Shivaji Dasgupta
Guest Article

Why Brand Gandhi is both timeless and timely

Our guest author, Shivaji Dasgupta, says modern brand leaders must indulge in a refresher course on Brand Gandhi.

Every citizen of India is well aware of the permanence of Mahatma Gandhi, both as a physical and emotional symbol. What is rather underrated is the continuing role of his legacy in the future, in a practical and engaging manner. On this day, the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi, it is appropriate to share a few possibilities. 

The D2C ( Direct To Consumer) market size in India is estimated to be around $70 billion, with more than 600 active brands. Propelled further by the ever dynamic ONDC ( Open Network for Digital Commerce), this mode of transaction will surely multiply rapidly. In many ways, Gandhi is India's first ever D2C political brand, never needing the intermediary support of a political party to assume relevance. 

A quick flashback will verify this hypothesis. The Gandhian value system, led by Ahimsa and self-sufficiency, spoke seamlessly to every citizen, formulating many personal value systems. While it parallelly defined our independence narrative, two agendas that were intertwined but yet lived autonomously. Which means  that even 75 years after India gained independence, it is practised stoutly as an apolitical and non-religious way of community bonding, non-negotiably positive. Indeed, a desirable destination for any brand owner (not just D2C), seeking a long term alliance with society. The learnings are indeed many.

Firstly, the undoubted necessity to develop a consistent and compelling experience platform, before preaching virtues to the customer. In Gandhi’s case, the foundation was deeply entrenched, whether controversial or popular. Most famously, the hunger strike of 1947 which led to the cessation of riots and his passion for an unified India.

To add, the seemingly softer but undeniably charismatic dimensions of diet, attire and worldview that led to a genuinely universal value proposition. Driven remarkably by uniqueness and not by conformity, unlike many prominent but time-bound contemporaries. Surely, a much solicited destination for every modern investor. 

Much before the concept was even relevant or popular, sustainability was an intrinsic Gandhian virtue. Whether promotion of indigenous farming, ethnic crafts or comfortable nutrition, a future first agenda driven by here and now actions defined his credo. A great learning for modern brands who are often happy to promise the earth in terms of societal bottomline, only to focus their current actions to the dire pursuit of provocative profits Credibility is built by the demonstrable today, quite like the trademark khadi attire to visit both Lancashire cotton mills as well as the King of England in the famous Round Table Conference tour of 1931. No need for a Saville Row detour, thank you. 

Equally educative is the inclusiveness of his brand appeal, appropriate for both millionaires and the uneducated. For it relied heavily on multi sensorial imagery and not complex philosophy, automatically opening up spontaneous channels for adoption. A significant plank was surely the revolt against the debilitating caste system, delivered through physical actions and not hard bound concepts. If a brand can build a bridge with such endearing simplicity, as insightful gratification, surely the ambit will be deeply widened, especially in the digital era. 

We know by now that P2P or Word of Mouth is a secret sauce for business success, as the ratification by live encounters is way more valuable than paid promises. Albert Einstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Martin Luther King Jr, George Bernard Shaw, John Lennon, Nelson Mandela, U Thant and so many others were voluntary amplifiers of Gandhian philosophy - this list includes Steve Jobs as well. Not to mention, the millions of regular citizens, influential or otherwise, who routinely profess his value system till date. A lesson for all brands who are desperate for meaningful amplifiers and perhaps there is an underrated wisdom that can accelerate this process.

Gandhism remains a belief system that blends effortlessly with limitless vocations and professions - its adoption a propeller and accelerator, not a caging agent. That too, in a remarkably no-negatives manner, which can help us find truer meaning in our chosen pursuits. Surely, a life lesson for brands hiring writers to concoct purpose and meaning.

While all of the above are captive assets, perhaps we owe it to civilization and not just citizens to further infuse Brand Gandhi in our collective mindset. Aided wonderfully by the JAM Trinity ( Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile), more than 50 percent of Indians are regular users of the internet and around 400 million reside in rural India. For such audiences, vernacular short-format video content can help drive new age affections, the connection to symbols of progress liberating Gandhi from the distant confines of textbooks. For urban audiences, the destination is similar while the GPS may suggest an alternate route - sustainability, kindness and universal access acting as attractive unification. 

In sum, modern brand leaders must indulge in a refresher course on Brand Gandhi, instead of being routinely obsessed with unpredictable crystal ball gazing. The learnings will be staggering, with proven credibility and astounding relevance, if only we wish to explore further.

A quote often attributed to Gandhi ( ‘The customer is the most important visitor on our premises’) will perhaps further validate this unusual exercise. Gandhi is  a genuine Global Guru on borderless human integration, aligned to dynamic human values, with no room for prejudice. Exactly what  brands aspire for routinely, alas within self-defined cocoons that surely deserve fresh funding of mindsets, not just cash. 

(Shivaji Dasgupta is an autonomous writer on brands and customer centricity.)

The cover image was generated using Canva.

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