Friday, December 30, 2016

Engineers Arise!

Today as my colleague, Rahul Kulkarni and I were placing the final touches on a product we'd been working on, we took a conversation-diversion to add momentum to the already highly-charged environment we were in. We were in the middle of an exciting break-through and our energy-levels were peaking as we were detailing the major and minor matrices of the structure. The mood was electric as we fed off each other’s strengths and moved in with ease to cover all blanks and dashes with speed and swiftness. Indeed the product was shaping up far better than how we'd envisioned it.
We forced ourselves to take the diversion knowing well the calming effect that diversions have in an electric environment. During that break we casually exchanged notes on our backgrounds to realize that both of us were electrical engineers who’d decided against taking up a core job somewhere between our 3rd and 4th years of engineering. The similarity didn’t end there as our paths mirrored each other’s, perhaps including that of most engineers of our generation, as we chose to pursue MBA degrees and careers in sales, marketing, communication and advertising.  
For over two decades we had believed we were engineers only in qualification, not in spirit or interest or vocation. Perhaps many would agree that, while as children we genuinely wanted to become engineers, the four year struggle at college with different subjects, eroded and destroyed our interest in the course to such an extent that we wanted nothing more than to secure enough marks to graduate with a semblance of self-respect. If fact, many of us may not even have desired a job with an engineering firm, such was the residual fatigue of the discipline.
Today when we stepped back and looked with pride and awe at the design we had jointly engineered, we began recounting many other similar programs and products we had designed in our collective careers of 4 decades and more. Some technology based, others service based and some, combinations of the two.
That activity threw a singular startling fact back at us: Whilst we had worked in hard-core sales and in creative companies, our own roles had been that of: Conceptualizing ideas, detailing its components, structuring the project, delivery, feedback and correction and finally implementation, monitoring and reporting. And above all, that single word which stared back at us in black against the white of the board: DESIGN.
It told us what we had been all through our careers, the role we’d unconsciously enjoyed playing all these years. ENGINEER.
That’s what we were. What we are. And what we’ll always be.
For an engineer’s primary function is to ideate and design a better model, a more efficient product which reduces effort. Then to develop, implement and improvise on it to keep increasing efficiency.
While a poorly structured engineering course, well-past its expiry date and an examination system that rewards rote and repetition can dissuade and demotivate students, nothing can change the inclination of a mind driven by the desire to design a more efficient solution.

So whatever be the industry your organization believes itself to be a part of, whatever be your job title or role. If you’re designing systems that deliver more efficient results, you are indeed one of us!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Importance of Market Sizing In the Age of Start-ups

A large number of startups approach us to help them create their brands and develop their value propositions. Typically many of the startups are founded by professionals from the technology side, others are 2nd generation business people who want to strike it on their own, away from the family business.
We're seeing a pattern emerging. While they're all bright and immensely talented, they're so strong with their technology or finance that they miss one critical aspect of business: A clear understanding of the size of the market potential they're aiming for. Fundamentally this is a question that should be answered right at the beginning and with clarity before even commencing the business project report.
What is the size of market? Which competitor's audience will shift to us?
It's not just startups who miss this aspect. Even large companies miss this point. Tata Nano is a case in point. They weren't clear whether it should be motorcycle buyers or car buyers. Eventually neither are buying it.
This question appears simple to answer in traditional categories FMCG, durables etc. Who loses share when we launch this new anti-germ soap? Answer Dettol, Lifebouy... But it's not so simple is it? For the next question to answer is WHY would they do so?
Now your answer needs to be more compelling than a line in a powerpoint slide. It needs to be PERSUASIVE.
Most startups today eschew the traditional categories, many are new concepts:
A website that provides you with all kinds of handymen; An app that helps you order a lunch dabba for your meal at office; an app that gives you car service centers close to you etc.
While a number of these startups have a definition of their business, they're ambiguous about the size of it. Which is where the problem starts. Without doing this critical sizing, many businesses are today finding themselves in a quagmire, months and years down the line, unclear on which way to head. The fatigue, doubt, confusion and dwindling resources which is the consequence of jumping headlong into the fray without sizing the market, is often the death knell to a promising startup.
Therefor our advice to any start up is always: BE CLEAR WHO IS THE SOURCE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
If you provide handymen, please find out: What is the size of this unorganized sector? What is the average ticket size? Why are people using it unhappy? What is the new dynamic you're getting into the system? And how will you make money from it?
Simple as these questions may sound, very few companies actually ask themselves of these.
Answering these questions may often be a bitter pill to swallow. But it's better than a depleted bank account, a loss of quality time and a debilitating loss in confidence.
Startup, valuation, scale-up all sounds great to read in the pink pages of newspapers, but eventually they're all businesses which have to make money. And this fundamental question of business needs to be answered with clarity for that to happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Black Vs White

There's no other way to describe this fight against black money. It's GOOD Vs. BAD.
I'm sure like me, a lot of you would have already started hearing negative news, 
"This was informed to BJP and allies months ago."
"It won't affect the very rich because their money is already in Cayman etc..."
"There are xyz methods of converting black to white."
"This won't last, black will be back soon."
"Some guy standing in a bank queue heard a conversation about bank employees converting black money for a fee."
Don't believe them please. For years they exerted the power of their black money on us and oppressed us. They would buy judges while we ran around courts for years. They bought land parcels from farmers while we struggled to squeeze into a matchbox. They played the commodities, we paid the price of inflation. They walked past us in temple queues, offices and life on the back of that black.
They suffocated us, parched our minds and hammered our spirit.
Don't. Please don't let them win now. Do not believe their tricks, their sly insidious voices, their apparent nonchalance.
Do NOT believe in hearsay.
This has been a body blow for them. They are down,even their most evil is reeling. Let me explain with an example: India's black money economy is worth Rs. 30 Lakh Crores.
Yes. that's right.
Assuming the crook of Mumbai, Dawood has Rs. 3 Lakh crore of it. Let's say he uses his power and gets every slum dweller (population of 40 lakhs) in Mumbai to exchange Rs.4000 EVERYDAY for the next 50 days. He still saves only Rs. 80K Crores. That's less than a third. And this is the best case example.
Which means even in the best case the smartest black money hoarder will save at the best 50% of his ill-gotten gains.
For people whose identity is power delivered on the back of black money, a 50% loss is a huge huge blow, emotionally and mentally. Unlike us, who aren't so attached to money (we value family and relationships more) these guys love their money. Therefore this is a double whammy for them.
The small black marketeers would do the calculation that had they paid 30% tax they'd be better off today. This blow will convert almost all those guys into the mainstream economy.
So far from being comfortable, they're trying to spoil our sense of victory. they're trying to oppress us again by sowing seeds of doubt in our minds.
Don't believe them. Call their bluff. We have won. No we shouldn't allow them to come back.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The World's Most Powerful Non-democracy

The American ruling class are of two types: Republican i.e. the Rich Guys & Democrats i.e. the College guys. The rulers of that country is always one of the two. Either a product of the wealthy rich guys or a product of the intellectual collegiate type. No other kind can get even a toe in.
Put Ronald Reagan at the center of the ideal Republican candidate the extreme right of who stands Trump.
Put Bill Clinton in the center, extreme left of who stands Jimmy Carter. 
Get the picture?
For the Democrats, It doesn't matter if the presidential candidate is black or Hispanic or a woman but the pedigree is clear. Obama, Hillary, Bill, Carter...see the pattern?
For the Republicans, Rich and white? that's self explanatory. 
The other shocking bit is that from George HW Bush to Hillary Clinton (if she wins) America would have the dubious distinction of having their rulers come from just 3 families in THIRTY YEARS. 
If you go by the clamoring that's happening for Michelle Obama, those 3 families would extend their rule for FORTY YEARS!! Half a bloody century.
Does this sound like a democracy?
China does better than that!
The day a farmer, a waitress, a techie or maybe a tea-vendor becomes their President perhaps we can count them as a real one.
As far as we Indians are concerned, remember just one thing: Americans like every other nation only care for their own interests. So they'll continue to support Pakistan while selling us their weapons.
Right now they're candidates have created a spectacle, so the best thing for us to do is to take a ring-side seat, and enjoy the show they're putting on for us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mistaking customer inertia for customer loyalty

Take the case of a health insurance brand. Ten years back it had an attractive product covering an entire family's health at an attractive premium which consumers lapped up. Every year, the company would increase the premium corresponding to the age and the consumer would pay up noting the 'no-claims' gain.
The brand did not communicate regularly with the consumer except sending the odd birthday emailer intermittently. The only thing that was regular was a premium reminder and methods of auto-renewal which the customers wisely refuse.
Ten years passed by. The health insurance brand begins to believe the customer will remain with it no matter what. "We have exemplary service! we return claims fastest. We permit cashless transactions. We have the widest network!"
Emboldened the brand launches a TVC in which it highlights the gritty nature of its consumer and lauds his spirit. "We understand your spirit and will to run a marathon in the Siberian cold. We're here for You! Attaboy!"
The brand now begins to believe in its own story more than the customer. "This is our brand, these are its values, its tone is helpful, understanding etc." The customers watches mutely, not registering the brand or its message, not even knowing that he has a policy from that brand.
Hubris sets in. "Customers will pay a premium for our superior service and polite call-centers!" Believing in its own self-indulgent world, the brand does the unthinkable. It raises its premium.
The customer is shocked to receive a premium intimation that's double the expected amount. First thing he does is to call at the helpline. This is what he hears: "You've enjoyed our superior service for so many years! you should pay up!"
"What service? I never used it! I haven't interacted with you for 10 years except to pay the premium! Is this how you reward me by doubling my premium?"
"Sorry sir" the haughty voice replies, "We aren't like the others, if you fall ill you'll realize how well we take care of you."
After 10 years the customer is jerked out of his inertia and makes a few calls. In today's world options are dime-a-dozen. He gets many cheaper options, spends no time in shifting. The due date passes by and the brand makes frantic calls, "You haven't paid! you're putting your health at risk!"
Nope, dear brand you have.
The ease with which people are replacing their toothpastes, groceries, noodles, soaps, shampoos etc. from MNC brands and their duplicate desi versions to a young upstart company like Patanjali underscores this point.
Maruti and Hyundai service stations, famous for their humongous service bills are finding their customers driving to Mahindra First Choice Any Car Service which offers an equally good service and has a very transparent billing system.
Brands make the terrible mistake of considering customer inertia for loyalty and begin taking their customers for granted. "Customers will pay a premium, Customers connect with us. Customers love us." Brands, hide behind these empty statements do nothing to continuously demonstrate the worth they place on their customers. Finally they make the terrible mistake of overcharging their customers. The customer accepts small changes or if there's no option s/he bears it. However the moment there's an option, they switch.
Don't take my word for it. Simply go by the reactions of Vodafone and Airtel to the launch of Jio.
Today a brand has to continuously adapt and change to keep offering new benefits to consumers. Don't seek loyalty when you've not done anything to deserve it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The lure of strategy over other functions

The other day I endorsed a friend on LinkedIn for 'Business Development'. I did this because, having observed the stellar role he played in developing a new category in the Indian marketplace, I had been thoroughly impressed by his perseverance and effort which had resulted in an above par performance by his company, financially.
No sooner had I done this, pat came his message: "Business development??? not strategy?"
I can understand his perspective. 'Strategy' looks great on one's profile. Business development or Operations appear foot-soldierly. And this is a problem that has seeped into professional life: Valuing strategy over every other function. So when a company meets their client, it's not uncommon for the client to seek out the planner for special treatment during the meeting, while the operations team are given the last 5 minutes to discuss all pending work. This reinforces the unstated belief that strategy is most important and this over time becomes a part of the organization's and the industry's culture in which operations, business development and execution are considered 'not-cerebral' and dismissed as hygiene even as fat pay-checks and plum posts go to strategic thinkers.
This post is not to negate the function or need for strategy, no way. It is simply to draw attention to the fact that other functions too are equally important and in some situations perhaps more useful than strategy. It's also time to separate the genuine strategic thinkers from the non-performers who adopt the guise of being strategists to escape performance evaluation criteria. I've had the good fortune of working with genuine thinkers. They're as business oriented or operations focused as anyone else. For genuine strategists know that the real mettle of great strategy is not applause for a power-point presentation but market-share gained in the real-world. Genuine planners are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and jump into operations for that very reason. Which is why strategic function needs to perhaps be the last stop in a professional's career and probably not their first. Strategy needs to be built ground-up, only when market-knowledge and consumer behavior is understood from years of first-hand experience.
This made me reflect on the reasons why strategy has been given pride-of-place over other functions. It's probably a mix of many reasons some of which are: The view that strategy is the genesis for all businesses. MBA courses are lopsided in their focus on strategy. The belief that strategy requires brains and so anyone in that area of expertise has more of them than the others. Lastly the role of popular cultures in which we credit sages, ascetics and visionaries as being know-it-alls due to their deep strategic understanding of things.
Perhaps its time for us to clear this erroneous perception and acknowledge the importance of other functions too. That strategy does not get in the bucks alone. In fact it gets nothing. Last of all any guarantee of success. A great strategy needs a great business development, operations, finance, systems and other functions to get to anywhere close to implementing its plan. However, quite a few organizations have succeeded based on the strength of their other functions as well without any great strategy.
Lastly in support of business development, I'd say, take a survey of any number of CEO's asking them what would they consider their most important need-of-the-hour...I wouldn't be surprised if it's unanimously in favor of business development and growth. For all of them would know first-hand how difficult it is to sustain growth and business in tumultuous times.
(So my dear friend, you've got your answer, I suppose :) )

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

No medals, high spirits: The Indian psyche.

There's a famous Nike ad that goes, "You don't win the silver. You lose the gold."
As the Rio Olympics draws to its conclusion, India may well finish without a single medal in its kitty. Strangely this hasn't dampened the enthusiasm levels in the country. Most Indians have taken this loss in their stride and are celebrating their athletes who lost.
The people at Nike and their ad agency must surely be scratching their heads and wondering what they've missed and where they went wrong in understanding India. Even as American, Australian, Chinese, German and Fijian athletes weep at the loss of a gold medal, we're happy with nothing. 
"We participated and did our best. It's fine if we didn't win." is the common refrain.
I'm not commenting on the right or wrong of it. I've only been wondering about why we Indians have a different attitude to winning and losing from every other country. The answer perhaps lies in our very philosophy of existence.
Westerners believe life is linear. You only live once. Therefore it's important to make the most of it. Their ultimate ambition is immortality through achievements and deeds that are remembered till posterity for the record they created or broke. Hence since time immemorial they've recorded their achievements for posterity, cherished and awarded them.
But in Indian philosophy we believe that life is circular. I.e we are trapped in this cycle of life and death. Whatever you do, there's no escaping it and you will only return to this world to perform your earthly duty once more. Only those mahatmas who rise above their materialistic desires are freed from this cycle.
So what's great about an Olympics record or a gold medal? For it is not the end of the world. There will be many more Olympics; countless, infinite number of Olympics in the lifetime of the universe, which is still expanding. And in that  infinitude, there will be many opportunities and situations for us to win countless medals. So why fret about this one?
After all we're all just energy that get converted from one form to another, trapped in this same universe. Which itself will expand, then contract into a dot and explode with another big bang again. Then again and again continuously. Forever.
Neither you, nor I, neither Dipa Karmarkar, nor Michael Phelps will escape this. So eventually we'll catch up. For now, lets celebrate. Jai Hind.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lessons I learnt from R Balki

In the late '90s I was an Account Manager at the Lintas Mumbai office, which at that point didn't have a creative leader, the lack of this critical function subsequently reflected in the work it put out across it six 'units'. The Bangalore office of Lintas though, was seeing a resurgence of sorts in its creative output. This was credited chiefly to its creative head, R Balki.
As the rumblings from our clients in Mumbai increased, it was felt that perhaps Balki could help us out. Given his tight schedules he agreed to drop in for a day to solve the logjams at the various units before proceeding to Delhi where more problems awaited him.
It was one day that I'll never forget. Balki reached the Lintas Express Towers office very early in the morning and began with the first unit on the 13th floor long before regular office hours began. With a notepad in one hand, surrounded by each brand team followed by the next from each unit, Balki began giving creative solutions of every nature for all the problems that were thrown at him. 
Remember this was not a fun exercise. This was real business, real work for unhappy clients, impatient clients, confused clients, accommodating clients. Clients who had trusted us to come up with creative, clutter-breaking solutions for their problems. And Balki patiently, quickly and without fuss, delivered the goods along with each team, resolutely, creatively and to the brief.
This went on, hour by hour, team by team, unit by unit, floor by floor. He didn't pause for a moments break, never raised his voice, never undermined anyone. He simply absorbed the pressure and came up with nothing-short-of-brilliant solutions.
It was late evening when he reached our unit. I expected him to stick with the senior management of our unit, but that was not to be. He insisted that every unit member contribute. In fact when I hesitatingly stated a contrarian view, he championed my cause, telling my unit head that since I was the Account Manager who daily interacted with the client, I was best equipped to provide information about the situation at the ground level.
We were struggling to come out with a script for a TVC. He re-aligned the brief and asked our unit CD to work out one, on the spot, even as he attempted his own. Our unit CD (a phenomenal creative person by all accords) came up with a great script which was based on a different strategy than Balki's own.
For a few minutes they argued over which script was more apt - notice neither evaluated the scripts on their creativity. Then our unit CD, told Balki that he believed in the one he'd written.
I turned to look at Balki, who smiled, tore up the script he'd written and simply said, "I agree, you're right. We'll go with that one. Call me if you need anything." Then he left us, rushing off to catch his flight. The partnership he forged with various creative folks, including our unit CD remains true to this day.
I've heard a lot of young creative dudes subsequently wanting to be like Balki. The only thing I always tell them is that to be like Balki, you must first adopt his incredible work ethic:
1. Hard-work, hard-work, hard-work. Then more hard-work. Never say no to work
2. Involve everyone, listen to everyone. Remember insights come from people and anyone working on the brand can come up with the right one
3. You become a leader by solving problems and taking on responsibilities
4. However good one is, the mark of a true leader is to build the confidence of his team because together we can achieve even more
5. The only attitude worth having is a solutions-oriented one
Mullen Lowe Lintas is a great organization and I'm sure Balki would've ensured it is in safe hands and will continue to grow. I wish him and the team at Lintas the very best.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why brands succeed or fail : The Persuasion Factor

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half." So said John Wanamaker.Indeed this question continues to be asked even today by every marketing and communication professional across every discipline as new brand failure rates across category range from 40% right upto 75% in the packaged consumer goods retail categories.
While it is impossible to give one reason to account for all product failures, what is emerging as an important reason for consumer off-take is the extent of Persuasion Factor that a brand has built into it.
A brand's Persuasion Factor is what drives a consumer to finally choose, select and purchase it over all it competitors. Persuasion Factor is very different from the other attributes brands use today in their identity viz. brand values, brand differentiator, consumer insight and brand personality. While all of these are important in defining a brand and in making it distinct, none of them can guarantee that a consumer will definitely buy the brand in question. 
Persuasion Factor as the name suggests, is the indicator of this very critical aspect of consumer selection. Brands with a low Persuasion Factor will definitely not get picked up whereas brands with a high Persuasion Factors have a greater chance of being purchased. Persuasion Factor is not merely a communication variable, it's intrinsic to a brand's DNA, instilled in it during the creation process.
Brands that have a high Persuasion Factor have a clear answer to the question: "What about this brand makes it impossible for a consumer to resist buying?"
If the answer is merely Hritik Roshan or Shahrukh Khan, you know just how little that's going to help.
Similarly, answers that are mundane and given simply to fill up the blanks aren't really going to work in the marketplace e.g It's convenient or It's cheaper.
The answer has to be and sound COMPELLING.
Why will a consumer break an age old habit to pick this?
Why does he NOT BUY a cheaper, equally good option but choose to pay a premium for this brand?
What will make her take the trouble to walk all the way to come to this shop for his groceries?
Persuasion Factor is the sum total of reasons that drives, needles and forces a consumer to undergo discomfort, jump out of his/her comfort zone, take a gamble, fight lethargy, habit, tradition OR change, peer pressure and modernity... to choose your brand.
Where does your brand score in the Persuasion Factor index?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Deja Vu

In 1985 India greeted Rajiv Gandhi with the same enthusiasm that Modi received 3 decades later. Both promised a clean, corruption-free and efficient governance. To effect this, both leaders brought in or supported honest and renowned technocrats to clean up the system.
But it's difficult for a leader to clean a system if he's fed on it to reach the top. The movie 'Guru' hinted at the undoing of Rajiv Gandhi. We all know how Rajiv Gandhi lost his aura, his hold on the people and eventually power.
The removal of Raghuram Rajan as the RBI governor is a sign that once again corruption is winning in India. Rajan's monetary policies may or may not be perfect we'll never know but his intent and action taken to weed out bloodsucking parasites who have mastered the art of bleeding money from the banking system was spot on.
In this honorable effort he clearly stepped on the toes of the powerful businesses backing the ruling party and its leaders. The silence from both the PM and the FM speaks out loud and clear.
India lost again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How Ideas Lose Luster

In its attempt to provide content for its members, Facebook spawned an entire industry of content creators and curators who flood our pages based on trends, news and interests.
This has had an opposite effect. It's made news feeds more predictable and uniform. Notice the similarity of topics being discussed also among the same set of friends.
It's killed the spontaneity and originality that once forced us to write original posts. Today all we do is share and like. Wait, even likes are defined by love laugh anger emoticons further reducing the effort of conversations and comments.
But in this effort to create an easier world on Facebook, it's ended up making it similar to the real one.
Something tells me that change is staring us in our faces. Something that will lure us with a bold idea and the excitement of creation and connection.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A nation is reflected in its values

Today I was pleasantly surprised when I accompanied my elderly parents for their morning walk.
Every morning for many years now they've been going to this community walking track built by the municipal authorities just behind their house. 
Right from the time they exited the building, I found that they're being greeted by complete strangers. People walking on the opposite sides cross over to wish my parents. Groups of people walking together at the track stop to wish them. There's a disabled man who can barely walk but even he walks upto them to greet them.
Young people slow down their running and touch my parent's feet and wish them.
That simple and wonderful Indian word. I see people from all parts of India say this as they greet my elderly parents. Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Marwari.....Every part of India. Many reach down to touch their feet.
Respect and warmth for parents, done with genuine care and affection. Even with complete strangers. 
How beautiful is my country's heart. How intrinsically good, caring and warm are my fellow Indians. It restores your faith in the concept of India. 
True it is, Mera Bharat mahaan!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Insight: In realty location is luxury

Our ad for Paranjape Schemes in today's TOI :)
The insight about buying homes, especially in Mumbai, for ages has always been: location, location, location.
So while lots of other real estate developers will talk about 'living with nature', 'reclaiming childhood for your kids' or prop up a celebrity for lack of a good reason, The Lonely Cloud Consulting simply highlights that critical aspect of location.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hanuman & the Myth of Leadership.

As humans we're enamoured by the cult of leadership. History, as well as stories are written as odes to the heroic efforts of one person: a leader. Leadership qualities are the first thing we look for in people: subordinates, bosses, parents, and children. Leadership is the ultimate goal. CEO's draw huge pay packages because of that amorphous quality of leadership that they possess.
On Friday, we celebrated Hanuman Jayanti. (In Tamil we call him 'Hanumar' out of respect, so don't be quizzical if you find me addressing Him as Hanumar in this post.). Let me draw a parallel between the cult of leadership that permeates our society and Hanumar.
The Ramayana is a sublime tale, to some it’s holy- the story of a God. To others it’s mythology. However one looks at it, one cannot but be amazed at its depth and its finely nuanced characters and whist at them, let me delve a bit deeper into this most amazing of personalities among them. The Ramayana is a tale full of heroes, but not all of them are leaders. The leaders in the story are perhaps just two: Ramar and Ravana. One the embodiment of virtue- the ideal and perfect leader: objective-oriented, dispassionate, driven by right deeds, exhibiting control over mind and body, leading from the front, inspiring, knowledgeable and flawless. Then Ravana who is perhaps everything Ramar is except his inability to see the adharma in his coveting of Seeta, the third critical peg of the stool that holds the tale.
No child in India would complete their description of Ramayana without uttering the name of Hanumar. Even in a tale with such rich heroes, heroines and villains, the persona of Hanumar looms larger than life. Would Ramayana be possible without Hanumar? Would the tale be complete? Would Sugreeva have befriended Ramar without the wise advice of Hanumar? Would Ramar have located Seeta without that incredible leap of faith which Hanumar took across the ocean? Would Ramar have risen from Indrajeet’s poisonous-barb attack on Lakshmana had Hanumar not bought the Sanjeevani plant? Would Ramar have killed Ravana had he not been on Hanumar’s great shoulders?
In fact would that war have been won at all had Hanumar not been fighting on behalf of Ramar? For by sheer count, Hanumar single-handedly slayed most of Ravana’s feared, hitherto- unbeaten and great generals than Ramar himself.
What do we see in the exploits of this great hero? Wisdom, strength, fearlessness and humility. Yet we address him as ‘sevak’, the supreme servant. He is not the leader, the epic centres around. But without him righteousness and the good would not have succeeded; even the story perhaps would have not been as great or perhaps not been there at all, without him.
Hanumar is the antithesis of the leadership cult. His importance tells us that victory and success is a team effort and not always due to one person alone. His inspiring form which we worship, one in which he’s in urgent flight, holding his mace in one hand and the mountain in the other is a reminder to us not to blindly credit leaders alone.
Look behind every leader, there is a Hanumar behind every one of them. Hanumar exists in our lives. S/He is the person who has encouraged us in our worst times, held us, consoled us, leapt across the oceans for us, found us what we wanted, fought for us, saved us, smoothened out paths and loved us unquestioningly.
Such a person in our lives, is indeed our God. Acknowledge them. And if you make the effort, you too can be Him for someone else. You too can be Hanumar.