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The Lead India logo isn’t inspiring

January 11, 2008

The Lead India campaign (to find a good political candidate) has a pretty uninspiring logo. Here is the logo.


It’s more than just the look of it. It’s got a man in the lead. Is it surprising then that the Times was not satisfied with the number of women applicants? It was reported that the deadline for application was extended by 10 days and more women were asked to apply…and this was the time when a version of the logo with a woman in the lead was shown. This was temporary. If it was shown later I am not aware of it. I am not saying that the Times should have had a design with a woman in the lead, not at all, but just wondered why they couldn’t have had an unisex design in the first place?

After all the Times does say that they wanted to “provide a platform to the good men and women out there who refuse to be daunted by the system and struggle, against massive odds, to make life better for their fellow Indians.” The objective being (for those not familiar with this campaign) to give “due visibility” to the winner, and provide him/her “the maximum funding allowed as per the Election Commission rules for fighting one election for an office of his choice.” Considering that they got 34,000 valid applications means that people are pretty serious. But not enough women were.

Last month this contest was taken to television and the winner is to be chosen based on the votes he/she gets from viewers via reality T.V. There are no women left in this contest today and I am not blaming it on the logo πŸ™‚ but I wish the symbolism for the contest had been different. Maybe more women would have come forward, maybe not. I don’t know. But I do think that this type of symbolism in the logo puts women off, subconsciously at least.

There’s one more grouse I have against the logo. Have you noticed the man shown in that logo? He is wearing a shirt, a trouser and a belt and I cannot help wondering if it is appropriate to show him as a symbol for all Indian men? It’s not just his clothes actually, it’s his overall look…if it wasn’t for his dark hair I could have mistaken him for a firang.

The logo seems to have been a take-off from the images of the Salt march of Mahatma Gandhi. But to me at least the Salt march symbolizes freedom from tyranny, not political leadership. Not that particular image (of the Salt march) I mean.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. Raj permalink
    January 11, 2008 10:20 am


    I am delighted to be the opening batsman for this post,unless someone beats me at the very last minute! πŸ™‚

    I do not know about the lead India logo,but I sure like the television ad-the one where the little school kid leads the way!

    Yes, I agree with you on the gender thing.I would have preferred a woman to be there as well.

    Regarding the clothing of the man in the lead,I beg to differ with you.I am perfectly happy to let the man shown in the logo be portrayed as a symbol for all Indian men (my personal opinion of course!).

    This is because I am sick of the hypocrisy of the scoundrels in wearing Indian clothing in khadi (you know who I mean) who advocate the use of khadi but amass massive fortunes by corrupt and criminal means.

  2. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 11, 2008 11:02 am


    I had a lot more problems than the ones you enumerated than the LEAD India campaign, but those are not pertinent to the present post.

    What IS pertinent is that I know three women, in three different cities, who were participants (they did not apply; they were nominated by friends and well-wishers who strongly felt they must enter). Only one of them made it past the elimination round, and none into the final. All three have proven leadership abilities (without any hype or hoopla) and will, I am sure, achieve whatever they set themselves to achieve, contest or no contest. What did they lack? The glamour quotient and aggression. I am sure there must have been scores of other women of equal or higher competence in the running.

    @Raj: Congrats! The fastest fingers win πŸ™‚ !

    Actually the way I am told it progressed in its TV avataar, it was just a high-sounding version of Indian Idol or any of the other ridiculous shows in which (supposedly) serious, intelligent and learned judges compete with the whimsical SMS votes of unknown admirers and supporters.

  3. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 11, 2008 11:03 am

    Corrigendum: Line 1: … with (not “than”) the LEAD …

  4. January 11, 2008 11:05 am

    I agree with you as far as the logo goes. Personally, I haven’t seen any of the episodes or read many articles on it, but I did happen to watch a video where a small boy tries to remove a fallen tree from the road. Seeing him do that, others on the street decide to help him. That video was truly inspiring for me and conveyed the message very well. Gulzar’s lyrics are awesome.

  5. January 11, 2008 11:50 am

    Raj, Ruhi, thanks. The little boy ad is indeed good but it is hardly seen as compared to the number of times the other one.

    Vivek, yes I too have my doubts about the selection process. In fact that is why I did not write about it, because I have grave doubts but could not give any logical or factual information to back it up. I left a comment on a post regarding this lead india campaign where I mentioned my reservations about a particular candidate who I know about personally (without giving the name). the fact that he has been selected has itself made me realise that the wrong people are getting selected, the talkers, not the doers. I don’t know about the other candidates, I mean I do not know anything about them personally. If you want to know who it is, dont ask me here please.
    In Indiam poltics we need doers, not talkers. But that is the bane of politics all over the world isn’t it! The kind of people who can charm voters are the talkers.

  6. January 11, 2008 1:08 pm

    I don’t agree with you on your observations on the logo. It’s just a logo. I don’t think that signifies anything. I am not sure how this turned off women in joining the contest.

    Lets just look forward for the winner to get something done.. And get the gender thing out of this !.

  7. January 11, 2008 1:11 pm

    (this is regarding the header image. I dint know where else to comment)
    And Nita, did you put the header image coz of this??
    Ratan Tata :
    ” In this particular case, you could not help but notice there were three-four family members on a scooter with a kid standing in the front, the guy driving and his wife sitting side saddle holding a little kid……..”


  8. January 11, 2008 1:22 pm

    Xylene, a logo symbolizes the contest! πŸ™‚ A logo is critical to identity! There is hardly anything to argue about that I think.
    However I have not said that the logo has put off women from joining the contest. Kindly read that sentence again. The proper thing to do is to quote my sentence before the comment and this clarifies it for the commentator and readers as well. In fact I am most offended by your comment. I have clearly said that I am not blamign it on the logo. Kindly credit it me with a modicum of intelligence. thanks.
    About the header image, I know the Nano has been in the news, but now my header was to be in contrast to my previous post where I have talked about the country. I wanted to show the contrast and in fact my header image was changed before the Nano announcement.
    And the photograph is taken by me on the streets of mumbai and has been used by me before in the header.

    p.s. and I am afraid the “gender thing” is important to me so you cannot really tell me to keep it out. That is your view. I feel the gender thing is hugely important because 50 percent of our population is female and we need women representatives. However everyone may not feel it’s important and that’s fine with me.

  9. January 11, 2008 1:36 pm

    I didn’t mean to offend you in any way.
    But you did mention this “But I do think that this type of symbolism in the logo puts women off, subconsciously at least.”

    I strongly believe that just a logo wudnt be the reason why many women did not take part in the contest.

  10. January 11, 2008 1:41 pm

    well I said subconsciously and later I said:

    There are no women left in this contest today and I am not blaming it on the logo but I wish the symbolism for the contest had been different.

    and that entirely explains my point of view isn’t it? You cannot take one part of my view on it and quote it. Well, anyway, forget it, I know you genuinely misunderstood.

  11. January 11, 2008 1:44 pm

    well. that sentence comes before the sentence I quoted. :D.

    well forget it. I get it. πŸ™‚
    Sorry for the confusion !.

  12. Bharath permalink
    January 11, 2008 1:45 pm

    Good Observation! Logo looks good from advertising point of view but yeah it would have been much better.

    Concept of “Lead India” is good but I suspect: TOI’s main motive is to do good business out of it and sametime get max publicity. I feel it’s just another copy of TV Reality shows but it’s not as effective/successful as other TV shows.

  13. January 11, 2008 1:59 pm

    Good Grief! The art looks like the socialist realism style under Stalin.

  14. January 11, 2008 2:25 pm

    Paul: This logo is a rip-off, slightly modernised version of a life-size sculptural depiction of the 1930 Salt Satyagraha march led by Gandhi. The sculpture shows a woman behind him who is Sarojini Naidu and there are several other women in the crowd too.

    You can see a photo of the sculpture here:
    europe gandhi

    So it may look like socialist realism to you, but the image has a place in the minds of Indians as a crucial moment in the struggle for independence from the British.

    To aim for the sub-conscious is one of the goals of advertising. It has been shown to be more effective than direct methods. And may be that is what the picture is trying to do.

  15. Aditi permalink
    January 11, 2008 2:30 pm


    As a graphic designer practising in mumbai right now, I was shocked and horrified by the logo. Its ugly, sexist, irresponsible, exclusive and cold.

    Discussing it with colleagues, I couldn’t help wondering, who designed this logo? What was this person or persons thinking? How did it go from the bottom to the top of the hierachy in TOI? Who are all the people, at every point, who okayed it?….What is the process they follow when designing something like this, or is there any real thinking involved?

    You can easily dismiss the importance of aesthetics, relative to a wider world view. But these things can accurately reflect the minds of the creators, and their prejudices.

  16. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 11, 2008 2:39 pm


    Why must you raise such irrelevant questions? Except for a few fault-finders like you and Nita, everyone seems to be happy. The guys at ToI must be pleased as Punch. And I don’t know if any of the participants thought of raising this point.

    As some one DIDN’T say, “all is fair in ads and sales”. Basically everyone involved is having fun. Why be a spoilsport? All those questions of yours: keep them to yourself. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  17. January 11, 2008 2:50 pm

    Paul, your point of view is just an illustration of what this logo can look like and symbolize to an foreigner and it’s a shame isn’t it!
    Shefaly, yes I had mentioned the salt march but thanks for that link which wonderfully illustrates it! πŸ™‚
    Aditi, good to get the point of view of a designer. I guess it must be prettty average work from a designer point of view.
    Vivek, when I read your first sentence I raised my eyebrows, but then realised the sarcasm in your comment. Watch out! Someone may misunderstand! πŸ˜€
    Bharath, yes it’s a publicity venture. And those who are enjoying the fun and games at the show will nto take kindly to any criticism.

  18. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 11, 2008 2:58 pm

    Hey Nita!

    I put in not one, not two, but THREE smileys. And It was not even necessary to scroll down to find them.

    And they say men have tunnel vision!!!

  19. January 11, 2008 3:32 pm

    What I meant by saying β€œget the gender thing out of this !.” was referring to the logo. Let’s discuss on what TOI did or didn’t do in getting more women representatives on the show.
    Do you really think blaming the logo is really worth it?
    Like you said, its just my view.

  20. Raj permalink
    January 11, 2008 3:35 pm


    I am sure that the designers and promoters of the logo must have had the above picture in mind when they finalised it.

    ;] πŸ™‚

  21. Raj permalink
    January 11, 2008 3:57 pm

    But they want others to believe that they had the following picture in mind!


  22. Raj permalink
    January 11, 2008 4:02 pm


    I’m sorry for the successive posts.But I’ve messed up my emoticons 😦

    Could you give me a link to the ones that work on this site,please?

    Thanks.And then you can delete this post.

  23. January 11, 2008 4:53 pm

    @Shefaly: Thanks for the clarification! It makes sense now. Strangely though, I don’t get the same sense of “socialist realism” from the original sculpture — just from the rip off. The original is awesome.

  24. January 11, 2008 5:27 pm

    Raj, the smilies that work on this are the wordpress smilies which I shall send yu a link via email.

    Xylene. Again you are misquoting me. I did not say that it is “just” your view, I said it’s your view and frankly I was being quite polite because you said:
    And get the gender thing out of this!
    which I thought wasn’t quite right as i have a right to write whatever I want on my blog. In fact your view is welcome and all contrary views are welcome as they are stated in a polite way. But kindly do not tell me to “get the gender thing out of this” because this my post.
    Also you are suggesting we discuss some other things, but frankly I prefer to stick to the logo aspect as that is what the post is about. Thanks.

  25. January 11, 2008 5:57 pm

    @ Paul: Rip-offs I think rarely are flattering except to the person, whose work is ripped off πŸ™‚

  26. January 11, 2008 6:39 pm

    @ Nita: I find the ‘prize’ in this contest very funny. I would submit that the ‘prize’ itself probably puts off a lot of women.

    There is evidence that women do not apply for ‘jobs’ where they may meet 9 of 10 criteria, but men will apply even if they meet 2. Further, women politicians themselves do little to inspire confidence in politics to attract any reasonable, thinking woman.

    For the latter, take the 2004 example, when a Liberal Democrat MP in the UK (Sandra Gidley, who was then their spokesperson for women) wrote the following leader in a broadsheet:

    She suggested that women are put off by public speaking and cat fights in politics.

    Predictably I had (furious) emails with her.

    I asked her why she, as a spokesperson for women, promotes these ideas. I also asked what sort of women she has been hanging out with, because when women – whom I know – speak their mind, they do not hesitate. I also asked her why when two men argue, it is a disagreement; but between two women, it is a cat fight and why she was perpetuating this language.

    She was gracious enough to respond and she said her article was the victim of over-editing. And then invited me to consider joining politics.

    Now as a non-white, minority woman, albeit a well-integrated immigrant with an Oxbridge education and a PhD, I might be a dream candidate for many seeking to shore their image of being parties of middle-aged white men with country piles and RP accents.

    But I am also aware that my family and friends may pay a big price. British media is ferocious and intrusive. They will pry into the lives of everyone I know till they find something to bring me down so they can say ‘Disgraced Asian MP so and so’. Knowingly I would not put anyone through the ordeal although with small investment of time, I could convince someone to parachute me into a safe seat but I prefer not to.

    I am indeed interested in politics and when someone says, ‘I do not do politics’, I do like to ask them what they do do, because politics affects all.

    But no way would I be keen on this reality TV horse-and-pony show.

    Besides influence on society can be exerted in many ways. I do my bit through supporting research foundations doing specific disease area research, community organisations, etc and I will soon be serving as a trustee of a charity that combines arts, culture and community cohesion programmes.

    Good post but yes, it is possible for us to lose track of what we were originally discussing and who knows this better than I do? πŸ™‚

  27. January 11, 2008 6:47 pm

    Rakhi Sawant will soon file a petition that the whole process of the TOI selection was rigged!

  28. January 11, 2008 6:55 pm

    Shefaly, thank you for your comment. I was hoping you would give me a more detailed view as I was interested in your perspective, but did not want to impose by saying it!
    i think whoever joins politics has to develop a thick skin because the media will attack no doubt. everyone will!
    I have a good friend in London who is a councillor. I don’t know how far you are from London, but if you are seriously considering joining politics, I can put you in touch with her where she can tell you pros and cons. She is half british by birth and a full british national. she is a close friend of mine from school and in fact I just met her a few days ago as she is down for a short break.
    I like your terminology “reality TV horse-and-pony show” πŸ™‚

  29. January 11, 2008 7:04 pm

    @ Nita: I live in London, not far from the financial district. It will be great to know your friend and thank you for offering to introduce me. Do introduce us.

    I contributed a considerable section of the manifesto of one of the 3 mainstream parties in the last election. I also worked for a while in the Parliament. I think front-benchers make better money in our Parliament than any others. Having seen so many Parliamentarians over a protracted period of time, I cannot say I long to work with them… Anyway to the frontbench would be a fairly long – and underpaid – journey and meanwhile who will pay for my books and my shoes? πŸ˜‰

    BTW that expression correctly should have been ‘dog and pony show’, a term used to describe a circus and in pre-dot-com bust, to companies’ roadshows for their IPOs. A circus is what it really is.

  30. January 11, 2008 7:05 pm

    Strong words !!!
    I was disagreeing to your view or may be have misunderstood as you have suggested.
    Thats all I have done !!
    chill ! πŸ™‚

  31. January 11, 2008 7:17 pm

    Xylene, thanks. πŸ™‚ I think perhaps I did over react to your comment but of late there have been certain comments which have been bugging me and in fact I have had a person twisting my comment (on her blog) and after I pointed it out, she did not apologize. Before that someone was bugging me on my own blog, and then I get nasty emails off and on too!
    So I apologize to you if I over reacted. You are a sweet guy!

  32. January 11, 2008 9:01 pm

    NIta, Does it really matter if it is a man on the logo or a woman? I guess we can have only one leader, so why would having a woman make it better?

    I know this might not go down well with a lot of people, including you, but a simple question remains, in a “profession” with a large amount of influential women, why would having a woman on the logo not be sexist?

    Furthermore, We have had 2 women “elected” as Numero Uno. It is a different matter, one of them decided not to go through with it (for whatever reason, though some immediately pop into my head).

    As for your dissection of the logo, I can’t presume to know what TOI was thinking, but maybe you are reading too much into symbolism! The western attire could quite easily be a symbolism for change, in a nation that worships their “ethnic” clad men and women.

  33. wishtobeanon permalink
    January 11, 2008 9:03 pm

    Thanks for posting this article – I didn’t know about this campaign before reading this.
    I too feel that in the logo, they should have placed a man and a woman side by side, at least to inspire.
    By the way, do you know who won the campaign?

  34. January 11, 2008 9:07 pm

    I forgot to add… If India is relying on a TV program to find its next “leader” we are in far worse shape than I had believed.

    Secondly, why are any of you’ll surprised the “popular” ones are winning? It is a popularity contest. That is what “reality” TV shows are. If any of you’ll expected to find India’s next leader on a TV show, you are far more deluded than I have expected. I am sure the “doers” are doing, rather than flashing big pasted smiles on the tube. This whole thing is ridiculous and I hope the international community does not catch wind of this. Quite embarassing.

    P.S. This is the same public voting for our tele-leader as the one that did for our current representative government, is it not?

  35. ulag permalink
    January 11, 2008 10:55 pm

    I find the whole concept of this program to be pretty amusing and nothing less than a refined reality show. The winner gets to do a course in an American university!!! How much help will that be in getting votes? Or is their definition of a leader one who will have just the leadership skills and not someone who can contest an election n win it n lead from the front?

  36. January 12, 2008 6:31 am

    I completely agree that a logo with a GIANT male leading the pack sends a message ( not subconscious) that the male rules.

    He reminds me of the hip young man in the movie, The Namesake. Maybe they were trying to appeal to the younger set, but they forgot about the women. I’m glad you called this ad out.

  37. January 12, 2008 7:42 am

    DD, thanks, and I am expected you to think that! πŸ™‚ Well,, I am not saying it should be a woman, I am saying it should be unisex! And yeah, people are taking this programme seriously (not me!) but quite a few think it’s a joke.
    About the western culture being a symbolism for change, if the logo did mean that, then it wouldn’t be so bad, but it doesn’t. Things western are frowned upon here in society….that is why our politicians were Indian clothes! Perhaps the TOI wants to bring in change and if that is the case I am surprised because the western people in our country is a small minority.
    Ulag, there was even a film star in the short list so you can imagine! And I doubt that this show will be able to get someone with leadership skills either!
    Christine, thanks.
    wishtobeanon, this campaign is still on and will continue through jan and feb too I think. the programme is every sat evening, which is today!
    rdoc, just noticed your comment. I think we should just be glad that Rakhi Sawant is not one of the finalists!

  38. January 13, 2008 4:39 am

    Just looks like it is a PR campaign under the guise of patriotism and an honest quest at finding a leader. Not to mention the abundant doses of public sentiment-participation and whipped emotions, it is a farce all the way . I’ll worry about this when it produces an iota of good.

    Nita, Couldn’t agree more on the logo.

    Doc, Your Rakhi Sawant comment was good..

  39. January 13, 2008 8:36 am

    Nita, I could not agree more with you. India is by far too dogmatic in their perceptions of capable leaders. While most of rural India looks towards leaders that wear sarees/dhotis (or other regional attires), the “modern”, “hip”, “young” crowd looks towards a younger, more exuberant leader. Case in point, the political party touted as an IIT party about a couple of years back (Lok Paritran).

    As for India frowning upon all things western and hence politicians wearing the clothes they do, I could not disagree more. Why then do politicians in larger towns and cities, quite acceptable to western thought, still wear their dhotis etc? I think it is more of an occupation self-imposition rather than a conditional requirement set by the electorate.

    I guess TOI knows a thing or two about its demographic, and I would be very surprised if you saw this ad in the remotest of rural India.

    I wasn’t sure what the prize was, but someone in here said it was for a course at an american university on political science. I would like to add to that, american universities teach political science the american way, by that I mean that the courses will be drafted to tackle the US system of judiciary. It seems more of a joke now than before.

    If I could add one more thing, if you were to design the logo, what attire would you choose? Most of India has vastly varying regional attires and we could still have this debate no matter what you chose.

    @Athreya: I could not have said it any better. We as a nation seem to be thriving upon over-zealous nationalistic sentiments, the “I, Proud to be Indian” cash cow for larger enterprises. Everyone from the Aamir Khans to the Rajnikants have realised this.

    @Rambodoc: I haven’t seen this show, but be damn sure, if Rakhi Sawant (whoever that is) or a Shilpa Shetty (to name someone I do know) were to make it to the finals, I would certainly be tuning in, if only for the simple reason, it does not attempt to create an illusion of patriotism.

    I think wishtobeanon might be on to something there. Why do we need “one” leader? I thought the Lok Sabha consists of 552 members. I hardly doubt one is going to cut it.

    Perhaps the group in the background should be in the foreground wearing different clothes for equal representation, with one-third women of course, the other one-third would obviously need to have SC-ST or something stamped on their head, or holding their Backward caste certifications in their hand.. loads of room for creativity. Pardon my lack of enthusiasm for our “unity in diversity” mantra.

  40. January 13, 2008 8:51 am

    Athreya, yes that is what is disturbing, a PR campaign under the guise of patriotism. the problem is that gullible people are falling for it, particularly as they have big names who are judges.
    DD, mostly I agree with your analysis. But I am not sure that politicians wear Indian clothes for the reason you cited. I am not sure of all the ramifications of it, but thre is a certain anti-west sentiment here in India, particulary as regards clothing and lifestyle. technology is welcome but not culture!
    About the logo, well, it could be a graphic representation. I am not a designer but they have creative ways I am sure of coming up with an answer. But I guess this logo did not require too much of original thinking!
    And I agree that the man leading from the front is more of an upper class type because that is the readership of the times of India. Also they cannot have more than one winner because that would mean the suspense and fun will go out of the reality show….these two things should by itself expose their whole Lead India campaign, but then if the audience is buying it, what can we say. I say clever Times of India! They have got a good entertaining game going on television, for an audience starved of quality programming. This was what the doctor ordered! A political reality show!
    And if the winner does not deliver, I am sure the TOI will wiggle out of the responsibility. That i am quite sure of.

  41. January 13, 2008 9:36 am

    Nita, the last part of my comment was a bit of tongue in cheek. I did not mean for that to be taken seriously.

    As for westernisation, that is a separate debate, one in which I don’t think I can rally with either side. As for anti-west sentiments, anything so extreme without rationally legitimate reasoning will meet its demise.

  42. January 16, 2008 12:28 pm

    I do not know whether the logo has put off women participants in the first place. So, I would not like to comment on it.

    The show has disappointed me. I cannot stand Anupam Kher saying “Desh ka neta kaisa ho, XYZ jaisa ho” for every participant. It seems utterly childish.

  43. February 12, 2008 4:50 pm

    Hey Nita,

    I would like to tell you one thing that in Lead India campaign there were two logos used one with a man leading and one with women in lead. In Starting of the campaign both were used but because of less response from women TG and for universal appeal women logo was taken off air.

  44. vivek mittal permalink
    May 13, 2008 6:35 pm

    One has to acknowledge such kind of efforts by dynamic publications like ToI…….. no wonder it’s the largest circulated English daily in the world

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