This morning I woke up at 6'o clock. Nothing better to do with a mug of tea and newspaper in hand i turned on the television. I switched channels wanting to find something that was of the non-religious kind. I could not. On every darned channel, varieties of Guru's and Guruni's sat atop massive stages, masked in glory of being "touched by god", decorated with jewellery, surrounded by incense sticks. It would not be correct to say that all of them gave out such an aura. Many of them wore plain saintly robes and there was not much smoke around them, which does not mean they are any better off.
There was one striking similarity between all of these God-possessed, narcissist buggers. All of them gave "Blessings" to their devotees and engaged in consultation. Advices and solutions ranging from poor financial condition, broken marriages, In-Law problems, Health issues, Erectile Dis-funtioning, Erectile Mis-funtioning and many more. They seemingly were well versed with each and every possible conceivable problem!!! Another similarity was a marquee at the bottom of the screen asking the viewers to make generous contributions to the cause of Sri Sri Sri (So on and so forth) "disgustingly long name" maharaj/rani.
From an Incumbent's viewpoint the scenario was quite interesting. I, hence, tried to look at it from a managerial perspective to draw strategies to succeed in this fragmented, competitive market.
Target Market ---Young, old, educated, uneducated, diseased, healthy. Anyone with a family history of Godman worship, in need for encouragement, lots of free time, with a sense of defeat-desolation, would qualify. The potential customer segment is immense. A godman needs to pick his segment very carefully, so as to not enter a already competitive market. Choosing the correct, uncluttered market is of maximum importance, I repeat.
For e.g. the customer segment combination of Diseased-Poor-Uneducated is the one with the highest competition. Maximum godmen cater to this class of devotees. Although the ARPD(Average revenue per devotee) is very low, the economies of scale more than make up for it.
On the other end of the spectrum are the godmen who cater to only the higher classes of devotees. These godmen are generally employed in the parallel line of businesses like temples. They demand a premium for their services by offering incentives like VIP darshans, Eligibility to hold Aarthi ceremonies, etc. The saints of Tirupathi Balaji and customers Like the Ambanis and Bachhans are a case in point.
Advertising and PR---For a new godman, Public relations is of absolute importance. Advertising is necessary only when he/she has managed to find a chunk of die-hard loyal customers. Billboards, Internet, newspapers, anything can be used as a mode of communication therafter. There have been instances where godmen have tried to extend their lines of businesses by entering into segments like Ayurveda, Meditation, Etc. All these complimentary services enrich the brand experience for the customers. After a certain point in the Godman's service lifecycle, Advertising and PR become unnecessary. Word of mouth does the job, every time.
Barriers to Entry/Exit---Entry barriers include Prohibitve start up costs involved in manpower recruitment, training, learning cheap magic tricks, setting up ashrams, broadcasting pravachans on channels like Aastha, giving out free Prasad's, logistics costs involved in moving cast and crew domestically, sometimes internationally, bribery, etc.
Exit barriers are close to none. The devotees have a short memory span and can easily shift loyalties without much fuss. All alliances made during the stay in the market can be easily shifted by claiming allegiance with some other player. If A decides to leave the market(Reasons:--Not enough customers, Not enough money, Physically tiring, Not a good actor, Media expose, Earned shitloads of money and now wants to retire to the bahamas,etc) then he can, for a huge sum of course, claim alliance with a newer entrant B. This benefits both the parties. One gets the Moolah, other, eyeballs.
Differentiation---Godmen know how important it is to differentiate better than most corporate houses do. Their profession is very much similar to that of a doctor. Although you are expected to know something about everything, you are respected for that one special ability which sets you apart. I took the liberty of listing down some of the core competencies that today's godmen boast of.
Swami 2---Extracting vegetable, fruits and other things from his hair.
Swami 3---A sex expert (There is one. Google it if you do not believe me!!!)
Swami 4---Making diseases go away with a touch.
Swami 5---Specializes in treating "Possessed" devotees.
The point has been well made, I believe. Remember it if you have started chalking out plans by now.
India, is not going anywhere until we are liberated of these gods who live amongst us.To Fuck with the double digit growth rate, Goldman Sachs.To Fuck with the massive middle class, Walmart. To Fuck with corporate governance, Loksabha. To Fuck with the environmental issues, Mr. Jairam Ramesh. Fuck these godmen first, India.
Links of importance:-
1) God's Own Website---http://www.nirmalbaba.com/
2) God Having Sex---http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-x8BLBp1I8 (Do not click if you are under 18 or a female)
3) God's Erotic Pose---http://www.maharajshri.net/ (Please do click.You will never, I repeat, Never, see a sexier Pic of God!)
4) God's Exposed---http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwOecpMkHH0 (Just in case, you missed my point!!!)