Goa ke Sholay

SAMIR MARDOLKER uses the movie Sholay as a parallel to inspire people to take on the challenges of the New Year ahead

Do you recall the Cadbury’s advertisement ‘Khanewaloon Ko Khane ka Bhahana Chahiye’? It was an iconic ad that helped Cadbury’s grow the almost untapped opportunity among adults 25 years ago.

Here is the story behind how I believe the ad came about: Well, about 25 years ago, the team that I was a part of came up with this simple powerful observation that surfaced a tension or friction or something that consumers wanted to do but could not. We observed that there is no particular reason why we eat sweets – maybe we just love it? And yet we do not eat as much. Adults refrained from indulgence.

The solution: The message in the Cadbury’s ad pushed consumers to accept that eating sweets can be guilt free or permissible. The ad drummed the fact that people make up all types of excuses to eat chocolate because they simply love it and it’s ok. In summary, the message provided the permissibility that consumers were looking for and hence the success.

Clearly, strong insights or observations that indicate some difficulty consumers experience in life (e.g. seeking permissibility as in the case of Cadbury’s) are the foundation of my work in the business of marketing strategy consulting. But strong insights are very difficult to come by. In the last 25 years or so, I might have made only about 25 powerful observations that may qualify as an insight for the business opportunity they provided.

We look for such observations in speaking and interacting with consumers. However, sometimes we notice that experts like comedians, movie directors etc are a step ahead of us. Their creativity enables them to say something profound that maybe inspirational from a business perspective as well.

As an example of inputs from experts, I reference a conversation with Roopa Pai, India’s leading comic book author for kids. She helped me notice that entertainment for kids in India required drama, action and sound. Furthermore, that anything linked to history/epics etc. is likely to make the indulgence in entertainment more permissible by parents/grandparents. This inspired the development of Chota Bheem via Netflix versus using available US based kids’ content.

Another example of learning from experts is the inspiration you can draw from movie dialogues. And what better choice than Sholay to see how dialogues can be insightful and inspire business action.

As we get into 2024, here is a very light hearted take on how we can be inspired by Sholay’s dialogues.

Ye haanth nahi….phaansi ka phanda hai (The disabled Thakur realising his true strength and being confident that he will kill the gangster): Have clarity on your value proposition and back it up with your full strength to do the job in-market

Hum angrezon ke zamaaane ke jailor hai (The inspector having a lot of pride on the legacy): Your employees can be inspired with your legacy but it means nothing to your customers unless it translates into some value for them
Loha garam hai maar do hathoda (The iron is hot, time to hammer it to shape it): Timing is everything
Tum agar ek maaroge to hum chaar marenge (An eye-for-an eye is how the villagers threaten the gangster): A 1-up game with competitors e.g. price war is never a sustainable strategy.

Basanti in kutton se samne mat nachna (Don’t dance in front of these dogs): The lead actor making sure that the actress does not succumb to threats from the gang leaders): You have to drive gender equality and respect diversity/inclusion. In fact, encourage everyone who feels they have not been treated fairly to speak-up!
Tera kya hoga, Kalia? (What will happen to you, Kalia? The gang leader to one of his mates who he is about to ‘execute’ for not delivering to expectations): You have to be on top of your game. Focus, keep the shareholders happy, and deliver your numbers!

Maine aap ka namak khaya hai (A trusted lieutenant pleading to the leader to spare him as he has been loyal): No mercy for underperformers (however senior or long term employees they are) as they risk dragging the entire business down.

Kitne Aadmi the? (How many were they? The gang leader checking on his mates who get badly beaten although they were armed and outnumbered the enemy): You risk being beaten by small nimble startups unless you have a start-up mindset yourself!

Chal Dhanno, Aj teri Basanti ki izzat ka sawal hai (Race ahead Dhanno, save me. The lead actress urging her horse named Dhanno to speed up and outpace the gangsters chasing her): Ensure you have a strong ecosystem of trusted partners who will go the extra mile for you

Jo darr gaya, samjo mar gaya (If you are scared, you are as good as dead, The gangster inspiring his mates to be brave): You have to be strong in your heart and your mind – stay positive and be brave to fight what might be a very challenging year.

End note: Be susegado and take on 2024 in insightful spirit for the world to exclaim ‘Ye Goa waale kaun chakki ka aata khaate hain’! Happy holidays and best wishes for 2024.

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