In marketing, Boston Consulting Group’s growth share matrix (or BCG matrix) is an instrument used to assess the current state and predict the future performance of a product (brand) or product line. In marketing parlance, the grid determines a product’s ‘attractiveness’. The grid plots a product’s relative market share against market growth to analyse its current state and predict its future. The four quadrants in the grid which represent the life cycle of a product are named ‘dogs’, ‘question marks (or problem children)’, ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’. While ‘stars’ and ‘cash cows’ are every marketer’s dream the ‘question marks (or problem children)’ are a real dilemma. This is because if these products make the ‘success test’ in the market place they move into the ‘stars’ category and eventually into the ‘cash cows’ category. But while they consume large amounts of resources for promotion, they do not generate immediate revenues. If they gain market share, they move into the ‘stars’ category but after years of consumption and effort, if they fail, they degenerate into the ‘dogs’ category. Even as ‘dogs’ they pose another dilemma to the marketer. Some marketers believe that although the ‘dogs’ do not generate large net revenues; they are still useful because they split overheads. More importantly, from a human resources standpoint, they help in maintaining employment potential. Occasionally marketers have to choose the hard option – bite the bullet as it were – and shed the ‘dogs’.
What does all this have to do with the politics? Well, political philosophies are like product lines and individual political leaders are like products. Remember, how the ‘India shining’ campaign turned out to be the undoing of the BJP in 2004. Not even its enemies predicted the BJP would lose the election. For the common man, prices were stable and inflation was under control. The era of licences and permits and scarcity was well and truly past. There was an abundance of never before choices in the marketplace. The sun was shining on a billowing economy; presaging increased employment generation. ‘God appeared to be in his heaven and all well with the world!’ Why then did the campaign bounce back? It is perhaps one of those marketing enigmas. The story is quite similar to that of brand Churchill who won the Second World War for Britain with his slogans, ‘All out for England’ and ‘V for victory’, who was then quietly shown the door by the British electorate!
As we advance to 2014, the Congress party wishes to launch brand Rahul. The teasers for brand Rahul have been in the air for far too long, that people wonder whether they would see the première at all. An elementary principle of brand management is that even the fattest advertising budgets or the slickest commercials will not be able to help a marketer if a brand does not have inherent strengths.
In 2008 Barack Obama rode to power on the flood tide of his oratory. One is yet to see Rahul delivering his ‘Gettysburg address’! From what little one has seen Rahul’s oratory does not exactly seem to set the Ganga on fire. In all these years since he came to represent the family fiefdom of Amethi in parliament, one has heard only one ‘Kalavathi’ speech from him and no other intervention, not even to ask a question!
Although according to his sycophants Rahul ostensibly represents youth in spite of his 43 years, he does not seem to inspire the youth brigade of the internet age with his profound wisdom. As students of Mumbai discomfited Barack Obama, their brethren in Patna and Ahmedabad made Rahul squirm. What is the vision he has for the youth of this country? How does he plan to educate and employ them? No one knows, for no one has heard him elaborate. The only solution his party comes up with in times of crises is offering freebies and proposals of reservations and more reservations.
Notwithstanding his pilgrimages to Dalit homes and second class suburban travel, his understanding of men and matters leaves much to be desired. (Gujarat is larger than the European Union!) One fine morning he decided to take up the cause of the victims of Bhatta-Parasul village whose lands were forcibly acquired by the UP state administration. Narrating the horrors he witnessed of people (presumably) killed and burnt, he informed the media that there were ‘70 feet of ashes’, whatever it meant!
If the piece in The Economist (Adams Robert. The Rahul problem. September 10, 2012) is anything to go by, even his biographer (Ramachandran, Aarthi. Decoding Rahul Gandhi) was hard put to paint a colourful portrait of him. AR says, ‘this is the moment for Congress to dare to think of something radical: of reorganizing itself on the basis of policies, ideas and a vision of how India should develop.’ According to his biographer (as cited in the article) Rahul wants to apply the principles of management he learnt from Toyota to modernise the Congress party’s youth organisation.
For brand Rahul the time has come to move from the quadrant of ‘problem children’: up, to the quadrant of ‘stars’ or down, to the quadrant of ‘dogs’, to be dropped eventually. As of now there is nothing to indicate that brand Rahul can become a ‘star’!