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Thursday, January 27


"Listen to me, please. You're like me, a homo sapien a wise human.
Listen carefully to this extraordinary story, which is yours
and decide what you want to do with it. "

- Home (2009)

A visually stunning tribute to the planet we call Earth, our home, and a mirror to see what we're doing to this home. Because wherever we are, be it NYC, Jerusalem, Dubai, Dhaka, Ethiopia or Kerala, everything is linked; the air, water, soil, trees, life...

Director:  Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Narrator: Glenn Close
Runtime: 95 minutes
Location: 55 counties, 7 continents

Home movie website
Home on imdb

Thursday, January 20

Lesson 1: Blowing your own trumpet

3 months into my life Down Under, one thing has pretty much struck me. The intense rivalry between the states and capital cities of this island-nation and the vivacious, uninhibited competition between the cities and the efforts to market themselves.

No rivalry is as pronounced and historic as the one between Sydney and Melbourne, the two largest and most recognized cities of Australia. The proceedings became so bitter that the authorities could not choose between the two for Australia's capital, and eventually it was decided to build a greenfield urbanscape called Canberra, sort of a settlement formula between the two cities. While Sydney has sprinted on to become the best known, global and immediately recognizable face of Oz, thanks to that Bridge and the Opera House, the City Council of Melbourne is behind nobody in taking the responsibility to carve out a distinction for their city.

The video below exhibits how enthusiastically and professionally a City Council goes about doing its job: creating and improving the brand identity of the city.

Wonder, why our cities stay largely immune to this idea. Surely Kerala has more to compete than just one or two cities or states. In fact with all the negativity surrounding the investment scenario of our state, our vying for the IT pie with almost all other notable Indian cities or with a buoyant tourism related brand courtesy the pro Kerala Tourism folks, it is imperative that our cities start thinking to get their names on the placard, and shout their names out loud, louder and louder. Aye, aye Sir!

Brand Kerala needs no introduction, even to the most undiscerning tourist thanks to the industrious Kerala Tourism, or regrettably, even to the most unsolicited investor, thanks this time to the much cliched Kerala political scenario. Kerala Tourism has built a strong and vibrant brand over the years due to some smart and enterprising marketing efforts. Isn't it about time our City Councils start taking a leaf out of Kerala Tourism and get serious with advertising themselves?

First things first, sit down and decide what name you're going to build. Like our own Trivandrum Corporation who're yet to decide between Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, Anathapuram, Ananhtapuri and not to mention the whole strange ways the city is called outside the state.

Is it too hard a thing to stamp your name on what you own and do? I guess not. And I'm sure it is extremely crucial in the present global village set-up. Here is what someone who eats, drinks and breathes Trivandrum has to say:

Ajay Prasad on an earlier post on a similar topic here on this blog, Trivandrum, please.

Building a world-class city is better than just focusing on the name, but in the short term the brand has to be built up around the name.

In all senses, ease of use, length and what not, TRIVANDRUM is head-and-shoulders ahead of the rest. Ananthapuri is a romantic suggestion but even residents of the city wouldn't be using it today.

In a rapidly integrating world, we should be aiming for greater clarity in communication not lesser.

Trivandrum has a lot to offer, though not so much as Melbourne, to show off to the potential traveller, investor or businessman. A city is known for its events, places, institutions and people and those elements could be brought together to create a more robust brand. We've got our calender full of interesting events and places...Technopark or Vizhinjam, Kovalam, Ponmudi or Veli, the Film Festivals, Onam Celebrations, Soorya Festival, Trivandrum Book Show or the Hay Festival being the latest addition.

Brand Kerala assisted immensely in establishing some of these brands while brands like Kovalam did initially help cement the Kerala brand. Commensalism, that's the idea behind it. So now its time we go and build the 'Trivandrum', 'Cochin' or 'Calicut' tag rather than sticking on to just the lone Kerala name.

But the leads ought to come from the Corporation of Trivandrum and from Trivandrum DTPC. A logo or an image which makes the city instantly recognizable to the outside world. Like what Melbourne has done so effectively.

That illusionistic tiled 3D fonts of Melbourne has become a familiar sight world over. During cricket matches, golf and other sports events, during cultural, art festivals, or during the Australian Open, this style of city branding has made it instantaneously recognizable.

Have a look...

Hand over the work of building the Trivandrum brand to people who know the job. Yes, now we're talking in dollars and cents. It may cost some heavy bucks but let me assure you, the results are sure to come and well worth it. Hard part is to convince the lullaby gang called  Councillors, presuming it is the Corporation which takes up the initiative. And certainly the press folks may come out laughing & ridiculing as spending silver on such seemingly outrageous ideas is sure to create a few frowns. Finding an allocation in the Corporation Budget for the name-tag is worth it instead of perennial paper projects like parking plazas, shopping complexes and bus stands which never materialize.

See how Bangalore has successfully promoted itself through namma Bangalore caption! Many major roads, bus stations, and even the new Metro exhibits the brand Bangalore in a thumping manner. 

I almost forgot to mention roping in a brand ambassador. Melbourne is pretty much lucky to have someone like Shane Warne, a person who needs no introduction in any corner of the world, who is very patriotic to drool over Melbourne at every opportunity. Warne duly makes use of every public opportunity; casual Twitter chats, television commentary boxes and TV shows to go bla bla about the articulations of Melbourne. Trivandrum has more than enough celebrities... Mohanlal, Priyadarshan to start with. How about someone like Santhosh Sivan, who with his meticulous photography skills and international fame could be a real asset to patronize brand Trivandrum. Just a thought.

Talking about films and film-stars, another initiative by another Oz local Govt could be an example. Sydney has successfully marketed itself in Bollywood as a favourite filming location through conscious, joint effort by Sydney City Council and NSW Govt. With Chitranjali, Film & Video Park and more than a handful of well-known scenic locations and a rapidly developing uber-urbanscape including the waterfront, isn't it worth an effort to lure in the bigwig film makers of Tamil, Telugu or Bollywood dream-merchants to capture the beauty & essence of the city and surroundings, not to mention the local filmmakers? Film industry is a major fillip for the local hospitality and allied businesses and the silverscreen exploits could be a further shot in the arm for the tourism sector as a whole.

Ideas aside, the complication lies with implementation. Our Govt Depts function within their shells and are notoriously rigid and seldom blend in for a common job. Apart from the state Govt, we have a TRIDA, DTPC, Corporation and a whole bunch of NGOs involved in city development, each one doing their own part. Weather promoting tourism or attracting investments, Trivandrum Corporation appears to say "Oh, that's none of our business, we're only involved with Birth-Death certificates & Vilappilsala". The IT Dept or Technopark themselves does the branding job, Trivandrum DTPC does its own share of nothing, TRIDA doesn't know what they're doing, Kerala Tourism fills some holes and the GoK does some bit and pieces on its own but the essential team work to get the job done is lacking.

Having a Twitter or Facebook Page won't hurt. Trust me folks, this is how people converse and do business in this new age. Just see how vibrant Kerala Tourism has been going about their business.  Step up, being the first city council on social media is a cool achievement ;)

Kerala Tourism on Twitter
Kerala Tourism Facebook page

And the best bit... It costs NOTHING! :)

This could also throw up an opportunity to bring-in like minded citizens to involve in city-building and administration. This is how we could be patriotic and aid in promoting a healthy competition between our cities. At the end of the day a positive competitive strategy will turn out to be productive for the entire state.

A few bucks could be spent in a well way to adore the streets, boulevards, major retail avenues, leisure centers with banners, fliers of this brand image. Also crucially Trivandrum misses to stamp its name and signature to its important and well-known institutions viz the Technopark, Kerala University, Kovalam and even the upcoming Vizhinjam Port. This lack of certainty has been counter-productive for the city at times.

There have been pretty much misadventures for Technopark which has been associated with Cochin and even other Indian cities by our national media. While the Kerala-tag may have helped Technopark build its name and image during its nascent stages its now certainly time to shake free and build a new robust city-themed image for itself.

It's all about helping the city build a name and fame for it. And these days a lot depends on the superficial, media-driven image propelled by the media. It certainly helps weather we like it or not.

Plans aside it takes a good bit of time and effort to built a brand, and results won't be visible overnight. Sure takes time. Good news is that there are a few guys around who understand the importance of city-brand building and these folks at TDF have been going about their business on their own without much official support.

Intelligent Trivandrum presentation at CII Summit (brochure & video)  [Link opens in new tab/ window]

This could well be an avenue to ponder for another familiar and internationally well known face which has been associated with Trivandrum of late, that of Dr. Shashi Tharoor. His initiative for city development, TCAN, could well take the initiative to help build the Trivandrum brand, either in association with NGOs or with the various bodies of Govt. With Dr. Tharoor at helm the visibility could be international.

Talking about funding, the private sector and businesses could well be roped into the plan. They're the ones who're going to benefit directly from a robust and magnetic city. The plan won't finish by clearing the cheque for the logo designers but the real works starts then. The cultural, sporting, entertainment and business events should be continuously propagated with it.

Do we need to talk about souvenirs? While I was on vacation in Kerala last time, one of my colleagues requested me to bring a few Fridge Magnets representing Kerala and my cities. I looked around a lot, but came up with nothing. Small-scale industry job, doesn't it surprise you that we have so less with Kerala imprint on them, let alone Trivandrum, Cochin or Kovalam?

Anyone thinking of souvenirs and fliers to keep the name of the city, especially for the tourists and business visitors? It'd be an interesting survey to conduct to find out how many people outside Kerala are aware of the fact that Kovalam, Technopark and Vizhinjam are actually parts of Trivandrum Corporation?

Those who feel offended by the 'blowing your trumpet' phrase, let me put it this way. Our state and our cities have a lot to offer, so what harm does it do if we exhibit our pride, beat our chest about it or give away a few goodies with our name on it?