Sucheta Dalal :Down with the big villains!
Sucheta Dalal

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Down with the big villains!   

April 7, 2010

I’m no film buff, I admit. I rarely go to the movies but those that impress me linger on in the mind for long.

I’m reminded of a Bollywood movie, Mashaal. Dilip Kumar is a strong, conscientious newspaper editor who writes against Amrish Puri, a liquor baron. Incensed by the former’s scathing attacks in print, Puri leaves no stone unturned to destroy Kzumar. These were the good old days of Bollywood when drama was in-your-face and the battle of good-versus-evil was all-encompassing. I distinctly remember Amrish Puri being hung to death on reams of paper. Journalistic justice!

The moral of the story was very simple for me. You do not mess with the printed word; if you do, you end up smudged.

Now the question is, why am I reminded of this Hindi movie years later?

A few days ago, I received an email from a member of He was distraught. His email contained a few nervous lines. He had written a review against a leading hospital. The hospital got in touch with him. Initially they were polite, then gruff… you know how it is, the pattern. When the member did not yield to “polite and humble requests,” the hospital asked a local police officer who I assume must have been a “friend” of the hospital authorities to intervene. The member, unsurprisingly, buckled under pressure. He wrote to our support platform several times and marked every copy to me also. He wanted us to delete his review.

I am surprised that there are some naïve brand managers in this day and age who feel that they can get away by pressurising their customers into taking back anything negative they may have written about their brands. Can someone tell them that harassing your customers does not work in the long run? You can harass one customer with your bullying ways but you cannot overlook what is being said about your brand.

Mashaal was just a movie but it probably was prescient in nature. Dilip Kumar has now been replaced by an average consumer who is honest with his opinions but yes, there are the Amrish Puris who do not want the truth of their substandard products being exposed. These guys in my opinion are not brand managers but big villains who still believe in the autocratic style of handling consumer grievances. They do not want to listen to the consumer, who is more like a citizen journalist now, prepared to voice his opinion on anything and everything under the sun.

The good news is that the good guys outnumber the big villains in the market. In this era of globalisation, most brand managers are listening to what their consumers are saying. True brand managers are out there, listening to consumers, engaging them and even winning them over.  Most brands have now realised that the consumer now lives in a virtual world which has helped him discover his voice and trying to throttle him is just not the right solution; it will only backfire.
Antagonistic approaches do not help anyone. It’s a democratic society where brand building has gone beyond the first screen (television) phase to the second (computers) and third screen (mobiles). 

In the first screen phase, brands were cocooned in the safety of one-sided information dissemination. The second and third screens are so interactive that brands have no option but to allow consumers to participate equally and if this means listening to criticism, so be it.

In the movie, Amrish Puri had a morbid end—villains are always vanquished in reel life and I believe in real life too. Getting too aggressive on one consumer might help the big villains for once. In the long run, it does not help. The second and third screens have made possible the resurgence of several Dilip Kumars.
Big villains beware!

(Faisal Farooqui is the Founder-CEO of, a leading product review and social media website)

-- Sucheta Dalal