Although voting only took place during April and May of 2014, there was a vast, countrywide campaign that ran prior to this period that called upon thousands of volunteers to help build the brand of Mr Narendra Modi. As a founding member of the team that helped propel the current Prime Minister into the spotlight, I was instrumental in many of the initiatives that took place in the run up to the elections.
My role, as part of the board, was to oversee the operations in a number of India’s states. I helped to organise the marketing and PR campaigns that Mr Narendra Modi’s brand relied on and coordinated a variety of complex and high profile initiatives.
The election was the longest and the most expensive general election in the history of the country. With 814.5 million eligible voters, an increase of 100 million since 2009, this was also the largest election in history. To further complicate the campaign, around 23.1 million voters or 2.7% of the electorate were aged 18-19.
The main issue facing the prime ministerial campaign was the vast array of languages, people and cultures that the messages must reach. There are 22 native languages in India as well as many more local dialects. This, combined with the wildly different cultural beliefs, mindsets, attitudes and mannerisms made targeting the entire country with a single message almost impossible.
Whilst Mr Narendra Modi had been Chief Minister of Gujarat for 15 years, we were tasked with increasing his brand visibility & penetration beyond his incumbent state & across the length and breadth of the largest democracy in the world. The brand behind the success of the Prime Ministerial campaign needed to resonate with those who had elected him for his previous 3 terms, as well as those who were unaware of his personality, ambitions, determination and past experience.
Given the challenge that lay ahead, we decided to conduct a considerable amount of research preparation to guide our strategy. India faced an array of issues, all of which carried a variety of weight within different communities. Further to this, the country was segregated by political presuppositions, with individual states leaning either favourably or unfavourably towards Mr Narendra Modi’s ideas.
To give us the best chance of success, we delved into the data borne out of the previous 3 general (national) elections & previous 5 assembly (state) elections of each state. We assessed the way people voted previously, and took into account the differences in location, age, education, profession and caste to build a map. This map gave us key insights into the political landscape of India. It showed us the viability of a win in each voting region and gave us the data required to allocate time, money and resource to the areas that required it.
The huge volume of statistical data was compounded by our primary research into the current political climate. We drew on our pool of volunteers and conducted a widespread survey into the influencing factors of the upcoming election. By working closely with communities, residents welfare associations, trade organisations and unions, professional groups, industry bodies & associations. educational institutions and NGO’s, we were able to build a comprehensive case study of what the country cared about. We listened to their concerns and their view of politicians and built our narrative accordingly.
Our preparation paid dividends as we neared the election. We began running a number of initiatives, all of which were informed by the enormous array of data we’d collected beforehand.
Recently, the modus operandi of elections had undergone a transformation. Future leaders turned to grassroot campaigning to build their advocacy rate. This was the first of our initiatives. We reached out to local media across the country and shared material based on what we believed would be most pertinent to the area. We followed this up through ground support and a considerable amount of outreach & engagement initiatives. Mr. Narendra Modi travelled across the country, addressing rallies & meeting communities from every walk of life. Our team assisted in these rallies by conducting primary research of local feeling towards the election, feeding key themes and facts into Mr. Modi’s speeches.
The grassroot initiatives were reinforced by a robust online presence. We built an engaging and informative digital marketing campaign, running regional Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as utilising digital tools like Whatsapp and BBM to spread messages amongst communities. I was instrumental in helping deliver a coordinated message to the people of India; using a combination of online and offline marketing, I helped further augmenting the brand of Shri Narendra Modi across the constituencies I was in charge of. This was a colossal campaign and one which required a great deal of methodical organisation.
As part of the brand, we launched a series of innovative marketing methods, the first of which centred on tea. Previously a tea seller, Prime Minister Modi needed a way to connect to the people of India. What better way, than to discuss issues over a cup of the nation’s favourite drink. Large screens broadcasted the Chai Pe Charcha program (Talk Over Tea) between Mr Modi and local communities, discussing key issues directly with voters. The interviews were shown at over 300 locations across the country and helped build a strong emotional bond between the campaign and the voters.
Another marketing method saw our campaign use 3D technology to create an avatar of Mr Modi delivering a speech to viewers. Using cutting edge rendering techniques, we were able to project his image across the country, simultaneously conducting rallies across more than 500 locations. This initiative saw tremendous success but provided myself and my team with a logistical challenge that was only solved through careful project management.
By the last day of campaigning on 10th May, my client Mr. Narendra Modi had undertaken the largest mass outreach in India’s electoral history by travelling about 300,000 km for 437 public meetings in 25 states and conducting 1,350 innovative 3D rallies
Our campaign centred around one key theme: unity. Whilst many of India’s regions failed to agree on political topics, they could agree on the one thing that bound them together. It was there that we finalised our brand. To solidify our message, we spearheaded the campaign for building a statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s independence struggle leader credited with unifying India’s 567 princely states. We collected sand & piece of iron from the 567 regions for them to be used in the construction of the Statue of Unity, a movement founded by our campaign and one that continues strong to this day.
We also organised a marathon across the country and named it the “Run for Unity”. This was launched and led by the prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Narendra Modi. This created a PR exercise that resonated across the country, helping to create strong emotional ties between a leader with ambitious plans for India and the people who voted him into power. To date, the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel is celebrated as the “National Unity Day” with the “Run for Unity” organised every year.
India gave an unprecedented result. With a 39% vote share, the alliance led by my client Mr. Narendra Modi captured 62% of the parliamentary seats, winning the right to form the largest majority government since the 1984 general election. It was the first time since 1984 that a single party won enough seats to govern without the support of other parties.
My client’s party, individually saw a 58% jump in seat share from previous elections, a first for the them. Out of a total of 29 independent states, we comfortably won 19 states, while winning many other states with relative ease. 17 of these wins represented 80% of India’s populous.
We were successfully able to capture the imagination of India’s younger generation and established the aspirational value of Mr. Narendra Modi’s brand in the hearts & minds of 23 million young voters resulting in 39% support from these first time voters.
Our campaign initiatives such as “Voter Registration Drives” and “Voter Awareness Programs” not only drew people out of their homes, it also resulted in the highest voter turnout ever in the history of independent India at 66.4%.
Apart from targeting young voters, we also conveyed our thoughts and ideas on women empowerment using a combination of marketing campaigns and strategic thinking. By developing the power of female representatives, highlighting key issues and achievements of Indian women and promoting Narendra Modi’s championing of female empowerment, we captured the attention of many new and existing voters. The Result – for the first time ever in independent India, female voters surpassed male voters. This was a major objective for us and with a 65.83% turnout in comparison to 55.82% turnout (in 2009), we well and truly achieved this.
One of our other tallest initiatives, a mass contact program named Chai Pe Charcha (Talk Over Tea), took our candidate to the site of political discussions in India – the ubiquitous tea stall by the wayside.. Launched on 12 February 2014, it went on to become one our most successful campaigns, with each interaction covering 300 towns at once, across 27 states, reaching more than 30 million voters.
The results of our campaign helped our client’s party win all subsequent elections in state after state. As the current Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi has enjoyed considerable success off the back of an equally successful marketing campaign. Many of the initiatives we ran continue to resonate with Indians to this day.