October 1, 2010

MAHATMA GANDHI, THE ULTIMATE MARKETING GURU!

Gandhi has been my favourite for seminars on leadership and management for years! In fact, in the last chapter of my first book Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch, I described him as the ultimate successor of Krishna as a management guru! The reason is simple! To me, there is no greater a management guru than Krishna; and the Gita is my ultimate guide to management! Krishna guides a handful of five brothers to victory against the army of a hundred brothers in the mythological Mahabharata, and in a similar way, Mahatma Gandhi guided us to Independence against all odds! Whether Krishna was true or not is debatable, but Gandhi was for real! And what we all know about Gandhi is that when he died, he said, “Hey Ram, He Ram, He Ram,” – though now even that is debated by various scholars. However, what many of us don’t know about Gandhi is that he used to read the Gita daily and called it the most important guide to success.

So what is it about the Mahatma that makes him such a revered figure even when it comes to management and especially marketing? For that, we have to perhaps study a little bit about his past and look at world history on the whole. World wide, freedom from the oppressor always meant violent struggles! Freedom was always synonymous with violent revolutions. You conquered with the power of violence and you got freedom by fighting violence with violence! But India had a peculiar problem! The problem was our prevalent religion. Gandhi himself called Hindus cowards. I wouldn’t say that, but we sure were complacent, patient and tolerant and relatively the most peaceful race in the world. We had not developed in us the spirit of war and violence! And therefore, when it came to motivating Indians and bringing them out for a violent revolution, even the man who defeated Gandhi’s own candidate in the Indian National Congress (INC) elections and became the President of INC – Subhash Chandra Bose – failed miserably. His war cry – “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom” – would’ve worked in every part of the world... but for India! And Bose finally had to leave India to collect his army from outside India to fight the Indian war of Independence! Gandhi, of course, was a keen observer and a quick learner – a key trait of a great marketing man! This man, with a burning desire to succeed in getting India freedom and realizing that violence didn’t appeal to the common Indian man, changed and did what was never done world wide – again, a great trait of a good marketing success story is being first! And Gandhi surely was the first to bring to the world, the concept of non-violence! This concept made him the TIME magazine’s Man of the Year way back in 1930 and won him followers ranging from Martin Luther King Junior, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi amongst others over the years.

At first, non-violence was looked as the stupidest tool of revolution. But Gandhi knew what he was doing. He knew how to market his concept because he knew he was satisfying an existing need – the need to participate in the freedom struggle and throw the British out, which was combined with a desire to not be forced to take up arms and risk one’s life in a violent manner. He knew that his concept was a great solution to this need. The next thing he had to do was to connect with the masses and spread the word. In those days, when newspapers were a luxury, telecommunication absent and even transport and connectivity a rarity, getting the message across the length and breadth of this huge nation was the biggest possible challenge. Gandhi decided to go about it man to man! He always had a great respect for the end customer. He had said, “The customer is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” And in his struggle, the end customers were the masses. To connect with them, he gave up his suits and ties. In fact, to connect with them, his marketing campaign included burning of foreign clothes and making khadi. Many like Tagore didn’t find it logical. But being a marketing man, Gandhi knew it was helping him connect emotionally with his audience and convey his message across. The common man oft en understands symbolic gestures better than great works of poetry. And Gandhi reveled in such symbolic gestures. Being a great leader, leading from the front was never an issue, but what many Indian leaders fail to do even now in these days of easy connectivity, he did way back in the early 1900s. He went to his masses and became a part of them. He walked with them and inspired them to walk along with him. His new attire – the khadi – was something the common man identified with; and his half-naked clothing was symbolic of the man whose support he wanted – the unfed and suffering Indian looking for salvation. As they say, there is nothing to beat a great word of mouth! The word of his work with masses spread like fire and soon the entire country was finding out ways to follow the activities of this man of peace, who was talking of giving India independence and looked closer to achieving it than anyone had ever had!

As a great marketing brain, he had done a great SWOT analysis. He knew his opponents and competition – the British – well. He knew that unlike, say the Nazis, the British were more cultured and believed in being fair and had a court that they were answerable to. So he knew that it would be almost impossible for the British to kill him if all he did was to walk and talk of peace. He used their weakness to be ruthless to his advantage and used intellectuals amongst them for his own PR! Not to forget, he used fasting as a great tool to drive home the message – that he was not scared of losing his life when it came to the cause.

But perhaps the biggest marketing tool behind a great success story is always the art of owning a simple uncomplicated line in your customer’s mind… Marketers spend millions to do it! That’s what marketing is about finally – owning that one line in your customer’s mind. Be it “Just do it” or be it “Taste the thunder”, if you own this one line in your customer’s mind, you have cracked the marketing code. And Gandhi owned the line “non-violent movement”. It was the perfect positioning line for him for the market he was catering to. And thus, success had to be his. Today, years after his death, our nation is using Gandhi to market itself, by printing his snap on all currency notes; celebrities across the world are wearing him on their t-shirts to market themselves better, United Nations is using him to market itself by declaring October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence; and the Congress party is marketing its NREGA programme by calling it the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA programme! Commercial companies are not far behind, with Mont Blanc making its India presence felt with the launch of its Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition pen. Inevitably, when it came to this year’s Hall of Fame issue, we felt Gandhi on the cover was the best way to market our magazine to you… no doubt he was the Mahatma of marketing!

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29 comments:

K Stephen Daniel said...

Agree with u. Steve Jobs is another marketing expert! He sells his products free of advertisement!

Mahendra Mehta said...

Subhas Bose would have done it still better. But it could not happen that way. And Gandhi did what his type was capable of doing. The country was partitioned and it was a mutilated and lifeless independence that we had, because the "MAHATMA GANDHI, THE ULTIMATE MARKETING GURU!" is always for compromise; he cannot afford to be an extremist. He says, "Let us settle on the basis of fifty-fifty." India's partition was the result of Gandhi's leadership. Because the mind of a MARKETING GURU does not like fight, he chooses compromise instead. He believes in settlement on the basis of give-and-take. He avoids conflict and confrontation. Whether Gandhi said so in explicit terms is not the question. It was the mind of a MARKETING GURUthat the country acquired from the leadership of Gandhi.

shrikant kumawat said...

nice article, i liked it.

Rachna said...

Superb! analysis & accurately co-related.

Seema Karecha said...

Very well written. It requires a lot of blodness to call Gandhi, a respected father figure, a marketing guru!

raviandra said...

why Mahatma Gandhi failed to sell mr Iron Man of india as the first PM of india.

ved space said...

yeah....the grt mrkting mind.who sell half of India by giving Rs55 cr.. and took 4 damm wars for us and till now we get every share of that deal as terrorism...
what a grt mind..

ajit said...

if mahatma gandhi is the grt mkting guru...then tell sth abt J.L.Nehru also...The Best Sales Person of India

Ela said...

Gandhi was not reposible for the partition of India .Get out of that mindset. And you know what if India was not partioned we would have got all those muslims on our hands.Our problems would have been manyfold.

Anupam karn said...

I don't know how do people blame Gandhi for the partition ,the world know better these things than that of Indians now . because here people believe more in spreading things rather than knowing it . The best reference book on partition till today is ' Mission with Mountbaton '
people must go through it once . Gandhi died on 30th jan a few days before his schedule to pakistan where he was going to reconnect the cord of love and affection damaged so far in between .He was the sole Indian leader who opposed it . when time Nehru was waving national flag he was in Noa khali(the then most dangerous ) to suppress the Danga .

Gandhi never compromised with the things in his way . his lines ' Sacred goals can be achieved only via sacred paths 'say it very clearly .

@Arindam yes He was the best ever Mgt guru India ever saw .

One thing I would like to add which He used to say that we all are like
Arjuna/Suyodhana and our souls are like Krsna If we would listen it carefully and implement every inch of it we will be Arjuna if not then would like Suyodhan so it's all on us . meaning to say is that he was among us don't tag him as God

Rajesh "P" Rao said...

I'm Confused Mr AC your calling Gandhiji as a Marketing Guru for promoting Non violent protest to get the freedom or on Economic point....!!!!
British ruled us on economic front.
I can say 50 50 about your views...
Firstly, Gandhiji has given a fantastic Definition about the Customer(try googleing it)!!!
Secondly Gandhiji promoted swadeshi movement and boycotted that is foreign in origin and never wore clothes that had been made in England spun his own cloth on Chakra and encouraged that every indian also to do so...or even better gandhi would have started a cooperative movement type org to setup a Textile mill that would have benefitted the masses...by this way i am not making mockery of Gandhiji or his belief and his way of thinking...

Anupam karn said...

Gandhi thought for the universal solution ... how many mills could he establish one ,two... five but still they would never fulfill the requirement of the country that's why he went for Charkha ....

Discussed in " The Colonial Gandhi "

spriha said...

Great management lesson. Very interesting article...extremely creative. A very good read!

lipi mukherjee said...

@ mahendra Mehta-Absolutely correct.Its his compromises that we are still suffering and we will keep on through generations..they say if the foundation is weak the building is bound to be weak and the same is the case with India.Since we had a compromised independence,the nation will remain disturbed ever,though I will be happy to be wrong...

Ashutosh said...

@ Mahendra Mehta : If there would have been no partition then the visionary new India would have two perspective towards administering the country, as prior to partition Britishers ruled and earlier it was either ruled by Muslims or Hindus ....What if India had not been partitioned?' My answer: within a decade, there would have been a bloody civil war on the question of the national script. Hindu and Muslim politicians would have agreed on a common language called 'Hindustani', but each would have insisted on their own script: Devanagari in the one case, a modified Arabic in the other—both holy, associated with the Word of God, to be fought for to the death. Reference .....also i wud like to suggest you to read the article being published in the editorial page of The Hindu on some day, last week which describes the actual reason behind the existing bitter Indo-Pak relations...which is being bolstered by one of the dominating powers of the world to take hold of the geopolitical and economical advantage of the other countries of world especially Russia and India...they are using the same strategy of Divide and rule .....Also using Khadi rather than marketing was a visionary idea which was mainly focused in involving the huge labor of India into an industry which will help them to earn their livelihood and make them independent and make Britishers and world sense the capability of India to think and develop their own economic Institutions to feed the basic necessity of an individual also limiting our luxury to what we have at our homes and stretch our legs within the domains of our bedsheets ....refernce

Paresh Chitnis said...

Yes Arindamji there's so much common between the two. They both were shot to death.

NMS said...

This is first time I have seen someone portraying Mahatma Gandhi differently than what almost all the rest have shown him. I would not have commented, but was pleased that someone else besides me (My book: “Bhagavad Gita and Hinduism, What everyone should know”) have been able to bring out what Indian “seculars” would consider as blasphemy, that Mahatma Gandhi read Gita, wrote on Gita, held ‘prayer meetings’, held that religious conversion as a sham, considerd cow as sacred symbol of piety and yet he did not attract the label of communalist. A Hindu is automatically a secular, if not he better relook at his scriptures and to qualify as secular, one does not have to beat up Hinduism.

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vijoy kumar said...

What I heard from you was really a note to be realized and appreciated in modern India. I hardly listen to any lecture with so much interest but I listened to you.Sometime when politicians of few regional parties talk ill of Mahamaji, I just can not imagine, how do they do so? A man who did not had a mentor to shine, he was lone person ahead of others, never looked back for the company but the company he got was unimaginable- THE WHOLE INDIA accompanied him. I just don,t understand"How these people with less than 30% vote, hold a prestigious chair and never gives a thought before commenting on Mahatma Gandhi". His teachings of non-violence is still relevant. I have used couple of times to get my work done in Offices. Silently sitting in front of the officer when he did not attention to my request.

Parvinder singh said...

First of all ,i would like to thankyou to arindam sir ,who share their view

panther said...

i think what Gandhi did was the demand of time and situation he never comprised on anything nor he was responsible for partition of our country...... very true he was the ultimate management guru thats he was the mass leader not the others he knew the nerves common indian..

vanamali said...

For me the best marketing expert in the world is Gautam Buddha. He sold his magical words to form his own religion. Hails to Buddha...

Smruti said...

Nice article. I always used to say I can't surely say Mahatma Gandhi as a great person but I can say him as a great leader. In a country where people are full of ignorance and uneducated , where people fear to fight for their right and where individuality is the worst sufferer , making motivated the whole mass to sacrifice their life with out any personal profit rather national profit is really great. And about partition the main cause is the uneducated people who could not understand that they are ruining themselves only. Partition was a planned approach of Britisher, who knew it very well that in a country where the versatility of religion , language and culture is more , it is much easier to create more differences between them and illiteracy was a add on to it.

SJ said...

I think Mr.Arindam Chaudari has no idea about the dark secrets behind Gandhi.If your really like to know what Gandhi was like read this book-"Gandhi behind the mask of divinity" by G.B.Singh.

He is an anti Hindu and also an anti Indian. He was so impressed by the Britishers that he became a slave to them and ultimately brought this slavish mentality to Indians also.The freedom that we got is not freedom actually but it is the result of constant begging by Gandhi to leave the country. In fact he POLITELY REQUESTED THEM TO LEAVE...Our country was the most civilized and intelligent. Britishers and Gandhi just ruined it.

YES GANDHI IS DEFINITELY A MANAGEMENT GURU-BUT THE ONE WHO WORKED FOR THE BRITISHERS...

PLEASE DON'T COMPARE HIM WITH LORD KRISHNA...IT IS CONTRADICTORY...KRISHNA HAD ALWAYS ASKED HIS FOLLOWERS TO FIGHT WITH WEAPONS WHEN NECESSARY...GANDHI WAS JUST A COWARD.

Sanjay said...

sir u r superb written about the gandhi.Obiviously gandhi is the most powerful brand in the world. Always agree with u and i am the greatest fan of u.

lavin said...

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ravi said...

great post

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Jay Oza said...

Are you perhaps mixing marketing with strategy?

Marketing is typically viewed as the Four Ps: Product, Promotion, Placement, Price.

In Gandhi's case here is how I view these Four Ps:

Product - Freedom
Promotion - Getting awareness
Placement - Mostly villages
Price -- Satyagraha

I think what you are saying in this piece is his overall strategy. Let me know if my understanding is wrong.

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