25/01/2016 8:22 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Where Are Your Stories, Brand Indian Armed Forces?

Reeta Gupta

To be seen as a strong nation, we need to build Brand Indian Military

Building brands is not just for commercial organisations. Every specialised unit constructed for a specific purpose needs to invest in its own brand.

Look at the military world for instance. Brands like the British Army's Special Air Services (SAS), the US Navy's Sea, Air and Land Teams (SEALs) and Israeli Shayetet13 have been built on stories. They are "dangerous". Their training is rigorous, with high dropout rates. It is all part of their folklore.

On Veterans Day, 11 November, in America, members of the US armed forces, veterans and military spouses can get discounts on shopping across many stores. Children design posters and cheer the veterans at parades. Then there is the never-ending stream of movies being made on real military successes, like Zero Dark Thirty, American Sniper, The Railway Man, Unbroken, Argo etc - it keeps these victories alive in conversations. Their music celebrates their brave heroes. Comic book and animation characters like super soldier Captain America and The Red Hulk, a United States Air Force officer, add to brand US military.

What builds a brand? Stories and rituals.

Yes, you heard that right.

The Indian military has not even taken baby steps to build its brand.

And what builds a brand? Stories and rituals.

Yes, you heard that right. I've been a mother for 14 years, and I haven't told my children a single story about the Indian army except the Taj rescue operation.

There has been no comic to buy, or storybook to read out to my kids. History textbooks alone are not enough. Valentine's Day got integrated into our lives because businesses found commercial success in doing so. But how many of us know about Army Day? What is the TRP of the Army Day telecast?

How many of us watch the Republic Day and Independence Day parades? And if we are sleeping, who is going to tell our children to watch them?

Yes, Bollywood has provided some window to the Indian military story. Otherwise, the defence forces are in the news briefly-- when a brave soldier sacrifices his life, or someone is caught in a scam.

Every society has a "conversation equilibrium" -- schooling introduces subjects beyond personal vanity to children. Media, cinema and literature will mirror this "conversation equilibrium" and serve more of what is being consumed to society.

I need to know how I can participate in Army Day, Republic Day and Independence Day, along with my children.

A "conversation equilibrium" gets established on the basis of the habits and rituals in our lives. So, I need to know how I can participate in Army Day, Republic Day and Independence Day, along with my children. The success of the Mumbai Marathon is a case study worth looking at when it comes to introducing new habits and bringing people out on the roads for something they care about.

The Indian armed forces must invest in a 360-degree communication exercise. A nation with a strong military is a strong nation -- and every child must be proud of their country's armed forces. We need to know who our real heroes are.

Every person in the armed forces has sacrificed the company of family, night after night, standing vigil at the border. As a society, and as a collective conscience, what can we do for them?

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