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Mr. Aman Gupta (Chief Executive Officer)
Biography | Archives
NOVEMBER 2010
 
 
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JULY 2010

Is India Unduly Concerned About China and Chinese Telecom Firms?


There have been stray reports about India and Indian ministries being "unduly" concerned about China and Chinese companies, particularly in telecom and power. Making light of such concerns is based on the specious premise that China is too focused on its global ambitions and economic prosperity to take undue risks via military (mis)adventures that could jeopardise its economic gains.

That's a dangerous line of thought that overlooks China's past record. The dragon always works to a game-plan. It would be naive to ignore China's hegemonistic ambitions, despite its assertions to the contrary. The global cyber hacking of foes and friends alike (India, US, UK, Pakistan, etc.) is ample indication that China nurses Genghis Khan's ambitions cloaked with Mao Zedong's stealth. Allowing Chinese telecom and power companies into India can be fraught with long-term security implications. It's not without reason the Home Ministry has voiced fears that telecom equipment may contain spyware or malware that could compromise confidential information and allow hostile intelligence agencies to access this.

In fact, Chinese telecom company Huawei has been accused of bribery, data theft and conspiracy to disrupt national telecom networks in many countries around the world. Worldwide, many countries and their intelligence chiefs are extremely wary of Huawei, particularly since it was founded by Ren Zhengfei, ex-director of the telecom research arm of China's People's Liberation Army.

The other point for sceptics to note is that China has been making diplomatic, economic and militaristic inroads into neighbouring countries and, essentially, 'encircling' India, which includes setting up 'listening posts' in the neighbourhood. China's attempt to strike a nuclear deal and transfer conventional and nuclear weapons capabilities to Pakistan is part of its larger game-plan. Attempts to equate a Sino-Pak nuclear deal with the Indo-US nuclear agreement are untenable, especially because Pakistan has an abysmal nuclear proliferation record, while India doesn't. Although trade with China should be welcomed, allowing Chinese companies unrestricted entry into telecom and power calls for an abundant measure of caution. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry!

Few people in Kashmir, compared to many more in PoK, believed that violence was likely to resolve the Kashmir issue. In J&K, only 20% thought that violence would help, compared to nearly 40% who thought it was coming in the way of a resolution. In PoK,37% of those surveyed held that violence was a possible route to resolution.

That the elections in 2008 and in 2009 had helped change mindsets was seen in the increasingly high turnouts. The survey too demonstrated this, with more than half the respondents saying the elections had improved chances for peace.
 

JUNE 2010

Just 2% in J&K want to join Pak
Most Favour Relaxed LoC As Border, Finds First-Ever Poll


New Delhi: For those who still think a plebiscite will tilt the status of Kashmir and that most Kashmir is yearn to wave the Pakistani green, there are now numbers for the first time to contradict them.

A survey carried out across both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir, that its author claims is the first of its kind, shows that only 2% of the respondents on the Indian side favour joining Pakistan and most such views were confined to Srinagar and Budgam districts. In six of the districts surveyed late last year by researchers from the London-based think tank Chatham House, not a single person favoured annexation with Pakistan, a notion that remains the bedrock for the hardline separate campaign in Kashmir.

However, the study by Robert Bradnock, a scholar from Londons Kings College, that involved interviewing 3,774 people in both parts of Kashmir in September-October 2009,showed that 44% of people on the Pakistani side favoured independence, compared to 43% in Jammu & Kashmir. Bradnock says in the 37-page report on the survey that this would put an end once and for all to the plebiscite route as a possible way to resolving Kashmir, since the only two options envisaged under the UN resolutions proposing plebiscite in 1948-49 were for the whole of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan; azadi was not an option. But in the Valley, the mood for azadi still remained strong, with 75%-95 % respondents favouring that as a final resolution.

The poll showed no support either for joint sovereignty or for maintaining status quo. However, more than 58% of those surveyed were prepared to accept the Line of Control as a permanent border if it could be liberalized for greater people-to-people contact and trade. Only 8% voted against making the LoC a permanent boundary, with the highest level of opposition in Anantnag district, the report said.

Few people in Kashmir, compared to many more in PoK, believed that violence was likely to resolve the Kashmir issue. In J&K, only 20% thought that violence would help, compared to nearly 40% who thought it was coming in the way of a resolution. In PoK,37% of those surveyed held that violence was a possible route to resolution.

That the elections in 2008 and in 2009 had helped change mindsets was seen in the increasingly high turnouts. The survey too demonstrated this, with more than half the respondents saying the elections had improved chances for peace.
 

APRIL 2010

Will Dwindling Ad Revenues
Make Most Magazines History by 2020?

Small chance! Just as Radio survived dire predictions following the launch of television, the print media will ride the storm too. Although 2009 was Annus horribilis for the print media in terms of lower ad revenues and falling margins due to the global economic slowdown, there was a silver lining too.

First, the bad news: the print media purportedly lost Rs2,000 crore of ad revenue and de-grew a whopping 21% compared to 2008. Magazines reportedly fared worse than newspapers. With advertising revenues critical for the print media, growth in ad spends of just 4.5%, compared to 18.9% in 2008, spelt bad news for media moguls. Given the negative investment sentiment, ads were procured via massive discounts on the listed ad tariffs.

The good news: unlike the West, few Indian newspapers or magazines folded up, with lower retrenchments too. Indian media managements were more street smart, resorting to salary cuts and reduction in page numbers, including more scrapping of supplements and less scrapping of staff. Uncertain times forced the media to employ innovative means to combat sluggish market conditions and run low-cost operations by curtailing staff and capital costs as well as overhead expenses.

Though corporate advertising suffered a setback, ads from educational institutions (particularly private ones) saved the day. Ad spends during the General Elections were another godsend. Both categories offset corporate advertising losses.

Unfazed by dwindling revenues and embattled readership figures, foreign magazines stayed the course to launch Indian editions (Forbes, Harpers Bazaar, CFO), while new Indian magazines such as Open and Career 360 also hit the newsstands. The trend continues in 2010 with the launch of BBC’s Lonely Planet magazine.

Although the Internet, TV, and other forms of infotainment are eating massive chunks from print media readership and revenues, magazines will nonetheless survive the onslaught of the new media well into 2020 and beyond. Can you ever imagine people sitting over the commode every morning with anything but a newspaper or magazine in their hands?!


 
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Was M F Husain right in accepting Qatari citizenship?

Yes, he has every right to… Poets, painters and other creative people have oftentimes led lives at odds with traditional values and moral standards. While this always riles the moral brigade, their acts have not necessarily transgressed the laws of the land, although detractors pretend otherwise.

‘Creative licence’ is the prerogative of artistes, as long as they don’t blatantly flout the nation’s laws. But in surcharged times when rabble rousers seek flimsy ruses to rake up irrelevant issues that earn them 15 minutes’ fame in local, national or international periodicals, it’s easy to step on such people’s toes. Given MF’s penchant for painting Hindu gods and goddesses in their natural glory, falling foul of the moral brigade was inevitable. The slew of cases and charges that then piled up were also inescapable.

The primary prerequisite for most artistes to practise their vocation is peace of mind, solitude – which increasingly became a luxury for Husain in India. Travelling abroad to escape detractors was the best thing Husain could do under the circumstances. Husain was in self-imposed exile since 2006. Away from the heat and hubris of critics, he could paint in peace. Although an Indian citizen, Maqbool Fida Husain ended up spending the past few years in Dubai and London.

The scenario changed after Qatar granted MF citizenship, which he accepted subsequently. Although critics may cry themselves hoarse about MF betraying India, the fact remains that Husain is now a PIO (person of Indian origin), having surrendered his passport, since India doesn’t recognise dual citizenship. That the Indian ethos will always course through MF’s veins is clear from his son Owais Husain’s words: “He will continue to miss his real home, wherever he is. You can take M F Husain out of India. But you can’t take India out of M F Husain.”


 
 

MARCH 2010

Can the Kashmir Problem be Resolved Permanently?

Indeed it can! Here's how it can be done to the satisfaction of all three parties. and Pakistan can only object to this solution at the cost of exposing its duplicity about fighting for Kashmir's "freedom".

History tells us that national boundaries have periodically been drawn and redrawn. Once this is clear to all citizens and politicians - in India and Pakistan - Jammu & Kashmir (including Pak-occupied Kashmir!) would be conferred a Vatican-like status , subject to certain conditions.

While the State would have its own currency, Indian and Pakistani rupees would both be legal tender. Although the State would have its own police force, it would not have an Army, being considered a demilitarized zone . All Indian and Pakistani troops would be withdrawn from the respective sides of their J&K borders. Military (and terror) training camps would be dismantled and Jihadis absorbed into the new J&K police force. J&K citizens could move about freely within India and Pakistan, without visas and passports. Indian and Pakistani citizens would likewise have the freedom to travel freely within J&K. Although permitted to live there for extended periods on work or business, citizens of India and Pakistan would not be permitted to buy land in J&K.

J&K would have a separate Constitution, Flag and National Anthem, with its own Parliament and Courts. Mining and mineral rights in the State would only vest with J&K entities and individuals. Maps of both India and Pakistan would display J&K as a "separate extension" of their national borders. Ten years after J&K's new status comes into effect, India would not be required to extend subsidies to it, as it would earn its own keep.

In short, the effort would be to meet the aspirations of all J&K citizens, whatever their religious denominations, while forever burying any excuses and alibis for extremists to continue their so-called Jihad or freedom struggle against India.
 
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Is Sachin Tendulkar
the World's Greatest Cricketer of ALL time?

Yes and No! The Little Master is undoubtedly the world's greatest cricketer of all time. alongside Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers! Here's why.

Australian Don Bradman is unquestionably the greatest batsman of all time (52 Tests, 80 innings, 6,996 runs, highest score 334, 29 centuries, average: 99.94) with an average that may never ever be surpassed in Test cricket.

West Indies’ Garry Sobers is unarguably the greatest all-rounder of all time. Batting (93 Test Matches, 160 innings, 8,032 runs, highest score 365 not out, 26 centuries, average: 57.78; first player to hit six sixes in one over in first-class cricket), bowling (235 Test wickets, average: 34.03; bowled left-arm orthodox spin and wrist spin, and left-arm fast-medium) and fielding (109 catches/stumping) exceptionally. The chances of an all-rounder reaching the dizzy heights Sir Garry did are remote, given the heavy toll modern cricket (T20, One Day, Tests) extracts from players.

With Bradman and Sobers being legends in their own lifetimes, it seemed improbable another cricketer could ever match their exploits. …Until the rise of a baby-faced cricketer, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

In a career spanning two decades – and still going strong! – Tendulkar has scaled new peaks to script a 21st Century legend. In 166 Tests and 271 innings, he has 13,447 runs at an average of 55.56 with 47 centuries and 248 not out as the highest. In 442 ODIs, he has 17,598 runs at an average of 45.12 with 46 centuries and 200 not out as his highest – the first time in 39 years of ODIs that any player has reached the 200 mark. Tendulkar also bowls offbreak and legbreak, with 44 wickets in Tests and 154 wickets in ODIs and 3 for 10 his best Test Innings effort and 5 for 32 his best in ODIs.

With 93 international centuries, it’s only a question of time before he completes 100 centuries. How many centuries Tendulkar adds before retiring time will tell. But one thing is certain – any batsman who surpasses Tendulkar’s century of centuries will be a dead-tired cricketer.

 
 

FEBRUARY 2010

IPL - Cheerleaders, Confounded Critics,
Controversies. and Cricket

When Lalit Modi launched the Indian Premier League (IPL) to counter Subhash Chandra’s ICL (Indian Cricket League), purists where shocked by the cheerleaders’ titillating gyrations, while sceptics scoffed at IPL’s revenue model. Weeks later, Modi and the IPL franchisees laughed all the way to the bank, while critics fell into numbing silence.

In Season 2, terror and politics sought to scuttle the event. Unfazed, Modi took IPL to South Africa. Despite the change of venue, cash registers rang merrily. While Terror and Thackeray seek to play spoilsport in Season 3, an unruffled Modi seeks to take the show to American shores.

What accounts for IPL’s astounding success? Much of it can be credited to the business acumen of maverick Modi, who turned traditional revenue models on their head, even YouTube-ing IPL. Cricket could likely enter the Olympics in 2020. Has IPL-2020 achieved the seemingly impossible?

As former Hollywood star Clint Eastwood may have drawled: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet pardner!” This brings us to IPL’s high glamour and Bollywood quotient. Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty are Bollywood stars with stakes in IPL teams, while India Inc. is represented by Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya and Ness Wadia, among others. Although the IPL jamboree may run for 44-odd days, the buzz lasts 365 days of the year. How come? IPL’s greed-cum-instant gratification traction and Modi’s domineering ways are lightning rods for controversies. Remember Osho? Hated by some; ignored by none. Ditto for Modi and IPL! With controversies galore, newsmen will always beat a path to IPL’s portals. Whether it’s cricket or controversies, just dial IPL.

 
 

JANUARY 2010

Macro Development and the Maoist Agenda

As thought leaders with diverse political leanings debate the economic agenda India must adopt - against the backdrop of the rising Maoist menace - one point is beyond debate or doubt: India's growth and prosperity must include the poorest of the poor.
By Aman Gupta

Like the rest of humankind, India today stands at the crossroads of history. Climate change and terrorism now dominate the daily headlines and the lexicon in one form or the other. The path that we choose to finally take can either condemn our future generations or redeem their future. This is why all the stakeholders involved - the Government, the private sector and civil society - need to join hands and work for the common good.

Rapid industrial growth and globalisation may have indeed lifted millions of Indians, Asians and others out of poverty. Yet, the price paid in terms of environmental degradation and economic disparities has been alarmingly high. This has created a deficit of trust among common people when dealing with the Government and the private sector. The Tata Nano drive-out from Singur was just an undercurrent of this nationwide malaise. Posco, Vedanta and Reliance are some of the other corporate entities experiencing the painful bite of this harsh reality.

The global economic slowdown further aggravated these public misgivings and fears. In India as well as worldwide, systemic weaknesses in marketdriven economies stand thoroughly exposed. This is the best time, though, to pause and ponder. Ponder how to best integrate the interests of the people, the planet and the profit motive. Ponder how to facilitate inclusive, qualitative development for those at the bottom of the pyramid. And, as management guru C K Prahalad has enunciated, catering to the bottom of the pyramid pays its own dividends.

There is no doubt that the market-driven economy has afforded multiple benefits and conveniences (longer life spans, higher literacy rates, faster mobility, greater connectivity etc.) for many Indians. Yet, the fact remains that these benefits have not trickled down to large sections of the populace. The disparities between the haves and have-nots have only widened. Consider the tribal areas in many parts of India - here sunlight is the only beneficial element touching the lives of poor villagers daily. More than six decades after Independence, the poor in these forgotten jungle zones lack basic amenities such as drinking water, electricity, roads and healthcare. Given this scenario, it's easy to understand why the Maoists hold sway over large swathes of land comprising as much as 40% of India's landmass.

Unless the Government makes certain basic amenities and meaningful development reach these tribal zones, Maoists will continue to attract new recruits and attack all forms of authority. Unless programmes such as the NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) reach impoverished villages in the Red Zone (without the proverbial leakages), the hearts and minds of these villagers can never be won over to turn back the tide of Naxalism.

Besides the human angle, we must consider the impact on the environment due to unplanned industrialization. Global climate change is no longer environmental scaremongering, as some of us once believed. It's now a fact of life - and one that we need to address as quickly as possible. Today, we must focus on two issues. First, how do we ensure that the vast majority living in poverty are also lifted by the high tide of prosperity? Second, how do we achieve this via sustainable development - without further irreparably damaging Mother Earth?

As we deliberate the path forward, it's clear the agenda for growth must be inclusive, qualitative growth. Keeping this in mind, one must target the bottom of the barrel, i.e., people living in rural regions as well as the impoverished in urban areas. Catering to those at the bottom of the pyramid need not be at the cost of profits. Entrepreneurs just have to discover new ways to open virgin markets profitably.

A case in point is the exponential growth in India's telecom markets, with companies providing services at rock-bottom prices. Compare this with the situation a decade ago when India was one of the costliest telecom markets. Despite rates that keep falling periodically, Indian telecom companies still make money. How? A major reason - they have suitably tweaked their revenue models.

It would be in everybody's interests - the Government, the public and private companies, and civil society - if all commercial activities had an element of Corporate Social Responsibility interwoven in them. This can be in the form of sustainable or environmentally friendly forms of development. Such an approach would also help preserve the traditional way of life in rural areas, since it would seek to integrate the least destabilising ways of achieving development. An inclusive approach would also allow greater job opportunities for rural populations.

These goals are best achieved, though, through public-private partnerships. Government organisations and the private sector must act in concert to ensure better results in development tasks.

Commercial activity backed by societal responsibility can achieve excellent results. The best example in this regard is the city of Jamshedpur, now in Jharkhand.

It was in the early 1900s that the Tatas began efforts to build India's first steel plant. The site for a location rich in resources (iron, coal, limestone and water) began in April 1904 in present-day Madhya Pradesh. Only after three years' painstaking search did the company's prospectors find a suitable location in a village called Sakchi. The village lay in densely forested stretches of the Chhota Nagpur plateau, where the Subarnarekha and Kharkai rivers meet.

An extremely enlightened man, Jamshetji Tata (after whom the city is named) wanted the city to be more than a row of hutments for his workers. His city should have all the possible comforts and conveniences of modern life. Within years of its establishment, the city began to do its founders proud.

Jamshedpur is the lone city in India without a municipal corporation - possibly the world's only modern city with this distinction. The maintenance of the city is entirely undertaken by Tata Steel. It is also the sole city in India to provide uninterrupted drinking water supply 24 hours a day. Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company Limited, a Tata Steel division, handles this service to the city's 1.1 million residents.

One of the richest cities in India, Jamshedpur also has one of the highest per capita incomes in the entire country. It is also one of the greenest cities. Tata Steel undertakes regular reforestation and tree plantation activities to maintain the air quality. Without ongoing tree plantation drives, Jamshedpur would rank as one of India's most polluted cities, given the presence of a large number of industries.

The villagers of what was once Sakchi village (which lies in the heart of Jamshedpur) now enjoy the kind of life they could have never dreamt of a hundred years ago. Jamshedpur is truly the epitome of inclusive, qualitative growth. Had the Jamshedpur model been adapted in other parts of India, there would have been no Maoist menace today. Yet it's never too late to make mid-course corrections and promote genuine, sustainable development in all the neglected regions of India. If we develop equally enlightened minds like that of Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, there's no reason why miracles like Jamshedpur cannot be replicated in the rest of India. Were that to happen, the pipeline of Maoist recruits would dry up. Overnight.
 

DECEMBER 2009

Interactive Games Teach Kids Diabetes Self- Management Skills

There is a Nintendo plug-in from Bayer called Didget, which helps encourage children with diabetes to build good blood glucose testing habits. The DIDGET meter from Bayer Diabetes Care links to the Nintendo DS consoles and is designed to help children with diabetes manage their condition by rewarding them for consistent testing and meeting personalized glucose target ranges.


It is the first of probably many more examples to come in the healthcare industry of creative and inspiring marketing with a purpose. This initiative has caught the attention of everyone in the pharmaceutical sector. There is no doubt that today it is more important for companies to get into ³to the heart of the consumer². Bayer successfully managed to do this by understanding the mind of a child and the fact the regular blood glucose testing although important is not fun for a child. The game attracts children and also at the same time manages to provide children with information that enables them to learn more about diabetes in general and the relationship between food, insulin, and blood glucose control. To sum up , there is an Entertainment Value, Target Market Engagement and Relevant Education. These 3 elements < Entertainment < Engagement < Education < are the Secret Sauce to build a strong campaign.

Definitely, it is a great case study for Indian healthcare companies and should help drive them into a new ways of encouraging education, testing, and treatment of conditions for all ages.

Aman Gupta
CEO,
Imprimis PR
 

NOVEMBER 2009

More than PR: Air New Zealand flight attendents get naked


Air New Zealand cabin crew stripped off for a new advertisement where they carry out their duties wearing nothing but their uniforms painted on with body paint. More than 90 Air New Zealand staff members featured in the bold campaign, with eight having only body paint. The advertisement was created to promote the airline's fares, which "have nothing to hide" - there are no extra fees for things like in-flight drinks or checking in. It was designed to differentiate Air New Zealand from their competitors which it succeeded in doing! On youtube.com this video has already received over four million Internet views.3,394 people have rated this video giving it average of 4 and stars.Air New Zealand also developed an air safety video titled "Bare essentials of safety from Air New Zealand" to recapture the attention of passengers who often ignore the safety instructions.

This is a great example of a company going beyong traditional PR in its campaign. More are now devoting time and funds to creating campagns loaded with features and content to lure potential clients. Gone are the days of relying solely on print ads, brochures and billboards. As companies and industries compete, the need to promote brand awareness also rises.The marketing guys at Air New Zealand understood that nudity sells and developed a unique and ingenious advert aroung this. Unique being the keyword- No airline has done anything like it before.The campaign then took a life of its own with news and media channels picking it up automatically. The safety video clocked 1.2 million views in the 4 days it was up. Those are pretty impressive figures. The video is fun to watch and it manages to keep your attention. The video also does something else - it positions the airline as an innovative and open-minded organization.

The bottomline: its important for any PR campaign to go that extra mile and truly drive home the message & connect with its audience. How does one do that? It has be creative enough to capture attention which is not an easy feat today .

Aman Gupta CEO,
Imprimis PR