How Colour Branding is working in Politics

Elections in India have become a huge gala of sound, noise and drama. Add the songs, events, digital marketing and you get a full 360 marketing campaign.

Today’s public held swearing-in ceremony at the state capital Kolkata, was fashionable.

The newly elected party had in huge doses, a political brand presence. It demonstrated people power, by the sheer number of human population surrounding the event and an association with a certain color scheme, liberally used in the decorations. For a State that boasts of as much  land territory and population as that of a small country ; a state language (Bengali) which has 211 million speakers in the world; a grand event did not seem unusual.

A creative like me with absolutely zero to borderline interest in the political scene, was surprised by the recent election campaigns used by various political parties. I grew up in the New Delhi area in the 80’s and 90’s, when every national event or visiting dignitary visit (there were plenty) had elaborate doses of tri-coloured flower & leaf arrangement or the “many-flowerpots-arrangement” of the horticulture department. While Marigold / Dahlias were usually denoting the Orange, the Leafy Palms represented the Green band in the national flag. I am forgetting what they did about the whites. Petunias, maybe.

In the national elections a couple of years back, while one party; (represented by the holy saffron hue bordering on fanta orange), tried to bring in the green and white in many places in its ad space, it was perhaps  primarily seeking to be identified with its lotus orange usp. Fanta, Vodaphone and other brands have successfully used the orange colour to show excitement and cheer in their logos.

The Bengal party, after branding the city with Blue and White (seemed to be borrowed from the sari of the Missionaries of Charity) and now adorning everything from lampposts, railings to the great event itself; exemplifies the success of its understanding of colour perception.

What remains unbranded perhaps is the rest of the contingent of the political nobles. Will it be a wonder if lack of symbolic colour translated to the lack in its personality? Or worse, the choice of a wrong colour could signal contrary emotions? Let’s wait and watch.

Baby steps to Branding a city

When these pictures were taken, the elections were in full swing in West Bengal, one of the eastern state of India. I gauge that the predominant Blue and white paint which is adorning each pavement, divider and most buildings, has been done in the recent past. And if you are traveling at night, be greeted by blue and white led lights twined around what would have been once, charming lampposts. Said to be reflective of the colors of the present ruling political party, it seems a bit overdone.

Other hilarious such instances which can be recalled in other states is a Shivaji statue sprouting up in all places and planned to be erected on an island in the Indian Ocean; another one decided to erect party symbol, Elephant sculptures, in her particular state.

Ironically however, the color choice is quite apt for the city. The colors are associative of the saris of Missionaries of Charity and Mother Teresa who lived here many years. Blue and white are colors which are extremely soothing in the hot and humid weather. I recall standing in a fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan and looking below at the sea of houses painted in a hue of blue. The local boy informed me that “neel” a local coloring agent used for clothes is added to the white wash of outdoor structures and is said to keep the houses a few degrees cooler in this desert state.

So Yes. Blue and white is good, but in limited quantities. City populous and artist community opinions should be considered before widespread branding affecting the city space. Maybe some out of the other 20 million who inhabit this city could have good ideas on what their surroundings should be like.


Visual Merchandising “on the go”


The culture of India is diverse and we seem to thrive in the diversity. Every time you travel to a new state, city, town or even a lane; you would be thronged by a sellers with various wares. In some cases though, the quality could be questionable, but our ingenious sellers find ways to display, present and sell their wares.

Whether its a mobile shop “carried” from compartment to compartment of a local commuter train; or a pavement side display of something that would grab your attention, whether or not you require the products; your journey would be a moving canvas of color and variety.

Major audience? Women, naturally!

How we “Make in India”

Nothing Happens unless something Moves.

Albert Einstein.

Last autumn, I got the opportunity to take a “Makers” workshop for a bunch of management students. They considered it as “craft” exercise. The aspect of making was new to some of them.

We started with the material most familiar to them and many people across the world and that is Paper.

For the next Makers Workshop we introduced Plastic and this time the group was clearer with their understanding of how to use a material

The next trimester, we introduced a Hackathon competition and the brief was to use basic material such as ice cream sticks and rubber bands to create something that demonstrates the conversion of potential energy into movement.


Our group of students was now prepared as they tackled this subject in a limited time within our “Makers Space”. The selected few from these got the chance to explore innovation in a multidisciplinary group at an MIT event at Nasik.


Envisioning MiSiDiCi

Recently an acquaintance was nominated among st finalists from across the globe for his Innovative Idea at the Smart City Expo held recently. He informed us with delight on his return, that India had been given an honorary prize for the work done in the sphere of Smart Cities development.

“The World is taking notice even when back at home we have criticism!” was something what was discussed.

While it is a no brainer for any ordinary urban educated citizen of India  (guilty author) to create a list of cons and criticisms, what if the government had used the Design Thinking approach to simplify, clarify and expand its vision such as the one below?

Make in India:

Could it be envisioned as?

When you visit your regular shop/buying place, most things that you need, like and are useful are made in India.

Digital India:

Citizens are able to make informed decisions, work together, collaborate and share ideas through an unseen network which comes to them rather intuitively and without added cost with respect to their privacy. Responses during emergency situations and life and death moments are seamless and efficient.

Skill India:

Two kinds of skills will be developed simultaneously, the one that ensure jobs and more importantly the ones that create jobs, without added burden or costs of skill development.

Clean India:

When you walk out from your home to work in the morning, the streets are clean, the air is pure and fresh and no encroachments are hindering your path. You are healthy and feel good about your environment. You don’t feel hesitant to drink water from the community tap, because like everything around, that is also pure and clean.

One request: Needed a place where we (All stakeholder: Billion plus citizens) can share views and talk to each other, apart from the social net. Billion People= Billion plus ideas= Fast Track Improvement = Happy Country!

Smarty Pants

If you were ask in India what is the current buzzword, supported by marketing efforts of course, you would get Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities among some more floating on the social net.

All of a sudden we are considering being “Smart”. Silently we whisper to each other “What is meant by Smart”? Is what is meant “Smart” by them the “Smart” we understand? (Do we really?) We then look up to the architects of the word and ask , “What is Smart?”.

The self appointed architects reply with a mock shock,

“You don’t know?… “See.”

They point towards a country and its city demonstrating some glass, shiny metals and a lot of automation technology.

“Oh!” We look amazed at the trains that go on hyper speed and the doors that open and shut automatically, sensors that send information ahead to someone and someone or something who supposedly makes life simpler in this maze of productivity with people like working ants going about their jobs.

“We can do that?!” we look on mesmerized, silently wonder how many potholes we have avoided that day and how much water to expect in the municipality tap. This smart city appears to look like heaven.

“We can accomplish that?”, We ask again in disbelief!

Nods the architect. “A few trillions here and there, but it is possible.”

“Where are the Trillions coming from?” we ask still in disbelief.

“FDI mostly. Fourteen countries have shown interest.”

We whistle in further disbelief.

“Wow! Fourteen countries will tell us how to live smartly.” Impressed at the achievement. We close the latest edition of Shiv Puraan. Old Sops of life. Lets embrace the new.

“Who..”, we ask further, “..would be living in these smart cities?”

“Smart citizens.” They answer. “Smartly qualified with smart education”.

We applaud!

“How..” we ask, “Would you find these smart citizens?”

The architects now loose patience at this inevitable question and blurt.

“You have too many questions! You are not Gift-ed. You are certainly not smart and don’t qualify to stay in a smart city!”

Disappointed, we start looking at the map and looking for the other non smart cities to live in.

“Don’t worry,” the architects console, “We may be working towards an inclusive society where even the lower income group can be accommodated.”

We breathe a sigh of relief. When we go to discuss this at our daily pavement dwellers meeting over a boiling broth of today’s Dal, most have the same question:

“Will the pavements be really clean? They won’t trouble us every six months for pavement leveling?”.

“We don’t know about clean, but they promise they will be smart.”

“Smart?” asks the pavement mother, cradling one kid on her lap and another suckling on her breast.

We go on to explain what is meant by “Smart”.

“See….” we point towards that country with that city gleaming in the night.

The pavement dwellers rub their eyes in disbelief.

( to be continued.)

What’s the big deal about free Wifi in Delhi?

I posted this on my travel blog a week before and am re posting it here with some updates.

This blog post may seem an aberration from my usual writings about travel and birds, but I believe governance (or if you would prefer the term: country management) is just like design, and the design of governance too needs design thinking skills, doses of imagination and critical thought.

Not very long ago; five of us; Me, Myriam, Shashi, Mia, Eiman and another teammate of ours from Nepal; collaborated on an assignment to create the city budgeting for a hypothetical city of 2,50,000 inhabitants. (This was part of Think Tank “City of the 21st century” course offered by Leuphana University and it had participants from over 80 countries and was conducted by Daniel Libeskind, the eminent architect of the new building that has now replaced the World Trade Centre towers.)

While creating the revenue vs expenditure analysis, wifi enablement was something which seemed natural to anyone who spends hours with some or the other device. (we were five people connected purely over internet, doing this assignment over three different country time zones) While Toronto, our base city for an economic model didn’t seem to have a wifi component, we looked at LA and other places where WIFI has been experimented with. It was presumed to cost $5 billion according to LA city council’s estimates in 2013. In 2014, Wifi of LA Schools along with 1 ipad per student, is estimated to cost $1.3 billion alone.

High speed internet also seems to require fibre optic cables and we know how much pain we have suffered every time the service providers dig up stretches of roads, temporarily immobilizing traffic while the “development” work is underway. In another similar course; a team of three; Michael, Sangeeta and I, sought to look at possible innovation suggestions for a drone company. Michael, an engineer, suggested amongst other uses, a high altitude cellphone tower. Could this be an interesting solution for providing a UAV for telecom and internet? I don’t know if it’s possible, but sometimes one needs to think out of the box rather than the usual its-has-always-been-done-this-way mindset.

Delhi, however is no LA. The income disparity and density of population is much greater. Delhi population has shot up to 25 million inhabitants and is the second most populous city in the world, just after Tokyo. Interestingly, while most of the world was going through recession and slowly charting its economic growth pattern back to green from red, Delhi has an enviable nominal GDP of around 40000 crores growing @ above 15% per annum in the past five years! If one would equate the richest man in the world as a method of comparison, that would mean equivalent to 4 trillion (4045760000000 actually) or US$ 67 Billion (assuming 1USD= Rs. 60), roughly equal to the wealth of one Bill Gates in a year! That is the amount Delhi generated last year. According to these calculations, a onetime $5 billion investment for wifi would be less than 10% of a yearly GDP.

But, do we need the expense? This is not a decision that should be taken unilaterally by citizens of a city state, nor should it be taken arbitrarily by a governing body. In most well managed cities around the world, this is work of the city council or the Mayor. A layperson in Delhi however, wouldn’t even know the figure head name of the said entities. We need some really good urban planners to answer that question. And a team of exceptional think tank to design the strategy for urban growth. If the economics are done right; wifi, water, power; should be no big deal as far as the policy is people centric.



A) According to a Television analyst, most of the city’s budget is fixed cost, with majority expense as salaries and only 10% is freed up! That’s looks like incredible shortsightedness in previous planning! If this is true, the component of fixed components would be need to be reworked to make this a “green field” budget.

B) New announcements that:

As per this news report, the Free WiFi will be subject to following conditions:

  • 1. WiFi only in Public places
  • 2. WiFi will be free for the first 30 minutes after which it is chargeable
  • 3. WiFi cannot be used for “Private uses” such as Email, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp

After the investment in the infrastructure, data usage depends largely on energy. It needs something to run on. Alternative solutions if developed can make this model workable.Some bright mind in our vast country would be surely able to take the challenge.