Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace on Earth Part II

The twittersphere and much of facebook is so dominated by gangrape posts, it frightens me. Is there really so much bile, anger, resentment, frustration, self importance and delusion in people I actually know?

What happened to "let he who hasn't sinned, cast the first stone"?

Or to "change yourself before trying to change others"?

Or to those three fingers that point squarely back at you?

What happened to forgiveness? Is it too hard, or just not the fashionable thing to do any more?

When I tweeted, with mild trepidation, that perpetrators are victims too, I got some noisy disagreements. Is knowledge of basic criminology so low, or is it just convenient to ignore it when the popular shout is "Crucify him, crucify him"?

On Christmas eve, I would like to humbly offer this opinion - that violence of any kind, to any individual or species, is abhorrent. The rape of a soul, or spirit, or heart, or mind, takes longer to heal, and causes more far reaching and insidiously hideous effects than the rape of the body - but makes no media news, because it is invisible.

And who among us has not committed that crime, has not bent another's will to suit our own, has not contributed to mass murder by distance?

Ahimsa, non violence, is perhaps the only answer to our times. Buddha preached it. Mahatma Gandhi practised it. Christ both preached and practised it.

Tragic that we the people of India, who once used it to overthrow a super empire, now ape the West with candlelight protests and two minutes of media fame. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

Non-violence is not easy. It requires soul searching, quietitude, genuine compassion for all beings good or evil, followed by enlightened means to rectify and save. It's the only slow but sure way to a better society.

Sharing once again my Christmas blogpost after the 26/11 attacks. It saddens me that it continues to be relevant four years later. But then, that is the wonder of life.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The roaring tide

My favourite movie of all time remains the one and only Born Free. Watching the story of Elsa as a little girl created in me a deep and abiding love for animals and nature.

Every single time I listen to the original song, tears spring to my eyes even as a smile will touch my lips, as the memories of all the animals I have rescued and loved come rushing out.

Here is a modern version created by the Born Free Foundation. It lacks the soufulness of the original, though May's guitar work is as resplendant as always. And the magic of the lyrics with their promise of freedom, no matter what, is perennial.

You're free as the roaring there's no need to hide.....


Monday, November 12, 2012

Comfortably numb

Have been swimming lazily below the surface the past fortnight, staying out of the public eye, except for a few tweets. Came up for air a couple of times to meet a few useful business contacts for coffee at Costa's.

But did venture out to turn a couple of somersaults and nose a few balls at the Lintastic Diwali party on the 7th where they dedicated a nostalgic Bollywood "please don't go so soon" type of song to me, while I stood indelicately on the wrought iron park bench (see pic below). I also gave out the prizes for all the nonsensical games - bottles and cans of various persuasions from beer to pickle to perfume.

Now to get to work on my talk for the India for Animals Conference in Panjim later this week. Mmm, but the waters are so warm and comforting, I'd rather just keep gliding along.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Significant journeys

More than a year has passed since I last posted here. My klout score is 63, and  Qnary score is 55. Facebook, twitter and linkedin rule my social media world.  No one visits this blog anymore, so it's a good place to speak softly to myself and hear it back years later. I come back here to the long form only when something momentous happens.

Like on October 26th, my birthday. And the last officially public day of an entire era in my life. I had stepped down as Chairman and CEO of Lintas Media Group, and the fact would be made public the following Monday.

God is great. He ensured that I spent the last few hours of my tenure in a tough and powerful post in the cutthroat world of advertising and media in the most relaxing yet inspiring way possible. Aboard a small yet highly resourceful boat that was built and first wet her bow in Goan waters. That set sail for a nonstop solo circumnavigation of the world a few days later. Whose journey coincides ironically with my own internal journey to a new life in the social development space, as the restraint period imposed on me comes to a close after seven months.

By the time INSV Madhei returns home successfully, as I am sure she will, I will hopefully have launched my new venture aimed at helping less privileged Indians using my own special and unique skills.

I will follow the posts written by the boat's brave captain almost like a compass. The most important journeys in life can only be travelled alone. One can share the experiences with others, but can one can only experience them alone.

Here are some pictures:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Power means responsibility

Social media have placed so much power into our hands. We can bring down governments on the back of shared tweet. We can find an abandoned dog a home. We can make music history with one youtube performance.

With power comes great responsibility. Do we realise that?

Juxtaposing these two articles below makes me proud to be an Indian, and a Mumbai-ite.

While the London rioters used BBM to spread misery and chaos, Mumbai-ites instead used the power of the internet to bring help and calm in the aftermath of the 13/7 blasts, since the phone lines were jammed.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Testing Times

My last post here was on March 11, 2010 - that's one year, four months and three weeks ago. I had promised to keep writing, and then fell prey to the simplicity and ease of the short and sweet 'share', 'like', and 'status update' buttons on facebook. Plus nothing really inspired me enough - perhaps I have been in an emotional limbo all this while.

Till last week when two big new things happened to me.

The first was a relatively simple learning experience. As part of LMG's Cyberquest month, every employee has to get Google certified, and go through rigorous social and mobile media immersion. We were given study material for two weeks, which I ignored, made to attend a three hour lecture, which I enjoyed, and then given our passwords for the Google Fundamentals two hour test, which I completed in ninety minutes, got 77% marks and failed. Passing score is 85%.

The test itself was so well crafted that you learned with each and every question and multiple choice answer. Most people take three attempts to pass it, learning more with each attempt. I was greatly impressed by the Google approach to business - a unique truly value enhancing model that all our media partners could learn from.

The second was a more complicated but equally useful learning experience. At the Annual General Meeting of an important trade association, where I embroiled myself self righteously in a proxy war, without having a single proxy of my own!

Without the benefit of study material, lecture or test, I have downloaded this definition from Wikipedia, to better understand exactly what it was that happened.

"A proxy war or proxy warfare is a war that results when opposing powers use third parties as substitutes for fighting each other directly.

Proxy wars have also been fought alongside full-scale conflicts. It is almost impossible to have a pure proxy war, as the groups fighting for a certain nation usually have their own interests, which can diverge from those of their patron.

Typically proxy wars function best during cold wars, as they become a necessity in conducting armed conflict between at least two belligerents while continuing cold warfare."

My opponent, a person I consider a close friend, had informed me about the general mood of the house against my continuance as Vice President. Despite the 'great job' I did in running Goafest 2011 with all its complications, my open dissent with the way affairs are conducted within the governing body did not find favour with, what I affectionately call, the Old Boys Club. That I am a woman, a christian woman, a single woman, and a woman with a mind of my own, could not have made it easy for them to understand me, much as I have tried to understand what motivates them, and to accept that power and ego are powerful drivers for men who are business leaders, even as women prefer to make a difference in more subtle and creative ways.

What I did not know was that he wanted the job for himself instead. Had he even once told me this himself, I would have gladly stepped aside for him. Instead I found myself 'accosted' by other friends and frenemies, each espousing his case, a few minutes before the meeting. Unwilling to given in to pressure, and genuinely believing that in standing down I would be doing my own good work and good intentions a disservice, I told the house that I would 'rather lose'. Whereupon an election was swiftly called for by some of the members of the Old Boys Club. Members who came armed with proxies, no less that 40 of them! Against one woman and her two colleagues and two friends in the house.

As the election committee went about putting the ballot process together, the frantic parlays began across the room. I finally understood what 'mastering the art of working the floor of the house' means. Doing good work, hard work - oh all that is passe, what counts in some governing bodies like this one (thankfully not others) is how well you work the floor. I didn't. I had no qualms about declaring openly to anyone who wanted to know, that I would not pressurise anyone, nor would I yield to pressure from anyone.

Before the voting began, I was called aside with my friend-turned-opponent, and two offers were made.

The first one was this - we both stand down, and a third person be appointed. I refused it, thinking if it wasn't in my fate to be Vice President for another term, at least it would be my friend-turned-opponent. But he agreed to it! That's when I realised that he was as much against my continuance as the rest of the OBC. Anyone but me, anyone (not even him) but me. Perhaps, as he said, he was under pressure too. Someone else - another Old Boy - had been 'requested' to withdraw his own candidature on the assurance that my friend would become the VP instead of me. How they must all dislike me, or feel threatened by me, who knows!

The second offer was unbelievable. The holder of the proxies would ensure that I got re-elected if I asked one of my colleagues, who was already elected into the governing body, to step aside and withdraw his valid candidature. Why? Because a few months earlier, this young man had the temerity to stand up to the Old Boys, calling out some of their unjust ways in no uncertain terms, and crossing the line of propriety along the way. Though he did subsequently apologise as abjectly as he could, the Old Boys are senior of age and status, but not necessarily of heart and stature, and here was the chance to find vindication. I rejected this offer, unequivocally.

I lost 50 votes to 5. The proxies weren't even needed. But they were used.

I thought I would feel defeated. I don't. I feel stronger than ever. I don't give up, and I don't give in. There is anther year to go, another year to see if I can pick up the skills to work the floor. Without betraying my friends, my values, my integrity. Maybe I will learn, maybe I won't - it would be good to find out. At least I know that I can push back my shoulders, lift up my chin and walk into the next meeting with a genuine smile on my face for all those in the Governing Body who I do love and respect, including those in the OBC!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reading and writing

Facebook and twitter have overtaken my digital life - I have nearly abandoned this blog, a place I once loved so much. And still do. I just don't seem to have the time or inclination required to write out full sentences and paragraphs.

A few weeks ago, I bought a kindle from and reacquainted myself with the art of pure reading. An unusual realisation - that even holding up a book which has a right and left side can be a distraction - the binder in the middle, the other page, you can see them both from the corner of your eye - but with the kindle, it's just the words in front of you and nothing else. Words in carefully muted black over cream , easy on the eye. I believe the kindle is not doing well at all in India - well, I love it. I have downloaded newspapers and books to read on long journeys away from home, and preferred the experience to the ubiquitous inflight video.

So now that I am reading without the distractions of double spread boutique ads, diecuts on the front page, and rich media banners, I must also return to some proper writing instead of this 140 character texting nonsense. I hope to be back here more often, always assuming that I have something insightful to write about.

Till then, let me commit an unforgiveable crime and redirect you to a facebook page - of my travels last month in Africa. No, I couldn't find all the words to say it all, and have used many pictures instead. Here is the link, hope it opens up to my non-friends too.

"In love with elephants"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

144/9 Torda

Reproducing below a post I wrote on November 15, 2005 - No, it's not due to laziness, or lack of inspiration, just nostalgia and a sudden longing for the way things used to be before the builders descended on my village.....

"Ultimately, it’s all about witchcraft and wizadry. Hogwarts cannot have a monopoly on magic. I won’t allow it.

It starts with a nondescript, non-used but fully functioning brass bell, set inside a 4 by 4 hollow square in the front of the left compound wall that was meant to house the giant red dolphin.

(The dolphin being the then mascot of the Goa SPCA, much maligned by all our trustees.

- Benny – “of all the creatures you could have shown as a symbol, why on earth a dolphin, why not dogs and cats and horses and the common cow?”

- Lt Col Nageshkar –“ people think we are fish mongers – when our three wheeler animal carrier passes by with the red dolphin painted on it, they think we are transporting fish” (this one must make my priestly ancestors roll in their polished marble graves – having looked down for centuries at the ‘fisherfolk’ – if you’ve encountered the cacophonous quarrelsome locals of Calangute and Baga, you will sympathise)

- Bharat –“are you sure red is a good colour for a) a hospital, b) a dolphin?”

- Ashley – “it makes us look like a tourist hotel”)

The dolphin that was delivered hours before the inauguration was a flat uninspiring piece of badly cut and poorly painted red steel, so I sent Clem off to buy a bell – “We have to put something in that square – can’t leave it empty, might as well be a bell – it can stand for anything you like, I don’t care, just fill up the square.”

People sometimes clang on the bell for fun. Sometimes to call the vets down the hill. The bell is where the magic begins.

It moves on to Leopoldina. A badam tree sapling we planted on Foundation day, October 4, 2000. Named after a local twenty something senorita who looked longingly at Clem, the Man from the Big City – during the mass. Everyone says hello to everyone in a village that houses 900 people, if that. “Hello, I’m Lynn, this is Clem, what’s your name?” “Leopoldina”. Clem does a double take. Turns out that was Annabelle’s code name when she lived in America while they were dating. Our baby tree is officially named Leopoldina. A clutch of elves live inside her.

(When the construction papers finally got approved we realized that we had miscalculated the whole project by three metres, since that’s how much forward it would have to move up, to make way for potential ‘road widening’. No way I would let Leopoldina and the corner stone be moved, even though they were technically quite out of place. So everything had to make its way around her, the pathway, the vehicles going up and down, the cashew tree above her that now looks down at her with angry frowns since she has grown right up to his lower branches. We celebrate her temerity every year on her birthday, she continues to cast her cheeky spell.)

It moves further up to the office block, that houses the administration, the OPD, and the angels dressed up as vets, nurses and general dogsbodies. Everything is spic and span, including Tixi and Toxi, the two teak trees who rise up from the Torda earth, right through the administration rooms, into the front verandah of my own home above. From time to time, the insects dance around them, and the toadstools pop out at night. In autumn, I turn into a sweeper of falling blossoms and leaves as they shed their clothes faster than an American stripper.

The front wall of the administration building that faces the road was painted over in aquatic blue by two young Warli tribals shipped in by Clem on a bus the night before the inauguration. Animal rescue and treatment scenes depicted by them show a nurse chasing after a bird with a needle and syringe that’s taller than her, among other such expressions of their typical triangular art.

(The addition of over two hundred plants of varying lineage, taken from Mumbai in the Grand Rescue of all Things Living at Gym View for over Twenty Years, (the said Gym View now having been razed to the ground to make way for a dazzling display of diamond gotten wealth) have somewhat hidden the Warli contribution and added a semblance of civilization to the place’s jungle appeal. Palms, ferns and cordelias rub shoulders with jackfruit, cashew and goti, and all blend together beautifully. The only rule being that there are no rules – grow where you grow best and feel happy, darling, ain’t no posh garden manicurists here.)

Up a long laterite flight of steps hugging the right compound wall, past my impossibly sloping backyard, back of my house but front of the shelter. We are now at the fourth floor by city standards, but at the ground floor of my house. At Torda, logic has a magic of its own.

Here lives Noella, nestling among jackfruit, mango, papaya and lemon, all waiting to grow up and bear fruit – hopefully, not long now. I carried her from Mumbai to Goa on my lap in a plane, her graceful young branches tied closely together to keep her trademark spiky Christmas tree leaves from getting hurt. Every year, she sprouts a new row of hexagonally symmetrical branches. This Christmas, her third new row has just starting reaching out to the other trees around her, and the fairies will skip past each row as always when the clock strikes twelve on December 25th, so that a magical star can come down to settle on her forehead.

By now, you are breathless. When you look up, you think, “Oh my God, how much further?” If you have a scruffy little pup by your side, he’s having a party. Hop, skip and jump, here I come. Hey cat, wait till I get you. That’s right. You have just reached the gates to the shelter, where Gingy awaits you with a haughty little meow. Her sisters are sunning themselves on the surgery roof, flat on their backs, paws kneading the air dreamily – you can see them as you go past the roof. Yes you do go past the roof, this is 144/9, Torda, remember?

Before you turn left at the little nookish entrance to the kitchen block, you are greeted by pups of assorted weight and colour, and if she’s not feeling too sleepy, Shalu will step up to say a polite hello too, while Philu will shake her bum ecstatically.

(Philu was named after the girl at the PFA shelter who sentenced her to death. Those were the days when other NGO’s sent us animals to work on since our own vehicle was on down time. Philu, the dog not the girl, had ‘untreatable’ mange. Dr Rathod set to work on his secret potion, made from exotic ingredients available at the local tinto. He calls it the Golden Lotion. Golden Lotion saved Philu from an untimely death, and sowed the seeds of an anti-euthanasia policy that I seft-righteously drew up. Mange is common in salty sandy Goa, and Golden Lotion has now become a household name in Torda – so what if there are only 300 houses?)

If it’s feeding time, they will all ignore you, pointedly. So will the staff. It’s not easy spooning rice and chicken broth into bowls, with cats hovering by the raw fish at your elbow, and pups scraping at your calves. Lucky will not budge however. She can barely stand. An emaciated Great Dane with a genetic hip disorder, she was left here by the Youth Congress General Secretary. Big man, in service of mankind, in abandonment of dogkind. She sits stretched fully across a strategically positioned step. You realise that the winding steps above were made only for the feeble, the rest of us must learn to take the slope of the hill in our stride and our rubber chappals.

The sloping roofed tubular maroon shelters now loom up before us. The inmates are quiet, dry-eyed, in obvious pain – some from the surgery, some from wounds, some from disease. They place their trust and hopes unflinchingly in the hands of the good Dr Rathod. He bows his head, and waves his wand, and they get up and walk.

(For those that don’t, further up the hill is a spot where magic touched my lips six years ago in a kiss that will stay unforgettable. Here lie the remains of Nixon, Jumbo, Bobby, Candy and many others who fought brave battles, played with the gypsies, and are still playing with them somewhere that is not 144/9 Torda, but as close to it as you can get. Ever.)"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roadblocks everywhere

It has been over two months since my last post. Two months of perhaps the busiest period in my life - both professionally and personally.

Yesterday when I settled down into my chair in office, I realised that I had clocked 16 flights in the previous 20 days, two of them international.

Have I achieved much in this time? I can't say for sure right now. There are too many roads, and too many road blocks, and I would much rather do what I do best - blaze my own new trail, instead of having to maneouvre myself around roads built and blocks created by other people.

Hopefully the solutions I am trying to engineer, and the decisions I am taking, will blaze a strange new trail of their own, even as they upset the influential, but favour the voiceless.

Here is an article of mine that appeared in the back page of the Economic Times Brand Equity on October 14th - hope you enjoy reading it - yes, the 'smart but stupid media planner' referred to in one of the earlier paras, was me.....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meeting two ultra special people on 09.09.09

September 9 is a date I dread. Those close to me professionally and personally would be aware of the horrific experience that I underwent along with three other colleagues on this date twelve years ago, which changed the course of my career for several years thereafter. Even worse was a health related encounter exactly three years later.

Though I am not superstitious at all, 9 is usually supposed to by my lucky number - my house in Torda is 144/9, for example. So perhaps the year 2009, when all the nines came together, was time to turn the tide. Maybe, maybe not, but for sure I met with two people who have been so close and yet so far, in surprising ways on 09.09.09.

The first re-meeting was in the afternoon. A friend sent out "old memories" photos on facebook, and I was tagged on a few of them. The first one opened up to a picture of a long nosed lean mean me with a thinned down casually dressed Ravi Gupta, clapping his hands, like the rest of us in the pitcure.

Tears rushed into my eyes when I saw his face reach out to me from my laptop screen, and it was like he was telling me not to be afraid of September 9 anymore. There is much that I am working on today which was exactly the same that I was working on then, but this time around I think I have him beside me to help.

Later that evening, I went to the Campaign A-lister's party, and met Josy Paul after a longish time. We did the usual rounds of leg pulling, set a date to catch up etc, but in a large gathering of five hundred people, making small talk about big things, you don't really "meet" anyone, do you?

So I opened up the A list book and looked up the entry on Josy. Sure felt good to meet him properly. Read it here and meet him too:-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More on Cannes

This is my article which appeared in on June 24, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On Cannes

Brand Equity asked me to write about what I am expecting at Cannes - from the entries, other jury members, and the festival as a whole. Read and digest and if inclined, leave a comment!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Getting old, staying young

My mother celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday, auspiciously on Easter. Here is the poem written for her by my father's 85 year old sister, who has always had a nice way with words:

You tell me I am getting old -
I tell you that's not so!
The 'house' I live in is worn out
And that, ofcourse, I know.
It's been in use a long, long time;
It's weathered many a gale;
I'm really not surprised you think
It's getting somewhat frail.
The colour's changing on the roof,
The windows getting dim;
The walls a bit transparent
And looking rather thin.
The foundation's not so steady
As once it used to be,
My 'house' is getting shaky
But my 'house' isn't me!
A few short years can't make me old,
I feel I'm in my youth,
Eternity lies just ahead -
A life of joy and truth.
I'm going to live forever there -
Life will go on, it's grand!
You tell me I am getting old?
You just don't understand.
The dweller in my little 'house'
Feels like a child at play:
Just starting on a life to last
Throughout eternal day.
You're only seeing the outside
Which is all that most folks see;
You tell me I am getting old?
You mixed my 'house' with me!

Friday, April 10, 2009

No words required

Adam Lambert's version on American Idol got a standing ovation from the judges but has been removed from Youtube by the content owners, since the program overshot by 5 minutes and most of the East Coast missed out on this performance - it will probably be replayed tonight. He based his performance on the Gary Jules version from the film Donnie Darko - Mad World, perfect for Good Friday this year.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Salaam Mumbai

Salaam Bombay was released in 1988, one of Mira Nair's first films. The kind that left an indelible impact on you, especially if you were on the right side of thirty.

Every Mumbaikar liked it, believed it, was moved by it. The film was nominated for an Oscar, and many others, but eventually won only at Cannes. That was twenty years ago when the West was still Best, and India hadn't yet become the flavour of the year.

Soon after the 1993 bomb blasts, Ravi Gupta got us together at Trikaya, and overnight we drew up a campaign on print, film and outdoor, saluting the spirit of Mumbai with the now famous "Salaam Mumbai" slogan, inspired by the film. (By then the name of city had been changed). We shot two minute films featuring unsung heroes who rushed to help the blast victims, and got all the media to run the entire campaign free. The experience of being attacked was a first, the city's instinctively magnanimous response also a first, and now Salaam Mumbai has become a formula, to be expected each time we are struck and struck again.

Watching this spirit reduced to an impossibly unbelievable fairy tale applauded by a voyeuristic western world, when a far superior equivalent went practically unnoticed, feels like a betrayal of sorts.

Shafik Syed, who played the spunky protagonist, Krishna, in Salaam Bombay, is now driving an auto rickshaw in the streets of Bangalore. Speaking to a news channel, he said no one remembered him or the film, and was thrilled when Mira Nair called him the other day to invite him to the re-release of Salaam Bombay that she is now planning.

And the slums in which one of the Slumdog boys lives, is being razed to the ground by the BMC this week.

So characteristic of this hyped up entertainment business - to create one week wonders, and then discard them. Fear not fellows, the real Mumbai is still here for you all, and will always be.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My needs

My cousin, Michelle, just introduced her facebook friends to an interesting 'feature' on google. If you need a break from meetings, phone calls, emails and powerpoints, this is as good a time-pass as any. Just type in your first name followed by the word 'needs' in the google search bar and discover your deep unexpressed desires finally out in the open!

Here are mine, some true and some pretty much unlikely, but then you never know just what is kept neatly concealed behind our well crafted public personae.

1. Lynn needs some hugs from you. (well, it can get lonely at the top)

2. Lynn needs to develop a larger repertoire of reading vocabulary. (I do??)

3. Lynn needs help's stats. (If I can figure out what that means, maybe I will discover that I do need it).

4. Lynn needs to go to Dodge City to attend a suffrage conference. (I don't know about the suffrage bit, but Dodge City sounds like fun).

5. Lynn needs to move her desk. (People have warned me that my office desk is not in a favourable feng shui position, but given that we have just been ranked the best performing agency in the country in the R3 study that met 240 advertisers, I will leave it where it is. At home, my great great grandfather's 250 year old rosewood writing desk has been hijacked by my toy fox terriers, so I guess that will need to stay where it is too).

6. Lynn needs help naming her unborn daughter. (Enough said).

7. Lynn needs backing for Olympic dream. (Yes, I have always always wanted to hold that torch in my hand ever since we all helped Suresh Mullick with that famous Freedom Film that ran on Doordarshan during Independence Day in the 80's, and Josy gave me one of the torches used in the film as a goodbye present the day I left Ogilvy).

8. Lynn needs help with her baby. (Once again, enough said.)

9. Lynn needs a kidney. (And a liver, and a heart, and a brain, and by the way, God, if your returned my thryoid too, I would be most grateful)

10. Lynn needs money. (Now that is the one thing I definitely don't need!)

Go play.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Adopt a dog

My friend, Meenakshi Madhvani, adopted a couple of street dog pups a few months ago, after an sms I sent her. Tino and Cleo have enriched her life in so many ways, she feels richer than a billionaire.

Now that the Supreme Court has placed a stay on the Bombay High Court order to exterminate ownerless 'nuisance' dogs, there will plenty of pups and dogs who need homes in societies and apartments.

Here are some hoardings that Aaren Initiative will be putting up in Mumbai and Delhi over the next few days, concept courtesy Maneka Gandhi.

And for good measure, a great Pedigree film that ran with the Superbowl final this year!

In case you feel inspired to adopt a dog, here are some waiting for homes:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Humane Capitalism Conclave

This is the text of the keynote address I delivered at the first Humane Capitalism Conclave today - the other speakers on this panel were Anu Aga of Thermax, and Rob Dhoble of Omnicom. Will try to get hold of their deliveries too and paste them here.

"Most of you must have watched President Barack Obama deliver his rhetorical inaugural address two nights ago. Among the many things he said, I was struck several times by his reference to responsibility – that of the citizens of today to the future citizens of this planet, that of his country to the world, that of a government to its people, and that of leaders to the led.

In a much less dramatic but equally sincere speech, our own Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh called out, in no uncertain terms, to the corporate leaders of our country last Saturday at the Economic Times Business Leader Awards – to conduct their businesses with integrity, and not to betray the trust imposed on them by all the stake holders of the corporate world, employees, shareholders and customers. Yet another call to take heart, be good and act responsibly.

Doing good while doing well was the original theme of this conclave. Today when everyone is not doing nearly as well as they would have liked, doing good, playing fair, and being kind, have taken on a real and felt importance across the corporate world. Adversity can bring out either the best or the worst in people, and it’s heartening to note that so far we are seeing a great deal of the best.

This is a welcome trend especially for the civil society movement, since paying lip service to CSR has long been a characteristic of Indian industry. There are genuine practitioners ofcourse but these are few and far between. For most companies and individuals, the easiest response to a request for help is to loosen one’s purse strings with a quick tax deductible cheque.

However social causes need time, effort, attitude and commitment much more than they need funds. (I work for the cause of animals which is the single most unpopular cause of all in India. It requires a great deal of courage and commitment to fight for the plight of creatures who cannot communicate with us). All causes need people to feel the pain and the deprivation, to really empathise with the beneficiaries of their ‘handouts’, and not just sympathise with them.

At times like this when people at all levels have begun to feel the pinch themselves, it’s getting difficult to loosen the purse strings for charity. The good news therefore is that people have instead begun to open their heart strings, and this could lead to real social change. More people ran for Mumbai in the recent marathon than ever before.

This leads me to the role of communication in furthering the practice of humane capitalism. We live in the age of communication. The modes of relaying messages from one to many have never been so quick, so easy and so cheap. More than one lakh people gathered outside the Gateway of India on 26/12 without any kind of paid advertising – just word of mouth and word of mouse through all the social networking sites. As Herod sang in Superstar telling Christ that if he’d come today he would have reached a whole nation – that was still thirty years ago, today he would have reached the whole world. Early estimates suggest that Obama’s address was watched live by more than 300 million people around the world (the opening games of the Olympics by 90 million).

To all the NGO’s therefore who struggle to find funds for awareness generation, you don’t need to. Use the power of citizen driven, community driven, messages instead – they are more powerful, and they are free.

The marketing head of the Taj addressed a digital roundtable organized by us last week along with IAMAI, in which she described the impact of the groundswell of citizen driven communication on the Taj brand. Always seen as a hospitable and efficient brand, in the aftermath of the attacks, people writing in blogs and facebook etc ignored the inadequate security at the hotel (a negative) and dwelt instead on the heroism of its employees (a major positive). I dare say employees of any hotel would have acted similarly in a similar situation – it was the good fortune (for want of a better word) amid the misfortune of the Taj that the event happened there thus generating heaps of free and quick goodwill for the Taj brand that years of pr and advertising put out by the company itself would not have been able to.

What is the point that I am getting at? Two points really. One is that you don’t need money from grudging and motivated corporates to communicate a social message.

The other and more important one is that it's finally all about selflessness. Really humane capitalism is selfless and sincere. It is not wired by the need to sell more goods and services by appealing to the good side of customers, the way most cause marketing intiatives of companies are structured. ‘One rupee of every packet sold goes to xyz ngo’. It doesn’t measure what it gets back by way of sales, but by way of goodwill. It looks at CSR as a way of giving back to society, not getting back in 80G.

Between 2006 and 2008, there was an 80% increase in the amount of television time given to social advertising – most of it probono – 1.2 million seconds worth. All these ads were for NGO’s or government agencies. The comparative growth figure for print was however 253% - almost all of it on account of the universally acclaimed and awarded Lead India and Teach India campaigns of the Times of India that all of you are familiar with. Sales generation and fund raising were not the primary objectives of these campaigns, getting people to feel and act and give, was.

I would now like to share with you examples of work done by our agency Lintas that reflect this thought. You will not see an overt association with any specific cause or NGO in any of these commercials. No budget has been laid aside for ‘CSR’. No tax deductible cheques written. Real social change is sought to be achieved by the very nature of the communication itself. All of them have used the power of the advertiser’s entire spend to strive for real social change. These are examples of work conceived and driven by people in companies who know that they have the strongest power in their hands – not the power of money though they have that too, but the power to ideate and to communicate life changing messsages. And are willing to use this for the overall betterment of society as much as for the betterment of their brands."

(Play Jaago Re, all What an idea, Sirji films, Surf Excel do bucket, and Lifebuoy puppy)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Renewing a contract

Anyone who knows me well knows it's very difficult, almost impossible, to get me to sign on the dotted line for anything that involves me personally. If I make a commitment, and if I trust someone, it's all in the heart and nowhere else. I have built a veterinary hospital without a single legal word. There are very few who understand this, but those that do, understand it better than words could ever say.

However, I did rush to respond to this unusual contract of friendship sent by my best friend (who has been an older sister to me for more than half of my life). If you ever want to get me to sign on a dotted line.....something like this might just work!!

2009 Contract
After serious & cautious consideration . . .
Your contract of friendship has been renewed for the New Year 2009!
It was a very hard decision to make. So try not to screw it up!!!
My Wish for You in 2009
May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts.
May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for Rs1000 bills.
May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips!
May your clothes smell of success like smoking tires and may happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy.
May the problems you had forget your home address! In simple words . . . may 2009 be the best year of your life!!!
God bless you as always

Friday, December 19, 2008

Peace on Earth

While preparing to compose a christmas wish for all my family and friends, I stopped at the reading for today in a book Sathya had gifted me (which I don't read as often as he would like me too, but when I do, there's usually something strangely wise in it).

"Let's avoid the temptation to make our Christmas worship a withdrawal from the stress and sorrow of life into a realm of unreal beauty. It was into the real world that Christ came, into a city where there was no room for Him, and into a country where Herod, the murderer of innocents, was king.

He comes to us, not to shield us from the harshness of the world but to give us the courage and strength to bear it; not to snatch us away by some miracle from the conflict of life, but to give us peace – His peace – in our hearts, by which we may be calmly steadfast while the conflict rages, and be able to bring to the torn world the healing that is peace.

Christmas is not a retreat from reality but an advance into it along with the Prince of Peace."

War is still an option on the table, unfortunately. Despite the unrest and unease all around, may we all still find the peace within, whichever route takes us there.

Perhaps this beautiful interplay between David Bowie and Bing Crosby, entitled Peace on Earth, could help. And that "my child and your child will see the day when men of goodwill live in peace again".