Avik Chattopadhyay: Jo dikhta hai…

04 Jun,2021

Avik ChattopadhyayBy Avik Chattopadhyay


Fighting the Covid virus and coming out of it in one piece teaches you one big lesson. That the recovery is more prolonged, tedious and fraught with anxiety than the actual infection is. So, the “negative” report and the visions of dead virus cells conjuring up before us are far from ground reality.


The old Hindi saying of ‘Jo dikhta hai, wohi bikta hai!’ does not work any more in these pandemic times. ‘Whoever is visible, will sell better’ is a thing of the past. The experiences over 24 months [I expect this pandemic to definitely last that long, if not longer] will establish the truth that ‘Jo karta hai, wohi tikta hai!’ or ‘Whoever is doing, will sustain’.


People, politicians, governments, sections of society, and brands that have actually worked at the ground level since March 2020 are the ones who the nation now recognises as worthy of respect. For the nation now well realises the difference between “showing” and “doing”, as the 15 months of the pandemic have clearly demonstrated.


One would assume that after this debilitating second wave and the electoral reversals, the ‘Government of India’ [GoI], one of the nation’s biggest brands, would have learnt its lessons in ample measure. Why would the GoI be a ‘brand’? Why not, as it has a purpose, a promise, a set of values, a bunch of stakeholders to serve and, a logo / symbol / emblem? Everything that carries the Sarnath Lion Capital with ‘Satyamev Jayate’ written below it represents the country. The symbol is also supplemented with a smiling photo of the Prime Minister, and the political party in power.


Two news items, in a span of four days, took my attention:

:: Centre to set up ‘BBC-like’ channel to push India view. – The Indian Express, May 20, 2021

:: ‘Make party visible’, BJP to workers after leaders go missing amid Covid. – NDTV, May 23, 2021



Prasar Bharati has floated a tender for consultants to come up with plans to set up “DD International”. The Expression of Interest, issued on May 13, as per the news item, states that the objective is to “project India’s point of view globally on contemporary issues of both global and domestic significance” and to “tell the India Story to a global audience”. It also intends DD International to be the “authoritative global media source on India through credible, exhaustive and accurate global news service”.


Said Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati: “This is something that was something long overdue, to have an international presence for Doordarshan,” comparing it to the “first iteration of BBC or Al Jazeera”.


So, will that mean that DD International will be fiercely independent in its opinion, state it clearly and get into investigative journalism? Does it mean it will allow programmes on the line of “Yes, Prime Minister!”, “Just a Minute”, and “Top Gear” to be telecast? Or is the catch in the “first iteration” bit which implies a BBC during the Second World War with the single objective of uniting the nation or, a BBC till the 1990s where the MI5 used to be involved in every appointment, keeping leftists and rightists out? Does it mean we are looking at a television channel in the 2020s in the style of the 1920s? Why have only a BBC or an Al Jazeera as a benchmark? Just because it will be run by the government does not mean that independent channels do not do an equally good job! The benchmark, if at all allowed in the era of being ‘Atmanirbhar’, should be on the content rather than the control. This is a classic demonstration of the GoI believing that “Joh dikhta hai…” will still work in a post-pandemic world that wishes to hear the Indian point of view.


Now on to the second news item. Post a serious review meeting with the RSS top brass, the BJP leadership came upon the realisation that the party was losing out in the hustings when it came to grabbing brownie points on caring for the country in the pandemic. Till now, the party was totally dependent on the One Man to carry the show. Just that the game had changed along with the goalpost! No new gimmicks like lamps and claps happened while the social media team was busy creating ‘manipulated’ memes like showing a football stadium in Qatar as the world’s largest Covid facility set up in Nagpur. When you enter a football game with cricket gear, things don’t usually work out. People consuming content by the gazzilion bytes per minute had learnt to identify and appreciate content backed up by action.


Hence the momentous decision “make the party visible”. J P Nadda announced that all functions to mark seven years of the Narendra Modi government be avoided on May 30. “Party workers should dedicate themselves in the service of the society,” he commented.


The objective, it seems, is to make the party “visible”. It could have been to ‘make the party serve more’. The ulterior motive is to create fresh social media content that shows the party doing good, rather than necessarily doing so. Do one act and amplify it a billion times, through edits, voice-overs and copy. Also, if the party was contemplating celebrations of the seventh anniversary of GoI in these times, it was very close to buying its own burial space amidst the unfortunate others on the banks of the Sangam in Prayagraj!


The pandemic has harshly taught us that all value and trust lie in ground-level action. In a post-pandemic world, mere visibility will not work anymore. In isolation, it is a waste of all resources…time, money, and consumer mind-space.


We want demonstrable action to do all the talking. We want a higher level of empathy. We expect more transparency in intent and disclosure. We demand a sustainable purpose and promise to lead it all. We do not believe in ‘Jo dikhta hai…’ anymore. We need ‘Swachch, Sundar and Tikaau’ brands to engage with us if they want our eyeballs, footfalls, vouches, and votes!


Avik Chattopadhyay is a senior brand strategist based in New Delhi NCR. He writes on MxMIndia every other week. His views here are personal


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