Creative Folks: Have Your Best Pick Now

Education Often ‘Killed’ Us

Everyone remembers how, when we were of 10 or 12 or 14 years of age, our parents and teachers almost gloated on our tiny abilities to draw, paint, dance, sing or write a poem; how we were paraded before our relatives to ‘show our talent’ or perform on school stage on Annual Day/s.

As we turned 16 till 18 and faced two Board exams of X and XII standards, all these great abilities took a back seat, were dubbed as ‘hobbies’ and declared not to be pursued much for the moment. We must rather focus on our careers, education that will give grades, make us logical and rational, and put us on a great professional track as the best engineers, doctors, lawyers or stock-brokers of the world.

We even thought that anything which is creative, which is right-brain, which is aesthetic or artistic is for appreciation, admiration, a tool to break ice with others, for social charm, and only that much. They are not to make money, create careers, be valued in the economy.

Exceptions to the Order of the Day:

There were exceptions though. Someone’s piece of art sold at thirty lacs you hear. Someone sang for almost half a crore one night. Someone wrote a story whose film rights went for twenty lacs you got to know. And many more. But these were not enough for your ‘security’ seeking parents and would-be parents-in-law to consider you having a recipe of ‘success’ ahead.

Security? Sustainability? Career? Money? Fame? Name? Network? Recognition? You name it and it is there for the taking. But only for those who would go the full hog to turn their die-hard dogged passion into a marketable sustainable admired profession. Dog is my favourite animal indeed.

Today, the media and entertainment industry is pegged at Rs.1.7 lacs crores (some 22 billion dollars) in India, according to FICCI Frames annual report of 2020, with some 2.4 million people working, and till 2019, it was growing at 13% annually on revenue and 11% in new work-force addition (with some 9% falling to attrition as well). The figures are far higher than the GDP growth rate of the nation. Surely, pandemic has caused a havoc in these figures, details of which are still not known till we have the next FICCI Frames white-paper on the industry. The digital revolution is sweeping across the world of creative expressions bringing forth web entertainment on the internet and through OTTs, mobile and online journalism, reputation and branding online, radio online, et al. Lower entry barriers are making digital media almost a cottage industry, though the revenue models for all digital media properties are still not in place, which is a question of time to evolve.

Bold New Path Ahead:

So, the storytellers around, stand up and choose your medium and audience to tell your story. Tell it in audio through podcasts and radio. Tell it in pictures through photo features and creative photography. Tell it visually through your computer-generated graphical or animated visuals. Tell it audio-visually through short stories, feature films, web series. Tell it for-profit and not-for-profit organizations through branded content. Tell it on streets, tell it on stage. Tell it in whispers, tell it in small groups, tell it to many, tell it to all, tell it loud and clear. Tell it in silence, tell it with sound. Tell it in tears, tell it with laughter. But tell it with all your charm and boldness. And making good money in the process. No one thought that a 400 crores investment in story-telling on celluloid over five years can bring in 3500 crores. Bahubali did. Or that a 90 crores investment can bring in 2200 crores back. Dangal did. Even Marathi and Bengali films have crossed the 100 crores mark.

But know the right techniques to tell it effectively, know your right audiences to tell it with the best-desired impact, know how to be resourceful in your work without chasing just the mundane. And, above all, know not just how to produce great content, but how to monetize it seamlessly across all media, and more particularly, in the digital medium.

For the dancers, the singers, the composers, the writers amongst us, we have a world of opportunities knocking on our doors. There are some sixteen types of professional writing, for example, that can make money: fiction, non-fiction, journalistic, web-writing, branded content, screenplay, dialogues, playwriting, copywriting, jingle writing, technical writing, and a lot more. You want to tell what you see, or what you imagine, or what you believe in, or what you observe: you have takers for all.

Media and communication domain has three broad pathways: journalism, entertainment and brand communication, and then several specialization areas within each of these. While specialized skills and knowledge are must, one must begin from a broad base of understanding the entire gamut of communication, its technology and its business, before specializing in one segment.

Tech-driven Story-telling Ahead:

Those creative geeks with penchant for technology more than others: you have a longer path of fun and success. We are now in a world of fantasy visualized into animated images, characters and stories, or into engaging games and play-stations. The stories you cooked up all your life, with some observation of your sample audiences, can be evolved into video games that engage them. Today, virtual reality (creating the make-belief world which is not in front physically) or augmented reality (extending the physical reality to a larger canvas) are storming the creative space. They are breaking all frontiers of imaginative story-telling.

And to get this knowledge right, with a portfolio that can command a price, and acquiring technical skills that will hold you for long in the marketplace of talent, choose an institute which is hands-on, which is intricately industry-connected, and which is strong in technical infrastructure and intellectual capital.

Learning Hands-on, the SOMC Way:

But you cannot get it all right unless trained well and trained by professionals with high academic and industry accomplishments. That is where Adamas University School of Media & Communication (SOMC) comes in with two Bachelors degrees (BA in Media & Communication, BSc in Media Technology), and five focused specialized Masters degree programs (MA in Journalism or Entertainment Studies, MSc in Media Technology, MBA in Communication Management or Events & Entertainment Management). And to get you strong on fundamentals, all the programs bring in Media Literacy, Computer Operations, apart from learning photography, film & television production, radio, et al. All of these with a detailed film and television production studio, sound studio, and in-house radio. A plethora of initiatives (e.g. MediaNext event, SOMC Blogspot, YouTube channel, international film festival, etc) engage you within the School, and IndiCommS, Jaipur Literature Festival, International Film Festival of India at Goa, FICCI Frames, PRSI Engage et al involving the learners outside the campus. With faculty drawn with backgrounds of Symbiosis, Asian College of Journalism, SRFTI, Roopkala Kendra, Amity, MIT, and with international experience in European and Asian nations, the School has a decidedly global perspective.

Come and interact with the School, the learners and the counsellors to know more, to know better. Bon Voyage in your creative journey.

Blended Education using EdTech is the Future

If demonetization leapfrogged fintech, lockdown has tremendously pushed edtech ahead. We have come to a time when blended learning delivered phygitally (physical and digital together) has come to stay. Beyond the complete lockdown phase when mentoring-learning-assessing has gone online, blended phygital education will be the new normal ahead.

For this, first one has to be a digital personality with smartphone and net connection, and with laptop and wifi connection. Next, one has to learn how to create, deliver and engage in content across multiple online platforms, and how to take matter learnt online to matter practiced offline face to face. Third, one has to now learn assessment with open book through analysis and application, through quiz, through applied projects, through phygital presentation and actual work in labs and studios after using virtual labs and studios.

Fourth, education will now move from a system imposed disciplined endeavour to voluntarily participated and internalized process. It will be truly a learner-centric education now in the new normal, and shall be far more participative than the past.

Hence, teachers cannot remain the sage on the stage, telling the last word in syllabus, its interpretation, its delivery and its assessment. S/he has to be the mentor who mentors inside and beyond the classroom, creates proprietary content (self-videos, ppts, cases and lectures) and brings together aggregated content from open sources (youtube videos, URLs, cases, slideshares, MOOCs, etc). Mentors have to motivate, show a path, be the agony aunts and uncles, friends, and start from a structured syllabus and move to organic syllabus.

And the students cannot be the pre COVID times typical students any more going ahead. Students study in classroom, are taught by teachers, limited to given syllabus, and study for marks, grades, degrees. Learners study within and beyond the classroom, from mentors, peers, personal experience, books, digitally aggregated content, through projects and assignments. Learners learn for lifetime, and hence learn to learn further as things learnt today are obsolete soon.

Also, with Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation, Machine Learning and internet of things being the other emerging realities, the education to do things repeatedly will be totally irrelevant ahead when machines will take over almost all such work (more than three fourths of all human work today). Hence, new age skills have to be, apart from technology, in areas like creativity, innovation, incubation, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, design thinking, empathy, emotional intelligence and risk management. Each of these can be qualitatively and quantitatively mentored to any youth from an early age of say 15 years till 25 years of age, and will become his or her second nature.

Yes, for this, doubling public education expenditure, digital access to the hinterland, considering digital connectivity as a human right, digital literacy as a fundamental pre-requisite in any work, providing cell phones and laptops or tabs en masse, announcing cheaper data packages for students, CSR in the field of domain of digital connectivity by corporate houses, etc and more would be needed soonest to bridge the yawning digital divide in the otherwise class divided society.

Post COVID New Age Media Careers Beckon You

There is this news all around. People in newspapers are losing jobs in large numbers since the COVID19 pandemic struck the nation. It was expected for quite some time. The rise of the digital media and convergence of multi-media in news signaled the decline of the high expensive print media news. And the pandemic, physical distancing norms and lockdown just made it the decline faster. And so is the fate of cinema which with closed multiplexes which may continue so till end of 2020, the theatre based analogous cinema has gone for a toss virtually. Alongside, the events industry has also taken a big hit as no gatherings are being allowed due to infectious nature of the virus.

These exactly have laid the path for New Media in the real sense to evolve.

From Print led news media of the last century, we had moved to a television led news media in India since 2000, with its apex being during the India Against Corruption movement and the rise of the new set of politicians today. But with the pandemic striking hard and for long, we are decidedly moving into web-led mobile-journalism led new form of news media, where web will break stories, television will follow up and keep debating on the same, and print will get into deeper details. Web will give the speed and the spread of news, television the talking points and visual impact, print the depth and details. We now need a new crop of multimedia journalists equally comfortable on the mobile, the camera and on the laptop.

Similarly for entertainment, the formats are becoming obsolete and web entertainment is coming of age to rule the roost, with stories from 10/20 minutes short stories, 40/50 minutes long featurettes and above 70 minutes feature films. Some eight films in Bollywood and at least six in Hollywood have been launched on OTT platforms since the lockdown. Television entertainment is also taking a new avatar with reinventing past stories, keeping newer content crisp and with lesser characters, and focusing on stories rather than actors, as in the new age films.

Radio is having a new birth, and news and fiction in radio shall be the newer content ahead, apart from musical entertainment which has already matured.

The other interesting part of media of tomorrow is the communication of brands and marketing which is moving on to the web too, with more branded content, longer acts rather than shorter ads, more e-events organized digitally, and press conferences going digital. The focus of brands and marketing today is more on core values, stakeholders’ interest and compassion rather than aggressive sales except for essentials.

The changed scenario hence needs New Age media professionals:

(A) Media technology professional adept on the web, with shoot and edit, with sound and graphics, with animation and gaming, with special and visual effects, and with virtual and augmented reality. Hence, Adamas University, for the first time in east and northeast India, has come out with BSc Media Technology for those who love technology and are not writing and research oriented much. The higher version of the same is MSc Media Technology.

(B) Media management professionals who can build and manage brands and reputation, strategize and execute events in the new normal, ensure media revenues, market films and television or web entertainment, and build online reputation and seamlessly integrate that with image on ground. All of these leading to sustainable branding and marketing. Hence, Adamas University, again for the first time in eastern and northeastern India, has come out with MBA Communication & Management and MBA Events & Entertainment Management.

(C) News media professionals who can integrate convergent of multi-media news content and work simultaneously for web, television, radio and print media, for whom the University has evolved a program titled MA in Convergent Journalism. At the Bachelors level, it is BA in Media & Communication, which also covers film, television, advertising, PR content.

(D) Also needed are the Entertainment media professionals who can be the creative minds behind entertainment initiatives, like television serials, cinema, branded films, music and radio entertainment, and can focus on research, writing, scripting, directing etc. For them is MA in Entertainment Media covering films, television and radio entertainment.

With these very well developed programs with clear purpose on learning outcomes and with full focus on hands-on training with multiple studios, Adamas University is charting a new path in the domain of creative education in this part of the country.

Opinion: Digital to blended learning in post-covid world

What demonetization of late 2016 did to fintech in India, then covid-19 pandemic of early 2020 did that to edtech and healthtech world-over. There is a forced migration to digital learning which is laying bare the underbelly of the much touted Digital India campaign exactly five years ago.

World-over more than 770 million students have been disrupted by covid-19 and the consequent lockdowns globally. The United Nations has warned of the unparalleled scale and speed of the educational disruption being caused by coronavirus. India has over 37 million students enrolled in higher education. An interruption in the delivery of education has already caused a disruption that might be long-run.

Learning or academics or education broadly has three functions. They are creation of learning content through research, writing; packaging with visuals, dissemination of learning through classes, lectures, notes, self-study, discussions; and assessment and evaluation of the education of the learner by various methods. All these three have been majorly impacted by the self-isolation imposed to ensure social distancing so that the learners and the mentors may first be protected from the spread of the infection of covid-19. The lockdown across the world is simultaneously a boon and a bane for the teaching-learning community today.

Digital Haves and Have Nots’ Dichotomy

Covid-19 is, in fact, amplifying the struggles that children are already facing globally to receive a quality education. Even before the outbreak of the virus, there were 258 million out-of-school children across the globe — principally due to poverty, poor governance, or living in or having fled an emergency or conflict. While there are programmes dedicated to ending the existing crisis in global education, the dramatic escalation that the covid-19 has introduced newer challenges for around 550 million children who were so far studying but do not have access to digital learning systems.

The digitally deprived large chunk of masses – being bereft of access to digital resources like a good internet connectivity, laptop or ipad for use, electricity and smart phone- across the globe is forced to waste productive learning time. The digital divide in every developing and under-developed society was never as glaring as it is now. Though more than 70% of Indian population has been covered now with mobile telephony, the resources needed for digital learning from distance or at home are not there with more than 1 out of 4 people in the country. Same is the case with youths in the formal learning age. This is the bane today.

India has been speaking of digital education for long but it has stayed on as a possibility and not a reality for more than a decade now. Even IITs and IIMs have used digital platforms on the side for sharing of content and debating on issues sporadically. The larger mass of 900 plus universities and some 44,000 colleges have actually not digitized their content, not made access to online learning mainstay of their teaching-learning process, except the distance learning universities. In fact, the old school educationists looked at online and distance education with some disdain all across South Asia. They are in for a major shock now.

Alongside, reality is that the digital penetration across India is still abysmally low beyond tier 1 and 2 cities and towns. It might keep whatsapp running and false content shared, but cannot truly replace face to face learning even remotely. The current pandemic has laid this bare so very poignantly. Hence, while the digital haves use zoom, Cisco webex, google meet class and other webinar platforms to talk, discuss, complete assignments, the digital have nots depend on occasional phone calls from their mentors and at the most a Facebook post or a whatsapp group chat with videos often not downloading.

Government Spending

It is clear that going ahead digital access will be a human right, and those in governance must wake up to the reality that youngsters need inexpensive tablets and easy data access. A nation that spends less than 3% of national budget for public education (lower than Tanzania, Angola and Ghana), with the states putting in 2.5 (Bihar) to 26% (Delhi), with Delhi being the only state in double digits, cannot ensure digital education for the masses.

The pandemic has made it imperative ahead that the entire education of India has to be a blended one with digital access and tools (device and internet) reaching the hands of learners in the most remote parts as well. This can only be aimed for with a minimum of 7% of budget for public education, upgradation on public education infra-structure, physically and digitally, and a massive retraining of the teachers at every level, letting the dinosaurs among teachers go in the interest of the learners.

If there was no enforced social distancing and students home-locked across the nation (and the globe), the transition of those with partial or full resources to complete digital learning pedagogy would not have been quickened. The process now has to move ahead to the next stage to bring in policy changes on allocation, training, infrastructure, pedagogy and evaluation process of education.

This will bring in unforeseen impact on public education. In a blended form, learners seek education voluntarily and collaboratively. Each lesson or skill or chapter is expected to lead to an outcome, a model, a design, a solution, a performance or an application, either simulated or real life. Education is not to be instructed, but explored organically, not to be imposed but experienced collectively fostering diversity, teamwork and mutual respect. These values today are only present by exception, which the current crisis may once again ignite. The post covid learners even in the public education system can be of a different breed fuelled by digital expectations.

Apart from government spending, there is also the need to allocate 2% of profits of corporate India for investing in creating digital access to India at large. Further, telecom companies need to come out with special packages for students and teachers with regards to internet access. And, in the people’s sector, non government organizations should roll out voluntary support to digital access for all Indians through movements like 1 million mobiles (donating discarded but functioning older cell phones from every home to the less privileged) and donate computers and IT infrastructure hours of private educational institutes with good IT infrastructure. These all together, along with much higher government spending in public education, can make the entire nation digitally connected.

Digital Learning Tools Today

The pandemic requires universities to rapidly offer online learning to their students. Fortunately, technology and content are available to help universities transition online quickly and with high quality, especially on the digital plank, though at a cost and with the risk of several teachers and administrators being forced to go out of the system.

Digital learning on the go or from distance calls for tech-led holistic solutions. It requires several content pieces to be transmitted digitally. These content pieces can be in the form of pdfs, ppts, URLs, YouTube links, podcast links, and case-studies. There can also be e-books, audio-books, kindle based content, magzter sourced magazines, etc. Then this can involve learning without being face to face through boxes, as in Google Class, or learning face to face as in Zoom live audio-visual discussions. People may also use GoToMeetings or MicrosoftMeet sessions also. Attendance can be taken on Google Spreadsheet and through Whatsapp Group chat of a batch of students too.

There are other tools that can take digital go miles ahead. Flipped classroom method with an active learning classroom can have all study resources given a day or two in advance, and the actual session starting with a quick quiz, then doubts clearance, and thereafter a few issues of the future or counter points to what were given earlier, like possible different scenarios or new research findings not shared earlier. This is quite an effective way of learning, which is internalized, collaborative, experiential, bottom-up, as distinctly different from teaching, which is instructional, hierarchic and top-down.

Then there are MOOCs, collaborative distance learning, wikis, blogs etc. Individual resource-rich institutes develop their customized secured and IPR protected Learning Management Systems, through the use of BlackBoard or TCSion LMS. Other LMS options like Kaltura or Impartus allowing video recording of talks also are in use in many places. There are CourseEra courses, Swayam online lessons from UGC and similar other avenues to learn online.

Learning digitally can be further assisted with Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) which can take the viewer to an enhanced experience even integrating scenarios which are yet to happen creatively bringing them within the learning experience. These are immersive and contextual experiences, and artificial intelligence driven chatbots can further enhance the digital interface of the learner and the mentor.

Digital Learning Value-adds

Incorporating big data analytics and content management, educators can develop an individualized curriculum that enhances how each student learns (e.g. playlist of learning content in WiseWire changing for each student). Many in the West have started the use of the millennials’ language and style: Khan Academy video lessons, YouTube use, distinct style and language for young learners. Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Imessage, Instagram, Facebook & Whatsapp are being creatively integrated with school education. There is a case of a management school in India, where the professor sends a 3 minutes interesting video on the subject he is taking up next through group whatsapp to increase interest in the batch towards the topic being taught.

In the US, the smart-phone applications like Socrative and Plickers are helping teachers interact and assess students’ progress, collaborate via cloud-based applications to work and solve a common goal. Teachers can publish real-time quizzes and polls for students via mobile devices to keep them engaged.

Further, using anything from iMovie to WeVideo, learners can create video as a learning resource. YouTube (with privacy settings) and SeeSaw or Flipgrid are also alternatives learners can make use of. The benefits of SeeSaw and Flipgrid are that students can add voice recordings or text sharing feedback with peers. Students became the co-creators of content and as a result, more engaged, including their parents. Useful apps like Book Creator, Explain Everything and EduCreations can be utilised towards this end.

There are various software used to create digital content, like Camtasia, Raptivity, Captivate, and Articulate Online.

Yes alongside, social media use extensively will support learning online. Facebook Page can broadcast updates and alerts. Facebook Group or Google Hangout with advanced features in G-suite can stream live lectures and host discussions. Twitter can act as a class message board. The 256 characters help to keep messages succinct. Instagram can be used for photo essays. One can create a class blog for discussions. There are many different platforms available, such as WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, Blogger for that. And, one can create a class-specific Pinterest board as well.

Digital Assessment and Evaluation

Online quiz, open book examination with time-managed and proctored question paper delivered online, applied questions not based on memory but comprehension, telephonic interview etc have been the usual ways of digital assessment and evaluation of learning.

Assessment refers to learner performance; it helps us decide if students are learning and where improvement in that learning is needed.

Evaluation refers to a systematic process of determining the merit value or worth of the instruction or programme; it helps us determine if a course is effective (course goals) and informs our design efforts. Assessment and evaluation can be both formative (carried out during the course) and summative (carried out following the course). There can be many ways for the same. Mentors can make learners aware of expectations in advance (e.g. one week for feedback from deadline) and keep them posted (announcement: all projects have been marked). For example, one can create tests that are multiple choice, true/false, or short answer essays and one can set the assessments to automatically provide feedback.

Possibilities in Education beyond covid

Online learning is the big winner from this – across all education levels; so proving quality now is at centre stage. However, going ahead, in the post COVID times, blended learning will be the way to go. The biggest future benefits of virtual instruction will come after our professors and students return to their physical classrooms. The necessity of teaching and learning with asynchronous (Canvas, Blackboard, D2L) and synchronous (Zoom) platforms will yield significant benefits when these methods are layered into face-to-face instruction. We will come back from COVID-19 with a much more widely shared understanding that digital tools are complements, not substitutes, for the intimacy and immediacy of face-to-face learning. Since professors are now moving content online, precious classroom time will be more productively utilized for discussion, debate and guided practice.

Moving ahead in the New Normal, teachers may more be called a mentor now as information and knowledge are at the fingertips of the students faster than that of the teachers, especially the grown-up learners, post 16 years let’s say. It was so early too, but even the facade of higher knowledge (read, degrees, age and experience) is not the greatest of value moving ahead. So mentors shall be needed to inspire, motivate, direct to a new domain of learning or action, bring in perspectives, lend shoulder to a grieving youth, but not just for knowledge and information which are anyways available.

Similarly, students can now be a true learner. They were always so. But the onus of learning is all the more on the learner now on (in the earlier regime teachers teach, students study). Students study for exams, marks and degrees, under the tutelage of teachers, with a structured syllabus. Learners learn within and beyond the classroom, from mentors and others, for lifetime use of knowledge for a career and life, within and beyond the syllabus, structured or unstructured, online or offline.

Engagement is the new currency in post covid education, as much as in entertainment. For a long time, the grievance in the classroom was that students are not present and neither interested to learn. That challenge is universal. But digital allows the learner to be engaged at his time, place and pace. And that is good enough. It is a qualitatively different world ahead. Good and bad education will not be decided by marks and numbers of degree certificates handed. It will be decided by the level of academic and related online and social media engagement of the learners, the quality of content shared by mentors, and the value and volume of content generated by engaged learners.

The author is Pro-Vice Chancellor of Adamas University, Kolkata. Views are personal.

This blog was first published by Click here to read original article.


Why Live in Uncertainty?

Online learning has come to stay for sure and will only increase in value and volume ahead, writes Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury. Graphic: Saubhik Debnath

There is despondency in many circles. Naturally, after the worst pandemic of the century has hit the world, with the Amphan cyclone in our part of the world too. Naturally, after a declining Indian economy moving at 4% growth in January has probably hit a negative figure by the end of June now. Natural, when you look at millions homeless by cyclone, after being rendered jobless and penniless by lockdown. Naturally, when you sit idle for a hundred days to finish your unfinished Board or University exams, not knowing when the results will come and when and what you do next.

These are all natural and the reality of the moment. Now, we have two options: just wait and flow with the tide, good or bad, and do not decide anything. Or, taking each day at a time, and focus to do a few things which we need to do or wish to do.

Let me talk to the youths between 18 and 23 years of age, especially those who are giving their Plus 2 finals or are in graduation now, and waiting for the next big leap in their lives. 

First thing is to finish your pending exams for which you are waiting for the last 100 days if you are taking the option of remaining Plus 2 exams, and also finish any competitive exams you want to take. But then why waste time waiting and revising at times which you have done a hundred times perhaps. I have my 12-point suggestions for you.

  1. Be a Digital Person:The gear you need is just a good laptop with good memory, a strong WiFi connection at home, and a smartphone with internet connection, and these are now must post-pandemic to pursue any career you choose. 
  2. Be a Social Media Persona:with accounts in LinkedIn (to write on serious stuff, follow others in your chosen field of future career, though you are now a learner), in Facebook (for stories and memories), in Instagram (for your visuals), in Twitter (for debates and news-breaks), and start your own blog (whichever area of interest you may have; can be a Vlog also, video blog).
  3. Deep Dive in One Career:Choose a specific field, like first engineering, then AI-ML or automobile engineering or smart city & town planning, etc. If Management, go more specific like retail or banking or leadership or energy management, etc. If law, criminal or civil law, constitutional or cyber law, international or environment law. If media, films or journalism, advertising or PR-Events, photography or digital communication. Similarly in all other fields. Then do a deep dive into the field: what does the broad and the specific ones cover, what are their skills sets, what role in economy and society, what job profiles come out of it, which are the top 20 employers in that in India and a few globally, etc. Get to know about their actual functioning.
  4. Webinars Participation:Attend several webinars on that chosen field or the broad one, interact with experts in the webinars online or offline on the domain to get more clarity. Pandemic has brought in a deluge of webinars, which at times may be tiring, but the selected ones are great for you when you have many questions to be asked in your chosen area, and it is not easy to meet people face-to-face now. 
  5. Online Research:Visit websites of the 10 most possible universities to study within your reach and desire, talk to their counsellors and get to know their course details and unique aspects, if any. Make a comparative chart of the same.
  6. Online Learning:Try to identify which online courses you can do or if any university or college is allowing you to do even before the start of the classes. Do that now and try a few more which equips you far better to take up the chosen domain ahead. Online learning has come to stay for sure and will only increase in value and volume ahead. It will make you prepared for self-learning, learning to learn. 
  7. Facing Exams:While you prepare for the pending competitive exams, like those of engineering, medical or design etc, you need not lose your sleep on them. The Plus 2 exam is a must one and you must be well prepared for that. Now that the government is not asking necessarily for the Plus 2 exams, it is your call to take it or not, depending upon how your internal exams were. For the rest, keep the focus and make a serious attempt, but be prepared for alternative routes to fulfil your dreams. For example, a specific institute if not available does not mean the end of your pursuit of career.
  8. Creative pursuits must:Creative pursuits must be kept alive, whether it is dancing, singing, music, painting, acting or performing, creative writing, photography, etc. They must be showcased through videos, podcasts, blogs, published work, even your own youtube channel too. One creative pursuit and done seriously is must for everyone to evolve as a holistic right-left brain balanced personality. And this keeps one in a good stead facing failures and challenges at times, which are bound to happen once in a while.
  9. Learn from Role-models:Must identify a few professionals pursuing the same career which you want to get into, people in their late 20s or 30s or 40s. People from different generations with a gap of 12-15 years between themselves have different world-views even if it is in the same broad domain. Hence, it is important to know a few people of different age-groups as role models and examples to follow to get more well rounded perspectives. 
  10. Lifetime Career to Multiple Careers:These days we are moving away from a lifetime career concept and often have a second career or move into a different career sometime later after a decade or two in the chosen path. So, always good to have a minor specialization along with the major. For example, someone doing engineering, can also have a minor in management; anyone in law, can also take up a management or an economics minor; anyone in sciences or management, can take up a photography minor. Selecting both major and minor areas in advance shall also be of immense help in real life career-building. 
  11. Professional Studies and Career Development:Another big push to your self-development is to go through a course of professional studies which prepares you for facing interviews, conduct group discussions, do teamwork better, under professional needs of any job or career, including the ability to communicate better in English, in your mother tongue and may be in one or more languages (including a foreign language). Alongside, career development calls for going deeper into the industry or sector you want to join in, understanding which are the best skill-needs, attitudinal aspects, trends and major players of that career. The university you select to study must ensure the above two. 
  12. EI and teamwork with leadership:Strong emotional intelligence is the hallmark of a strong person in these days of easy frustration and depression. While we must strive to succeed in what we want to do, we need not be bogged down by apparent success parameters so much to fly high with the slightest gain or go deep into depression with one or two initial failures. Both are signs of a weak personality. Equanimity facing failure or getting success, treating the other the way you want him or her to treat you, and being with a smile facing a challenge are hallmarks of a person with a strong EI. And we must always remember to be a leader tomorrow one has to be a good team-worker today, and a good team-player of the moment can become a good leader tomorrow. 

The writer is currently the Pro Vice Chancellor of Kolkata based Adamas University, and was earlier the Dean of Symbiosis and Amity Universities, Pearl Academy and Whistling Woods International. He has worked with WHO, Government of India (Textiles Ministry) and Nippon Foundation as Media Adviser, apart from working with several media organisations. 

This blog was first published by ABPEducation. Click here to read original article.


Ten Points Roadmap: Marketing & Branding During & Beyond COVID Times

We are in unforeseen times and no person alive on this planet has personally faced this situation unleashed by the nCOVID19 pandemic and the lockdowns announced globally thereafter. Hence, the response with regards to understanding consumer behaviour and responding with right marketing and branding strategies also have to be novel, experimental and nimble, changing as per the evolving situation. There also have to be different approaches for the immediate fluid situation of the pandemic, the next phase of recovery say over the next 3 to 6 months, and then over the next two years which can be called the New Normal.

In a crisis there is always a seed of an opportunity, and the attempt here is to find the possible opportunities. We must always remember that ‘Black Swan’ moments may break a brand, but can also make it. There will be post COVID world too, but it might be qualitatively a different place, with a New Normal. The key is in being prepared, managing all diversity in the market-place, and having a continuously evolving strategy without being stuck up with pre COVID experiences.

First, communicate the most urgent aspects of the moment: Social & Physical Distancing, in action and in demonstration.

For the immediate during-pandemic response, the brands need to think like a customer and try to assess the emotional upside they may be experiencing in these turbulent times. Also, they need to communicate the most important messages of the moment. McDonald has separated the two arches and Pidilite (Fevicol) has distanced its two elephants in the logo, both signalling the importance of social or physical distancing today.

Brands should craft messages that are laden with value-oriented and compassionate themes. For instance, brands like Volkswagon are glorifying Corona warriors by highlighting their stories. Taj, Oberoi hotels and Oyo Rooms in Delhi have opened up their doors for the doctors and health-workers to stay during the health emergency when hospitality industry also slumped. 

A recent research by Ogilvy suggests  that brands that come up with right marketing and branding strategies and newer products and services during crisis times are able to garner up to three times more market share through a downturn. For example, Emami forays into hand sanitizer segment with an opportunity to experiment, Byju’s and Zoom are communicating with newer services at a breakneck pace, etc.

In this acute pandemic phase, brands must sustain short term sales by re-allocating spend behind the most topically relevant segments; and spend smarter with more for less being the goal. They must leverage data analytics for full funnel optimization & fix weak links. optimise drive-to web, drive-to-commerce, make online visibility and transaction easier. Brands also need to explore possibilities to reach those who are beyond the digital divide as well, especially for essential products, and that is a tough mandate indeed.

Today, as the pandemic unfolds, brands like those in heath, food delivery, supplying essentials etc strongly need to convey how they are serving without spreading virus. Brand actions to matter right now will be those which create meaningful action and support for public health and safety.  Unilever utilised livestream to connect with scientists and medical professionals to educate consumers on key points of daily protection. In doing so the company shifted focus to a ‘public service’ messaging strategy on the most relevant brands in its portfolio. Baidu map upgraded it’s real-time “epidemic area” in more than 200 cities, helping protect public health and safety. The app pops up a geo- tagged “surrounding epidemic reminder”, showing real-time information such as the number of affected places across the whole city. Recognising that customers were concerned about receiving goods from China, Lazada provided access to infectious disease specialists. Using its in-app livestreaming technology, over 21,000 viewers were connected to raise questions pertaining to the virus from the safety of their homes

Second, go digital, update the brand’s digital portfolio, assets and touch-points. study shows that the consumers in middle to upper classes are now engaged during the lockdown period in activities like consuming long video, short video, sleep, linear TV, mobile/online games, online chat with friends/relatives, online education, cooking/baking at home, offline learning/reading, online entertainment, working out at home, parenting, supervising kids’ study, working from home, live video/livestream, leisure at home, nurture skin and pet time, and the frequency of these being in this order. As we can see most of these are online and digitally driven.

Hence, brands need to resort to social listening, building scenarios as per the changing situation, and having flexi strategy accordingly. Focus has to be on survival and protection of current businesses rather than expansion of operations or higher profits (except a few). Brands can explore opportunities even in times of adversity by strengthening their social media presence. Making an intelligent use of data and analytics would help marketers take evidence-based decisions in the realm of consumer behaviour. Digital persona of the brands becomes a new need, updating Google My Business page, updating the website/portal of the organization, being on social media platforms with engaging content and updating regularly, creating branded content and making them viral digitally, and moving on to eCRM or upgrading the intensity of eCRM resorted to in earlier times. 

Understandably, Digital Divide is going to be the major challenge and Digital Access is going to hold the primary key. It is a blessing in disguise as 28 percent of the region’s population is younger than 15 years old. As such, millions of young people of present generation are becoming more and more tech-savvy and they very soon would become the consumers, entrepreneurs, and technicians of tomorrow.

Also, leveraging and unleashing the full potential of e-commerce in the South Asian countries like ours is unarguably going to hold the key to make it a game changing phenomenon. The Covid-19 certainly intensified adoption of digital platforms in every possible aspect of transactions from placing demands, delivery of goods and services and clearing payments. One clear indication of this is the rise in number and volume of transactions on across all e-commerce platforms during last one month.

In the emergent context, the digital marketing apparently has increased potential to track and unearth the psyche of the consumers by leveraging the power of data analytics. Most consumers today are glued to TV, active on social media, and tend to view long videos online. Any data, statistics, and analytics related to consumer home-bound activities, which is Digital Consumer Intelligence (DCI), would provide insights into their changed consumption habits for effective targeting. Let brands use this free time to come up with interactive portals and responsive websites. Social Listening is the larger part of DCI. More personalized content is the need. Consumers frustrated with impersonalized website experiences.

Further, new CRM practices being the way forward, brands like India’s biggest cake brand Monginis coming to every housing society with whatsapp notification with their products are exploring new sales strategies.

Third, branded content marketing upholding acts and not merely ads will draw consumer attention in the crisis phase till recovery.

For quite some time clutter of ads on electronic and social media has decreased their efficiency. Now, acts not ads will do the work in brand communication during and immediately after the crisis, like supermarkets are giving health care professionals a dedicated shopping time, furniture brand IKEA making masks and sanitizers and voluntarily closing all of its 50 stores across US to ensure distancing.

Videos going viral in social media and on whatsapp is another good route to branding. Short films with branded content keeping consumers apprised of the changes, policies, delays and setting expectations is a good step. Leverage content marketing and just moment marketers. Good examples are of Marriott- Masters of Marriot- Distanced Yet together; OYO Rooms coming out with films promoting social distancing, celebrating CoronaWarrior heroes. Cadbury’s heart-warming video for thanking people for staying at home and promoting connectedness (Every home has a sweet story campaign) or Sunrise Masale in India talking about which spices to put in food to boost immunity.

Brands can also explore how to use influencers in social media marketing. They are key opinion leaders. For example, one can use Tiktok or Instagram leaders with followers to give out social message, which also can be used as ads in OTT programs which are now being consumed more than ever before. Netflix increasing its viewership more than twice in India in April proves the point.

Fourth, uphold transparency, compassion and value for stakeholders, internal and external.

The Ogilvy study prescribes to engage all audiences and stakeholders. Beyond customers /consumers focused communications, brands must carry out stakeholder mapping to consider the needs and concerns of all stakeholders, internal, external, individual and institutional, and leverage social channels for open & real-time response and communication. They must identify opportunities to create ‘shared value’ programs, mobilising and connecting all parties for common benefit.

Thinking of the internal customers, brands need to reassign their KRAs towards more marketing, and utilize the opportunity to realign skill sets, particularly in digital marketing and eCRM, in times of lockdown and physical distancing.

Compassionate marketing has to be the hallmark of brands’ initiatives today. Catastrophes like these throw open opportunities to corporates to create a positive/favourable corporate image through an altogether different kind of CSR initiatives and other affirmative actions that are socially relevant and beneficial. For example, Bill Gates Foundation has committed an additional $150 million funding with an undertaking to leverage the resources of the foundation for societal welfare and people’s well-being for COVID. Azim Premji, founder of WIPRO India, is the third largest contributor to funds to fight the pandemic.

Even the events and experiential marketing industry, completely devastated now, is preparing for PhyGital (Physical + Digital) experiences going beyond the pandemic, and resorting to digital experiences now to remain relevant and bring value free of cost to their usual patrons.

Restaurants are hit hard too in times of physical distancing and they are reinventing themselves. Already big players like Dominos and McDonald’s have introduced contactless delivery systems. The advertisement by Dominos ‘Great Taste. Delivered safe’, clearly displays their brand-oriented thinking.

Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Popeyes, Burger King and Tim Hortons have offered bonuses to employees who work in April, despite the outbreak. These restaurant chains are planning to use thermometers to take employees temperatures on a daily basis to make sure they are healthy. The same information can be displayed inside the restaurant premises on a standee, leaflet, table top or through a recorded video to be played in the TV. The premises itself should clearly convey to the consumer that some serious efforts have been undertaken to make it free of virus.

Fifth, reiterate the brand values and its promises all the more.

Ogilvy further suggests to activate the brand purpose of values and do more, but say less. Activate brand purpose to support hygiene and virus containment efforts, and keep life (and livelihoods) going – add ‘brand-aligned’ value to people, the community, and broader nation. Not every brand needs to turn ‘caregiver’: support across all needs and emotional need-states, in line with brand benefit and persona.

Alibaba announced 20 measures to help businesses and merchants in China, which included: reducing operational cost on Alibaba platforms,  providing financial support by waiving or lowering interest rates, subsidising delivery personnel and ensuring higher logistics efficiency, providing flexible job opportunities to ensure income, more tools for enterprises to accelerate their digitisation, and remote working management for enterprises.

Bytedance offered all enterprises and organisations in China access to its Feishu remote collaboration platform free of charge. Deliveroo announced a 15-20% discount in commission fees to restaurants to support them as the number of dine-in customers fall, and a delayed commission payment. NetEase Youdao provides Free Online Lecture Service for primary and middle school students who can’t go to school. Under Armour realised remaining healthy in difficult times is important. They shared exercise tips on their official account. from Amazon is given free to the children during the lockdown period. Adobe opened up its Adobe Creative Cloud to users free.

KFC introduced special safety measures for instore dining, take-out and delivery services to help keep their customers and staff safe. And to show their appreciation of staff who remained in their posts in critically hit areas, personal stories were shared on social platforms. IKEA leveraged its brand promise of ‘bringing joy into the home’, DIY philosophy and creative cheeky persona, to bring light relief to all those forced to spend Valentine’s day quarantined at home, or even worse, in isolation.

Sixth, for essential goods and services, go aggressive; and for non-essentials, take a back seat, communicate subtly, go idealistic, compassionate and take a moral high. 

While brands in education, edu-tech, health-tech, food-tech, food items and groceries, and similar other essential ones should go aggressive in marketing spends, though with compassionate messaging, others can go slow focusing more on reaching out and CSR. It is important to creatively and digitally communicate the essential products and services, while others can still communicate less championing causes.

Crisis marketing is going to pose its own set of challenges. While doing nothing or not getting aggressive may sound logical, but companies may risk the chance to rebound after the crisis is over. Customers should feel that companies exist in some form and cares for them. Crisis also provides way for new service models. Crisis provides a real chance to showcase how brands can differentiate themselves.

There are some good international examples of how KFC offered free meals to medical caregivers. Likewise, Ford started some philanthropic activities such as providing money to support food programs for children no longer in school. Another example is of Walgreens promoting pharmacy chats.

H3C donated more than 4M $US of equipment for new hospitals in Wuhan as soon as the crisis started. They also provided digital services for existing hospitals and clients in many provinces outside Hubei and round-the-clock technological support. They are helping to fight the virus with tech. Philips donated over 2M $US of vital medical equipment to Wuhan and helped install the first CT scan in a newly built emergency field hospital (Leishenshan). Gojek Singapore has launched a new initiative called GoHeroes in light of COVID-19. It’s an initiative to support frontline healthcare workers and medical professionals with help also coming from their driver partners.

Brands, alongside its communication, must also protect current marketing channels, supply chain, and alongside create the alternative digital, and for future blended, marketing channels & supply chain.

Seventh, de-risk your business, leverage well strategized shifts.

The cardinal principles and fundamental rules of branding and marketing may not outlive their utility in the New Normal, but the domain does definitely assume a new facade, medium, and tone as a key priority. While de-risking one’s business by focussing on the essentials of the consumers and hiving out many functions of the business to outside resources is one need, the other is to leverage well strategized shifts in branding and marketing.

To fuel brand saliency, one needs to sustain spend and earned exposure / talkability to keep brands salient in anticipation of the rebound. IPA data shows brands that sustain exposure throughout a crisis, can increase share 3x during downturns, but also rebound faster and stronger in recovery. Alongside, the brand needs to prime for momentum upon rebound whenever it happens (different months in different nation may be). Identify categories and segments that will most benefit from pent-up demand and economic stimulus. Identify priority parts of portfolio with greatest potential. The brand needs to work with its media agency to re-allocate budgets and secure quality ad stock and leverage CRM and social platforms to activate existing users, and turn new followers into trialists.

The brand also needs to innovate and reshape its portfolio. Leverage data and insights to identify the most significant and lasting shifts. Accelerate claims innovation, product innovation, CX innovation. Consider how to leverage and strengthen Health & Wellness connections, across categories. And, as noted earlier, the brands need to shift towards digital channels and behaviours. Review Customer Engagement & Content plans. Address new needs and priorities in Digital content / Digital services / Utility / Commerce. Leverage martech and automation to enable more personalised and contextual creation and distribution of content in real time.

Eighth, thinking beyond Corona for a time when we may have to live with it for quite a while.

The time is now ripe to not just think about or think at in a myopic manner but think beyond the corona pandemic as when the challenges/problems at hand are out of box, the solutions and answers also need to out of box. Research evidences suggest that it takes 66 days for the altered behavioral patterns of consumers to become a new habit. This finding is going to act as a powerful pointer for marketers engaged in designing marketing communication strategies

Brands need to study and analyze changing consumer behavior during and after pandemic. Customers during lock down are looking for experiences that are newer and varied to escape inherent monotony of limited social interactions and movements.  It is exactly where the creativity and ingenuity of marketers are put to test. Now, they have to discern and uncover ways and means to reach their existing and prospective consumers who are forced to be confined within four walls at least for some more time. The efficacy of all the promotional tools and marketing communications is going to be determined by the level of psychological connect and social bonding of the brands with the consumers, evolving from short-run acquaintance to sustained loyalty in the long run.

Going ahead, post COVID, when the consumers are allowed to pivot from the status quo, they would tend to try out new consumption patterns and test out new things in the altered conditions. For instance, there would be steep spike in demand for newer and emergent teaching-learning processes as both the teachers and the taught are left with no other choice. Likewise, other examples are soliciting advice of medical professionals and legal consultants online which earlier consumers were hesitant.

Ninth, pervasiveness of technology in our lives will be a part of the New Normal

Technology has affected every aspect of being human: how we think and make decisions, how we feel, what we crave, and how we relate to others. Technology has created a new set of “problems” and emotional needs, new ways of acquiring perceptions of products and brands, and new ways of interacting with the marketplace. The hunt for happiness has evolved. This entire phenomenon will get a huge boost with the exigency of social and physical distancing and the consequent need thereby to depend on fintech, edtech, healthtech, foodtech, martech, web entertainment, et al.

Five key psychological shifts catalyzed by our use of technology are of particular importance to how, when, and why people shop and buy, and this will further accelerate in the New Normal with immense technological dependence: Innovation optimism, consumer empowerment, faster ways of thinking, symbol power and new ways of connecting.

Going ahead with newer technologies, Google CEO said Artificial Intelligence is going to more imp than fire or electricity. Technologies like Affective computing or Emotion AI can bring in a paradigm shift in experience by combining data driven experiences embodying the latest techniques in Human Centered Design (HCD) inspiring deep emotional connections with products and brands, which in turn can drive loyalty and business growth.

On technology impact in the New Normal, one example is Jio Mart, the Jio’s new ecommerce platform: Jio and WhatsApp can empower 3 crores small India kirana shops to digitally transact with every customer in the neighbourhood.

Tenth, consumers are likely to save more given the shift from consumption to saving and investment economy & more humanized brands using technology will perform better.

On consumer’s front, there is fear on the use of daily consumables like food items, groceries for reasons of safety and security.  Some sectors like travel, tourism will have a total flip. The nature of products and services may require a complete overhaul.

While big businesses continue to serve the public for good, small business run the risk of being out of market if they are not given enough sustenance and support, and may eventually die out. At present, what the marketers should be focusing on is not just surviving during crisis but maintaining consumers’ perceptions through successful positioning strategies for building and sustaining a credible brand image far beyond the crisis.

Compassion, subtlety, nuanced communication is the need of the hour now and ahead. Marketers need to conceptualize, define, develop, and deliver brands that masses can afford, buy, and get value from in terms of utility, satisfaction, and welfare. That would ideally be the harbinger and precursor for new normal that one witnesses in the post-COVID scenario.

In a recent Deloitte Digital survey of 800 consumers, 60 percent of long-term customers use emotional language to describe their connection to favored brands; likewise, 62 percent of consumers feel they have a relationship with a brand. Trustworthiness (83 percent), integrity (79 percent), and honesty (77 percent) are the emotional factors that consumers feel most align with their favourite brands.

McKinsey & Company calls for the five R formula going ahead.

Resolve: the need to determine the scale, pace, and depth of action required at the state and business levels..
Resilience: Businesses will need to act on broader resilience plans as the shock begins to upturn established industry structures, resetting competitive positions forever.
Return: Returning businesses to operational health after a severe shutdown is extremely challenging, as China is finding even as it slowly returns to work.

Re-imagination: Reimagining opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning about what it takes to drive productivity when labor is unavailable. The result: a stronger sense of what makes business more resilient to shocks, more productive, and better able to deliver to customers.
Reform: Policies on critical healthcare infrastructure, strategic reserves of key supplies, and contingency production facilities for critical medical equipment will all need to be addressed. Managers of the financial system and the economy must now contend with strengthening the system to withstand acute and global exogenous shocks, such as this pandemic’s impact. Educational institutions will need to consider modernizing to integrate classroom and distance learning.


Ogilvy suggests Actions for Now and the Future:
1. Don’t wait for recovery; adapt to changes and focus investment on what is profitable now.
2. Review product / SKU portfolio due to changed consumer behaviour. Disruption provides opportunity; revisit brand value and differentiation.
3. Think outside your physical brand experience.
4. eCommerce acceleration plan: product mix, new channels, data systems.
5. Identify new growth opportunities: new occasions, new services.
6. Use the slowdown to innovate.
7. Maximise the value and power of existing customers.
8. Have a long-term brand/ portfolio plan centered on changed consumer behaviour. 9. Redesign/optimise your go to market plan: consider product mix, geography, sales channels and customer segment focus.
10. Be ready for the After. Agility is a must


Go PhyGital.
Go Compassionate.
Converse and not Communicate.
Engage and not just Inform.
Get Techno-driven with Brand Values in tact.

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