4 lessons that Arvind Kejriwal can teach Indian business leaders…

8 Dec 2013

4 lessons that Arvind Kejriwal can teach Indian business leaders…

(Image: AAP website)

Love him or hate him, you can’t get away from the #NAMO wave in India. Shri Narendra Modi symbolises the aspirations of the Indian business and all including me are waiting for his coming to power and setting the base for a robust industry growth.

But in the middle of this wave there is another wave, a much smaller one, which probably is more strategic and can change the future of our nation.

That wave is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP ) or the common man’s party and led by the charismatic Arvind Kejriwal. A year ago when Kejriwal formed the AAP I did not give them much of a chance. But contrary to my expectations they grew and when my mom told me that she was voting for them, I was amazed at the transformation.

So what makes Arvind Kejriwal so special? How has he managed to swing where others before him have flopped? and is there something Indian businesses can learn from him?

Lesson 1

Start with a large base. Kejriwal came into national prominence with the Anna Hazare anti corruption movement. The movement captured the imagination of the entire nation and put Congress on the back foot. The ramifications of that movement are being felt today as well.

Kejriwal was a key leader at that movement and I think the core leaders of AAP and some very important relationships were formed under the shadow of the movement and how the Government dealt with them.

Even in the past most business leaders forge important relationships before they step on to the big stage. Kejriwal used the movement as a staging area, and later when the party was formed he was able to leverage that relationships. I think Indian business leaders can do that.

Lesson 2

AAP had a very interesting way to build its manifesto. They had stalls in every constituency and citizens were encouraged to walk in and write their concerns and the changes that they want in their area. That formed the manifesto for that area. That way they had 70 odd manifestos. I have known friends who went in and wrote the manifesto for their areas.

In an age where the customer is empowered like never before, does it make sense for Indian businesses to get more local, invite customers to write the agenda for the company ? I think it makes great sense. technology and the use of internet can ensure that such a mechanism can be worked out. I think the long term strategy of the company should be made after taking the customer’s sentiment’s into consideration.

Lesson 3

Kejriwal kept the communication very simple. This was the biggest drawback of the Anna Hazare movement. Anna concentrated on the Lok Pal Bill and many citizens were confused about it. But Kejriwal concentrated on a very simple communication- He was against corruption and the congress in Delhi represented a very corrupt organization. So the net result was that people associated with him and with AAP. He choose the party simple as the broom, a weapon to throw into the bins all that was wrong.

Indian businesses need to keep the communication very simple. The vision of what the company can do for all stakeholders should be very very clear. Rather than using fancy jargon, companies should paint a very simple picture. Marketers please read this very carefully 🙂

Lesson 4

A leader leads by example. Kejriwal could have chosen a very easy seat to contest. Instead he choose New Delhi seat and then went to campign and beat the incumbent Chief Minister Sheila Dixit. It takes guts for a first time politician to come out and beat the leader on his own turf. Great leaders have done it and so did Kejriwal.

I often see Indian business leaders choosing easier options and not taking on tough opponents. Once a leader does that then it galvanizes the entire company and leads them to victory.

So these are my 4 lessons. Do you think there are others. Please do write in and I would be happy to include them as addendum to the post…




doc (241 Posts)

Strategic transformation and business development professional, with the ability to convert complex processes to simple concepts. A keen India watcher, with a passionate fervor for promoting and writing about Desi brands. Speaker, Writer, Story-teller, Head Banger and Manchester United Supporter.

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  • Sumeet Kad says:

    AAP had 71 manifestos in total. One for each constituency and 1 for the entire city. This reflects his eye on targeted approach and aap spent days and nights in doing ‘market research’ for each constituency. Something for bussinesses to learn from before launching a new producy or a new brand.

    • doc says:

      Oh that’s amazing Sumeet. I like that style and I think a lot of products & services can take cue from this and work towards a better market understanding and sensing customer expectations…

  • jaydutt says:

    Good one doc! AAP has played well on the cynisism that the general public today has towards corroupt politicians and the “TINA”factor ( There Is No Alternative) which has played on the minds of the aam aadmi does not exist any more as they see a plausible alternative in AAP..
    The arrogance of opposition combined with a clear Vision that connected with the end audience helped AAP. Many businesses today have such arrogancy set in their culture.. Take for e.g. Airtel n their service.. Its a shout out to all other contenders to learn from the AAP – wake up listen to ur customers or perish

    • doc says:

      Hi Jay

      I agree, there is a need for corporates to come off their high horses. I think the same applies to Airtel. With Viber and other alternatives it is a matter of time when they lose their position…This can happen to any corporate…

  • Dhruti says:

    Netas now Aam Aadmis – that pretty much sums it all. A lot of us took AAP lightly, but their victory has only proved that they set out with an AGENDA wanting to reshape Indian politics. This appeal particularly targeted at the young voters, was one that was well-orchestrated and Arvind Kejriwal’sa perspective were the clear differentiators. ‘The old order changeth giving rise to new’ – Alliance with BJP ? We’ll wait and watch, but for now the empowered youth are set to herald a new revolution.

    • doc says:

      Hi Dhruti

      I think we will see many city based parties. Each city may have its own version of AAP. Having said that the management lesson is there for all to see….

  • hemen parekh says:

    Unsolicited Advice to Arvind Kejriwal

    Dear Arvind ,

    Congratulations to people of Delhi for reposing their faith in AAP

    It would have been nice if AAP were to form the government

    However , it will be much ” nicer ” that you will sit in the Assembly as a ” Responsible / Constructive ” opposition !

    And learn your first lessons in functioning of parliamentary democracy

    Remember , people of entire country will watch , how you conduct yourself

    Will you continue with ,

    > Mud-slinging / Gallies / Abuses

    > Personal attacks re: corruption

    > Negativism / Sulking

    > ” Holier – than – Thou ” attitude

    Or ,

    Whether you will ,

    > Be ” Positive rather than Negative ”

    > Be ” Pro-active rather than Re-active ”

    > Without waiting for BJP to introduce , take the initiative to introduce
    relevant Bills in the Assembly in respect of following items of BJP’s
    Poll Manifesto

    > Reserve 85 % seats in Delhi colleges for local students

    > Set-up more fast track courts for speedy trial of women-related cases

    > Set up 24 hour help-line

    > Ensure speedy justice in the 1984 riots

    > Build tower blocks for slum-dwellers

    > Rationalize water tariff

    > Reduce tariff by 30 %

    > Introduce a centralized traffic plan

    > Provide easy loans for self employment

    > Make Lok-Ayukta, an effective institution with sufficient powers

    By being FIRST to introduce these Bills , you will prove to the people of India that,

    ” Role of opposition is not confined to simply oppose whatever bills get introduced by the Government in power , but take upon itself to introduce whatever bills it considers vital for the welfare of the people who voted for them – and ALL the other voters who DID NOT vote for them ”

    I believe your Lok Ayukta Bill is ready ( since you had planned to pass it on 29th Dec )

    So , how about introducing that as an ” Opposition Bill ” as soon as Assembly gets convened ?

    For a change , how about putting the ruling party on its back – foot ?

    By being ” Offensive ” , you will put the BJP on the ” Defensive ” !

    Then people will know how sincere is BJP with its poll promises !

    For long , you have been talking of a ” different kind of politics ”

    Now is your chance to convert your ” Hypothesis ” into a ” Theory ” !

    Remember ,

    Whether people of India will vote for AAP or not in 2014 , will depend upon you performance as a Constructive Opposition , during the next 6 months

    * hemen parekh ( 09 Dec 2013 )

  • Karthik B S says:

    Dr. Vikram, a very insightful article indeed. What the Aam Aadmi Party was successful in doing was not just strategically involve the “aam aadmi” in the grand ballet of democracy, but also successfully infuse a sense of catharsis in our programmed, passive-aggressive minds that a practically “nobody” of yesterday who fought against the system, used/chose the same to win, neither bearing the flag of a sectioned religiosity nor having to be a lowly boot-licking sycophant. Their masterstroke was to know and make people understand that every part of the city-state has a different demand and a mind-boggling 71 manifestos were needed to truly capture its essence. Now any quintessential aam aadmi has the right to dream that he/she too can be a part of the system without having the hand of demagogue, for what Arvind Kejriwal demonstrated in Delhi is just astounding. I do possess my differences, politically, with Arvind Kejriwal, but he has earned so much respect even in his detractors. A big salute to him. We should hope that the big fishes in the tank learn from him.

    All in all, he knew his “customers” inside-out and the rest, as they say, is history.

    • doc says:

      Yes Karthik he has atleast one of the core value differentiators- Customer intimacy (Citizen Intimacy) in this case. Very well articulated strategy and I have to give credit to Kejriwal and the leadership team of the AAP for this historic moment in India.

  • Harika says:

    That was a great way of seeing politics through a business lens sir. Quite remarkable!

  • Manish says:

    It was great to see the way he segmented his target groups, mostly the poor people and the youngsters but was surprising to see that they got considerable chunk from the upper strata also.I just have a question who were the innovators who have spread this liking towards them.

    • Hi Manish

      I think he got the millennials and the women to vote for him enmass. The others voted for BJP. What he did was polarized the anti- corruption vote to him. In some of the seats they lost just by 500 votes, so the result is much closer than it looks. For one it is value based politics that will influence elections in the future….

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