The Indian Army, the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces, has been facing a shortage of personnel, and that does not only include officers but workforce in other departments as well. To be precise, it has a shortfall of 33,998 personnel, including 9,642 officers. It was to address this shortfall that the Indian Army recently released a series of ads targeted at future recruits. “We are India’s most exciting workplace and we are making you an offer. The Indian Army, live a life, less ordinary” is the punch line they hope will resonate with today’s youngsters.
But what is it that makes the youth wary of this noble profession? Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said in July, “Availability of attractive alternative career avenues, stringent selection criteria, and difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk” are their reasons for staying away from the Army.
These ads show a techie, a manager, a man operating a tank, a doctor and even a mountaineer describing that the functions of the Army are much more than fighting the war. Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain told Indian Express.com via email that this is not the first time the Indian Army is giving out ads for recruitment and it’s an ongoing process.
“India lacks a strategic culture among its masses. As such, while people have tremendous respect for the Army they have no idea what the Army does, especially in peacetime. The understanding seems to be that the Army has nothing to do in peacetime. These ads are sending messages about training and counter insurgency operations which are happening all the time, even in peacetime,” he added.
Interestingly, this series of ads focuses on the corporate structure of the Indian Army, showcasing perks and elements that would appeal to today’s youth that’s geared towards a more corporate outlook, as opposed to banking on just honour and pride of serving the nation. This change of tenor also reflective of how the youth should approach the ‘job’. The Army is projected as an “organisation” and an “equal opportunity, kind employer” that takes care of its employees for life. The element of work-play balance has also been interestingly featured in an ad that says “which firm lets you play at work… and makes you CEO on Day 1” — all geared to entice the youth with challenges and perks. Definitely a life that’s not ordinary.
The government chose Grey Group to design the ad campaign for the Indian Army, which has, till now, produced nine ads in two slots between November 2014 and March 2015, shot in multiple Army bases across the country featuring Indian Army officers, said Vineet Singh, vice-president and business head at Grey Group to Quartz India.
“The brief was two-pronged. The primary objective was to attract quality candidates for a career with the Indian Army. Specifically in the officer cadre. The secondary objective is an image projection of the Indian Army,” he said.
Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain partially agreed with Singh, however, he believes that the “brand image” needs more than just a makeover. “The image may be tad behind times in terms of understanding of the public in relation to modern equipment. Yes, it is no longer about the usual sales talk of horse riding, golf and ballroom dancing; it has to go beyond that,” he said.
On many occasions on social media, it has been suggested the Indian Army could understand the strategy the Islamic State of Syria (ISIS) is using to recruit young adults from across the globe, including Indians. The strategy has been called ruthless, terrifying but very efficient. Lt Gen (retd) Hasnain also commended the approach used by the organization and believes that the model can be studied. “The ISIS does much study of the potential target population and uses slick messaging. Any recruiting organization wishes to do that. Its a question of packaging. The ISIS has a terrible image and yet it has sold itself successfully for a variety of reasons. The ISIS model can definitely be studied to see what appeals to modern youth in different environment. The real thing needed is to be aware of the exact esteem needs of the target population. It is different in different parts of India, so one single ad or theme need not be successful every where”.