Vivah Circuit

When one thinks of tourism in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the imagination usually comes to rest on the Taj and the Buddha circuit. But these traditional tourism trails are not for the modern adventurous and experience seeking traveller. Amongst the many hidden, unexplored gems of this region is the ‘Vivah circuit’. The Vivah circuit revolves around the Vivah Panchami, a Hindu festival celebrating the marriage of Ram and Sita. Traditionally celebrated on the fifth day of the Shukla paksha or waxing phase of moon in the Margashirsha month (November – December as per Hindu calendar), the celebration is organized at a grand scale and yet is surprisingly little known.

The celebration is organized across the Mithilanchal region and North India as the Vivah Utsav of Sita and Ram in temples and sacred places associated with Ram. Ardent pilgrims who know about the grand occasion flock from across the World to Janakpur (Nepal).

As one can imagine, the festival holds great significance in the Hindu belt and the vivacity of the event is testament to this fact. The festival and its unique mythology-laden narrative have the power to attract the non-religious tourist as well but the potential is mostly untapped till now. Spirituality has always been a strong point of the Indian tourism industry and little-known festivals like these, which have not yet been spoilt by cosmopolitan modernisation, provide great avenues for authentic cultural and spiritual experiences. Developed in a sensitive and careful manner, these festivals and the monuments around which these are centred can help in creating a cultural heritage-renaissance in India. For the international traveller, looking for the authentic Indian spiritual awakening or introduction, these kind of religious and cultural events have always held a great charm.

The confluence of all major religions reflected in various monumental structures romanticized by exciting mythological stories and historical intrigues makes India a unique tourism destination apt for spiritual as well as the experience seeking travellers. The number of domestic tourists stand at1432 million and has grown by 12% which is good reflection of the potential of the sector. A large proportion of all these tourists travel to spiritual destinations across the country

There are many potential avenues which unexplored cultural events and sites like these open up. One which most organizations tend to overlook is association in these heritage and cultural experience building exercises through their CSR programs. Through our detailed analysis of the CSR behaviour across categories, Wishlife has identified several key positive insights which have included the realization that education and healthcare continue to remain at the centre of corporate CSR programs. Some others like skill development and rural development see some traction but most other causes identified under the section VII of Companies Act like rural sports, armed forces etc., remain unorthodox and rare choices at best. Also low on contributions is the cause of Protection of National Heritage Art and Culture.

While restoration of cultural sites, is gaining importance gradually, other possible avenues like tourism, experience etc. have a lot of unexplored potential and are capable of generating optimal impact through focused and culture-driven initiatives. Programs focusing on revitalizing and preserving cultural assets also have the inherent potential of providing sustainable livelihood to a large number of people apart from the obvious benefit and exposure of providing a platform to showcase our rich cultural heritage. The only thing that is required is for mutually beneficial partnerships, centered around this common cultural goal to be fostered and we at Wishlife are looking forward to working with interested parties to realize the holistic potential of these avenues from being mere ideas to impressive realities.

Philanthropy + Strategy; the crux of CSR

While philanthropy is deeply engrossed in the Indian culture and has been around for ages, CSR as a concept is indeed nascent in India. The thrust provided by the Corporate Act 2013, is the impetuous required for CSR to develop in India . However whether the industry is moving forward in the right direction is the question that needs to be answered

Currently a lot of the companies are investing out to compulsion and out of a pure legal requirement, however this approach is unlikely to work in the long run and the effort will then lose its steam. Corporate entities need to see this as an opportunity and unlock it potential rather than approaching this in a philanthropic manner. In the long run this will be good for both the society as well as the corporate.

The approach will ensure that different industries and companies within those industries choose different causes and beneficiaries; thereby doing a greater good. Traditionally education and healthcare have been popular with philanthropists, however this helps in going beyond these two causes . At the same time a strategically chosen cause could help differentiate a brand, drive its usage and more importantly positively impact its Equity in the long run. A strategically planned and properly executed idea is likely to have a positive impact on the brand awareness, character and also help in increasing its loyalty quotientPicture1

In a highly competitive environment with little or no differentiation, product and consumer based marketing will have to give way to Value based marketing.  A case in point is the current handset industry situation. With over 150 players in the market spread across different price points, all brands slowly converging towards similar product offerings, selfie and long battery life being the key words , consumers are increasingly finding it hard to differentiate. The same is true for brands with narrowing scope for product and content innovation. In such a situation brands are desperately trying to differentiate themselves by associating themselves with cricket and bollywood ,a space which is also saturating.  In the absence of new innovations, these brands will soon have to move towards value based marketing for brand building. Such cases can also be seen in other industries in the technology, banking and insurance space

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It is therefore imperative for all corporate entities to embrace the opportunity presented by the corporate act and move forward with proper strategies in place. Recent studies by Wishlife highlight that  the second year of the Act 2015-16 has seen greater utilization of the CSR fund ,however the lack of strategic alignment is very obvious across industries . The same needs to be addressed as the soonest by corporate entities. A successful CSR strategy requires commitment and alignment of stakeholders as well as effective implementation.

The journey ahead for companies on the CSR route is will be exciting and challenging at the same time . We would therefore like to congratulate all corporate entities under the purview of the Act for the opportunity and wish that they are able to benefit themselves and the society to the fullest

Toys of Civilized!

The Games of Civilized

We are these days locked in the debate for understanding the necessary premises to establish the most sustainable societies. Our only guide to attempt at deciphering this question is to look backwards in time i.e., going through history.

History as we know is biased towards kings and conquerors. We attempt to describe history with respect to periods matched to the rules of kings and dynasties.  Now is that all there is to time or our metrics are flawed.

It is correct to view the history by tracing the footsteps of kings but only when the societies are monolithic arrangements around their rulers. How do we study history when the traditions of societies are a palimpsest always evading the final key?

The finer aspects of life which actually shape the society hardly get the due reference in the narratives. I can comfortably speak about India because I am not familiar with any other culture. During my school days I have spend hours trying to learn by rote the dates of various wars and coronations of kings. I still could not see the significance of it as the major influences on the lives of people have come from other sources rather than the reigns they were under.

How often do our history books tell us about the change in food habits with changing times and exposure to cultures. When did we actually start the foolishness of wearing a  coat and leather shoes with socks as a sign of civility in daily life when it is unhygienic in Indian conditions. When did we ever discuss the toys and board games  and their impact on fundamentals of the society?

 I have heard that the best measure for understanding the society is by studying the toys that the society provides for its children to play. Societies that have physical strength and military aspirations build games around weapons like wooden swords, toy guns and punching bags which clearly explain the concepts of a victor and the vanquished. Societies that have innovation and scientific temperament as their core values build toys which subtly explain the nature of things like the Chinese toys which have magnetic properties or the kites that explain the nature of winds. Agrarian societies build bullock carts and farm tools as toys for their children.

Cultures that have evolved in the Indian subcontinent have been perennially obsessed with nature of life. The concept of good and bad karma and there effects on our daily life. The elders of the society may have thought that it was necessary to introduce these concepts to children. One of the games that beautifully deals with these questions is snakes and ladders. The players have absolutely no control on the game. The chance is taken based on the roll of a dice. The players can play only forward.  There is no way you can predict whether you will be bitten by a snake or you will be rewarded with a ladder or you would simply be safe at the roll of the dice. The most profound learning of the game is to be excited about every roll of the dice, just like life. Further the game also teaches the importance of taking it easy with life and not getting obsessed with outcomes of our actions, as we hardly have any control over them.

Similar cultural overtone can be found in the British and American trading game known as monopoly. The game is very interesting as the basic themes of the game is run every competitor out of business and capture his assets. The game aims at explaining the market forces at a basic level and building business acumen of kids. The premises of the game gain significance because the Anglo-Saxon community has been primarily engaged in trading activities. The British India Empire was peculiar in the sense that it was built by East India Company. It was probably the biggest company in human history with its primary mandate was to trade with India for a profit. Empirically speaking the players in monopoly strive to create a monopoly by pushing all other players into bankruptcy, which exactly what the British did in India and built their empire.

Every culture has built games to pass on the subtle understanding of the values and tenets of the society to the next generation. It is these toys and games that give children the first understanding of playing by the rules or otherwise the game would cease to exist, just like societies. Waiting for your turn, accepting the rights of other players to score over you and most importantly to learn to lose gracefully are how stable societies are built and thrive.

The question of choosing the toys for a civilized society again comes back as a boomerang. It is my opinion that the demographics and culture of the last 50 years have tectonic-ally altered our relations with our planet. Around 7 billion humans on the planet have to worry about the long term survival of the race. The competitive spirits inculcated by games and toys of the past, have helped us survive nature, and now the same set of virtues may not let nature survive us.

Toys of the future have to build their foundations on communal living and surviving on pooled resources. One of the most phenomenal things that the internet has done is diluted the fundamental human neurosis surrounding winning and ownership. The primary cause for our obsession with winning and ownership may have been the uncertain future which encouraged hoarding and ownerships. Internet has changed all that by encouraging unlimited access and sharing. These virtues have to join the state of play for the future.

As a society we have to look closely at the toys and games that we provide for our children as the principles that they impart will help sustain the race.