In the world of advertising and brand management in India, Melarkode Ganesan Parameswaran needs no introduction. For, the engineer from IIT Madras, MBA from IIM Bangalore and PhD from Mumbai University has been known in the industry as MG Parameswaran, and to friends and colleagues: Ambi. An author of six books – all serious brand- or case study-based, Parameswaran completed his doctoral thesis in 2012 and did what many degree-holders aspire to do, but never get down to: convert the thesis into a best-selling book.
With For God's Sake, Parameswaran, now advisor at DraftFCB Ulka (until recently CEO and executive director with the agency), has managed to strike a heady mix of an easy-to-read tome mixed with some heavy duty business fundamentals.
Launched in Mumbai on Tuesday, Parameswaran took time off to take a few questions.
Your book is based on your PhD thesis. While it's critical for one to choose a topic that's unique, surely religion was, to use an oft-used phrase in your business, much out-of-the-box. How and why religion or religiosity, as you call it?
When you select a topic for PhD, you have to pick topics that are relatively new. I wanted to work on brands and castes, whether different brands have a caste typology. That was too out of whack, so my guide asked me to look at something on which there was at least some work happening in the academic world outside. I started looking again and found that religiosity was an area which was interesting and no real work had happened in India.
Your book cover says 'An adman on the business of religion'? While business could be defined variously, do you find that religion has become a business?
Religion is very much woven into a lot of businesses in India. That was the theme of the book. I have intentionally stayed away from the hot topic of religion as business. There are some books that deal with that topic. Not mine.
How much of the current surge in religious following would you attribute to the media?
I think religion got into centerstage with Ramayana and DD. It has occupied centerstage ever since. In fact the first public sector enterprise to be named after a religious icon was Maruti Udyog. I feel as we Indians are experiencing a bit of prosperity, we are using our religious practices to buy an insurance for its longevity. The same is true with people walking to SiddhiVinayak or to Sabari Mala.
As an adman who has been working with growing brands and also watching successes and failures, is there a great 'brand success story' of any religion or religious movement in the last decade or two?
Not that I can think of. The last of the big religions belong to the Abrahamic era. However among the younger religions, Sikhism is named as the biggest by a recent Time survey.
Akshay Trittiya is one festival that's come up from nowhere? Valentine's Day has become a 'shubh muhurat' for weddings. Do you see opportunities for many more such since marketers would want to cash in on occasions to fuel consumption/purchase?
Absolutely. We will see the rise of more such festivals around us. In a sense, these festivals are legitimising consumption and making it perfectly okay. So more occasions the better, as a marketing man would say.
Any religious god, custom, belief you – as an adman – think is pretty cool from a branding point of view?
The rise of Shiva is cool. The way Hanuman and Ganesh got reincarnated as Bal Hanuman and Bal Ganesh are both great ideas.
By arrangement with MxMIndia.com