Why Modi Magic works

Updated: May 29, 2019, 16:08 IST | Dr Radhakrishnan Pillai

Experts know it requires a brand ambassador for products and services to make it big. The BJP post the Vajpayee era needed a face. Modi was that face

Why Modi Magic works
Amit Shah

Dr Radhakrishnan PillaiHello, Is that Mr Pillai? Can you come down to meet the CM on Monday morning?" This was the first phone call I got from Narendra Modi's office on a Saturday afternoon in 2012. The person on the other side was from the secretariat of the then chief minister's office. Since I am a Malayalee, he started speaking to me in Malayalam. Confused and excited, since I had not sought an appointment with Modi, I asked what the agenda was.

"He received your book, Corporate Chanakya, and wanted to discuss some ideas with you," was the reply. I realised one of my Gujarati friends must have sent my book to him as a gift. Monday morning, I reached his residence in Gandhinagar. He arrived on time. I was impressed that he had carried my book with him. He had made some notes and marked some pages. As it was my first book, I was quite excited that a chief minister was taking it seriously.

Over the next hour, we discussed ideas from rural development to economic policies and foreign affairs. I did give my inputs as well. But what stuck me was the exit after the meeting. As the security guards had taken away my mobile phone, I asked if I could click a picture with him. My book required some marketing efforts, and a post on my Facebook would work wonders, I thought.

"Its ready", he said with a smile. And in a flash a photographer arrived and clicked a few photos with him. His secretary asked for my e-mail id. When I came out of the CM's residence and picked up my deposited phone, the photo with Modi was already there in my inbox!

What is he?
I tried to analyse the scenario: Was he a person who understood what people wanted? (In my case, an author wanted a photo with a chief minister.) Or, was he a person who understood the digital world (The picture was mailed immediately.) Was he a marketing person, who understood that every picture of him posted will give him a political mileage?

Or was he really a Chanakya fan in the true sense — that he read my book and genuinely wanted to understand the principles and strategies of the great political philosopher? I may not have found the right answer, but I knew that here is a person who knows how to 'connect' with each person he comes across. And for that reason, I still continue to admire him. Though, as a professor of leadership studies, there are things I do not agree with him on, but he is a man of our times.

A branding case study
In 2014 when he became prime minister for the first time, the nation witnessed a political marketing campaign like never before. He is a case study in branding and marketing. Experts know it requires a brand ambassador for products and services to make it big. The BJP post the Vajpayee era needed a face. Modi was that face. Let us not forget that Modi was already the chief minister of Gujarat four times successively before 2014. At the state level, he was already a seasoned politician. Now the game was to move from a performing chief minister to deliver at the national level. In businesses this scale-up is expected, so why not in politics?

Modi understands image management very well. For instance, when he goes abroad, he takes double advantage, one is to strike deals with the other country heads. The other is to 'connect' with the Indian Diaspora. He could make use of the successful NRIs for his ambitious plans. They love him for many reasons, including getting better acceptance as respected Indians.

His social media plans are carefully thought of; his team has been working day and night to get the global best practices in that space. No wonder he is among the world's largest followed politicians.

Lessons from Modi
There are many lessons we can draw from the Modi marketing plan? Let me just list five principals. First, work hard and show it to the world. Modi works day and night and so do his social media and other marketing platforms. He knows the benefits of showcasing what one has done.

Second, think biggest. Don't just think big — think biggest. Third, collaborate when required. He knows to work with other famous people around him. Be it film stars or scientists or sports personalities. Their fans become his fans. Fourth, never say die. He never gives up. Let us not forget that Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan lost their BJP chief ministers. He came back victorious in the general election. Fifth and finally the Chanakya's leadership theory — keep your secrets with a few. One can never know what he or Amit Shah is thinking. They are making their moves toward victory. Welcome to the Modi Era 2.0.

The writer is an academician and author

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