Dheeraj Sinha is a B.A. Economics (Honours) from ShriRam College, Delhi University and Post Graduate In Communications from MICA, Ahmedabad. He is currently working as a Chief Strategy Officer, South & South East Asia, Grey.
Dheeraj Sinha`s amazing achievements:
- 3 times Winner of the prestigious Atticus Awards (WPP’s award for best published thinking).
- Jay Chiat Planning Award by the 4A’s
- Asian Marketing Effectiveness Award
- Yahoo Big Idea Chair.
- Winner at EFFIES in India, five years in a row
- Won at APAC EFFIES since the last two years of the award’s existence
- Top 40 advertising and marketing professionals in Asia Pacific in CampaignAsia’s top 40 under 40 list for 2014.
Apart from the above awards, Dheeraj has been a speaker at various prestigious institutes and organizations. Let us know more about his writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have always been interested in writing. In my school days, I would write poetry and essays. I won several writing competitions and was the editor of my college Hindi magazine, Yamuna.
Writing allowed me to reach out to a larger audience with my thoughts. Maybe because I was introverted, this allowed me a medium of expression. Plus it brought me glory, I felt recognized and appreciated. That was then.
In my professional life of advertising and marketing, I specialized in understanding consumption from the lens of changing culture. My work made me realize that there were many myths and assumptions in the way we characterized and understood India. I wanted to bust the “slumdog-millionaire”, “bottom-of-the-pyramid”, “jugaad” laden view of India. This has been the primary motivation behind both my books, which are built around the narrative of the changing Indian consumption culture.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
I read very little of what children typically read – Hardy Boys never managed to be on my list. I read classics such as Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations and Pride & Prejudice on the one hand and Hindi magazines such as Nandan, Champak, Sarita on the other, pretty much everything that was available in the house. I also read the daily newspapers and was fascinated by the Sunday supplements, because they had wider-interest articles.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
How do you write 65,000 words without sounding banal?
We live in a ‘headline’ driven world. Every moment competes with a whatsapp message. This world demands you to make your point in a nano-second and get out of the way. How do you sustain engagement in these attention-deficit times? That’s the biggest challenge in writing a book today.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
Before I start writing, the structure and the key theories of my book are already in place. Many of these theories are built overtime during my experience in working with brands and consumers on a day-to-day basis. I then test these hypotheses by collecting data, cultural symbols and stories of successes and failures in the marketplace. Numerical data is always difficult to come by in India. But for me, cultural evidence is also data.
What motivated you to write the book “India Reloaded”?
Most of the works around India are either from a historical perspective or are located around the economic liberalization of the country around 1991. There is very little work, which maps the tremendous changes that India has gone through in the last two decades. We are pretty much working with our age-old assumptions. For instance, marketing makes a big deal about the diversity of India; the overriding belief is that India changes every 100 kilometers. However, the bigger trend is that cultural influences are travelling across geographies in India. Dosa is now a national snack and Karwachauth is fast becoming a national festival. The new truth is that our diversity is helping create a rich and textured national culture. Insights such as these haven’t been coded ever, but they have profound implications on how we think brands and businesses in this country. India Reloaded brings out the India that ‘they didn’t tell you about’.
Can you tell us more about it?
India Reloaded looks at commerce in India through the lens of socio-cultural change. It’s born out of the belief that life and consumption are interlinked, continuously influencing and mutating each other. The book uses consumer research, popular culture observations, market data and macroeconomic indicators, to unravel insights for brands and businesses. India Reloaded weaves a narrative through the changes in the politics, the economy and the social mores of the country. It presents consumption through the prism of changing social and individual identity.
The book comes on the back of a political and economic resurgence in India or as Narendra Modi’s election campaign promised – acche din aane wale hain (good times are here). If there was a time for India to take its next leap, it seems that time is now. There’s finally a stable and decisive government at the center, the economic parameters are looking up and the whole world seems to want India’s success. But to be able to make the best of these times, we must be loaded with the right ammunition of insights and understanding. And what better way to get to that understanding than asking some provocative questions?
Is the India potential indeed captured by its mass markets, as it is largely portrayed? Why do the poorest people in the world not want the cheapest products? Is India indeed as diverse in people motivations as it is made out to be? How long can we flog the ‘ambition’ and ‘success’ card in India before it backfires? Why aren’t there any successful challenger brands in India? Why does the youngest country in the world not have enough brands and businesses targeting them directly? What keeps the India market running despite tentative government policies – will India’s democracy be able to save its economy? India Reloaded is an attempt to provoke these debates about new India and in its wake, attempt some possible answers.
How did you come up with the idea of writing non-fiction genre book?
The debates that I am trying to provoke need factual standing. That’s the reason that the book belongs to Non-Fiction genre.
Who are your favourite authors?
I like Malcom Glawell in the way he builds theories that explain a larger world. His writing however is very easy and anecdotal. I also like Nassim Nicholas Taleb for a fairly heretic writing style. I have also read a lot of Joseph Campbell and John Berger.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
I try and write for about two to three hours on workdays, mostly at nights or early mornings. I do longer sittings on weekends.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
I know that increasingly writing has to cater more and more to the business aspect of publishing, but I would say that your writing must have a purpose, beyond the commercial success.
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