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 change into 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 personal bubble, providing each confidentiality and limitless texting without spending a dime. 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 system for safety causes.

In fact, 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 received 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 yr, Congress was diminished to 44 Lok Sabha seats and WhatsApp, which initially seemed to be a poor third cousin of BBM, obtained 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 every one was effectively, and the slipping buyer/voter mindshare, at worse, a transient aberration. It could naturally repair itself. It didn’t.

The Congress, affected by 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 celebration of governance”. As soon as once more in 2019 the Congress was vanquished, getting 52 seats, whereas the BJP received an enormous 303.

One in every of administration’s most over-used clichés is reinvention. Periodically, each CEO pays homage to this homily, although few actually stroll the discuss. Politicians extra so; actually, 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 truth 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 greatest? Time will inform.

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

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 change into a death-wish. Not like Blackberry that needed to take care of a number of opponents, 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, report unemployment and so forth) might have an effect on its political fortunes in 2024. However the Congress is being unusually magnanimous in direction of it. There are 5 issues the Congress can do to grab the governance debate: elect a Congress president, convey the Congress underneath 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 an alternative of specializing in character politics just like the BJP, convey again the unique ‘Congress collective’, a tradition of dynamic groups (Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose, Maulana Azad and so forth.) who challenged one another, prioritising nation-building over petty politics.

The Congress should create an alternate 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.

You must break eggs to make an omelette; the ball is within the Congress’s court docket.

(The author is former Congress Spokesperson)

( Views expressed above are the creator’s personal.) | View: Congress should aspire to be like Apple, and never BlackBerry


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