Down with the big villains!

Most brands have now realised that the consumer lives in a virtual world which has helped him discover his voice; trying to throttle him is just not the right solution. It will only backfire

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 Kumar. 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 Dilip Kumar has now been replaced by an average consumer who is honest with his opinions but yes, there are the Amrish Puris who do not want the truth of their substandard products being exposed.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)


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Spreading the Vision of Financial Inclusion

This time we write about Moneylife Foundation, our very own initiative to spread financial literacy and help investors

Nearly four years ago, when we launched Moneylife, a personal finance magazine, we wanted it to be different. At a time when media space is for sale, we were determined to put the reader first and provide unbiased information without easy compromises. It was tough; because when big and profitable media houses compromise, it is that much tougher for a tiny publication to hang on to principles. Incidentally, the pressure to compromise comes less from competitors than from the regulators, who are even more intolerant of criticism than industry.

Happily, Moneylife has rapidly gained acceptance among readers over the years. But it is not enough. We believe that far too many people are clueless about how to be smart with their finances, keep their savings safe, make prudent investments and protect themselves and their families through appropriate insurance. Many youngsters end up in a debt trap because they are unaware of the steep interest charged on cash withdrawal or roll-over of credit-card payments. Many don’t know that penal interest rate is triggered for all fresh transactions, when they have an outstanding payment.

Many senior citizens continue to be endlessly harassed over Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) and end up losing a part of their interest because of the callousness of banks over the filling up of a simple form.

Investors in the capital market usually operate on the basis of bad advice from a host of financial intermediaries. Broker and bank accounts are misused because investors are unaware of having signed a Power of Attorney in favour of brokers and often don’t read transaction statements.

Another vast grey area is the pathetic level of grievance redressal in India. An investor or consumer of financial services has to deal with lack of advice on how to complain or is unable to reach service providers.

Ironically, often investors and consumers are not to be blamed. Often it is the regulator who creates problems by framing stupid rules and procedures. India does not even have a clear assessment about the actual reach of technology and the extent of its acceptance among ordinary people for financial transactions. 
With these issues in mind, we have launched Moneylife Foundation, a knowledge and advocacy initiative for investors and consumers. It is registered as a not-for-profit trust and is working at spreading financial literacy through workshops, round-table meetings and awareness campaigns. It will engage in advocacy to improve policies and bring about regulatory changes to protect investor rights and grievance redressal, counselling and research.

As a first step, we have set up Moneylife Knowledge Centre, which is a workshop-cum-reading room with a separate counselling centre at Shivaji Park in Mumbai. The reading room is stocked with some of the best books on business, finance, investment and economics; we also have biographies of companies and leading industrialists as well as magazines. This facility is available free of charge to anybody who wants to enhance their knowledge of finance. It is especially a boon for students. We are also in talks with experts to enhance the counselling facilities. Membership to Moneylife Foundation is free and we already have 650 members in less than two months of existence. You can register online at and get information about forthcoming workshops and activities. For the registration form, email: [email protected]. More details about the Foundation and its activities can be found in Clearly, we have an ambitious agenda, and it will be fulfilled only if we the people turn this into a movement to assert our legitimate rights. Like all not-for-profit organisations, we depend on donations for our activities. More importantly, we need volunteers to take our mission forward. So do join us.

Moneylife Foundation
305 Hind Services Industries Premises,

Off Veer Savarkar Marg, Shivaji Park,
Tel: 022-2444 1060


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