View: Congress must aspire to be like Apple, and not BlackBerry

For a father, shopping for a present for a daughter who has simply entered her teenagers is a dicey proposition. Balancing the conflicting roles of a protecting dad versus the uber cool one is like skating on skinny ice. The BlackBerry cell phone sorted out that predicament for me. Whereas the USP of the gadget was its push-email (the company world was fully hooked on it), it had turn out to be a worldwide sensation with adolescents due to a characteristic referred to as BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). The BBM was the primary messaging service that appeared like a non-public bubble, providing each confidentiality and limitless texting at no cost. So prized was the BlackBerry that former US President Barack Obama in his autobiography A Promised Land talks about his heart-breaking separation from his favorite gadget for safety causes.

After all, that was eons in the past. BlackBerry doesn’t exist anymore (it has an enterprise software program mannequin now). Like BlackBerry within the smartphone trade, Congress as soon as overwhelmingly dominated the political narrative in India. If BlackBerry in 2009 had 50% of the US smartphone market, Congress frequently gained absolute majorities by itself within the Lok Sabha; its peak was 404 seats in 1984. By 2014, BlackBerry’s market share had nose-dived to lower than 1% (with losses at $1 billion). In the identical 12 months, Congress was lowered to 44 Lok Sabha seats and WhatsApp, which initially seemed to be a poor third cousin of BBM, received a whopping valuation of $19 billion from Fb. BBM had sunk right into a rabbit gap. Do you see the similarities right here? Each remained adamant that each one was effectively, and the slipping buyer/voter mindshare, at worse, a transient aberration. It will naturally repair itself. It didn’t.

The Congress, suffering from inside hubris, underestimated the regional satrap from Gujarat who was revolutionising BJP. It appeared content material with delusions of grandeur of being “India’s pure social gathering of governance”. As soon as once more in 2019 the Congress was vanquished, getting 52 seats, whereas the BJP gained an enormous 303.

One in all administration’s most over-used clichés is reinvention. Periodically, each CEO pays homage to this homily, although few actually stroll the speak. Politicians extra so; in reality, the Congress has chosen to be fossilised, a reluctant reformist. However because the Congress trouble-shooters tried to place an finish to the months of infighting between a assured however smug Captain Amarinder Singh and a recalcitrant and trigger-happy Navjot Singh Sidhu, many political pundits applauded the magic system of brokering peace by the Congress in Punjab as a “pragmatic daring danger”.

Is the Congress belatedly waking as much as the fact that the great outdated days of incremental fiddling are over? That maybe the time has come to take some imaginative strides which could even boomerang within the short-term? Or was this only a determined response to being pushed to a nook, an unsustainable frail détente at finest? Time will inform.

In his seminal work Suppose Once more, Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at Wharton, talks of the “overconfidence cycle” lure that BlackBerry had fallen into. The Congress has been bothered by the identical bugbear, and plenty of of my colleagues have been satisfied that at most the BJP could be a seasonal flavour. They’ve been confirmed flawed.

The Congress should aspire to be an Apple, pushing boundaries, forcing innovations, periodically rejigging its mammoth organisation and recalibrating its storytelling. It has restricted choices, as a result of political depreciation can turn out to be a death-wish. In contrast to Blackberry that needed to cope with a number of rivals, Congress is the one pan-India different to the BJP. The latter’s subpar efficiency (pandemic mishandling, Pegasus snooping, ravaged financial system, excessive gasoline costs, sectarian tensions, undermined establishments, file unemployment and so on) might have an effect on its political fortunes in 2024. However the Congress is being unusually magnanimous in the direction of it. There are 5 issues the Congress can do to grab the governance debate: elect a Congress president, convey the Congress below RTI and disclose supply of funds (a game-changer transfer to checkmate BJP’s electoral bonds chicanery), decentralise by appointing vice-presidents for various areas, revitalise grassroots by having clear elections from block ranges to the CWC, and as a substitute of specializing in persona politics just like the BJP, convey again the unique ‘Congress collective’, a tradition of dynamic groups (Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose, Maulana Azad and so on.) who challenged one another, prioritising nation-building over petty politics.

The Congress should create another nationwide blueprint and knock on each door to encourage a shared imaginative and prescient. The BJP for all its present hegemony should know that BlackBerry’s cataclysmic fall was additionally as a result of it had only one product class: cellphones. The over-dependence on Modi makes the BJP a one-trick pony, and diminishing returns have already kicked in.

It’s a must to break eggs to make an omelette; the ball is within the Congress’s courtroom.

(The author is former Congress Spokesperson)

( Views expressed above are the writer’s personal.)

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