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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

What ails INC!

The spate of election defeats in the recent and not so recent past both at state levels as well as Centre has reduced the once behemoth like Indian National Congress to the levels of also-rans in most of the political map of India. Suffices to say that there has to be something more than just anti incumbency at work here. For a party which much to everyone's surprise sent the NDA govt packing in '04 and then surprised everyone again by retaining power at the Centre in the past decade, it is indeed a sad commentary to be reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. All this boils down to one question, What ails Indian National Congress (INC)?

Obsolete like cyclostyling?

INC today faces some of its toughest days ahead. A brand which started off as a virtual monopoly at the time of independence, its current status where its very relevance is questioned is a story worth telling. It is not that INC has lost its relevance, it still enjoys a substantial voteshare pan India and its core values of development of all, including the last man is still a work in progress in this country. To give you an analogy, INC does not find itself where Cyclostyling Machines or Electronic Typewriters find themselves, obsolete due to the advancement of technology. What ails INC primarily is brand fatigue. An example of how some of the oldest brands have tackled fatigue is Uniliver and its brand Lux. Lux from time immemorial has been promoted as a beauty soap. Remember the famous tagline 'Filmy sitaron ka saundarya saabun'? Where Lux has been different is through constant churn of  'New faces' to endorse the brand it has positioned itself as a contemporary brand without losing its core values. INC needs to rejuvenate itself with programmes which will make it contemporary and find traction with new voters.

Youth, Icon or Youth Icon?

The other issue which INC seems to have missed sight of is what is called the 'Young India'. Given the demographics, India populace is nearest to what the Americans once called themselves, the Baby Boomers. Voters who are of the post libaralization era, aspirational, ambitious and in a tearing hurry. The INC from an unaffiliated voter's perspective appears to be steeped in the License-quota-Subsidy era while the voters have moved on. While a well targeted subsidy scheme still has an important place in Indian society steeped in inequality, the presentation of just this aspect without appearing to address the concerns of the youth of India has led to a disconnect with the largest growing segment among Indian Voters, the middle class. A possible way to crack this issue, one may look at Pepsi. Pepsi has positioned itself against a well entrenched Coke through what is known as 'Youth' platform. And has gone about recruiting brand ambassadors who the target consumers are attracted to. The difference is Pepsi has dropped stars like Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan and the likes to latch on to the next youth icon on the horizon, Dhoni to Kohli and Ranbir Kapoor. All this while, the fact remains Tendulkar and Khan are still some of the biggest draws in India, the only hitch, they are no longer 'youth'. INC needs to reiterate its commitment to all sections of the voters, young and middle class included by churning out programmes of their concern too in a language which is less of a sermon and more 'Happening'. And age of the leadership is a non issue. Remember Rahul Gandhi is lot younger than Narendra Modi and yet the voters endorsed the later overwhelmingly.

Who is the next Regional Manager?
Any marketer worth his pay check will tell you that a strong distribution is a key to acquire/gain/improve/retain marketshare. A robust team spread across the length and breadth of the market delivering superior services at the convenience of the customer makes successful brands. While a product may face competition from a 'me-too', a well oiled delivery mechanism helps reach more customers and create entry barriers for the 'me-too'. While start ups like Kavin Care innovate with products and packaging, the larger MNCs copy the same and go national in no time. Distribution to a political party is the organization at grassroot level, in electoral terms at booth level. When was the last time you heard of an INC win due to this strength. Today it is the BJP which is making more noise in its attempt to enroll new members while being in power in half of India and at the Centre! The other part of the market infrastructure is the regional/state level leadership. In markets where you lose ground, it is difficult to regain the market share without a Regional Manager/ Zonal Manager who can stem the rot, regroup the team, strategize and  push forward its agenda of becoming market leader again. It is not as difficult as it appears. Remember despite BJP retaining power in Gujrat three times spread over a decade, INC still enjoys a 40%+ voteshare in the state. One well thought out, well coordinated push and INC could be back in power in Gandhinagar. A 5% swing towards INC might end in a windfall for it in a two horse race.

No longer top of the mind!

The last thing INC would hope is for the ennui to set in deep. Remember Lacto Calamine? The once market leader in the skin care segment is now rarely visible on the shelves replaced as it is by newer enterants. While brands like Surf/Wheel took on the upstarts like Nirma to flower further, Lacto Calamine is no longer the top of the mind brand in its core segment. When INC doesn't fight back, regional/local parties occupy the space vacated by it. The old market dictum is that the No.1 and No.2 brands are in the reckoning for spoils and No.3 and others make up the numbers. It has happened to INC in many a state, could well happen in others!

Finally as yet another market dictum goes, marketshare doesn't  come easily. It calls for single minded approach like that of a rifle and patience of a vulture!

 PS: The other way for INC to come back to relevance is by allowing BJP to commit enough mistakes and wait for the anti-establishment votes!


Filmy sitaron ka saundarya saabun : Beauty Soap of Filmstars!


  1. You are right. The point is there is no marked difference in the economic policies
    of congress and bjp. The dif is on religious matters. The effective marketing of
    Modi and co won the thumps up. Imagine, if Advavi might have promoted bjp during
    Elections !!

  2. Only if NAC was not allowed to overrule Manmohan Singh.
    Only if Manmohan Singh was given a freehand. This would not have happened.
    And If Rahul Gandhi continues to rule there is no hope for Congress.