Manali sees an influx of tourists in the peak tourist season of summer which lasts about 90 days. The number of tourists exceeds the capacity of the town by about 27 times. However, in this summer of 2020 the streets of this Himalayan town are silent and devoid of any tourists. The streets of Manali’s Mall are quieter than its quietest off-season months, forming an unimaginable sight for all those who associate gloom and solitude with its dreary winter. What makes the sunny months of April, May and June even gloomier is that there is no sign of any respite from Covid-19 in the coming time.
Regardless of their optimism or pessimism, hoteliers amidst this pandemic have reached a point of surrender and have accepted it as fait accompli. For there is only so much news and speculation that one can digest before feeling a little numb. Being an independent hotelier based out of Manali, I hesitantly try to believe the veterans of the trade when they say, “It cannot get worse than this”, because as per credible reports, it is about to get much worse before getting any better. Despite knowing this only too well, I find the extended lockdown dissolving the initial anxieties that I had.
For the sake of my prudence and sanity, I have begun to periodically assess the buffer amount, I had stacked up for a rainy day. Without a single doubt, these are the very same rainy days we had saved up money for. But how many infected months will this finite sum outdo? The relief measures by the state for subsidised electricity and employee provident funds offer us some momentary respite. But there are more pressing expenses that need to be taken care of, for hotels ranging across all sizes, there are fleets of staff that need their livelihoods sustained.
I, for one, stand among the more fortunate hoteliers who have a tinier strength to uphold through the Covid-19 jolt. The industry’s moguls brace tightly, many of whom have had to disperse a sizable chunk of their workforce due to unaffordability. This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg that we are jointly (and inadvertently) sailing over.
Regardless of our walks of life, the refusal of the Covid-19 curve to flatten anytime soon causes dread among each of us. Even a layman can ascertain that a dwindling economy cannot provide for any purchase beyond the bare necessities, let alone the leisure of travelling.
The hospitality and civil aviation industries have been the hardest hit worldwide. However, unlike air travel, the hospitality industry isn’t as likely to regain its impetus. Hopeful analysts point towards the preferential benefit of road trips over air travel when it comes to the conveyance of leisure tourists. But only time will provide a definitive answer to whether a locked down citizen would be willing enough to risk an outstation trip to refresh their senses. What if this contradicted their very reason for remaining locked for all these months?
Ironically, the already frail medical infrastructure of Himachal Pradesh negates a tourism influx in the near future. Ours isn’t the only state administration in a Catch-22 situation between its economic reparation and medical safety. However, it survives on a narrower window of profitability than its neighbours, and doesn’t have healthcare biceps to flex. The extent to which our future parameters will offer a relaxation of borders and trade in the Himalayas, time alone will tell. And even though I cannot make this time pass any faster than it does, I occupy myself nowadays strategising how I can best ensure the safety and wellbeing of my future visitors.
It would be myopic of me to brace for the storm and not for its passage. Hence, alongside an uphill race against mounting expenditures, I am brainstorming for the brighter days, if and when they arrive. I am making do with the existing features of my boutique property in upper Manali to facilitate the safest and Covid-proof stay that I can afford for my future guests. The absence of constricted spaces and crossventilated air conditioning hints at some prospective social distancing assets. Moreover, it is easy to envision a minimal dining distance of two metres atop the lush gardens amidst our apple orchards. An entirely in-house team of staff residents and a relatively low footfall aid the precautionary measures that I am willing to take. In all, the thorough sanitation of a 23- room small, owner-run boutique resort proves to be far more promising than that of a chock-a-blocked giant with clustered suites.
That said, even the safest reopening plan does not come without the risk of deserted preparations. What if the Covid-19 monster continues to lurk under our ultraluxurious beds?
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Mind Matters: CatFit presents a series on Mental Toughness & Performance Enhancement
NewsX was recently joined by Mr Arpan Dixit, Global Head, CatFit, and Captain Yashika H. Tyagi for a special series on ‘Mental Toughness & Performance Enhancement’ presented by CatFit. This series provided a holistic conversation around mental health, mental toughness and training one’s mind. This series gains special importance because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on individuals, as well as their mental and physical well-being.
This is where CatFit steps in, as their team joined NewsX to talk about various aspects of an individual’s health and how CatFit, as an organization works to provide people with military and Special Forces style training of mind and body and how this can be applied to our daily lives.
Talking about CatFit and the MAST technique, Arpan said, “MAST is an acronym for Military Application and Special Forces Tactics. It’s a four-fold approach where first and foremost, we go to schools, colleges, universities, sporting houses and teams as well as corporate business houses. What we do is, we try and identify the current state of mental health, emotional health, psychological health and physical health. These four are interrelated and we use them in sync and can confuse mental health with psychological health and psychological health with the entire physical fitness but all four are different. Our psychologists from the defense forces intelligence work with top corporate houses across the world. There are a series of questionnaires prepared to evaluate different aspects and once these are identified, we counsel them. This is the first part of our mass training”.
Arpan then went on to talk about mental training, what it is and how it’s done. He said, “After identifying issues like depression, fewer levels of resilience or lesser abilities to cope with adversity, we take them through a series of exercises which are mental, physical and psychological. We do these at our camps, in-house and even on the premises of the corporate house concerned. These are physical and mental exercises. We can train the mind to do what we want it to do. The mind is what invented the computer and it is the brain behind artificial intelligence, so there’s no reason why the brain can’t supersede everything else around”.
Joining in the conversation, Captain Yashika shared how she got involved in the concept of leadership training at CatFit. She said, “I’m a lady officer from very initial batches of the Indian army and joined in 1994. I did difficult postings in high altitude areas and extremely cold climates. I was the first lady officer from logistics to be in the battle zone in Operation Vijay, Battle of Kargil. After I hung my boots, I did a lot of work with private and public organizations but I wanted to do more than that. Something where I can add my mindset, my service experience into something productive. In 2017, I was working with an international university in Pune and at this time I connected with Col. Krishnan. Col. Krishnan and I trained together in Chennai and he invited me to speak on the forum of CatFit, it had just begun! I gave it a shot and my first workshop in a college in Chandigarh made me realize that this is my calling and this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”
“It is so wonderful, this girl in Chandigarh was listening very closely and intently during the workshop. I could see that she was actually touched by what I was saying. Soon after there was wonderful news when the girls ended up topping CDS but also got All India Ranking 1. This real-life impact shook me and changed me”, said Captain Yashika.
Throwing some light on CatFit’s goals, Mr Dixit said, “The idea of CatFit is performance enhancement, it is the reason for the existence of CatFit. I could say that it is the very essence of our existence as far as an organization is concerned. When we started in 2017, we started with primarily training sports teams, international and national athletes. Once we saw what the members of Special Forces and others do in the training, we imparted this to international cricketers and members who are currently a part of the Indian team. We saw the results, received feedback and then we realized that this is something which shouldn’t be limited to sports, it can be passed onto students. Even in corporates, we take senior management and train them in workshops. The feedback that we got from them about this being practically applicable”.
There is a difference between training students versus sportsmen and even those belonging to corporate organizations, elaborating this, Captain Yashika said, “We work with the philosophy of MAST. We firmly believe in two things- the mind is trainable, it is the basis of all the success and progress of a person. The second thing is that the army has set the gold standard for performance, for handling stress and performing under different kinds of challenging environments. So, we have clubbed different kinds of learning from the army and taken MAST forward. When we deal with military applications and Special Forces and impressionable minds together, it gives us a magic formula. When the army into a different environment, they have training and army teaches us that training is a bedrock. The more you swear in peace, the less you bleed in war. When we go to students and provide them with the training of handling different kinds of stress environments, adversity, depression, the stress of life, college life and corporate life, we merge it together for the best kind of results”.
Once the tests are done, the results provide a person’s status in all areas. Talking about the structure of the program of individual and team training, Captain Yashika said, “ We customize the program as per the requirement of the participants. For example, when we go to schools, we have the widest and best array of psychologists, the person to be helped is the student. If we find a student which requires more therapy or a group which will benefit from a team effort, our psychologists and leaders like me shift from individual students to class level to school. We are trying to build a warrior mindset. A mindset that is full of resilience, it can bounce back and a mindset which can fight the unforeseen circumstances. We want to build a mindset of courage, of discipline and purpose. These three things can make you survive anything from all walks of life”.
Talking about how to approach CatFit, whether they do special camps, webinars and how it works, Arpan said, “It is two-fold. Firstly, we have a marketing team which approaches corporate houses, sports teams, schools, colleges and universities. Second if an individual or a small group wishes, we’re just a call away and can be reached by mail. The program can also be tailor-made according to the requirement. We have many individuals from sports backgrounds who are training for the Olympics or World Cups or national games. We train them individually but we also do group training and those who wish to connect with us can log into the website, social media and drop a message”.
Our generation has not gone through any war hardships like our ancestors but we have faced a global difficulty during Covid and different kinds of stress related to it. Speaking about what CatFit brings to society to cover this collective experience of Covid, Arpan said, “As far as Covid-19 is concerned, four psychologists who work with us went on to conduct a study for the Government of India and the Education Ministry, this was done to identify the impact of Covid-19 on people with six sectors being identified. Now that we have the results with us, and what we have been doing for the last four years has come together. We are now in a better position to reach out to people. The Indian government has also taken out books after these results, these are guide books and posterity as well. These six books act as a basis of reference and see the data and reactions of the past and what could’ve been done in the past”.
Talking about what CatFit provides, and people being more receptive of this and interested in this, Arpan said, “When we started out, there were few people who understood what we were doing. A problem with calling it ‘mental health’ in India is that the analogy that people have here is, mental means mad. Mental health is different from someone being mad and what we do is to identify how people are feeling at time, why they’re feeling that way and what can be done to make them feel better and make them tougher, so that they don’t fall back into it again”.
Arpan further explained, “The courses are stretched across the year and we keep going back to them. The channels are always open for those who we’ve worked with. They can always call us back, the exact person back and give their feedback to them. They will have the results at hand and will probably put you through the testing again to see what has gone wrong. It’s an evolving process, not a one-time event”.
CatFit is also involved with Central government’s ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ initiative. Talking about their involvement and what it means, Captain Yashika said, “This is some interesting work that we did. We went to the hinterlands of Uttarakhand and conducted the program under that banner. Uttarakhand falls under the seismic zone and there had been a huge earthquake in Uttarkashi. Taking a cue from that, we decided to give the girls first aid, CPR along with mental toughness training. This would empower them in case there is any requirement of first responders. After the first day, the girls were enthusiastic and were volunteering, they were ready to go to different villages and share their knowledge. These girls may come from small places but they have a level of confidence, we need to be the wind beneath their wings. They are ready to take on the world with a push and some guidance. As partners in Corporate Social Responsibility, we would like to take various facets of how to empower the girl child of our country”.
We think we understand the concept of military self-defense, but a lot of such workshops already take place. Talking about how CatFit and its techniques are different from the others, Arpan said, “First, the self-defense primary formats we’ve heard of, these formats are now, sports. When anybody is taught martial arts and sports, they are taught the rules and regulations and laws of the sport. In such cases, there are more cant’s than do’s. Whereas, when we look at military self-defense, it means that no matter what it takes and how it takes to get out of a particular situation. Military self-defense is basically taking the best from all martial arts, putting it together in a realistic format. Understanding the real problems which can be faced by women and children, the real threat scenarios. People who have faced such scenarios in their lives, come and teach it, the training level is different, as the mental level of confidence is different as compared to any martial arts sports”.
EXECUTIVE, JUDICIARY AND THE ISSUE OF TRIBUNALS
A recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter of Union of India vs Madras Bar Association has created a lot of interest in the legal circles. The Supreme Court has correctly invoked its constitutional morality by separating Tribunals from the clutches of the executive. However, I am not going into the contentious issue if the Supreme Court has jurisdiction on taking upon itself to frame the rules, which is subordinate legislation. But, the concern of some lawyers and chartered accountants are mainly relating to the commission that shall select the Tribunal members.
Article 50 of the Constitution discusses separation of judiciary from the state. Concept of independence of the judiciary is a basic structure of the Constitution. The concept is not limited from executive pressure only but it includes independence from many other pressures and prejudices acquired and nourished by the class to which judges belong (C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharya 1995 5 SCC 457). Article 50 plainly reveals the intent of Constitution-makers to immunise the judiciary from any political pressures. (Union of India v. Shankalchand Himatlal Sheth 1977 4 SCC 193).
In the Rojer Mathew case, the Supreme Court had issued mandamus to the government to frame rules for selection of Tribunal members. Subsequently, the government framed the Tribunal Rules, 2020. However, not being satisfied with the Tribunal Rules 2020, the Supreme Court has virtually struck down these rules framed by the government in the Madras Bar Association’s case and directed to frame the rules as per its own directions given in the said case.
In Gainda Ram v. MCD (2010) 10 SCC 715, the Supreme Court held inter alia that, “…67. In the background of the provisions in the Bill and the 2009 Policy, it is clear that an attempt is made to regulate the fundamental right of street hawking and street vending by law, since it has been declared by this Court that the right to hawk on the streets or right to carry on street vending is part of fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g). However, till the law is made the attempt made by NDMC and MCD to regulate this right by framing schemes which are not statutory in nature is not exactly within the contemplation of constitutional provisions discussed above. However, such schemes have been regulated from time to time by this Court for several years as pointed above. Even, orders passed by this Court, in trying to regulate such hawking and street vending, is not law either. At the same time, there is no denying the fact that hawking and street vending should be regulated by law. Such a law is eminently necessary in public interest…” The court further directed the appropriate government to legislate and bring out the law to regulate hawking and the fundamental rights of hawkers.
The Supreme Court has issued following directions to implement:
i. The Union of India shall constitute a National Tribunals Commission which shall act as an independent body to supervise the appointments and functioning of Tribunals, as well as to conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of Tribunals and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the Tribunals, in an appropriate manner. Till the National Tribunals Commission is constituted, a separate wing in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, shall be established to cater to the requirements of the Tribunals.
ii. Instead of the four-member Search-cum-Selection Committees provided for in Column (4) of the Schedule to the 2020 Rules with the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, outgoing or sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal and two Secretaries to the Government of India, the Search-cum-Selection Committees should comprise of the following members:
(a) The Chief Justice of India or his nominee—Chairperson (with a casting vote).
(b) The outgoing Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal (or) the sitting Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal in case of appointment of other members of the Tribunal (or) a retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court in case the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal is not a Judicial member or if the Chairman or Chairperson or President of the Tribunal is seeking re-appointment—member;
(c) Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India—member;
(d) Secretary to the Government of India from a department other than the parent or sponsoring department, nominated by the Cabinet Secretary—member;
(e) Secretary to the sponsoring or parent Ministry or Department—Member Secretary/Convener (without a vote).
This judgement primarily lays down the law that there should be a nodal commission to oversee the working of all Tribunals in India and its members. In order to separate the judiciary from the executive, such nodal commission will also be responsible for selection of members, president, vice-president, chairman and vice-chairman, etc. It also directed the government to allocate separate funds from Consolidated Fund of India to administer these Tribunals.
The primary concern is that the commission which is to be constituted for selection of members, president, vice-president, chairman and vice-chairman does not have any member who has domain expertise in the field. The Supreme Court of India and Supreme Courts of other countries have stressed the need for consulting experts with domain knowledge in deciding the complicated issues. Therefore, for selection of such members who will decide the complicated issue of facts and law in their particular field, it is imperative that the Selection Commission also have members with expertise in such fields.
The writer is Senior Advocate, Bombay High Court. The views expressed are personal.
WHY PM MODI IS NOT TRUMP
The anti-Modi brigade—supporting the farmers’ protests, alleging attacks on free speech, and drawing parallels between PM Narendra Modi and Donald Trump—is in need of a reality check. Those lamenting the demise of democratic ideals in India are themselves a danger to India’s democracy right now.
Post the unprecedented Capitol siege in Washington on 6 January, the ugly rush to draw parallels between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his supporters and Donald Trump and his rowdy acolytes has assumed an accelerated pace. There has been a plethora of unfavourable commentary on the state of democracy in India with some questioning the resilience of Indian democracy in the event of a Washington-like crisis and others even suggesting that autocracy is already here in a subtle form.
Tavleen Singh, writing in the Indian Express (10 January 2021), wryly commented, “This has inspired me to draw for you a portrait of the ‘new Indian’ who constitutes the base of today’s BJP, which is as heavily stamped in Modi’s image as the Republican Party came to be stamped in the image of Donald Trump.”
She then went on to make a baseless and outlandish rhetorical surmise: “America may look really bad at the moment but let’s remember that its democracy just passed its hardest test and won. Would we be able to say the same in India about our institutions if put through such a test?”
How valid are these concerns? Or is this a deliberate attempt to create an illusion of impending autocracy to discredit the current government and put it on the defensive by traditional Modi baiters?
True, Indian democracy has been under siege for the last year or so, but not by PM Modi and his supporters. In fact, an objective appraisal of the current political scenario reveals that it is India’s liberal left, the political opposition and columnists like Tavleen Singh who are the ones testing the limits of our democracy.
First, in a democracy, change is affected by laws enacted in the Parliament, which people are supposed to accept. Over the last year, every effort has been made to derail this process. The CAA was a constitutionally legitimate law that was passed by the Parliament; it had a benign intent that did not impact any Indian Muslim. Nevertheless, duplicitous rumor-mongering created an atmosphere of distrust. The law was not challenged via the normal channels available in a democracy. Instead, mobs were provoked to descend on to the streets in large numbers and indulge in senseless violence to intimidate the government: a clear-cut case of ochlocracy or the rule of the mob.
The anti-farm law protest is another attempt to exploit misguided public dissent to discredit constitutionally enacted laws. The canard being spread is that the laws were rammed through Parliament without adequate discussion: A lie that flies in the face of facts. Not only have agricultural reforms been discussed for years, but in August 2014, the government had set up a high-level committee headed by Shanta Kumar to suggest agricultural reforms. I reproduce below an excerpt from the preface that clearly reveals that stakeholder suggestions were taken into account: “The Committee had wide consultations with several Chief Ministers, Food Secretaries and other stakeholders in various States. Their valuable suggestions were invited through various newspapers also. Almost 300 representations were received by the Committee and many of these valuable suggestions have been taken into consideration while finalising the report…”
Surjit Bhalla calls out this dishonesty (Indian Express, 12 December 2020). He writes, “All the above facts have been known, and discussed, by learned people for decades. Which is precisely why the intellectual gymnastics played by many learned people defending the farmers’ protests is so shocking. The “demand” by intellectuals that the farm bill should have been discussed before being passed is well beyond the bounds of conventional dishonesty.”
Deliberate misrepresentation to mislead the gullible public has been pivotal in the recent spate of protests. Dishonesty and violent blackmail are being employed as tools to undermine our parliamentary democracy and replace it with street politics.
It is even more outrageous when another commentator (Suhas Palashikar in the Indian Express, 12 January 2021) speaks of ‘mob politics’ to blame the BJP and not the Opposition. He writes, “In terms of constructing a constituency of the mob, the present moment is probably more dangerous than what India has seen so far for two reasons: There is a carefully orchestrated and sustained use of mobs which are excited prior to being unleashed … Thus, the “science” of mob politics is employed in a nuanced manner with a rhetorical discourse legitimating the mob as the people.”
Such statements warrant a reality check. The protestors taking to the streets are not BJP supporters—these are mobs unleashed by a desperate Opposition which has become even more desperate after the BJP’s massive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and sees no future for itself unless it indulges in such unruly shenanigans. So, let us be clear about one thing: the danger to India’s democracy is coming from recourse to ‘mobocracy’ encouraged by the anti-Modi gang.
Secondly, there is the usual refrain that freedom of speech is under threat and with it the constant whining of being called ‘anti-national’. Tavleen Singh writes, “They make it clear that there is no room in India for people who do not share their point of view. Dissent of any kind is for them exactly the same as sedition and they see it everywhere.”
Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Indian Express, 1 January 2021) indulges in bizarre logic by making a distinction between abstract people (read: Modi supporters) and actual people who oppose PM Modi. “The people in this construction are an abstraction, unified and marching to the same drum beat. The minute any actual people assert their reservations, express their individuality, or pose pragmatic facts against wild prophecy, they are immediately branded as being outside of the pale of the people, they are the anti-nationals. So, the rhetoric of the people can be turned against groups of actual people, one at a time. It is an enemy of both freedom and fraternity.”
Name calling does not make for civil discourse and must be avoided. But let me remind you that those complaining of being called anti-nationals today are the very same people who reveled in dubbing nationalists as extremists and ‘saffron looneys’ in the yesteryears.
These well-known columnists cry hoarse that dissent is under threat but appear to have the freedom to rant and rave against the government using choice epithets in their columns. Every week after I read their vitriolic vituperations, I sleep in peace knowing well that freedom of speech is alive and kicking in India.
With regard to the issue of corrosion of institutions, it is a matter of perspective. Charges are being bandied around with no real evidence. If a SC verdict is not to one’s liking, it does not mean that the institution is damaged. We need to be mature enough to accept verdicts with grace even if they do not conform to our ideology. That is the crux of a democracy.
Finally, let me remind the readers that despite all the charges of fascism levelled against the BJP and Modi, not a single action attributed to either Modi or the party stands out as undemocratic. In fact, the BJP and its leaders have always religiously conformed to the tenets of democracy.
In 2002, when Modi was subjected to overwhelming criticism for his handling of the Gujarat riots, he resigned prematurely, recommended dissolution of the assembly and sought a vote of trust from the public—a democratic gesture par excellence, and certainly not totalitarian.
Who can forget Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s magnanimous gesture which must go down as the finest moment of Indian democracy? In late 1999, after a successful tenure of 13 months, the BJP was forced to seek a vote of confidence as a result of a realignment of political parties. It was a test that the BJP lost by a single vote in a house of 540; a vote whose legitimacy was questionable, being cast by a Congress member (Giridhar Gamang) who had ceased, for all intents and purposes, to be a member of the august body after being elected to a state legislature. Yet, without a murmur of protest, Atal Bihari Vajpayee (the BJP prime minister) had put in his papers in the larger interest of democracy.
The current political situation in India is profoundly distressing. In their bid to pull down PM Modi, it appears that certain sections will stop at nothing, even if it means the destruction of our democracy. The rule of the mob is being encouraged as opposed to rule of the law, an illusion of free speech coming under threat is being created, and wild charges of national institutions being compromised are being thrown around. It is time that these sleazy machinations are called out for what they are.
‘Every brand has a story behind it and we really value that story’: Vidhi Bubna & Jenissa Paharia, Everest PR
NewsX was recently joined by Vidhi Bubna, Director, Everest PR, and Jenissa Paharia, Chief Strategist, Everest PR, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where they spoke about their company Everest PR and the overall landscape of the PR industry.
On turning an entrepreneur at an early age and starting her own PR firm, i.e Everest PR, Vidhi said, “I graduated from Ashoka University in 2019. My background was in Liberal Arts so that gave me background to work in different industries like real estate, pharmaceuticals and hospitality. Because of this diverse background, I was able to start Everest PR, which is a 360 degree organisation giving and serving digital needs of different brands, organisations and individuals”.
Jenissa, who is just 18 years old, then talked about her experience at Everest PR and said, “My journey with Everest PR specifically has been fantastic. The founder herself is what makes the company so special. We focus on not only catering to different brands and consumer needs but also ensuring that people working in the company are valued at all times. I started working with the company from the beginning. Even though I was young, I believe that I was given an equal opportunity. Working with brands has taught me that consumers are now working their way to be intertwined with brands, which are more ethical. At Everest PR, I love working with every client because we choose clients who know their space in the world and are careful and conscious about their choices”.
In today’s times, data is king. Emphasising on the power of storytelling, Vidhi said, “Right now, in the world, we have a lot of tech giants who are controlled by Silicon Valley and everything has become very data oriented in this world, be it Instagram, Facebook, Amazon. At the end of the day, what makes a brand, is the story behind it and the story of the person who is running it. We really value that story and we want to bring data along with storytelling to you at your doorstep, to make it more connectable to the audience. This is the entire idea behind storytelling. People are bad with numbers, so if given numbers they’ll forget easily, as compared to a story, which they will remember 36x more.”
Speaking about the synergy between the two, Jenissa said, “Coming from an Economics background, I believe I have a knack for numbers and have been more attracted to seeing data statistics and analysing different social media trends. With Vidhi, it’s been great because she’s a great storyteller and with the help of my numerical analysis tools and Vidhi’s storytelling, we have been able to connect the two and get a brand story across. Vidhi helps out with her storytelling and creating awareness, spreading information about different brands and how ethical they are. With the help of economics I was able to understand and validate different consumer needs, which is where Vidhi and I come together at Everest PR”.
Vidhi further spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on PR industry and Everest PR. She said, “When the pandemic started, everyone would focus on offline marketing more than online, to make the brand more touchable and get the feel. After the pandemic, we realised the power of digital media because offline platforms such as newspapers were shut for almost 8 months. We also realised that no matter how dispensable or disposable everything gets, our phone sticks around and that is where the power of social media and PR comes in. People spend an average of 8 hours on their phones everyday so the time spent on phones keeps on increasing and we want to make sure that our brands are able to fit in that time and their audience’s viewership as well. It’s about monetising on the fact that people are using their phones often and finding a way to get your brand featured there to grab people’s attention. During the pandemic there’s been a shift in strategies, where people are focusing more on Instagram and Facebook than any other platform. At the end of the day, when you’re running a business, it’s all about looking at a challenge and turning that into an opportunity.”
Sharing her key learnings at Everest PR, Jenissa said, “Starting off young, I believe I had a lot to learn from everyone around me. One of the most important things is paying attention to detail. The youth is constantly scrolling on their phones on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter without paying attention. While they don’t pay attention, if you have something that stands out and attracts their eye, that is where a brand can facilitate their consumer. Even though people’s attention spans are low, people are willing to pay attention to something that’s attractive to them and they find interesting. You have to go through all details, refine it, go through a screening process before it goes out because even a small word can make a difference. Using the right terminology and keywords is what makes the biggest difference. I believe that giving women leadership opportunities is reinforced at Everest PR, different opinions are put on the same pedestal. Having so many young entrepreneurs and powerful women around me, I feel empowered myself and giving equal opportunities is something that is very valuable at Everest PR”.
When asked about her advice to women and other young entrepreneurs out there, Vidhi shared, “My first advice is don’t be afraid to take your first bold step. Even if you don’t succeed, you’ve given it a shot and don’t know where you might reach. So, it’s always better to be a risk-taker than following the herd. I feel there are so many women in the world who don’t get opportunities because they’re afraid within themselves to go that extra mile. Once they gain that confidence within, the world will be theirs and I think it’s important for women to go out there and get those opportunities. For other young people watching this, I feel like media is the next big thing because it makes and breaks reputations. I really suggest and recommend taking a closer look into media and attending workshops and mentorship sessions even if you’re not completely interested because the field is growing. The world is what it is because media shapes the opinions”.
On a parting note, Jenissa talked about the vision of Everest PR and said, “As the name suggests, I believe the motto behind the company is that other brands make it to the top. Everest itself is a difficult journey and every avid trekker wants to make it to the top and bear with the consequences and challenges along the way. At Everest PR, we as a company want to make sure that we’re there for the brands and help them and guide them to the top”. Vidhi pitched in and added, “It’s all about strategic counselling and the way you tell your brand to portray themselves and the way you guide your brand”.
‘Medall removed some stigma around Covid testing’: Arjun Ananth, CEO of Medall
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Arjun Ananth, CEO of Medall spoke to us about his company and the work they have been doing during the pandemic.
NewsX was recently joined by Arjun Ananth, CEO of Medall, for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-List where he spoke about his company, its work, especially during the pandemic.
Talking about the journey, significant initiatives, and achievements of Medall over the years, Arjun said, “Medall started 11 years ago and it was funded predominantly by a private equity fund called ‘People Capital’. When an entrepreneur called, Raj Venkataraman approached the fund with an idea to consolidate radiology diagnostic assets predominantly in the South, Medall did around 26 acquisitions, rolling up various radiology assets. Around 2015, the company entered the pathology business, which is a blood-testing business. Soon after, they won a large contract with the Andhra Pradesh government, to manage the public-private partnership in that state, which gave a huge boost to the blood testing pathology business. That’s how the company evolved and grew over time. It is still owned by People Capital. Somewhere towards the end of 2018 and early 2019, the erstwhile promoters and CEO decided to take a backseat. Since I was quite intimately familiar with the company, had been on the board for four years prior to that, I decided to step in as the full-time CEO of Medall. This happened sometime around November last year”.
Speaking about the presence of Medall in the country, Mr. Ananth said, “Medall is definitely present in the 5 states in the South, Tamil Nadu, Kerela, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, with presence in Pondicherry. In the North, we have a large presence in Jharkhand and have just entered Uttar Pradesh”. Speaking on further expansion plans, he added, “Going forward, most of our expansion will be in the South. Personally, I see a lot of opportunities and our strategy is to go deeper compared to wider, so you’ll see aggressively expanding in the South”.
Talking about the associations and collaborations of Medall with industry bodies, Arjun said, “Medall has collaborated with various institutes. Right now, we are collaborating with Artificial Intelligence firms, where we are pushing for some AI initiatives in radiology. During the height of the pandemic, we were involved with the Siddha Institute and all four of its branches. Essentially, we were being used as a diagnostic company to test the efficacy of Siddha drugs for treating Covid. From what I’ve heard, they were fairly instrumental in Tamil Nadu in a big way, in preventing the widespread of Covid”.
Medall has ICMR approval for testing, speaking about the details of testing, Mr. Arjun said, “We got our ICMR approval in May to test for Covid, we have done over 350,000 tests till date. We were the largest testers of Covid in the South during the pandemic. We were the last to enter but we became the biggest in a short span of time. Having tested over 350,000 samples, a couple of weeks ago, we took a fairly sizeable step where we said, let’s make this whole business consumer-centric. Let’s encourage people to come and test because of the notion that people don’t want to get tested because they’re scared of the result. We said let’s remove cost as a major factor and we reduced our prices to less than 1000 rupees per test, whereas the competition is still at 2400-2500. We said let’s just go ahead and do something for the people”.
Medall has contributed quite a lot to the society and the country during Covid. Talking about the contributions made, Mr. Ananth said, “We were very closely involved with the government in helping them test, Tamil Nadu was amongst the top three states in total testing. Medall played an instrumental part in partnering with the government and testing those samples. One of the unique features of the core program in Tamil Nadu was also these fever clinics that they ran, they conducted fever clinics in small localities, where they identified people with a symptom and had them tested for Covid. So, Medall partnered with the government in helping them set up these fever clinics as well. So, Medall has been closely involved with the government and even people, as they learn more about Covid, they realise that it’s not only the RT-PCR test but also the CT scan which is important to understand the extent of which Covid had affected a person. Being an integrated diagnostic player, we had these packages where, a person could have RT-PCR done, also the chest CT scan and a group of blood tests. We made it easy for the hospitals as we don’t want to waste more time when people are rushed into the hospitals, and they had a package of information which was readily available at the time of admission. We innovated around some of the aspects. We played a role in removing some of the stigma around testing”.
Mr. Ananth the spoke about the Chennai Reference Lab. He explained, “Our Chennai Reference Lab is a state-of-the-art lab, it was set up around 4 years ago. It is virtually capable of doing every test that is required on the blood testing side for an individual. We have multiple departments in the lab, biochemistry, dermatology, microbiology and so on. We have experts who have joined us from various other organisations, who work with is very closely in the lab. It’s one of those things where, anybody who has stepped into lab has gone away mightily impressed and it’s something that we’re extremely proud of. Recently, we enhanced the test menu of the lab and today I can confidently say that whatever test a person needs in this part of the country is available”.
Talking about the range of tests offered by Medall, Mr. Arjun said, “We offer over a 1000-1500 tests in our test run, so it’s a very wide range. The few which may appeal to the viewers, we recently launched a package that’s aimed at pregnant women. So, we designed the package to help women know what tests to do, when to do and why they should do it. So, it’s literally like planning the 9 months and you don’t have to worry about tests because you can get a reminder of the test and we will come home and do the test for you. That’s something which fairly unique and we are proud of. Otherwise, there are a lots of tests and we do all the advanced tests that any hospital or any medical practitioner may require”.
Lastly, Mr. Ananth spoke about what makes Medall different from its competitors. He said, “What makes Medall different is the fact that it is an integrated diagnostics company. I’ll give a few examples. Most of our competitors of the diagnostic companies offer only an X-ray, CT-scan, MRI or they offer all the blood tests. Medall offers both and I think and as consumers think about preventive health checks and wellness, integrated diagnostics has a huge role to play. An example: if you have to do a master health check, it’s not sufficient if you just do a panel of blood tests, it’s important to do an ultrasound to know whether structurally there’s something wrong inside any organs. For a woman, it’s very important to do mammograms, once they’ve gone past a certain age. Those are very specific radiology modalities. In addition to all the blood tests, it’s important to do ultrasounds, mammograms, echocardiograms, TMP’s and so on. So Medall has all these facilities under one roof. It’s a one-stop-shop for all the preventive health needs”.
‘I never knew that I could actually ever be in front of the camera’: Actor Shiv Panditt
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Actor Shiv Panditt spoke about his film ‘Khuda Haafiz’ and his journey so far. Shiv Panditt made his screen debut in 2011 with the critically & commercially successful Hindi film ‘Shaitan’ where he got noticed and was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut.
NewsX was recently joined by Actor Shiv Panditt for an exclusive conversation as a part of its special series, NewsX A-list where he talked about his film Khuda Haafiz. Speaking about the TV premier of Khud Haafiz, Shiv said, “Yes, now that you mention it the film premiered on the 27th of December. I don’t remember the rating agency but I saw somewhere that for that week from 24th to 31st we topped the charts in terms of viewership all across the board. So we are very happy about that”
Talking about his role in the film, the appreciation and a possible sequel Shiv remarked that, “It was unprecedented, to be honest with you. One, was hoping for a theatrical release but around the time of the release was the feeling that we should be grateful for what we are getting while there’s so much of problems outside. So, we’re happy that we got a release but what followed with the release was unprecedented and the adulation which we received from all across the board that was something that one did not expect at all so very very happy about that. Our little labor of love got so much love and appreciation and appreciation in terms of a sequel being announced by our producer. So only because it was an economically viable proposition for the producer the first part did so well for him that’s why he’s going ahead for part two now.”
When asked about his learnings and takeaways from 2020 Shiv said, “The biggest learning was that we can do with a whole lot less, like genuinely we can do with a whole lot less in life whether it is materialistic things or whether it is comforts. I literally survived the pandemic on two pieces of clothing because I had gone to Delhi for a day for my mom’s birthday and immediately as soon as I got there the lockdown got announced and nobody in that house had my size. So until July or mid-June when the shops started opening and delivery started happening in Delhi, I was actually surviving on two or three pieces of clothing which I used to wear one and keep circulating amongst themselves. What I realized was that who my friends were, I realized who are the people I really wanted to reach out to and speak to. So I just feel in life we sort of getting carried away with the rat race and materialism. But I think this pandemic has taught us to really figure out what is really near and dear to us in that sense.”
Talking about his New Year resolutions Shiv jokingly remarked that, “My record of actually keeping a resolution has been 3 hours, I have literally broken new year’s resolutions within 3 hours so I’ve stopped keeping resolutions but it’s just not my cup of tea.” Speaking about how he managed to exercise with gyms closed in the lockdown and keeping fit Shiv told that “In my bedroom, there was a small little four by four kind of a corner which I used as pretty much everyone else even found a nook and corner in their house and literally with resistance bands or with some sort of weight at home which was doubled up as workout weights and stuff like that and a lot of these fitness websites started doing online training and that was pretty helpful and a lot of me and my friends work out together. So definitely being connected online was a big help and a big boost because otherwise without the internet, this pandemic would’ve been a whole lot worse.”
Talking about what his game-changing moment or game-changing film has been Panditt said that, “There have been about three or four such instances and I’ve never really realized going into the project that this would be a game-changer. It’s so funny that when you actually do a film the films you actually feel are the ones or you have a feeling that ‘this is the one’ or ‘this is the role which is going to take me to the next level’ for me somehow those projects have never been the ones to take me one step forward. It has always been the surprising ones that come out of the blue and you get surprised and people love you for that. So I would say for me it would have to definitely be my debut ‘Shaitan’, it would have to be ‘Khuda Haafiz’ and I have done a Netflix film called ‘Loev’ and a show called ‘FIR’ that I did back in the day. These four specifically would be my game-changing moments and Khuda Haafiz definitely in the most recent times, it has to be it for sure.”
Sharing about the reason he became an actor Shiv said, “I actually got fired from a job and I was living off the severance fee and having a ball in Bombay and my money was running out and one of my colleagues from Delhi who I had known from the theatre circuit had come and become an assistant director here in commercials and he just called me out of the blue and said listen I saw you the other day you’re looking exactly like what we need just come and audition. I never knew that I could actually ever be in front of the camera so I literally went for that audition and I got that part, it was a commercial which was my first time facing the camera and it was such a heavily front-loaded commercial because the director of that commercial was Amit Sharma, the director of ‘Badhai Ho’ and all these films. Mr. Vinod Pradhan was the cinematographer, Mr. Nitish Tiwari, the director of Dangal was the creative head on that commercial and that was my first commercial and my first time facing the camera and I had such a great experience facing the camera and I was like man this is it I have been wasting my time all my life and this is what I need to do. So this is the story of how I got into acting in front of the actor”
When asked if not an actor what career would he likely pursue Shiv replied, “Now if you ask me that question I would tell you trying to become an actor but if not an actor I don’t know I’m clueless now I don’t know what I would be now maybe just lounging around watching movies.”
Answering the question about what Shiv is looking forward to in 2021 he said, “With me what happened was that I have done 4 or 5 projects in 2019 which were all gearing up for release. There is a film which is very dear to my heart called ‘Sher Shah’ which is coming out with Dharma Productions, it’s the story of Captain Vikram Batra which is being played by Sid Malhotra and that’s a film which is very close to my heart. So I think maybe this year, not sure about the platform, but hopefully this year one should get to see that. Apart from that, I have got a web series coming out. I have acted in that with Prateek Babbar and Simran Kaur Mundi and Mr. Ashish Vidyarthi so this is another one that should be out maybe this month or maybe next month and platform and stuff I’m not really sure about. But it should definitely be out in January or February.”
Lastly sharing his success mantra and giving a piece of advice to upcoming actors Shiv said, “Well, to be honest, it is a really great ego boost when you keep telling me that we are achievers and we’re doing well in life. I would certainly like to help as many people as I possibly can because when I was coming up the ladder there were people who helped me, guided me, and took my phone calls. So what I would definitely like to tell people who want to become actors and professionals of some kind is that just keep the faith and all you need to do is keep going, if you really really believe in yourself, which you should is the first key to actually becoming and really going out there and getting something. So don’t get deterred keep believing in yourself, keep moving forward and the number of times that I have failed it’s I can’t even count. So the fact of the matter is that I’m here today because I kept going. It’s as simple as that, just keep going.”
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