I was part of the prestigious Global Business Summit organized this week by the Times Group. It had some of the biggest industry voices and as always was a great one to attend.
Amid the list of stalwarts speaking at the event, the Prime Minister went missing last minute. However, it’s not uncommon for the PM to not attend an event. Being the leader of the country, he doubtlessly has much to attend to and skipping an event is no big deal, really. The incidental absence of the other members of the government, however, caught some eyeballs.
There are a number of factors that would have instigated such a situation. And it got me wondering why the leader of the fastest growing economy needs to give an entrepreneur so much importance.
When the Government Gives an Entrepreneur Spotlight
Can the situation be deemed something similar to the Donald Trump Vs Barack Obama’s face off back in 2011? I remember seeing the video of Barack Obama delivering jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner many years ago and I wondered why Obama had to make Trump so important then by mocking him.
We all know the result of that regular comedy routine of the Association’s Dinner – the successful election campaign of Trump making him the President of the United States of America. Did Obama’s birther conspiracy theory that humiliated Trump motivate him to run for Presidency?
Now, it doesn’t look like the Jains are expected to or will be triggered to run for Modi’s role. They are the biggest media conglomerate and truly one of the most successful entrepreneurial stories in India. This sure is great one-upmanship for the Jains as it puts them in direct line with Modi, the way it did for Trump but not more than that.
By the end of the 2-day conference, it really started looking like a Modi Vs Jains face-off. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the government couldn’t make it for one event out of the more than 300 it attends throughout the year. Why would it want to have a face-off with an entrepreneur?
The Government Can’t Ignore the Media
In a democratic country, the government and the media always work together whether for a cause or against it. A media such as the Times Group that runs India’s top & the largest dailies, internet websites, radio and television channels has a big play in an evening conversation of a country.
The government hence can love them or hate them, but it certainly can’t ignore them. The series of events show a love-hate story brewing, which we don’t know about.
What we know is that the government needs the media, always. Which media will the government now ally with if not with the largest? It appears that there is something about the media consolidation story too that the government is banking on, and we don’t know about.
Social Media Can Never Replace Mainstream Media
India's case when it comes to media consumption is a unique one.
An Indian still takes pride in buying that single-digit priced newspaper with their morning tea. Nowhere in the world are newspapers cheap enough for one and all to buy. We could see a transition of the Indian media consumer to move to more digital formats in the next 10-12 years, but at present, Indians love their newspapers, radio and the television.
In India where the majority of population is still in villages and small towns, the penetration of social media is limited. It is only after demonetization that the sudden interest in digital transaction has been witnessed. Expecting 60 per cent of Indian populace living in rural parts to rely on social media to stay informed about the government’s decisions and good work is surreal.
Among the four legs of the media, social media can sure be the fourth leg but definitely not the first or the only leg for India. And the government of India know this well.
While social media is rampantly made use of by everyone including the government to break and share news, India still strongly believes in the power of its mainstream media to form an opinion. The impact that an insight in a newspaper or a television channel can make is far much larger than what a microblogging site can. This is the reality of India and the government knows this well.
From the beginning of his tenure as the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s own popular show ‘Mann ki baat’ runs on radio and government news channels. The ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App’ is super popular and he’s soon going to have his own NaMo TV on the app. The government also well understands the power of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), and that shows in its active participation round the year.
In this whole episode, it’s key to note this is not a win-lose match and there really are no winners or losers. One speaker less in a conference doesn’t make much of a difference. For the advertisers and sponsors such as Yes Bank, it may look like a bad deal today but the company is sure to get mileage in the long run.
(Disclaimer: Views expressed are purely personal)