The liaison agent's role withdrew into the background. At the same time, the new media got busy with the business at hand - of mind-bending (PR), of influencing policy (policy groups), of influencing decisions (lobbying) and finally, of pre-empting future movements at and before the decision making stage in governance (espionage)
Liaison work in Delhi of the "get foreign exchange released for business travel" while keeping in sync with the licence raj. The way it was, well distributed to just a few protected families in India were how things worked until around the late 1980s. This was extended to a sort of low-level public relations (PR) of the sort, where multiple global brands arriving in India needed not just visibility but also the ability to reach deep into the markets and was added on to the repertoire by the mid -1990s.
Obviously, this was not enough. There was the whole "Bombay Club" issue of "protecting" the Indian manufacturers for one, and the worry that India was really moving ahead of the rest of the world in brain capabilities for another. The lure of a "market" as different from a "country" pretty much sealed the fate of how things were going to move ahead for the global corporates moving in relentlessly, with the dye cast. Now all it needed was the tools.
It was at around this time in my life, after selling off my small shipping cargo clearance business, when I saw the writing on the wall. The big guys were going to swallow the small local punters up, that I got interested in "the media", and how it happened was in retrospect quite comical. I used to take part in amateur car rallies in those days, mainly a whole lot of us driving up and down back roads without much worry about rules and regulations, and in due course, I became part of the organisers, putting in solid efforts for route maps and safety as well as operational aspects. All this hard work, purely voluntary, was fine - but then, at the end, along would come some wet-behind-the-ears kind of "media-person" and totally destroy everything in her or his reportage-often because the food or the booze or the gift or the hospitality was not perfect.
The media had arrived in India, and it was clear as day to anybody who could keep their eyes open, that this was where the power rests. In a country starved of information for decades, what anybody said in front of a camera, was considered to be the absolute truth. You just had to say it with a straight face, preferably in perfect English, and get it repeated often enough.
Therefore, I joined the electronic media. Through a series of coincidences, I found myself as the motoring anchor, the first on TV in India actually, for Doordarshan, Star and NDTV - simultaneously.
To start with, there was no PR control, instructions were very clear - the viewer was the constituency, and the viewer wanted the truth. It took just about three years for this to change, which was about how long I lasted, as I simply could not go on TV and be a PR mouthpiece. Meanwhile, I also realised how the power factor of the new media, rapidly emerging into private news and entertainment channels on television were morphing together so quickly that often it was difficult to tell the difference. What anybody said on any screen was considered to be the truth by those choosing to watch that channel.
There was even a technology doing the rounds of the multiple new television channels emerging then, which actually quantified how credible a face and voice were or television. This incidentally was linked to early days of subliminal mind management using the then emerging internet also in addition to television. It did not take very long for the denizens of the corridors of power in Delhi (and elsewhere too) to realise this, and thus was truly matured the deep relationship between these two elements therein.
I grabbed this technology with both hands, left TV, and moved off into working on esoteric technologies of facial biometrics and subliminal mind management over the internet and elsewhere. With the world becoming an increasingly more dangerous place every day, these technologies, so closely related to electronic media, entered the realm of preventive defence for the larger Nations, of which an important subset was psychological warfare by espionage.
All well said and done until it was governments and militaries, which were playing these mind games. But the world was also increasingly populated by multi-national corporations (MNCs), which were way bigger than many countries put together. And they, too, needed espionage to stay alive as well as ahead.
Where were they to get their spies from?
The liaison agent's role, meanwhile, withdrew into the background of wheeling and dealing and evolved into serious business of the sort carried out in the old colonial clubs and private chambers of 5-star hotels. At the same time, the new media got busy with the business at hand - of mind-bending (PR), of influencing policy ("policy groups"), of influencing decisions (lobbying) and then finally, of pre-empting future movements at and before the decision making stage in governance (espionage). That is where the corporate spies emerged.
But they had to be technologically sound.
The new age corporate spies, often known as "commercial intelligence", were needed for this last activity. This was the most important, and it was seen that it was fulfilled by these practitioners of the new age media the most, because once aware of which way decision making was going, it was important to raise public opinion to sway the said decision making back in the directions of whoever was paying the said media persons.
And thus, was expanded the role of the paid main-stream media, as my friend Mediacrooks puts it, the Category 5 Morons. Nicely controlled by the tech-savvy commercial and corporate spies.
Espionage, which at one time was the sport of kings and the domain of countries, had now moved full-time into practice at corporates who were often larger than many Nations put together. And in this constantly boiling pot, jumped in Shantanu Saikia, who even in the early days of the internet, was way ahead of most other media-persons I knew in and around Delhi on his mastery of this brand new medium.
The number of "leading journalists" in Delhi who got their websites made and maintained by Shantanu Saikia would when revealed be of great interest as well as a pointer of the direction in which things were moving.
And the reality that the percentage of senior leading media-persons in and around Delhi who did not have the faintest clue of what was happening on the internet was something people like Shantanu picked up rapidly too.
Who, after all, knows most and best on what is going on in a client's life than his webmaster?
(Veeresh Malik started and sold a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing. He is also involved in helping small and midsize family-run businesses re-invent themselves.