Modi and His Mann Ki Baat

Mann ki Baat with Narendra Modi

Mann ki Baat with Narendra ModiNarendra Modi is his own man and likewise he has positioned his role as a Prime Minister in an entirely new dimension – unseen and unheard of in this country. He must be credited with understanding and fully exploiting the power of the ‘Radio’ in a country that had long given up on its potential to make a significant impact, especially with television, internet and social media taking centre stage in mass communication.

It was his initiative to use All India Radio (AIR), India’s leading state-run Public Broadcaster, to create a programme to reach out effectively to a large audience, especially those with little or no access to print or electronic media. And AIR was the best medium with the longest reach to effectively broadcast his message to an eager audience. With this, AIR became the favoured medium to launch the Prime Minister’s personal outreach program called ‘Mann Ki Baat’.

Ever since the first broadcast on 3 October 2014, Mann Ki Baat has drawn an audience from a wide social spectrum, covering tribals, farmers, traders, housewives, and young listeners from rural to urban areas, including metros like Mumbai and Delhi. The response has been very encouraging for the Prime Minister and the programme is well on its way to becoming a sought after programme each month.

The evolution of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ since inception

The broadcast on 3 October 2014 was the first in a series and perhaps the most eagerly awaited programme by any Prime Minister in India. Prior to the initial broadcast, the programme was well publicised through official channels as well as social media, and in the backdrop of the Prime Minister riding an unprecedented wave of popularity that was sweeping the country at the time, the response to ‘Mann Ki Baat’ was tremendous. People from all walks of life and from all parts of the country tuned in to listen to someone who inspired hope for building a new India.

AIR gets a boost

AIR, which had seen peak popularity from Independence onwards, saw its popularity waning following the growth of television. While urban audiences made the natural shift to television for both information and entertainment, AIR reached out to a dedicated and loyal audience in far-flung areas and where television was not accessible or available. But AIR remained both significant in its role as India’s official radio broadcaster and continued to expand its services in India and overseas.

Today, AIR’s overseas service is broadcast in over 27 languages to over 108 countries and is one of the largest radio broadcasters in the world.
However, with private FM channels taking away a large segment of its audience, AIR has been struggling to raise revenues through advertising, as most advertisers shifted to television, internet and social media. AIR was charging Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 per 10 seconds per station, for advertising slots. For premium event broadcasts like live cricket match commentary, the rates were Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per 10 second slot.

With very encouraging and positive response received by ‘Mann Ki Baat’, AIR was quick to realise its advertising revenue potential. In January, President Obama visited India and was the Chief Guest of Honour at the Republic Day Parade. While inviting President Obama for the parade was a diplomatic coup in itself, the very next day PM Modi further surprised the nation by holding a special session of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ with President Obama. The programme drew over 147 million listeners in India and overseas! The overall response to the programme since its first broadcast can be seen in the very active interest generated in social media like Twitter and Facebook.

AIR began offering advertising slots before and after the programme. The Ad rates were hiked to a whopping Rs 2 lakh for a 10 second slot, across all AIR channels. And leading advertisers like GlaxoSmithKline, which markets the popular beverage ‘Horlicks’, were equally quick to see the potential the programme offered. What the programme means to AIR in terms of revenue can be gauged by the fact that it raised Rs 25 lakh against 105 seconds of advertising space for the March broadcast. The programme has now emerged as a major lifeline, in terms of revenue, for AIR.

The challenge before the broadcaster now is to ensure the programme retains its ‘pull’ factor and continues to draw new audiences, if it wants to retain advertiser interest. This is where AIR could do with some marketing help from the private sector to further fine tune the programme and package it in a way that will continue to appeal to listeners in India and overseas.

Highlights of various ‘Mann Ki Baat’ broadcast till date

3 October 2014:
In his first broadcast, the PM spoke of the significance of ‘Khadi’ as India’s popular fabric and how its increased usage could dramatically change the lives of thousands of rural poor. He discussed why the government wanted Swachh Abhiyan to be a success and how it would impact people’s lives. He touched upon India’s remarkable success with the Mars Mission and the need to skill India if it was to realise its full potential. He also spoke about the need to have an inclusive society keeping in mind the specially-abled children. The entire programme was very well received and several people expressed interest in following the next edition.

2 November 2014:
In this conversation, the PM focused on highlighting various social programme initiatives like the scholarship launched for the specially-abled children and how the government would be releasing Rs one lakh to Kendriya Vidyalayas and other Central Universities for building infrastructure for specially-abled children. He also spoke of social problems like the rising drug addiction amongst the youth. He referred to the positive response from all quarters received for the Swachh Abhiyan. He took the opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of our soldiers guarding the borders, while referring to his recent visit to Siachen.

14 December 2014:
This talk was focused on the emerging problem of drug abuse amongst the youth. He expressed his deep concern that youngsters were falling prey to this menace and that the youth must realise the consequences and say ‘No’ to drugs. He spoke of the national toll-free helpline and government’s efforts to fight the menace.

27 January 2015:
It was a historic moment as PM Modi shared the platform with President Obama and took questions from people. The programme was well-received and closely followed in India and overseas.

22 February 2015:
With examinations on the horizon, PM Modi focused on reaching out to the student community and spoke of the need to sit for exams in a stress-free state of mind and the need to compete with themselves rather than compare with other students.

22 March 2015:
In this broadcast, PM Modi reached out to the farmer community and addressed their concerns regarding support for soil management, seed support, optimising the value of their yields and the Government’s proposed Land Acquisition Act. He also spoke of various government initiatives in extending further support for developing agriculture in India.

26 April 2015:
The PM opened up his address by highlighting the devastation caused by the Nepal earthquake and that India stood together with Nepal in the time of crisis and was ready to extend all necessary help required. He spoke of the widespread devastation that he saw during the 2001 earthquake that hit Gujarat. He highlighted the international appreciation India received due to its humanitarian assistance in Yemen and Nepal. The PM recalled the contribution of Indian soldiers during World War 1. He paid glowing tributes to Baba Saheb Ambedkar for his contribution in laying the foundation for India’s constitution along with the value systems he stood for. He recognised the contributions of various sportspersons in bringing glory to India.

31 May 2015:
The May address focused on farmers and the steps being taken by the government to support them. The PM also addressed the ex-Servicemen and spoke of his government’s commitment to implementing ‘One Rank One Pension’ but sought more time to resolve the issue. With the CBSE results out, the PM took the opportunity to congratulate the students who performed well but also had a word of encouragement for those who did not perform well. He highlighted India’s achievement in convincing the United Nations to declare 21 June as International Yoga Day. He closed his talk with a unique announcement in people outreach. He suggested that people visiting various historical and heritage sites in India share their pictures at #IncredibleIndia which he has been re-tweeting on his Twitter handle.

28 June 2015:

PM began his ‘Mann ki Baat” session by appreciating the efforts made by the armed forces for joining the International Yoga Day celebrations. Focussing more on Yoga Day, he said he felt very happy to see the UN secretary general doing Yoga and said that the world needs good Yoga teachers. The PM discussed about monsoon and said that every drop of water is precious and is required to be conserved. He also suggested that more trees should be  planted. #SelfieWithDaughter, an initiative which was launched by a Haryana Sarpanch was also highlighted by the PM in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ session.

26 July 2015:

In the July session of his ‘Mann ki Baat’, PM Modi did not mention anything related to politics or the Parliament. Highlighting the valour of the Indian armed forces and the sacrifices made by them in the 1999 Kargil conflict, he saluted the Indian soldiers. He also referred to the increasing number of road accidents in the country and announced that the government will soon introduce the Road Transport and Safety Bill and will launch cashless treatment for the victims. He also invited suggestions from the public for his Independence Day speech. He also promised that every village in India will get 24-hour electricity under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana.

30 August 2015:

PM Modi began his August ‘Mann ki Baat’ session by addressing and greeting the nation on the eve of Rakshabandhan and Onam. He said that the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ has completed a year and 17.75 crore accounts have been open in total with an amount of approx. Rs. 22,000 crore. Talking about the recent Gujarat riots, the PM requested the people of Gujarat to follow a right path and stay peaceful and united. He also made an important announcement that the ordinance on land bill lapse will soon benefit the farmers. He also saluted the martyrs who had lost their lives in the Indo-Pak war of 1965.

20 September 2015:

During the 12th edition of ‘Mann ki Baat’, PM Modi once again addressed the nation. Modi said that a year has passed since he began the ‘Mann ki Baat’ session. PM said that about 30 lakh families have given up their LPG subsidy which is also a silent revolution. Making an appeal for Gandhi Jayanti, he urged people to buy more handloom and khadi products. He added that he met Netaji Subhas Bose’s family when he visited Kolkata in May and invited them to his residence. He further congratulated and praised Election Commission which has become very voter friendly. He also urged the youth to register themselves as voters and cast their vote when the time comes.

25 October 2015

PM Modi began his October ‘mann ki baat’ encouraging people for organ donation. He said many accidents take place everyday and people need organs regularly. He added that a national helpline is also available for the same which can be referred to save a life. Talking about upcoming Indian-African Summit in New Delhi, he said India nad Africa always shared friendly ties. He then spoke about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and appreciated Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for taking initiatives for Clean India mission. He then talked about the gold schemes which his government promised to launch in the budget. He encouraged Indians by saying that Unity in diversity is our country’s pride and a run for unity will start from 31 October. At the end of his session, he wished everyone on the occasion of Diwali.

29 November 2015

In the 14th episode of his “mann ki baat” session, PM Modi spoke about ordinary people becoming beacons of hope and change. He illustrated the examples of Javed Ahmed of Kashmir and Noor Jehan of Kanpur in this context. Amidst the raging intolerance debate, he proposed ‘Ek Bharat, Shresht Bharat’ (One India, Supreme India) scheme with an aim to strengthen unity and harmony in the country. He also invited suggestions from the people of India for the structure, logo and improved participation of people in the scheme. He encouraged his listeners for organ donations as it can save valuable lives. He said that the differently-abled people are a source of inspiration for all. At last, he also appreciated ASHA workers saying they are selflessly serving malaria-infested village in Odisha.

27 December 2015

The 15th (and the last one for this year) episode of PM Modi’s radio show ‘Mann Ki Baat’ had the PM speaking about the numerous initiatives taken by the government for disabled in context to the key accessibility. Having coined a new term ‘Divyang’ which means people with extraordinary capabilities; PM Modi put emphasis on complete elimination of the word ‘viklang’ referred to handicapped. He indicated the fact that at times such individuals possess capabilities which are absent even in the normal persons. The Indian Prime Minister also pointed out the unveiling of his Action Plan for the ‘Start-up India, Stand-Up India’ on 16 January 2016 and that he would urge the Indian states to play their vital roles in spreading the plan/initiative across different corners of the country.

31 January 2016

The first in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat for January had him talking about the exclusivity associated with Khadi. He reminded the nation about Sardar Patel stating that India’s independence is in ‘Khadi’. Additionally, he also spoke about the way in which Khadi had become a distinct symbol in itself and a centre of attraction for India’s youth. PM Modi laid emphasis on Khadi’s potential to provide employment to crores of people residing in different corners of the country. He urged people to have at least 1 pair of Khadi in their wardrobe. Mr. Modi pointed out receiving feedback from people whose lives have changed via the innovations introduced in the solar ‘Charkha’ (spinning wheel). Lastly, Mr. Modi informed the nation about flag hoisting by the most educated daughter in government schools in Gujarat and Haryana. He called the governments’ act as an excellent example of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign.

28 February 2016

This time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio program also had legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and chess maestro Viswanathan Anand offering their opinions on a number of issues. The radio address included tips to cope with stress and other associated issues while preparing for the CBSE Class 12th board examinations 2016 which are scheduled to start from 1 March to 24 April 2016 and also the Class 10th board exams which will begin from 1 March and end on 28 March 2016. PM Modi told students about the significance of yoga and meditation during the exam season. He indicated that he too had an exam on Monday, when the Budget 2016 would be presented in the Parliament. He told a whopping 125 crore Indians would test him on 29 February 2016. Mr. Modi asked students to take an additional interest in science and related fields because no invention is possible without science. He highlighted parents, teachers and seniors as an invaluable support system for students during the exam season. While Viswanathan Anand asks students to stay calm during exams, Sachin Tendulkar conveys his best wishes to the students in addition to asking them to stay positive and focussed.

27 March 2016

While addressing the nation in his monthly radio broadcast ‘Mann Ki Baat’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished everyone on Easter, followed by sharing his opinions on India hosting the under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017. He expressed his wish of every youth becoming an ambassador of 2017 FIFA Undre-17 World Cup. In addition to this, PM also congratulated the Indian cricket team for registering two consecutive wins in T20 World Cup. Mr. Modi also emphasised the potential of tourism industry in maximizing employment in India. He urged people of India to use vacations as a tool for improving their personality by learning something innovative. In addition to focusing on ‘Panchteerth’ that was established in the memory of BR Ambedkar who had his 125th birth anniversary celebrated across the country; PM Modi also busted the myth of Digital India being dedicated to the youth living in cities. He highlighted the role of the newly launched app called Kisan Suvidha app which is dedicated to assist farmers in a range of operations. In his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated Coal India Ltd. for creating an eco-friendly mine tourism destination. Indicating this year’s World Health Day (April 7th) dedicated to diabetes, PM Modi urged countrymen to fight against the disease.

24 April 2016

Addressing the nation in his radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ for the 19th time, PM Narendra Modi informed people about celebrating 24 April as Panchayati Raj Day in India. He also insisted on the need of a promotional campaign for conserving and storing rain water in villages. PM Modi also emphasised on the significance of focusing on ‘learning’ than ‘schooling’. He informed the citizens of India about the incapability of saving the river Ganges without people’s participation. Additionally, the Indian Prime Minister also highlighted pure drinking water to be the key reason behind GDP growth. He pointed out initiatives like water harvesting, water recharging, usage of sprinklers etc. as huge steps towards water conservation. In his nineteenth ‘Mann Ki Baat’ session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his pleasure in visiting Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s birth place Mhow on 14 April 2016, his birth anniversary. He put focus on highlighting the good done by citizens of the country. In his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ All India Radio programme, PM Modi recalled a popular quote by the late APJ Abdul Kalam wherein he had said that all newspapers should carry only positive news on their front pages; positive news becomes inspiration for positive deeds. Mr. Modi also informed about 1 crore+ Indian, middle-class families having surrendered their gas subsidies till date.

The goodwill of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ must be built upon

The programme has certainly broken new grounds in public outreach and both the PMO and AIR need to ensure that the popularity of the programme continues to remain by continually introducing innovative features. The problem with a strong personality-driven programme is that it relies heavily on the personality’s popularity. The same stands true for Narendra Modi. The programme was initiated when he was riding the crest of popularity and therefore his extensive fan following is well justified.

However of late, there are sections of people who are growing increasingly restless with the slow pace of government’s development initiatives. Any dip in popularity will mean a dip in audience and that could lead to a scenario where advertisers move away to other mediums, leaving AIR back to its earlier days of revenue crunch.

The PM has shown that he is very open to innovative ideas and one can be sure he will not let the goodwill generated through ‘Mann Ki Baat’ go waste. Meanwhile, let’s look forward to his next address.