‘Brand Kashmir is losing its shine’

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Writer, filmmaker, brand planner and strategist by profession Alok Sharma started his Advertising Agency, Partners+Alok Sharma in 2010.
The company handles Brand Development and Management, creates sales & marketing strategies and executes these. In short, according to Sharma, company provides 360 Degree Advertising & Marketing solutions to the clients.

Alok Sharma tells Kashmir Observer that his clientele includes various, national and International brands, NGOs & political parties. In Kashmir the company worked for Orphans in Need, Mercy Corps & Cemtac Cements. Alok Sharma spoke to Auqib Javed on advertising and its future.

KO: Advertising has evolved into a vastly complex form of communication, with literally thousands of different ways for a business to get a message to the consumer. Social media is one such platform but many views such modes of advertising not only disruptive but deceptive as well. What is your take?

Alok: I will say this is just a beginning. When there are men who want to colonize Mars, how can we remain untouched with fast changing technologies? So one thing is for sure, communication will become easier in near future. Seeing Social Media as disruptive and deceptive medium is not okay. In the beginning it might be true to a certain extent but in present times, I think user or the consumer has become more intelligent as well as vigilant about what is going on. 
I have seen debating rural people on international issues with more or less accurate facts and figures. This is the power of social media. I think we have to attune ourselves to change rapidly.

KO: Today’s advertisers have a vast array of choices at their disposal. What is the scope of print media in this scenario?

Alok: See print media has its own charm and it will never loose. But seeing the people scream over the issues like environment and deforestation, various government agencies might get a bit tougher in coming years. As far as advertisers are concerned they will become more selective with the print media as the rates will be higher compared to other mediums. 

KO:  Do you think consumers will gradually tire of digital ads and return to printed pieces as many believe print ads provide a tactile feeling and permanence which the digital lacks?

Alok: It is true that digital lacks the tactile feeling and permanence, but only for those who do not want to be the part of this technological change. The fact is that people are getting busier day by day. Culture of joint families is on recession. Youth of today is in a race for growth. Where is the time? 
However I agree we can’t deny the possibility of consumer getting tired of digital ads but where they will turn or return can’t be predicted at this point of time.

KO: Kashmir is a consumer state and imports amount to estimated Rs 50,000 Crore per month. Yet none of the Corporates target Kashmir consumer directly. Why is it so?

Alok: I have always been vocal on this topic. Before I answer your question I have few questions myself.
Tell me how many summits like, Make in Maharashtra, UP Investors Summit, Invest Madhya Pradesh, Vibrant Gujarat and many more are being organized by the J&K Government, present or past?
Brand Kashmir is losing its shine. Reasons can be many, whether negative media, adverse situation; but where is the plan? Plan to recreate it? Where is the youth?
Why most of the J&K’s affluent class is settled in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and even abroad?
I have seen science and maths postgraduates doing petty jobs in hotels in Srinagar. Recently met a cook from Kupwara who was B.Tech. Why there is no promotion on entrepreneurships?

KO:  Kashmir being the only state in India without a satellite channel of its own except a lone state-controlled Doordarshan channel, yet we do not see much promotional matter in Kashmir based print and online media. Why is it so?

Alok: They are two different questions! I’ll answer one by one.
First, in advertising it doesn’t matter whether a state has its own satellite channel or not, what matters is whether the end user is getting what he or she wants. 
In J&K, people watch lot of television.
Secondly, as I said earlier the lack of entrepreneurship programs and failure of government to ensure safe environment to national and international organizations in the Valley leads to a mindset of not promoting much business by the locals.

KO: Kashmir has always been under the global spotlight for being a flashpoint between three nuclear powers India, Pakistan and China. Besides, it is a major tourist attraction as well. This signifies the importance of Kashmir based online media like Kashmirobserver.net. Which remains the major sources of information for vast and diverse global audience for the obvious reasons?

Alok: I have spent many years of my life in Kashmir. It’s very close to my heart. It makes me feel sad that despite Kashmir being under global spotlight (whatever reason), we miss the amazing opportunity to encash that. We could have big environment friendly industries, international tourism promotion, developed as handicraft hub, software industry. But still we are not late; we still have time to start afresh.    

I met many J&K ministers in the past five, six years and discussed plans to promote entrepreneurship. Met many corporate and asked them to support in setting up or helping others in setting up Small Medium Enterprises or Invest in creative ventures, but all in vain. Reason: Kashmir is not a place for investing. I asked why? No Answers. Here I would like to tell, that many rich of J&K are heavily investing in buying urban and rural land but these same rich are not coming forward to set up industries or similar ventures. Easy money, huh?

I regularly read Kashmir Observer content and find it totally unbiased, which is a good trait of any news media. These days, online media has emerged as a main and easy source of information globally. Here it is crucial that maintaining a certain degree of credibility is very important, because followers or subscribers shift very easily.  

KO:  What message would you like to give to the advertisers of Kashmir?

Alok: Please Please! Stop painting the walls with your brands. This is so embarrassing! There are so many mediums available these days to promote your product or brand. Please use that. Kashmirobserver.net is one of them.
As a Kashmiri by heart, I am keen to cooperate with other Advertising Agencies based in J&K. We can impart trainings to their staff on social & environment friendly advertising techniques.
I will urge all my Kashmiri friends, especially youth to focus on creating an environment of business and commerce. Become entrepreneurs and showcase your creativity to the world.

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