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Dr Fuad Halim and the hyperlocal political brand

The Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, writes about elections, social workers and hyperlocal aspirations of the electorate

Shivaji Dasgupta

Those connected to the Bengal assembly polls will be well familiar with Dr Fuad Halim, the doctor philanthropist who is a medical messiah in his constituency. I am certain that there must be many such stalwarts across the country, rendering genuine community service prior to seeking electoral mandates, unlike the promise-based archetype of Indian politics. They are naturally affiliated to a mainstream party but their primary attraction is independent apolitical influence, due to genuine and consistent action.

For too long, in the Indian setup, the identities of candidates and their parties have merged quite seamlessly. For the loyalists, this pattern is predictable as time is a formidable adhesive but even for the switchers or the celebrity acquisitions, the association is quickly established. The only possible exceptions may include Gayatri Devi whose personal equity was inextricably linked to her people, thus the Swatantra Party affiliation just an interchangeable badge. In modern times, however, most well-known candidates are emotionally and physically detached from their allotted electorates and thus must forge equities with the party of choice to present a case. Which in most cases, resides as shallow promise as there is neither intent nor time nor evidence of any genuine tangible contribution to the constituency.

Now cut to the resurgence of local and regional identities in our nation, as a corollary and indeed ally of rampant globalisation. A BCG study of 2019 opined firmly that every India is behaving in a similar fashion and the classic multi-nation theory is defunct, hyperlocal being the buzzword of this generation. Not just for the ecommerce behemoths but also for new-age brands such as Hike and Truecaller, who are betting their future on this pattern of universal localisation, proud and passionate. A pattern picked up OTTs, QSR F&B, popular fashion, mygov and so much more – courtesy exposure, development and evolution we are intensely proud of our local identities wherever we live. So what’s this got to do with politics and indeed the candidates we choose?

It is amply clear that we are increasingly interested in candidates who will perform for our hyperlocal communities and make a discernible difference to our daily lives, especially for an assembly-level election. Dr Fuad Halim’s team in Ballygunge conducted thousands of dialysis procedures for Rs 50 even at the peak of the pandemic, saving or extending lives as the case may be. Many like him, understated and humble, perform similar deeds for the alleviation of suffering in a cohesive geography, earning the trust and affection of fellows. Thus influencing voters in a decisive professional fashion, the affinity to the party may be spontaneous or default but the primary attachment is the individual’s impact. A significant behaviour change that can be statistically defended, especially after the current round of elections.

This is a brand blog so I must switch intuitively to that domain and the pandemic is a valuable evidence. According to an Accenture report from August 2020, 74% of consumers in India are buying locally sourced products and 80% want to shop at neighbourhood stores. Customer loyalty was found to be at an all-time low with an increasingly large number of customers forgoing emotional affiliation for pure play performance – reputation is irrelevant unless it is seen to be acting daily especially in times of need. A logical thread that extends seamlessly to politics as the proof of performance supersedes lofty manifestos and that is exactly why we will increasingly be voting for individuals and not parties, at the local level.

In sum, I do predict that a new set of criteria will influence the voter of today and indeed tomorrow. Like every great brand, he must first deliver before promising, credibility a non-negotiable foundation. There must be demonstration of service before self and a commitment that resides way above hyperbole, where the party affiliation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. The youth of our times demand evidence of performance that is sincerely coated in emotions and answering a critical, albeit selfish question, ‘What’s in it for me?’

In the Bengal elections, there are three main competing organisations with sometimes conflicting and often converging ambitions – like any other mature consumer goods category even politics rarely offers unique differentiators. Exactly why so many like I will vote for Dr Fuad Halim in Calcutta and his peers all over India, proven action indeed the finest manifesto.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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