By Aditi Balbir
It is lonely at the top for entrepreneurs like me. However, as much as we may try to stay connected to the grassroots, the vagaries of entrepreneurship intrude and take us away from the realities on the ground. Often the price of building a business is isolation and a sense of loneliness. Most times, we must rely on our managers, who talk to the executives, who are supposedly those most clued up about the real world. See the degrees of separation for an entrepreneur? I often wonder what it would be like for someone who runs the country! While one can rely on the media as a bridge to connect one to the populace, this is still the opinion of another; it comes with that one degree of separation. Therefore, nothing beats connecting with the grassroots directly. National leaders, at times, address the nation directly; however, such addresses are never conversations.
India is growing and changing so rapidly – our masses need direction, and the leaders need a medium that involves two-way communication. Each class of citizens needs to be addressed and the vision explained, so that we may all strive to work in areas that need improvement. In recent times, I have been impressed and inspired – and I say this with no political leanings or biases – by the efficacy of Mann Ki Baat and its free call-back program, making it a two-way conversation where people can share their suggestions and opinions with the country’s top leader.
Many a time, when I missed the address on All India Radio, I simply placed a missed call on the toll-free number 1922 and received a free call-back. It is so amazing that citizens can use their language of choice, and the PM’s latest Mann Ki Baat address will be played in the selected language. In our digital age, where mobile-first communication is the need of the hour, this is a great initiative to further any outreach meant for the masses.
At first, I too believed that this was yet another political ploy to engage the voter. But on closer inspection, I realized its importance. PM Modi speaks of areas and issues where people need to drive the change. In one episode, he spoke to students. He urged them to travel and learn, take pictures of new places and upload them so that people can see new things about India. In such a simple statement, the message was clear, at least, to an entrepreneur like me. Youth comprises a considerable section of domestic travel. And with millennials taking more breaks than ever, it would mean a surge in the travel industry. New destinations meant avoiding overcrowding. And the most important aspect would be that the tourist footfall would greatly benefit the local community at each new location, for tourism is one sure-fire way to ensure percolation of income down to the lowest level. The most apparent takeaway for me from the episode was this: speak to one specific target in a language they understand. Students need inspiration and a reason for travel, not a complex speech on macro-economics.
I have been avidly following the episodes. Several episodes of Mann Ki Baat have addressed issues of the environment, wildlife and tourism. Somehow, all these words are interconnected. In fact, one of the recent episodes, on World Environment Day, highlighted India’s jumping in the ranks to 34th from its previous 65th position. And by urging Indians to travel more, the importance of our domestic tourism market was ascertained.
As an entrepreneur in the travel sector, the Mann Ki Baat address has greatly inspired me to create something unique and substantial in the area of responsible tourism and the circular economy. Several times, the PM has also talked about the rural part of the country and the real heart of India. I have always aspired to develop several hospitality products which impact rural India that support a circular economy. We aim to design our activities well around sustainability – careful use of water, natural filtration plants, recycling and waste management to avoid polluting natural resources, solar plants for energy efficiencies, etc.
These projects will use natural resources sustainably and provide opportunities for entrepreneurship, employment, food consumption, local tourism activities, promotion of local arts and crafts, etc. This way, we plan to target one place, one untouched virgin place, and turn it into a thriving, vibrant and economically strong circular economy that can stand as a demonstration – a proof of concept for a better India, a better world.
I can genuinely say that the PM’s Mann Ki Baat has inspired a lot of this. As a people outreach strategy, I believe Mann Ki Baat is very effective for the top leadership to connect and learn about specific issues in our country and directly share his vision for a better India and communicate that it is the citizens who must work for it. It is so simple. And therefore, genius.
(The author is Founder of V Resorts. Views expressed are personal.)