Stop protesting, liberal India! It's only right that a marketing guru bestowed Philip Kotler award on Narendra Modi

It is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the times and the climes of political India that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have conferred on him the first Philip Kotler Presidential Award. Many have cavilled at this conferment. Let us not partake of the pettiness of this spirit of criticism.

For the record, however, we feel it is incumbent on us to clear up the fundamentals — not the market fundamentals, of course. Most awards are accompanied by citations setting out the reasons for the conferment. Modi was recognised, according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), for his 'outstanding leadership for the nation. His selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy has resulted in extraordinary economic, social and technological advances in the country'.

So far so good. We must not be too concerned that the original text of the full citation does not seem to be available. A hunt for the website of the organisation that conferred the award, the World Marketing Summit India, proved infructuous. The site couldn't be reached. Attempts to access it threw up the message that this site couldn't be reached because its 'IP address could not be found'.

Stop protesting, liberal India! Its only right that a marketing guru bestowed Philip Kotler award on Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi receives the Philip Kotler Presidential Award. Image courtesy:

But that, in itself, is a small matter. After all, a newspaper reported that someone associated with the bestowal of the award had said that it was 'a very confidential award'. One hopes it will not continue to remain sub rosa. The statement issued by the PMO also said that the award focused on the triple-bottom-line of 'people, profit and planet' and that it would be offered annually to the leader of a nation. This being the first Kotler Award, Modi finds himself, as always, in the vanguard.

The statement also said, concretely, that the citation had mentioned initiatives such as Make in India, Startup India, Digital India and Swachh Bharat, that had 'positioned India as one of the most lucrative manufacturing and business destinations in the world'. As citizens of the 'world's largest democracy', we should be proud indeed.

Some naysayers, and there is no dearth of those lurking in the nooks and crannies of the liberal world and numbering amongst them undesirables and malcontents like urban Maoists, civil rights campaigners, tribal rights activists and the like, might be inclined to say, "Huh! There are people out there who don’t get enough to eat. They are being rapaciously exploited by crony capitalist cowboys."

But let us pose a counterfactual. Supposing it is true that hunger, malnutrition, lack of access to education, basic healthcare, housing and clean drinking water, stalk the land, can it be demonstrated in any way that the good prime minister is responsible for the delinquencies of the establishment that allows all this to happen? Look at the raft of schemes he's announced for the provision of crop insurance, minimum support prices for agricultural produce, houses for the homeless and toilets for everyone. And, of course, demonetisation to help put lakhs into everybody's bank accounts.

If people still have zilch in their bank accounts, defecate in the open, scavenge manually, live under the blue skies that can hardly be discerned and sell their onions, no pun intended, of course, for a rupee a kilo, can the prime minister truly be blamed. He's the leader of the country, literally (albeit in German) the führer, it's hardly his job to micromanage all the problems facing the people and the country to which they belong. He has a duty to travel to lands about which they have barely heard. There are any number of people who are paid to solve the problems of the country.

In any case, all of this misses the point of the award. The clue stares us in the face and it is in the nomenclature. The award is named after Philip Kotler. Kotler, as we all know, or should, is the world's first marketing guru. He made the idea of marketing sexy and desirable. He might not actually have created marketing as an academic discipline, but certainly contributed massively to making it mainstream, as a teacher at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management (where he has been a chair professor for decades), and integrating it with the discipline of Economics. He wrote over 60 books on marketing and remains the greyest of the grey eminences of marketing.

So, what has India's poverty, if, indeed, such a thing exists since 2014, got to do with Modi being the first recipient of the Philip Kotler Presidential Award? Forget the citation for a while and think Kotler and soon you will be thinking marketing. It can hardly be gainsaid that Modi is the most talented marketing man among world leaders, which is why he is the first recipient of the award.

He marketed himself all the way from some Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakha to 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, the residence of the Indian prime minister. On the way, he somehow became the most devoted disciple of development, never mind what happened in Gujarat during his tenure as chief minister. And we bought it, hook, line and sinker. If that doesn't make him a worthy disciple of Kotler, whatever will?

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 14:43:51 IST

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