Ashwini Gangal

INMA 4th Annual Conference: A 'brand' new look at Aman Ki Asha

The individuals responsible for the Indo-Pak peace initiative, Aman Ki Asha - Rahul Kansal, chief marketing officer, The Times of India, New Delhi and Shahrukh Hasan, group managing director, Jang Group, Karachi - shared the launch story.

One of the most well-received and moving sessions on the first day of the INMA (International Newsmedia Marketing Association) 4th Annual Conference, was a case study presented by Rahul Kansal, chief marketing officer, The Times of India, New Delhi and Shahrukh Hasan, group managing director, Jang Group, Karachi. The duo behind Aman Ki Asha took turns at the microphone, revealing the story of the Indo-Pak peace initiative and speaking about how it was launched in the media as a regular brand.

Sticking to the day's theme, 'Redefining the Newspaper Business', Kansal began on a generic note. He stated that in the sub-continent, print media is growing, despite TV and new media. Giving a peek into the history of the Jang Group, Hasan informed, "The Jang was launched in 1994 as a four-page newspaper that reported on war, hence the name."

INMA 4th Annual Conference: A 'brand' new look at Aman Ki Asha
The Aman Ki Asha campaign, which saw the light of day on January 1, 2010 in both countries, in a sense succeeded a campaign called Zara Sochiye in Pakistan, which was instrumental in the amendment of the Hudood Law, an anti-women law that had sensitive religious roots. This gave way to Aman Ki Asha, a campaign launched to change relations with India for the better - an imperative for facilitating greater overall growth in Pakistan.

The campaign, Hasan told the delegates, received loads of backlash at the outset, which only escalated when terror, with roots in Pakistan, hit Mumbai in November 2008. By then, it was already decided that the key deliverable of the campaign would be commerce, but cultural issues would not be left out either.

By August 2009, it was learned that youngsters were unanimous in the belief that there needs to be an opportunity for India and Pakistan to view one another in a holistic manner. This revelation paved way for the Aman Ki Asha team to visit Karachi; they returned with the pleasant knowledge that tremendous levels of sincerity prevailed on either end.

"Aman Ki Asha had to be launched as a brand," said Hasan, before revealing how the name 'Aman Ki Asha' and its accompanying logo were arrived at. "After considering scores of logos that both the Times of India and Jang Group teams came up with, we narrowed down our options to two logos - one, a product of the Indian stable and another a product of the Pakistani team. The 'winner' was determined by a vote; and it was delightful to note that the final logo, the Jang Group's creation, was voted for by a majority of Indians!" Hasan narrated enthusiastically.

Even as far as the name went, 'Aman' (Urdu) and 'Asha' (Hindi) were both part of different names coined by the TOI and Jang teams. The final brand name was a deliberate merger of the two, signifying all that the campaign stood for. Just like any other brand, this one too was launched with a well thought out logo, meaningful name, mission statement and a brand philosophy.

The Aman Ki Asha anthem was then conceived, the lyrics for which have been scripted by Gulzar - a poet who has deep roots in both nations. The music for the anthem has been composed by Shankar Mahadevan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Amitabh Bachchan has lent his voice for the narration.

INMA 4th Annual Conference: A 'brand' new look at Aman Ki Asha
The launch, revealed Kansal, was carried out in consultation with stakeholders of the Times Group, and politicians in power on both ends were brought on-board. "With or without government support, we were going to launch this. Interestingly, in Pakistan, support was received from rightist group, Jamaat-e-Islami."

Following this, the much talked about joint editorial - a first of its kind - was developed. It was a front page joint statement, made by the editors of both The Times of India and The Jang Group. Additionally, a joint survey (with common questions) was conducted in both countries. This brought to the forefront the voice of the silent majority that screamed for peace between the two nations.

Amongst activities conducted were the Peace Hankies Campaign and The Tug of Peace Campaign, which were combined into a spectacular show at the Wagah Border, where over 200,000 school children displayed a chain made of handkerchiefs bearing 'peace messages' from both nations. The Public Interaction Campaign was held at a popular mall in Karachi, where citizens of Pakistan wrote about peace on a huge, visible physical space.

Another event was Poetry for Peace, a gathering of Indian and Pakistani poets. In Talking Peace - a conference where editors and anchors from India were invited to meet their counterparts in Pakistan - the role of the media in worsening, instead of abating, tense Indo-Pak situations, was discussed. Both sides agreed that the media does in fact tend to over-enthusiastically fan already blazing matters between the two nations.

Other activities included Common Destiny (a strategic conference); Milne Do (A Visa Campaign to make it easier to acquire visas to and from India; issues such as single-city visas were discussed); and The Water Conference (that addressed the issue of how illegal water redirection on India's part was untrue after all).

Additionally, advertisements on Indo-Pak tennis partnerships were carried, in the wake of India's Bopanna and Pakistan's Qureshi teaming up in several international tournaments. Music and food festivals in key cities in both nations were a major part of this campaign too.

Kansal mused, "The campaign was based on culture, commerce and conflict resolution," adding, on a forward-looking note, "In the pipeline are events such as The Delhi Economic Conference (January 2011); Love All -- an exhibition tennis match; TV exposes; a strategic seminar series; Art Across Borders; Foreign Minister Conclaves; and the London Peace Conference to be held in the spring of 2011."

Hasan concluded emotionally, "We are still waiting for a happy ending for our story."