Could it be possible, at all, that a campaign strategist for the BJP, or PR adviser or even the newly elected PM of India himself was present at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music Festival in California? The famous year when the deceased hip hop legend, Tupac Shakur made a return on stage in 3D hologram format. Or could it be that the BJP have a secret penchant for Gangsta rap and contacted the tech team behind the feat to see how Modi could appear as a hologram on more than 90 different stages in India?
But that is what Modi – the technocratic leader did. He may not be from California’s Silicon Valley, but he could be seen as India’s Steve Jobs incarnate, who is as of last Monday, the CEO for digital-era India. (He also shares a resemblance with Jobs which I have merged in the pictures above!)
As the ramifications of the 2014 election play out, Modi’s understanding of the power of tech will be regarded as one of the key advantages he held over the Gandhi-led Congress challenge.
He knew that to reach the largest electorate in the world, in a country that is 9,300 miles in length, he would have to use the disruptive force of tech and do something that had never been done before. And even if he were to fall short, he knew the increasingly tech-proficient middle-class of India would appreciate his aspirational efforts. Like some sort of utopian sci-fi film, he assembled a team of up to 40 technologists in 120 different truck-based teams which enabled him to virtually “appear and disappear” at 1450 rallies, unlocking a further 14 million voters. V for Vendetta meets Rang De Basanti perhaps? A first in the world of its kind.
Jobs, Apple’s visionary, saw the market potential that others could not, for a highly productive and aesthetically beautiful techno-boutique of products. He examined the different needs of the digital world and positioned the iProducts to exceed those demands. Modi, who started life as a teaboy, will now find himself in a similar position. Except, he now has to develop innovative policies that will meet an ever-changing and increasingly prosperous nation that will help facilitate and accelerate it’s change for the future.
This is by no means an easy task. India is a country with different centuries happening at the same time, with an antiquated, traditional, rural class melded amongst an increasingly modern and digitally-sophisticated middle class. India need a tactful and shrewd politician to be able to appeal to both. Indeed, Modi was early to engage social media. His daily tweets and facebook posts have been going for years and his tweet: ‘India has Won’ was the most retweeted in Indian history. His selfies may not have topped the Oscar’s record-breaker but certainly struck a chord with the young. What a contrast from the outgoing mute Prime Minister Singh and his competitor Rahul Gandhi who refused to engage such forms of modern, social media. His Snapchat to Obama is yet to be sent however.
With 5 years on the clock, the new PM has a huge task in front of him and will have to re-invent the party and government policy even faster than Apple’s iPhones update themselves! Despite the flurry of criticisms launched by the opposition and Western media in particular, few would doubt his leadership capabilities after his local successes in Gujarat. His style of leadership can be likened to the Apple leader: authoritative and visionary in the boardroom, even if at times uncompromising. A showman on stage, with flashes of passionate and eloquent oratory. And though heralding from different parts and professions in the world, both leaders expertly have won over the hearts and minds of their subjects.
Modi now has to deliver on the economy where growth has slowed to below 5%, curbing corrupt tendencies from the grassroots to parliament, shunning inequality and discrimination and propelling India’s infrastructure. India experienced the prologue with his extraordinary micro-socioeconomic achievements in all these policy areas in Gujarat; and now these must translate into a full national story.
Like Steve Jobs, being at the top does not come without its challenges and critique. Modi will need to pay meticulous attention to building India’s foreign relations with the West. This is particularly so as he is viewed with suspicion by some, which could be counterintuitive as India goes through her most transformative years. This will be especially crucial to America whose diplomats have in the past dejected Modi. But with enough political prowess and story-telling charisma, this shouldn’t be too difficult a task for the new PM. After all, the last time America’s Hollywood heard a story of a teaboy from the Indian slums who achieved mighty riches, they gave the story an Oscar.