Associate Partner

Yes Amma, there is an Awards Industry - Decoding India’s awards business

Awards in India are like piles, or haemorrhoids. Sit around long enough and you are sure to get them. In fact, most people at some point get them.

Really.

This is one of the biggest rackets in the country. Everybody’s giving and getting awards nowadays. A google search – awards in India - brings up over 700 million entries! “Indian awards” in Wikipedia brings up 58 pages of entries. Try it and see for yourself! We’re really on to something here.

There’s even an award for the people giving out the awards.

Everybody’s getting them. There’s the Right to Food and the Right to Education and the Right to Information and the Right to Allanaphalana. So why not have a Right to Awards? We have anyway become a society of rights and not responsibilities. Awards are your birthright, gentle reader, and you shall have them.

 

 Yes Amma, there is an Awards Industry - Decoding India’s awards business

Representational Image. Thinkstock Images.

Übermenschen
There are a number of reasons for this plethora of awards. In fact, analysing the reasons is like putting the entire nation on the couch. Heavy duty psychobabble will be required here.

Is it the fall from grace over the last five years as economic growth has slowed etc? HAH! That’s the old self-esteem trip. Nothing better to boost that flagging self-esteem, than an award. But then, the award industry’s been at it for a long time, much beyond five years in fact. So now what?

Is it the PR industry itself, a multi-headed hydra that’s creeping around everywhere and indulging in its own “make work” programme? Possible. There’s a lot of bewitching marketing out there.

Perhaps it’s that we have become a nation of übermenschen - supermen and superwomen - who really deserve that vast multitude of awards. Possible, and let's not be cynical about that, shall we. Possible, yes. But probable?

Or perhaps it’s just that as Indians, we’re a relationship oriented people. Everything’s the relationship. You hear this word, day in and day out in commercial deals. “Do we have a relationship with X ?” is the usual anxious question. This is particularly apparent in some fields like finance, where the actual difference between one service provider - read bank - and the other is negligible.

What better way to establish the relationship than to give an award. You are guaranteed to have a very good relationship with someone you give an award to. So giving awards becomes an excellent way to establish a relationship.

Giving an award is also the easiest marketing gimmick in the world. It makes everybody around happy, and leaves them with a warm glow on their faces. The start-up trade magazine looking to cover the machine tool industry that makes the tools for XYZ industry has to get noticed. So it contacts its PR/ad agency which suggests – what else – initiating an award for the said industry. The entire machine tool industry for XYZ industry then gets duly rounded up, duly congratulated and duly awarded. In fact, they don’t have much of a choice in the matter. They will get awarded whether they like it or not! This leaves everybody with that happy warm glow on their faces, and everybody and everybody else favorably predisposed to the budding magazine.

No, seriously. And it costs nothing. What more can one ask for?

Phor shtar
Now this is wondrous. The television media market is saturated to begin with, and needs to fill programming time. How to fill those weekend afternoon/evening slots, when the business world goes to sleep, and markets are closed? So coverage of the awards function by TV is not an issue.

Sponsors? No problemo. The only cost is an evening at a nice hotel. And times are tough; so it can be at a phor shtar and not a pheiiivv shtar. The cost of the evening gets split among the whole bunch of sponsors anyways. What’s a few lakh among friends? Besides, the sponsors get the TV coverage too.

The awards themselves, and the crafting of them? Oh please. This is not the Jules Rimet Cup or the Nobel. Your neighbourhood bric-a-brac store at Dhobi Talao will be more than happy to oblige. The awards shall be finely crafted in Tanjore plate nickel work, no less.

And the really important job - who to give the award to? So solemnly assemble a jury of assorted bigwigs and poobahs. Shepherd them into said phor-shtar hotel and over an afternoon let them gravely indulge in some diddle-daddle and fiddle-faddle. The outcome is a list of whom to award the whole bevy of awards to. Bring out the list, and then leave the rest to someone else.

This is wonderful.

And the big job of arranging the awards night? Well dear, just dial Pollyanna or Pollycept, or any one of those PR agencies who are in the job of arranging the big night. Any other ad or PR agency worth its salt will do it too. Pollycept is such a pro at this that they actually end up giving themselves a couple of awards in the bargain.

The awards night is the main thing. Fanfare and trumpets and pretty young things gushing and the awardees themselves whom no one’s really heard of. Oh, what a night. Oh, what a grand, grand affair. “And the Fertiliser Association of India’s award for the Best Overall Performance of an Operating Unit for P2O5 in Complex Fertilisers goes to…”

But will people come? Oh dear. It must not happen that we’re all dressed up with no one to watch. Now this is a great mystery. Who are those dark-suited invitees sitting at the round tables at all those award nights anyways? Professional guests perhaps? Even if they didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them. Sorry, invite them.

Perhaps the ultimate example of this lunacy is the tyre industry. Just four major players, and there’s an award for the tyre industry. Check out the All India Rubber Industries Association Awards (Exports) for the Tyre Sector. Now this is funny. Provided you don’t end up in BIFR or the Debt Recovery Tribunal, chances are your getting an award every four years! After all, very bad manners and so unfair to give the same company the same award year after year. Such terrible form too. So puttar, just wait your turn in line for the award. Nothing really changes from year to year, so wait your turn. You’re definitely getting one.

Budding entrepreneurs out there, go ahead and join the awards industry. It’s a real growth industry, after all.

This correspondent will even put you in touch with a friend - guess where - who does this sort of thing for a living. She arranges the whole shebang, and guess what? She’s picked up six awards to date. Even her husband thinks she’s a genius. Don’t say anybody told you though. Journalistic ethics and all that.

And for those who still don’t get an award, despite the fact that they have an implicit Right to Awards. Take heart from the experience of one M K Gandhi, nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize award, who inexplicably never made it each time.

And oh yes, since I’m no Gandhian. will someone out there puhhhlleeeease gimme an award?

Adil Rustomjee is an investment adviser in Mumbai. Comments are welcome at a_rustomjee@hotmail.com

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Updated Date: Feb 22, 2014 15:34:37 IST