Nayi Disha: A People’s Pipe for Prosperity (Part 2)

Past Writings – 1

Before we get to the discussion on the pipe, let’s understand the need for change and a Nayi Disha for India. Here’s a survey of my previous writings about Nayi Disha over the past 18 months.

The Revolution India Needs: “What India needs is a people united to create a bottom-up movement to dismantle the corrupt political party system and end the mai-baap Sarkar that pervades our lives. Only then will a new India rise — an  India not steeped in poverty but reaching out for riches, an India not divided by ancestral surnames but united in our individual diversity, an India not searching through history books for its lost glory but powering its way through entrepreneurship to future prosperity… What is needed is to elect a Lok Sabha of Independents – people selected through local primaries by unaffiliated Indian voters (who constitute two-thirds of the voters). These non-aligned and non-voters (NANV) have to create a coalition, connect digitally, communicate the ideas to each other and craft political change. They number 60 crore out of India’s 90 crore voters. Staying undecided till the end or abstaining from voting can no longer be the options. It is in the hands of this ‘silent majority’ that India’s future lies… Will our generation lead the revolution for our nation’s transformation? If not us, then who? If not now, when?”

Nations, Leaders and their Decisions: “India’s leaders failed on each of the five attributes of leadership. None of them prioritised economic growth and mass prosperity. None understood the roadmap to prosperity. None had the best talent in place around them. None had a sense of urgency. And on the fifth point, while many were good communicators, since there was no internal belief in reforms, none could communicate and persuade the people on the policies needed for growth…It needs one leader to change India’s economic trajectory. That leader has yet to emerge. The current system of Indian politics will not throw up such a leader. That is why we need a political revolution before the economic transformation can happen. Only through economic growth can we make a great nation. Will another generation be wasted? Or, can we, the people, unite to make that happen? The choice is ours.”

India needs a Debating Culture: “A revolution might sound disruptive and violent. It is not. Just as technology is helping us buy, learn, connect and communicate, it can help us change our nation. For this a few of us need to first understand that change is really needed. This is the job of political entrepreneurs. They have to change minds. Only then will the votes change… A debating culture can thus be one of the key pillars for building a better discourse, an open society and lead the political and economic revolution India needs.”

Circles: Starting the Indian Revolution: “If we had to start India’s political and economic revolution…it would be very important to bring people together and change minds – one at a time. For this, there would be a need for neighbourhood cells all across India with a dual purpose – creating the social infrastructure and an organised cadre…[We need] a national decentralised organisation of Circles and citizens who believe in a new vision of India and are willing to devote a few hours a week to make it happen.”

Nayi Disha: A People’s Pipe for Prosperity (Part 1)


To change the economic future of Indians, we need to change the political policies and the people in power. India’s politicians and their parties favour, irrespective of their specific ideologies, all agree on one thing: less freedom for those they rule. So, if we want prosperity for Indians, we need to ensure more freedom, which will mean creating a new compact between the rulers and the ruled. This will mean changing minds and channelling votes by uniting the non-aligned and non-voters to create a Lok Sabha of Independents which can implement an agenda for freedom and prosperity. This is the revolution India needs to break from its past; this is the Nayi Disha India and Indians need.

Over the past couple years, I have written extensively about these ideas and how to make Nayi Disha happen. One of the prerequisites for Nayi Disha’s Indian Revolution is to change minds. That needs a content factory with a new narrative, and a distribution pipe to take this message to the people. Without a change in people’s views, there will be no change in the way they vote – they will still keep selecting from the menu of politicians and parties who have no interest in changing the status quo of extraction and exploitation that served the British well for 200 years, and has served the ruling class well since 1947 when instead of new freedom, Indians got continuity of serfdom. All that changed was the skin colour of the rulers.

A new future for India is possible – but only if the people change their minds. Unlike some other countries where wise leaders brought about the changes needed for prosperity, India has been singularly unfortunate with its leaders – each one had an opportunity, but each one failed. That’s the nature of power, and none could resist from their top perch imposing more controls and constraints on the people. India’s perpetually planned poverty has been made by India’s politicians and their parties. Unless the controls are put on those in power, unless the size of the Indian state is shrunk, unless the ability of politicians to discriminate and interfere in the lives of people is removed, permanent and mass flourishing will be elusive.

This is the change Nayi Disha hopes to bring: replace those in power (and their challenger clones) with a new government which in a single term (or two) dismantles the Indian state and its powers to create an irreversible cycle of freedom and prosperity for the people. To succeed, Nayi Disha has to become a decentralised, bottom-up people’s movement. It has to be led by local leaders in every one of India’s neighbourhoods, rather than one omnipotent person at the top who can fall prey to the same trappings of power. This will only happen when new ideas reach the people. That’s where creating the pipe to distribute the ideas is one of the most important building blocks for Nayi Disha.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 10)

All Together

To bring Nayi Disha to life and give India a new direction with the next elections must be the single-minded goal of all Indians who seek a freer and richer future for themselves and their children. Once they realise that the present path we are on is no different from the preceding 250 years and the eventual endgame is ever-increasing extraction and exploitation, perhaps some will wake up to wanting to play a role in understanding the root of the problem (lack of freedom) and working to craft the solution (Nayi Disha).

The starting point is to change people’s minds. Only then can we hope to channel votes via United Voters of India to create an India freed from the clutches of the politicians and their parties. To change minds, we need to get their attention and then nudge them towards action. To get attention, we need to create a content factory which educates and persuades. This content needs to be then distributed via email and WhatsApp to tens of millions – a pipe that bypasses government controlled media properties and platforms. One person at a time, this all-digital movement needs to grow in strength – just like the Internet startups who have transformed our lives in the past decade.

Once the outreach is there, attention needs to be transformed into action. This is where the Nayi Disha app needs to play a starring role. By borrowing ideas from successful mobile games, it needs to encourage actions and teamwork to create winning coalitions in every part of India to fulfil the endgame of a Lok Sabha of Independents. The numbers are there – two-thirds of Indians are either non-aligned or non-voters. This is the audience that must be persuaded to unite against the politicians and their parties for a free and rich India.

This is a movement without a top-down commander; it is a people’s movement. In the digital world that is upon us, no small group of people can make this happen on their own. The revolution will need creators and influencers, each a mini-celebrity to some. They need to be persuaded to join and use their ingenuity, skills and networks to amplify the message across the country. A ladder of engagement will motivate many – after all, it is a fight for their own future.

Every action can be done digitally except the final act – of voting on election day. This is the only way Nayi Disha can do in months what the political parties have done in decades. Indians don’t have the luxury of time; we cannot lose another generation to mediocrity and capital drain. It is time to not just be customers of digital platforms but create one of our own for the highest cause of them all: freedom and prosperity for a billion Indians.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 9)

Creators and Influencers

To make Nayi Disha successful much more will be needed, not just a content factory, digital tools and platforms. It will need to cultivate creators and influencers. Creators are the ones who will add to the diversity and richness of content that is needed to attract members; Influencers are those who will help amplify the content to drive the membership flywheel. Creators and influencers are two sides of the same coin. In fact, this mirrors how the Internet itself is becoming the domain of creators and influencers.

The New York Times wrote recently: “Creators are people who build audiences online and find a way to make money from those audiences. They are usually young, digital natives who are trying to make a living from their social media work… By focusing on influencers, [Tiktok] forced changes from traditional social networks like Instagram and Twitter that had shied away from catering to the people who were creating the popular content on their platforms. TikTok allowed up-and-coming social media personalities to be discovered more easily, and gave them a clearer direct path to making money through the company’s Creator Fund, which pays creators a certain amount based on views.”

More from The Economist: “In the past decade anyone with a phone has become a potential content creator. Cameras have got sharper, processors more powerful and networks faster. Apps can improve even the shoddiest content. Instagram, launched in 2010, provided filters that made ordinary photos look cool. TikTok has made it as simple to edit video. In April Facebook unveiled recording tools that aim to do for amateur podcasters what Instagram did for bad photographers. The internet’s limitless, free distribution and searchability has made it possible for this output—videos, music, jokes, rants and all manner of things that defy categorisation—to find an audience, however niche… Just as the internet allowed brands to bypass physical shops and sell directly to customers online, social platforms “offer a path for creators to communicate directly with their audience,” says Mr Shmulik.”

From Subscribed: “The Creator Economy is booming. Empowered with publishing platforms and recurring revenue streams, thousands of people are striking out on their own as paid creators. This isn’t just about well-known journalists leaving established brands anymore. Today, anyone can become a media company.”

Influencers are celebrities in their own right. Some have become famous in other fields and extended that fame to the Internet. Others have leveraged the new platforms to acquire their own following.

Nayi Disha will need its own ecosystem of creators and influencers to complement what the content factory creates. This will keep growing the reach into newer and newer communities. The key is to get started. The digital world then allows for many methods of multiplying membership.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 8)


The Email+WhatsApp combo is a first step to gaining attention and changing minds. A daily selection of news, videos, charts, quotes and explainers can provide an alternative narrative on what’s happening. It can provide a freedom-centric view of the world, rather than the narrative dictated by the government of the day. But the content factory and the pipe are only the start. Action needs to come next.

Among the actions that will be needed to bring United Voters of India and Sabhas to life as the two pillars to winning elections and forming a Lok Sabha of Independents will be to build membership and train candidates across India. It will be almost impossible for any entity to create a national organisation like those of the main political parties in India who have built these over decades. Instead, Nayi Disha needs to borrow from the digital marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon, Ola, Uber, Zomato, Swiggy, and their likes. They have built two-sided platforms to connect supply and demand. Nayi Disha’s platform – in the form of an app/website – has to do the same by connecting members (non-aligned and non-voters) with potential candidates. Primaries (akin to the bidding system employed by some marketplaces) will help choose the winner without a top-down selection mechanism. This becomes a genuine people’s platform, rather than a political party controlled by one or two people at the very top.

The Nayi Disha app can learn a lot from successful gaming apps. The best ones ensure they become utilities in people’s lives – drawing them back, rewarding them, creating a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment, and also creating clans and tribes by connecting them with others. I have watched my son play Clash of Clans a few minutes every day for many years. I too have now learnt the tricks. It is an amazingly well crafted multi-player game with plenty of hooks to bring the users back again and again.

Buck-Fifty MBA has this on Clash of Clans: “Once they’ve activated users through the immersive tutorial, Clash uses more than a few well designed habit loops to bring people back. In Hooked, Nir Eyal describes these habit loops as (1) trigger, (2) action, (3) reward, (4) investment.  The trigger gets a user’s attention with something external (a notification) or internal (an in-product prompt).  The action is immediate (clicking the notification or following the in-product prompt).  The reward should be variable (attacking another player in Clash isn’t guaranteed to result in a win).  And the investment is an action with no immediate reward (like training more troops or building a better town hall). Clash relies heavily on notifications to bring users back initially (“your building is finished” or “your troops are trained”), but as you become more engaged the trigger becomes more intrinsic.  Supplies (gold and elixir) must be “harvested” to central storage or else the harvesting machines will overflow and stop collecting more.  Other players can only attack when you’re offline, so if you’re saving up supplies for a large purchase you’ll want to log in often to keep other players at bay.”

The app can borrow ideas from successful games to bring its members back daily by giving them an interface which feels like fun. Make Nayi Disha a reality game of power, freedom and prosperity!

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 7)

Email and WhatsApp

Email is the ideal first connection in the distribution chain. A centralised email list with opt-ins from interested people will get the process started. Content created can be emailed to everyone who subscribes in the language of their choice. Ideally, these emails will be short and to the point – much like the headlines-with-an-attitude of DrudgeReport or Vartam’s microcontent. The key is to make the emails habit-forming – sent daily at the same time. Mu can incentivise recipients for opening and clicking.

The reach of emails will be limited to a fraction of the target audience. This is where the second step of the distribution chain comes in. Those who can access email can use their personal WhatsApp groups to amplify the messages for free. This is a much better alternative than creating multi-level hierarchical WhatsApp groups. This Email-WhatsApp hub-and-spoke combo can serve as a very powerful content distribution platform in the country.

In fact, there is no other alternative. Hierarchical WhatsApp groups are going to take too long and have too many chain breaks possible. An email list, with an opt-in subscribe base, followed by an individual amplification on WhatsApp to friends and family, is the best way to achieve critical mass in a limited timeframe. Some from the WhatsApp groups can then start subscribing to emails directly, and thus build their own next-level.

The challenge of where the first set of email subscribers will come from remains – basically, how to seed the list. It’s akin to finding the first customers for a new product. My belief is that there are many people in India who know things need to move in a different direction, but don’t know how and where. The current media and content options they have do not satisfy their interest and thirst. They also feel they are alone and don’t know whom to ask. Unlike the US which has always had a rich tradition of freedom and liberalism, India has not. The only choices in India have been more government and even more government!

The combination of a content factory, an email distribution list, and WhatsApp redistribution can lay the foundation for a pipeline to get a different set of messages out to people – messages which they will never get from their regular media sources. Just like water finds its level, these messages too will need to find their audience. I believe a message centred around freedom and prosperity, with a call to look beyond the politicians and parties, will find resonance in India in the times to come.

By building an all-digital approach, this startup can replicate the D2C (digital-to-consumer) model that is gaining ground in ecommerce. A D2V (direct-to-voter) outreach can shorten the time it will take to build momentum around the Nayi Disha ideas.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 6)


Yes, I know. The immediate reaction to email as the magical channel to build the pipe is, “Seriously? Who even uses email? It’s all so full of spam and junk. Who wants to read more email?” And yet, the reality is that email, after 50 years, is still around, attracting a lot of venture capital, driving many acquisitions – because it delivers the best RoI (40:1) to marketers. Here are some stats around email usage in India:

  • About 500 million emails are sent daily by brands (about 10% will be transactional, the rest marketing/promotional). This compares with about 1 billion SMSes.
  • An email costs 1-3 paise to send, while an SMS is about 13 paise. (A WhatsApp message, by comparison, costs 30 paise, provided the use case has been approved by WhatsApp.)
  • Emails typically have an open rate of about 5-15%, so about 25-75 million emails are opened daily

I recently did a Prashnam survey to better understand habits around messaging channels. Here is what I found from a survey of about 3,000 people across multiple Indian states:

  • 38% used WhatsApp daily
  • 24% used SMS and Facebook daily
  • 14% used Email daily

Extrapolating these numbers based on 18+ years population of 900 million, we get the following:

  • 342 million daily WhatsApp users
  • 216 million daily SMS and Facebook users
  • 126 million daily Email users

Note that these are estimates extrapolated from the Prashnam survey.

Compare this with numbers given by the government of India in February 2021 about total users (which does not necessarily mean daily users) of various social media platforms (and presumably includes those under 18 years also):

  • WhatsApp: 530 million
  • YouTube: 448 million
  • Facebook: 410 million
  • Instagram: 210 million
  • Twitter: 17.5 million

Facebook recently revealed its daily user count in India for the first-time: 234 million, out of a total base of 416 million users. As we can see, this number compares quite well with that in the Prashnam survey.

To summarise: email’s estimated daily user base is about 60% of Facebook and SMS and 35% of WhatsApp.

Now, let’s add costs. Facebook’s organic reach is very limited – one pretty has to pay to play. And thus, it’s hard to reach the same user base again and again. SMS is priced at 4-13X of email, and WhatsApp at 10-30X of email.

Finally, the clinching point: Facebook and WhatsApp are controlled by corporate entities who decide on the rules of the game, while SMS content is dictated by TRAI and the telcos.

Email is thus the most open, most cost-effective channel; it is also an identity for many. Its open rates are low at about 10%, but that is a problem that can be addressed with the right incentives – Mu, the attention currency. Email allows for rich content, unlike SMS. Email therefore is the perfect starting point for building the pipe. 14% of Indians use email daily, and that is a very good starting point. It will not suffice on its own, but as the first leg of a 2-step distribution, there is nothing better than email.  And guess what – an email client to read emails is pretty much built into every mobile in the country (even those which are not smartphones) and getting an email account costs nothing at Gmail, Yahoo or other such providers.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 5)


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.

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 4)


Here is the summary of the Nayi Disha Pipe challenge:

  • Assume a multi-lingual, multimedia content factory can be created. This is the factory that creates sticky and persuasive stories to amplify the Nayi Disha ideas of freedom and prosperity, and brings out the fatal flaws in the current approach to politics and governance by those who have exercised power through the past decades and prevented Indians from becoming rich.
  • The focus then moves to how to take these ideas to tens of millions of Indians while lacking a national leader with a large following or an unbiased media that speaks truth to power. This has to be done in the context of a government empowered with laws to block any social media accounts, sites and apps that it considers against the vaguely omnibus “national interest”. The project also has to be frugal with spending since it will be difficult in the early days to raise funding.
  • For Nayi Disha to succeed, it needs to attract the support of about 30% of voters in every Lok Sabha constituency – a collective which decides to vote and vote as one, the United Voters of India as part of Mission Free543 to ensure a Lok Sabha of Independents, free of the negative influence of every politician and political party. It thus has to be a national freedom and prosperity movement, touching every part of India and almost every Indian.
  • There are about a thousand days to make this happen until the next national election in the summer of 2024. Miss that opportunity and it is a wait of five years and more importantly, a nation even further away from freedom. Hence, there needs to be a sense of urgency – a “now-or-never” attitude because with every passing year, the terrain becomes increasingly harder to navigate.

The mindset has to be that of a startup entrepreneur. Startups imagine and work to create new futures. They are led by entrepreneurs who know no fear as they know they are competing against strong incumbents. They are constantly solving one problem after another to get the product-market fit, climbing “mountains beyond mountains”.

What India needs for Nayi Disha success is the startup and entrepreneurial mindset applied to the political space. The rise and spread of digital can lay the foundation for possible success. Nayi Disha will not win by aiming to replicate the attributes of political parties; in fact, it has to chart a completely new course – with its ideas, members, products and go-to-market. Nayi Disha has to become the “disruptive innovation” in the Indian political space, and the starting point has to be to rethink the pipe to connect the content factory to the consumers (the influencers and voters).

Changing Minds for Nayi Disha: Attention to Action (Part 3)

Moments and Movements

In the business world, there are two approaches to communicating new ideas: spend a lot of money in marketing to ensure repeated exposure to the message, or to hope for virality where an idea spreads person-to-person. In politics, it is a combination of the two: a leader crafts the message and a political party uses its organisational mechanism to disseminate it widely. In the Nayi Disha case, none of these approaches will work: there isn’t a big spending budget available, virality is desired but cannot be engineered, there is no great leader with the stirring message of freedom and prosperity, and there is no organisational structure (yet) to take the ideas to the voter. And then there is the constraint of time: national elections happen every five years, so miss one opportunity and the result will be a long wait.

Let’s look at the moments in the past when a large cross-section of Indians have changed their minds: the vote after the Emergency in 1977 that brought the Janata government to power, the vote three years later that brought Indira Gandhi back to power, the vote for Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998, and the Lok Sabha majority for Narendra Modi in 2014. I have excluded the vote of 1984 that gave Rajiv Gandhi a sweeping majority – it was an outpouring of grief and an emotional vote after the assassination of his mother and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. In 1977, Jayaprakash Narayan led a motley bunch of politicians in a vote against the excesses of the Emergency. In 1980, the failure of this experiment made the people turn to the very leader they had rejected just a thousand days earlier. Vajpayee’s leadership and NDA coalition led by the BJP made people turn away from experiments with the Third Front. Modi’s aspirational politics and rousing oratory punished a weak and corrupt Congress.

There have been other movements which had political ramifications. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement stirred the Hindus into action and the Indians Against Corruption movement woke up the urban middle class. The former led to the rise of the BJP while the latter birthed the Aam Aadmi Party.

In all these cases, there has always been a leader or a set of leaders at the top who have guided the change in thinking with an eventual change in voting behaviour. This is what we have to replicate – but without the benefit of a single political leader because that (party politics) is exactly what Nayi Disha is against.

It seems like an impossible mission, but the future of our nation hangs on this. Whether India will rise to claim its status among the prosperous nations of the world or remain a poor nation as it has been for centuries depends on whether Nayi Disha’s ideas can be piped to tens of millions who then collectively unite to bring about the political change that’s needed. This has to be done against the backdrop of two trends: an India in which free speech is increasingly under attack because of the collusion among the government, judiciary and media, and the rise of digital devices and high-speed networks which has put smartphones and social media in the hands of hundreds of millions of Indians.