already earn more than several engineers. So a permanent seat in the UNSC will help India create favourable conditions for its citizens.
AS a nation grows and integrates itself into the world economy on a larger scale, it is increasingly important for it to protect it's interests abroad.

India, with its booming economy and an ambitious private business sector, is investing huge amounts of money in every continent. From Afghanistan, Australia, Middle east to many African nations, India has considerable economic, strategic and cultural interests to protect.
India has a huge diaspora working in the middle eastern countries and an unstable Arab world is not in our interests.
This image shows a comparison between Indian and Chinese diaspora around the world. India clearly has a huge population in very turbulent regions where chances of conflicts are high. India has already faced several challenges in rescuing the diaspora, most recently in Libya and Yemen.
The veto power will help India avoid any actions by the UNSC which may injure Indian investments or interests. It will also make nations think twice before doing something with an intention to harm India.
The respect India will attain from the seat will help India gain more attention in the international media. The Permanent seat will also add more weight to Indian opinions and statements.
The position as a permanent member says a lot about a country. Consumer confidence in a nation grows. Thus more investments are made and this helps boost the economy.
An investor will think many times before making an investment in Syria. ( Many Indians and the world lost a lot of money due to the violence in Syria. The civil war has made it impossible to continue any business.)
But a strong India will help build an image of a stable India and this will bring in more business.
So Mr Modi, or any Indian leader will be keen on securing the permanent seat at the Security council because the seat will help India gain more influence, investment, respect and secure its business and strategic interests all over the world.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Digital fasting is necessary

I have content fatigue. Is that a real thing? Surely a reliable study has been done. But even if a study hasn’t been done, something has definitely messed me up.
In the spirit of Tom Haverford, here’s a typical Internet Routine for my mornings:
·         Grab phone immediately upon waking up because my phone is also my alarm.
·         Open Twitter and scroll without even absorbing anything because my eyes are still dead.
·         Open Instagram because beautiful photos are very important.
·         Check Facebook to see if I got any likes or comments while I slept.
·         Once I’m finally walking around, I’ll check out friends’ Snapchat Stories.
·         Get back on Facebook, but this time I’m on my laptop after I’ve written my storyfor no reason at all because I loathe Facebook. Honestly, at this point Im just conditioned to open it during any lull.
·         By now, it’s time to get ready for work. I start the shower and then inexplicably stand half-naked in my bathroom while scrolling through Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Anchor, WHATEVER. My phone eventually gets covered in steam…so I know when to stop. This is exactly the kind of moment that signals: I’ve got a problem.
A tricky place

There’s more content on the web than any person can ever consume in a lifetime. This content pile grows wider, deeper, and higher every second and there’s no stopping it. It’ll grow and grow until it becomes self-aware and eats our brains. Even after I publish this insanely valuable and well-written story, I’m only adding to a man-eating pile.
The internet can be a tricky place for those of us who get addicted to knowledge, new insights, fresh ideas, compelling stories, comment debates, and digital connections.
Some people can consistently eat up content (as well as produce it) without ever being affected or slowing down. I’m not one of those people. It all exhausts me after too long. I don’t know why that is. I just know that it is.
What I have to do
I’ll be taking a month offa Digital Fast, if you will.
From June 7 to July 6, I won’t be active on any social network. Nor will I consume any digital content.
Here’s what I am allowed to consume:
·         Music
·         Fiction, philosophy, biography, or poetry books
·         Story-driven or educational podcasts like This American LifeReply All,Stuff You Should Know, Criminal.
If you’re wondering why I’m allowing those things, it’s because those are the types of content that I never intentionally try to extract insight or knowledge from. I simply consume and enjoy the ride. However, sometimes insight or knowledge is an unintentional byproduct.
What I’ll be doing instead
You may not be able to tell from my above Internet Routinebut I do have a life outside of the web. There are few projects and goals that I’ll be pursuing like a starving predator during my Digital Fast.
1.      Getting fit. I’m going on a tropical vacation in a month
2.      A freelance project. It’s always nice to have extra cash for vacation. So I added a freelance gig to my June schedule.
3.      Finishing my all reading book. I’m avid reader. This should be easier during a digital fast.
See you in a month
Hopefully my eyes won’t be so bloodshot by then. Also, I’d love to know if anybody else experiences content fatigue? If so, what helps? Quick, let me know by tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How Patanjali uses modern brand strategy to grow past Colgate and challenge P&G, Unilever.

The news must have come through to you too: Patanjali reported Indian revenues of around Rs. 5,000 crores (~ USD 750 million) for the last financial year — and in doing so went past Colgate in India. Even more interesting is that Colgate is almost 8 decades old in India while Baba Ramdev’s brand is barely 8 years old.
The saffron-clad Baba’s forecast was quite eye-catching too — he thinks the brand will double revenues to Rs. 10,000 crores (~USD 1.5 billion) in India by next year, 2017 — which would effectively take them past two other-decades old companies — Nestle and Procter & Gamble — and leave Patanjali second only to Unilever in India, all in just about 10 years.
So what helped them grow this fast? After all, nobody particularly thought that the Indian FMCG scene was ripe for disruption.
Sure, there will be many parts to this answer. Quality products, or at least the promise of these will be one reason. Reasonable pricing will be another. Aggressive distribution will be a third.
But I believe the true innovation is something that was probably done without much thought.
A single brand strategy.
The Colgate company sells brands under its name, Palmolive, Ajax and others.
Procter and Gamble go further — there’s Gillette, Tide, Pampers, Ariel, Duracell and so much more.
Unilever is the classic proponent of the multi-brand strategy: from Surf and Dove and Lipton and Lux and Ponds to variants like Surf Excel and Lipton Yellow Label and Lux Supreme and Ponds Dreamflower and far, far beyond.
But take a look at the Patanjali range above — whether it’s toothpaste or rice, noodles or chyavanprash — it’s all under one brand, Patanjali.
Flying in the face of traditional brand theory.
Traditional marketing thought has held that one needs to build and nurture a portfolio of brands, each carefully positioned against a separate audience for a separate need.
Perhaps Baba Ramdev wasn’t the first to cock a snook at this dictum. Richard Branson was one of the first to get there, with his “Virgin” brand draped around everything from colas to planes, trains, mobile services and comics.
The thinking is straightforward — if you have heard of my brand and like the personality — then you might be comfortable buying something else I offer. No matter how different the product category.
The modern technology brand playbook.
Technology brands like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others follow this playbook.
The naming formula here is simple: Unique Brand + Generic Sub-brand/category name = Product Brand name.
Google and Maps makes for Google Maps. Ditto for Google Search. Or even balloons in the sky — Google Loon.
The word ‘Microsoft’ is a prefix that fits everything from Mouse and Keyboard to Windows Server.
Apple’s generic sub-brands are almost category like: Apple iPod, Apple iPhone, Apple iTunes, Apple iPad and so on.
So what Baba Ramdev is doing is not very different from the new thinking in the business world.
The undoubted benefits of a single-brand strategy.
How severe is this problem? Till a few years ago, Nestle marketed over 8,000 brands in 190 countries. Unilever had 1,600 brands across 150 countries and P&G was a bit of laggard with just 250 brands in 160 countries.
But even P&G thought that was a hundred too many, and announced a cull of its brand portfolio down to ‘just’ 150 in 2014.
But in today’s over-branded, over-communicated world, even that may be 149 brands too many.
Each brand requires its own marketing and promotional budget, its own brand management team.
But cutting it down to 1 brand makes life so much easier.
You were ready to try Google Maps — because you were used to Google Search. You eagerly waited for the Apple iPhone — because you love your Apple iMac — or were a fan of the Apple iPod.
Every product, in fact, becomes an advertisement for every other product made by the same company. Drastically reducing your required marketing spend by some 80% or more.
So, build just one brand. Let the positive rub-off of that glow on everything product you sell under that brand.
Any downsides?
Sure, one could argue that having different brands insulates you if something goes wrong with one.
If Maggi went wrong, it shouldn’t affect Nestle’s other brands.
But it actually did: You know Maggi made for a small share of the company’s revenues — but one hit on one brand’s reputation side-swiped the entire company as you’ll see in this stock price chart.:
So what else did Patanjali gain?
It’s harder for a sales guy to go and tell a retailer — listen, please stock Lux and Sunsilk and Dove and Lifebuoy and Close Up. And easier for one to go up to the man and say — hey just stock Patanjali — and carry our Salt and Rice and Shampoo and Soap and whatnot. The man believes he is doing you one favour, not five.
So distribution is easier. And that’s a key win.
Consumer recognition is much better too. The lady who goes to the shops says, “Hey, this is that Patanjali stuff. I tried the rice, it was okay. Let me try the shampoo too. It seems to be reasonably priced.” As easy as that.
Of course, the products need to live up to the billing. But in this day and age, that’s not very difficult.
After all, HUL and P&G don’t manufacture their own products — they contract it out to smaller firms. And you can be more than reasonably sure of quality of product in this day and age when you outsource it to someone who makes soaps and shampoos and toothpastes for all the brands.
So what should your brand strategy be?
The fewer brands the better. And ideally, just one brand, please. And don’t get creative with sub-brands. Be as generic and descriptive as you can when it comes to sub-brands or variants.
Don’t make it Lux Supreme if you want to say Lux Extra Creamy. Extra Creamy says it better than yet another word for the consumer to remember.
Tesla Model 3 is fine. It’s much better than Toyota Innova Crysta 2.4 GX 7 STR. (Yes, that’s really a name.) How much do you really expect the consumer to remember?
Sony Phone 6.4 tells me it’s probably a good big-screen phone much better than Sony Experia Z Ultra 4G ever will. Yes, that’s really a name too.
Doing one brand well in this over-communicated world is hard enough. Let alone you thinking you have the money and time to establish a second or a twenty-second brand.
And don’t worry too much about traditional thinking on line extensions too. If Google can do maps and going to space under the same brand, I’m sure the consumer will let you do rice and oil and toothpaste under the same name.
She’s already let a non-MBA in orange robes do that. So there’s room for you to follow in those footsteps!