Let’s now focus on the pipe – how does one create a content distribution mechanism to reach tens of millions daily, cost-effectively? In doing so, each of these recipients has to become a micro-influencer spreading the messages further downstream. New “customers” must be attracted continuously to increase numbers to reach the 30% critical mass in every polling booth, neighbourhood and Lok Sabha constituency in India. And eventually, this pipe must also help attract candidates aligned with the Nayi Disha agenda.
The first obvious answer for the pipe would be to create hierarchical WhatsApp groups, as many of the traditional political parties have done in the past few years. Messages flow downstream and are injected into family, work, friend, building and alumni groups. These hierarchies take time to build. The aim is to have massive coverage with earphones to complement the megaphones of the controlled and pliable mass media (especially TV). Fake news and falsehoods are what matter to score over the opponents; truth is sacrificed at the altar of polarisation. Hope is replaced by hate, for the belief is it is anger against the other that will get people out to vote on election day. It is a playbook that is being perfected and updated daily by scores in the supply chain. Every news item, every statement, every event has to have a spin. Speed and scale are the only mantras for this content factory and distribution machine. Money flows to those with the followers, and so it’s a race to the bottom. But it works in a first-past-the-post system where a third of the voters are non-aligned and another third don’t vote; hence the maximisation of the passions of one’s own support base to pummel the suppression of the vote of the other side and persuasion of enough of the fence sitters is good enough to win.
There is no way Nayi Disha can match or replicate this system. Challengers do not win by taking on incumbents in their strongholds. That is where the startup entrepreneurial mindset needs to come into play. A different approach is needed to build the pipe – with limited capital, no political godfather(s), and no previous experience.
Websites and apps will of course be needed, but they are the destinations. Push messages are needed to bring people to these endpoints for actions. What is therefore needed to build the pipe is a cost-effective push messaging channel that can reach millions and is independent of the control of Big Tech and Big Telco. This rules out the use of social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even SMS. To build the pipe, one must have a direct relationship with the people and dependency on intermediaries who can change the rules of engagement overnight isn’t the best way to build a platform to change a billion minds.
There is one push messaging channel which has been around for 50 years, is independent of the control of a single corporate behemoth, is cost-effective, and is already being used by tens of millions. It is so part of our life that we sometimes forget how critical it is for driving a lot of our actions and transactions. It is this channel which can be the first building block for building the pipe by bypassing mainstream and social media. It is this channel which holds the key to changing minds of independent Indians and bringing Nayi Disha to life.