Monday, April 09, 2007

Blue Print for next Gen Political Party

Today’s political party is hardly listening to the voice of the public. The only time when the politicians ever come to the voters door step is during the election season. This lack of communication and relevance to the general public is now costing Indians a bright future. Improper regulations, election oriented policy announcements and draining of government resources have taken governance to all time lows. Reform is the need of the hour and the political power is critical to unifying, economic prosperity that young India is dreaming of. The current political system cannot deliver anything that can be even called close half-measure!

However, establishing a political party in India is a great challenge. From an industry analysis point of view the challenges are immense. There are tough entry barriers, ability to reach out to masses across classes, financing poll-rigging, ability to generate and deploy black money etc. There is a distinct lack of expertise in this area in common man thereby making it almost impossible to set-up and successfully manage a political party. Then is it possible to design a competitive strategy, for a new “clean” political party, using traditional business management principles? Of course yes!

The story so far!
There have been several attempts to work on a political party that represents the intellectual maturity and values of the Indian masses. Some of these involved IIT/IIM alumni, while some others enthusiastic college students and young IT professionals. Yet, these out-fits find it extremely difficult to counter the incumbent goons and dons who rule the political arena. There are two inter-twined reasons.
First cost of running an election is very high! The goon side often bribes the voters to vote for them. Further goons have elaborate mechanism for booth capturing, proxy voting, etc. tactics that are morally impossible to reconcile for “clean” party.
Second the prominent and ever-increasing “middle-class” does not participate in the elections. At times this is on account of impossible circumstances, like traveling for work (long travel) while other time this is simple negligence. Whatever the reason, this ends up skewing the voter mandate to favor the views of “monetarily influenced” proxy-voters.
In fact these two reasons are primary cause of failure of any credible political initiative. It means that any strategic solution needs addresses these two basic premises as a primary test of viability. Let us ponder on these issues a little more.

Understanding the “problems”
The bribe-influenced voter is basically the first part of the problem. The genesis of the problem is rooted in lack of genuine voter turnout and availability of naïve economically lower class population that can be influenced by money. Theoretically, therefore, solution to this problem will be three pronged.
First and foremost it is imperative to educate the naïve economically weaker section. Secondly, it is essential to is to involve the educated urban middle class citizen in the electoral process. Third, and quite the easiest of the lot, is to present a credible alternative to this socially aware voter.
Experience tells us people only listen when it “pays” to listen. Hence educating the naïve EWS has to entail a robust economically viable process that can contribute stable financial earnings to these people. Evolved business plans and creative financing will have major role to play here. Since the financial and business systems would have been tested against business and economic sense they are less likely to succeed. In fact a BHUMI project in Rasoolpura slum in Hyderabad is making headway along very similar lines.Involving the urban middle class is by far the biggest challenge in this scheme. Middle class has in fact fallen off the radar of the social activities in India. As a consequence, social activities have ceased to be relevant to the “elitist” middle class thereby starting a vicious circle. The job-focused middle class has lost touch with the local community. Yet hope is not lost! Middle class can be effectively converted by Reaching Regularly with Relevant offerings.

Converting the Middle Class
Urban middle class, today, interfaces with the local community primarily through local purchases (grocery, cable TV, newspaper etc), house help (maid, driver etc), for community security (typically when there is a burglary close-by) and schools for kids. The good fortune is that these are the very economic activities that can create transitionary employment that can then generate reasonably sustainable regular financial returns for economically weaker sections.
Employment can be generated by harnessing innovative business models to organize, train and professionalize host of services like
  • House-help in the form of maids, drivers, etc.,
  • Bill payments (concierge services),
  • House-keeping services,
  • Contract services (plumbing, carpenter, mechanic etc)
  • Home delivery services,
  • Local community security
  • Daily tiffin delivery
  • Computer / TV / Electronics and appliances maintenance
  • Play-pen services.

Social services involving youth to deliver local community oriented civic, history, technology presentations in association with National Geographic Channel and Discovery networks can seed the young population with bright ideas for implementing in local communities.These activities establish reach to this isolated “voter” group on a regular basis through activities that are relevant to the job-focused middle class person thereby creating an influencing relationship between local community and the middle class.

Why it may work?

While the activities I have suggested may not be exhaustive, the intent behind them is to make political parties more relevant to day-to-day life of the modern Indian. Unlike in the pre-independence era, today there is no single objective that can clearly differentiated. To highlight the community goals political party sponsors, to win the voters to the path of achieving these goals requires a channel of communication. Such a channel is no-longer available today for the common man. Political party of the future cannot afford to talk to common man through the media lens!

In Sum
Finally, through whatever means, whoever’s plans, let us hope India awakens to this new reality some day when we can really say we have set forth on the road our forefathers dreamt of during our freedom struggle.