Digital Insight

Published on December 25th, 2012 | by Saurabh Pandey

The Farce of India Digital Awards & Finding The Right Way!

I have a problem when we award a single person.

For India, it’s too early in the game to recognize any single person for contribution to the digital economy.

The reasons are simple:

1. We are in a stage of trial and error. No one can claim to have a perfect recipe for success

2. It’s a team work- The products, distribution system, consumers, everything is evolving. One single person just
cannot be responsible for overall success today.

3. I also suspect that a few Old hats who have recently become CEOS (in general people around 47-50 years), still
have the old world view, and perhaps do not have a better mind than thinking that they can buy consumers by
heavy advertising. They are distorter of truth and are passing their time. These species are typically
insecure, do not allow any innovation or out of box thinking, manipulate and take credit of all success.

How can, if this is true, then one single person like this win any award

4. No one takes the awards seriously- For many winners these awards come as a surprise. Many may not even know
that they were nominated. I am sure none of the winners are called for a presentation in these awards.

5. Another perspective: Many of the winners/nominees are people who are themselves not the idea-originators, they
are not the ones who started off by putting their own money, they are not the ones with a vision (like Sal Khan
of Khan Academy), rather they are borrowers of idea and money, and are employees of VCs or conglomerates

Reasons for why a single person is awarded are also very obvious and clear:

1. Look at any awards, 80% people who win the awards fall into 2 categories
a. Heavy advertisers
b. Obvious choices/usual culprits –People who are too well known to be omitted (like Sachin Tendulkar in
Indian team till some time back)

2. Most of these awards are hosted by a Media Brand-and what better way to recognize their best spenders (and
also nudge those who haven’t spent yet on their media portfolio)

It is a known fact that a few media conglomerates take their top advertisers on paid junkets under the garb of conferences, and to an extent some of the digital awards in the country are an extension of this in-ethical practice.

I also have a problem with the process of selection and the jury. Most awards are obviously owned by media and hence the jury almost always has: Media, Advertising Agency and Media Research Personalities. It sounds like a very blatant ‘scratch my back’ and I ‘scratch yours’, ecosystem

The criteria of judging: is laughable to be mild:

Most criteria boil down to how much money a person has spent on PR and advertising. If I were to spend a few million dollars on a vague concept- will I become the path-breaker? Will I become the leading light who influences the digital media in the country? How can a person who has spent millions of dollars on advertising, but did not get a penny of revenues, win any award? Isn’t it too early in the game?

So, what should be done and what’s the right way to judge:

Firstly: No individual person should win any award. Ideas, Teams or organizations can win though.

Second: Awards are important, as they motivate people and are a testimony to the work they are doing to improve the life of people at large. Hence let’s first decide who should be the jury:

The jury should include
a) VCs- it’s their money at stake, and they should be the best judge of whether it’s being put to good use.

b) Consumers- A consumer panel should be made and it should represent the consumers in the jury board. After all
consumers consume the products, and they can decide best whether the products are relevant or

c) Academicians: They are the ones who can look from a very neutral perspective on how the firms , teams ,
industry and competition are moving and whether the strategies of a firm are meaningful. I had an eye opening
experience during my Harvard Workshop and realized the importance of being in touch with academicians for a
regular reality check.

No media representation and media research agency representation is required

Third: What should be the criteria: Now broadly the winners should be decided on the following criteria (micro-metrics can be worked out and tracked)

1. What Value has the firm created for

a. Consumers (Accessibility, Distribution, Security, Privacy, Repeat usage, frequency of usage, Unpaid
acquisition of users, CRM etc.)
b. Shareholders (Monetization, Registered user base, Value per user, Traction, Ecosystem, Market-share,
Growth etc.)
2. How is the firm creating a second line of leaders to take on the next set of challenges

3. Is the firm and top management a catalyst for innovation leading to a measurable benefit- Product, Branding,
User Acquisition, Customer Relationship and Logistics, payments and distribution

4. Relevancy & Impact- How relevant is the product for Indian consumers. (What is the scope of usage in terms of %
of users that are being served)

5. Ethics- If some CEOs accept paid junkets, expensive gifts and use the office as their own personal property-
why should they not be excluded from any list of awards?

Together these 5 criteria alongwith a few sub-metrics will help us create a DOMINANCE INDEX. This dominance index will show, if a firm understands Indian users? Can it create relevant products which will create value for everyone and How it anticipates and prepares for future in an ethical manner.

If we are not doing something like this, we are only ego-massaging the heavy spenders and are actually establishing some black sheep as role models in India. Look around, how many such black sheep can you spot? Don’t vote for them.

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