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Can India Inc do an 'Ice-bucket challenge?

Monday, 25 August 2014 - 5:17am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Since everyone is talking about it, I thought my column TeeOff must touch upon it. After all the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was started by a golfer.

What seemed to have started between cousins took in CEOs, athletes, statesman, actors and politicians. For some it was ice cubes, others ice-cold water. Golf's global star Tiger Woods did it, and Rory McIlroy challenged George Bush to it and Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric got down to do the same with his entire team to watch him.

Martha Stewart picked a salon to try the challenge, conveniently so, as she could come out of it looking pretty prim and nice. GM's Mary Barra joined that list with her co-workers drenching her in front of employees. She was challenged by Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman.

Challenged by former NFL player Steve Gleason, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella accepted the challenge in which he asked the hackathon-winning team to dump ice water on him. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Google CEO Larry Page were also soaked by the idea.

There is a long and animated debate around whether an ice-bucket challenge could be wasting water, which otherwise could quench the thirst of people. And others critics have wondered could this campaign just be a flash in the bucket as it was just a one-off that clicked and helped ALS association raise nearly 50 million dollars against about 2.5 million last year.

But no matter what, it's a wonderfull campaign. You might have been living behind a rock to not know what ALS ice bucket challenge is because thanks to social media and the internet, the whole world now knows it. I am surprised to not see any CEO in India not having done it. I wonder if such 'viral' stories can emerge out of India.

Could a successful marketing campaign like this actually be replicated with similar success? Can we indeed 'Indianise' it?

I heard about a rice challenge started in south of the country, giving a bucket to rice a poor person. I would think a little deeper. Not just doing things to give away something but actually raise money to run a campaign more systematically.

Here's an example. Just recently two corporations TCS and Bharti made headlines for putting aside Rs 200 crore for toilets. Nothing stopped them from pledging this earlier, perhaps before the PM's speech raised the matter on bringing dignity to the loo-issue. Any sort of gimmick, challenge or excitement could have been created to raise funds in India to build bathrooms. Haven't we seen enough noise on social media? Hasn't there been enough written on it? What's stops us from getting a big drive like this going? Core to its success needs to be the interest that can turn it into an organic, self-perpetuating promotion. And so the idea of 'doing something' to raise money must be fun and interesting enough for people of all ages to participate.

It often takes a Bollywood star or a sportsman to kick off big stories but perhaps India Inc could also start the fire? Shed the black-suit style, roll up its sleeve and try a 'Gangnam' style participation and engagement with what India truly needs – from bathrooms, schools to clean drinking water. Without waiting from the PM for a cue.

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