Neha Singla

Apples Could Be Harmful As Well!!! A PR Stunt, Well-Played!

Since childhood I have believed in the age-old adage – An Apple a Day, Keeps The Doctor Away. Though an apple a day didn’t really keep the doctor away I kept following the ritual religiously. Only until I came across a PR case study Alar and PR; 60 Minutes, and the national media.” As someone who takes immense interest in PR strategies, it was startling to come across one that made Americans believe that ”apples’ are indeed harmful for their children and the one that followed to counterattack the first strategy and made eating apples – healthy, wealthy and wise, again. Phew!

The story goes back to 1989 when in the month of February, CBS, the American Television Program Producer, in its show 60 minutes had broadcast a segment highlighting the harmful effects of apples and how they can even cause cancer, particularly to small children. They had based their coverage on a study from NRDC, a New York-based non-profit enviornmental advocacy group that focussed on the intolerable risk of pesticides (read Alar here) in children’s food. The result, in no time apples were deemed everything but healthy.

At that point, the PR industry giant Hill & Knowlton (H&K) came to the rescue of vulnerable apple manufacturers, who were bearing the brunt of wrong media publicity, which experts say was carefully planned by David Fenton of Fenton Communications. H&K had to crack the tough nut of nullifying the NRDC’s report and making Americans believe that apples are actually healthy. Who knew a PR giant would be required to make people believe in something that they have learned at kindergarten decades ago. But I guess, that’s where an intelligent PR strategy comes into play.

Both the PR firms had laid their cards well – while David Fenton drove the final nail in apple’s coffin by bringing on board the American actress Meryl Streep to advocate the harmful effects of pesticides (Alar), H&K focussed on separating apples from Alar and bringing in the key influencers (yes, influencer was a word back then as well) such as government agencies, scientific institutions, apple growers, schools and news media to speak about the well-known nutritional benefits of apples.

Such PR case studies intrigue me about the world of PR that can make or break a brand in a jiffy.

To get into the technicalities of these two PR strategies you can click on this link, which is an excerpt from the book Public Relations Practices http://prpractices.com/retired-Cases/Alar-and-PR%20Getting-to-the-Core.pdf

P.S. I haven’t given up on apples yet.

Bored of the Monotonous Fashion Weeks? Dive into the Bizarre World of the Prismatic Shoe Artist Mondo Albion

Need to buy shoes. Need to buy shoes. Need to buy shoes…This was the only thought running through my mind when I first walked into this store in a cold February of 2019, thinking it would be selling low-priced shoes for daily wear.

However, the assumption completely turned around. It was a much expensive affair to my dismay. I walked out of the congested store, glancing at all things weird: narrow walk through, bulging ceiling, paper patterns hanging from the roof, dim lights, rainbow colored shoes, hats and bags with messages written all over them and above all an equally colorful man, literally, if only you could ignore his attire. I measured my way back home with an indelible impression on my mind.

Fast forward into an unpredictable month of September 2019, when I had to pick one fashion element in a city like Florence, I couldn’t think of anything or anybody else, just MONDO ALBION, the same shoe artist, who had his store crammed with quirky yet glitzy creations. He is vibrant, zesty, full of beans, dynamic, sparkling, effervescent, high spirited: words may not be enough to describe this wonder: only a glance at him is enough.

If you want to learn the art of living, learn it from him. He is a poser of a poser, a photographer’s delight but as they say nothing comes easy so does he. It wasn’t an easy task to dwell any kind of information from him.

“You cannot ask me everything”

he says, rubbing aside any insight into his shoe business.

Nevertheless, the store dates back to 50 years or perhaps more. And going by his words, he wholly and solely has set up everything. Though you would always notice an aged cordwainer, working intensively at the workshop placed precisely at the entrance of the shop. It was surprising to find out that his store is one of the main attractions for people who are willing to explore the insights of Florence.

More than anything, I wanted to know his age to make a worthy comparison with his undying spirit. And as my mind started making its own presumptions, pat came the reply- “Age of the earth” pointing his finger downwards. For a while, I paused in perplexity. However, the moment I understood his unwillingness to divulge his true age, my mind made a quick correlation with the legendary Karl Lagerfeld. For a matter of fact, he also, had never revealed his actual age.

Not many people know that a few kilometers from the historic center of Florence located on the hill of Giogoli, there’s a 24 hectares farm of olive groves and vineyard, which is famously known as the WORLD ALBION. It is represented as his residence with grandeur and magnificence of 40 double rooms with attached bathrooms, dining rooms, theaters, dressing rooms and many more.

A book penned down by Mondo, listing 30 rules, is presented to each and every person, who enters his dream like atelier. With these rules he professes his love for nature, challenging the society norms and typical conventions. One of the first rules is: Man is born naked, only master of his body and his mind. As he further elaborates:

“The first warrior is deep within us – billions of cells inside our body are throbbing, fighting and struggling, the best must win, inside and outside”

That is the kind of ideology he has always believed in, which has kept him away from the world of big daddies and honchos. Surprisingly enough in the 50s he had exhibited his work in New York and Paris, but for the love of craftsmanship, built his world in Florence.

It is also found that eminent people such as Hilary Clinton, Ginger Rogers and Walter Chiari have adorned his creations. Though he himself diminishes any such acknowledgement. Certainly he can give any designer a run for his money with his unparalleled attitude and enthusiasm. May be it is for people like Albion, that art is defined as the expression and application of human creative skill and imagination: to which this artist is truly devoted.

The Frame The Body- Hiding the visible

Concept and styling: Neha Singla, Photography: Ruggero Lupo Mengoni

Skin. Skin. Skin… and more skin. Shedding clothes at the drop of a feather has become a knock-down-drag-out phenomenon.

Increasing displays of skin have prevailed since the sixties, from the miniskirt to the advent of the Monokini, a topless swimsuit that left the female breast exposed. It generated a great deal of controversy back then. Today, it’s nothing but common. We stumble upon NUDITY everyday and twice on Sunday: women and men alike doff their duds for what is sophisticatedly known as “the arts.”

Helmut Newton. Robert Mapplethorpe. Bill Brandt. Boris Mikhailow. How much and however we sugarcoat it, they all portray nudity in a way or another. Over-exposition has blurred the difference in their respective genres of photography and they all look the same.

Breasts. Vaginas. Penises.  [Hidden] organs no longer knock us off our chairs. Nudity in its every form has reached the terminal and jumped on the wagon of vulgarity. Such bodily exhibitions have made us unreceptive to most things naked. We no longer are in awe of the so-called skin show.

They say clothes are the means by which bodies are made social, but the demoralizing hard truth is, we have recklessly exiled fabric adornments from our closets. To what extent and for what purpose do we put up with this fashion? Why has Miley Cyrus become synonym with nudity and transgression when she displays mostly vulgarity? Do her acts give us a tickle in the stomach or are they irking us like never before?

Such outrageous exposures of skin have changed the human psyche: we now seem more attracted to mysterious and hidden ways of seeing the body. Humans always crave to discover what is concealed: desire is born of prohibition. Forbidding sight of body parts that are commonly visible could stimulate an insatiable urge. Middle Eastern women adorned with veils are the perfect example. First, veils create a notion of dual space: space behind the veil and space in front of it. The space behind it is invisible and thus obscure.

Middle Eastern woman adorned in a veil

To think about penetrating this space gives wings to untamed fantasies. It’s a double message: “look-at-me-I don’t- want- to- be- looked- at” playing obsessively with the voyeuristic male gaze, a gaze that always wants access and will not tolerate being denied it.

I have nothing against nudity, for it is our classical legacy. Elegance, integrity, physical and mental autonomy, a connection with our golden past: yes, nudity was once representing all of this, and with a touch of elegance to boot.

Can anything be more seductive than a naked woman barely covered with a white linen sheet? In 1962, Bert Stern photographed a nude Marilyn Monroe with a diaphanous wrap: the photographic series is engaging and sexually alluring.

Marilyn Monroe- Bert Stern Photography 1962- conceptually modified

Jean Paul Gautier had men stripping on the runway to present his Fall/Winter 2014 menswear collection. And yet, they never quite became fully naked: models were undressing only to uncover another layer of clothing, which created a strong urge to see some skin. No wonder that, at the end of the show, even a half naked man was a sight for sore eyes!

Watch the show to experience the curiosity:


That’s the beauty and potency of shielding what is otherwise ubiquitous.On the other hand, when skin is exposed in excess and distastefully, nudity can trespass the boundaries of sensuality and enter the no-man’s land of vulgarity and annoying trash.

Excessive skin show after a certain point can become obnoxious and kill enthusiasm. By revealing too much of our body we are undermining our capacity to provoke desire. On the contrary, showing little opens our mind to mysteries that were always living next to us.

The most ancient, traditional and refined Indian outfit is the sari: a six-yard draping fabric meant to fully wrap the female body and leave just a small portion of midriff bare. The sensuality it exudes is beyond words. Notable people from the west such as Elizabeth Hurley, Madonna, Daniela Kingsley and Naomi Campbell, to name a few, have enthusiastically draped themselves in a sari and they have looked their sensual best. What is so attractive about this fully clad outfit? It momentarily captivates the human ability to imagine what is unknown, unexpected and unseen.

So, dress as you please. But remember: curiosity is not about going to new places all the time: it is looking at the same old things with a new eye.

“Mother’s Absolute Affection”

Actress Madhuri Dixit Launches MAA, “Mother’s Absolute Affection”
An Indian Campaign to Promote Breastfeeding

By Neha Singla Posted On : August 12, 2016 in News – India & You , Social Vibes


“MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection”, is an initiative by the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), that is supported by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) and by legendary Indian actress Madhuri Dixit.

Amidst a large and prestigious gathering, the “MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection” was launched last week at Hotel Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. The crowd went berserk on witnessing Madhuri Dixit, 1990s diva of Bollywood (Hindi film industry), who is also UNICEF’s celebrity advocate for MAA, entering the hall along with Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare.

The event started off with lighting of the lamp followed by a short film that highlighted the statistics related to breastfeeding. UNICEF is supporting Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) in planning and launching an intensified pan-India campaign for the promotion of breastfeeding in the month of August 2016.

Lending his support to the initiative, UNICEF representative to India, Louis-Georges Arsenault stated, “It’s a commendable effort and I think not only government but everybody should come forward to promote breastfeeding as it’s a collective social responsibility.”

All the keynote speakers emphasized the three important and basic facts about breastfeeding in their respective speeches. First and foremost is ‘initiation of breastfeeding in the first hour of the baby is born’, second is ‘exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months’, and third is ‘continued breastfeeding after six months up to two years with other foods’.

Anupriya Patel, one of the ministers of state for Health and Family Welfare asserted, “Mothers should be guided, motivated and supported to breastfeed as it also prevents the child from becoming obese and reduces infant mortality rate.”

The campaign not only highlighted the numerous benefits of breastfeeding for the child but also brought to light the importance of breastfeeding for the mother herself. Community workers who work in villages to improve the conditions for breastfeeding were also invited to share their experiences.

Reduce the possibility of cancer

“It not only gives good health to the mother and the child but is also cost effective,” said Vimla Devi, one of the community workers, while listing the benefits of breastfeeding. She effectively and in the most humorous manner asserted that how breastfeeding saves buying milk from the market and also saves gas that would otherwise be used to boil the milk, hence the cost analysis. She had the audiences in split when while trying to highlight the power of mother’s milk she recited the famous Hindi movie dialogue – “Agar maa ka doodh piya hai toh saamne aa,” which means “step ahead if you have drank your mother’s milk”. For a nation that is obsessed with Bollywood, this was a sure shot winner.

In today’s day and age when women are independent and do not want breastfeeding to come in the way of their careers, one of the community workers rightly advised that women while leaving the house should store their milk for their newborns as it will not get rotten before eight hours. It was indeed a useful piece of information.

On expressing his concern over the dire need to promote breastfeeding, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare said, “Figures for breastfeeding have been showing a diminishing trend. We thus have to build an environment to promote it.” He also affirmed that the effect of breastfeeding can be seen for a lifetime and that it reduces the possibility of cancer as well.

On expressing her happiness to be a part of such an initiative, Madhuri Dixit said, “Breastfeeding is very important for the mother and the child and if my voice can encourage the community workers and the media to spread a word in any way, then I feel humbled.” She laid special emphasis on the word “support”.

“We often think that breastfeeding is natural, it will happen automatically but it’s not always like that. There could be problems and many mothers stop to breastfeed because of sheer disappointment,” affirmed Dixit. She further insisted that in such circumstances, it becomes the duty of family members to support the mother as she said, “Somebody from the family should very closely discuss the issues the mother is facing in breastfeeding, it could be her mother or mother-in-law or her husband and then get her the right counseling that would help her overcome those problems and continue with the breastfeeding.” She also praised the efforts of all the community workers who are working in the villages to spread the awareness about breastfeeding and urged the media to write about the campaign.

“Healthy children, healthy India”

However, Union minister of Health & Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda got everybody thinking when he said, “One thing amuses me – something that is there since humanity and is deemed natural was made unnatural by the market forces and it’s an irony that we have to do a campaign to promote breastfeeding.” He stressed upon the need to find the issues that need to be addressed at the grassroots. Finally, he signed off by saying, “Healthy children, healthy India.”

The tag line of the campaign – Stanpaan Vikalp Nahin, Sankalp Hai (Breastfeeding is not an option but a commitment) truly reflected in the mood of the event and will surely hit the right chord with the general public alike.

> Original article

Interview with Micky Irfandi

Interview with Micky Irfandi  – Garuda Indonesia

By Neha Singla Posted On: May-June 2016 in From the Cockpit,

“Perfect Time to Focus on India”


With lack of direct flights from India to Indonesia becoming a major roadblock for the airline’s growth in the Indian market, the future is yet to unfold in the coming months.

What is the connectivity like to Indonesia?

As far as the connectivity is concerned, it’s huge. We have 44 flights daily to Denpasar airport (Bali), out of which 12 are international and the remaining are domestic. All these flights connect to almost all the tourism places. The packages are in combination with the connectivity and are in line with our programmes of 2016 to improve the number of tourists, which last year was around 260,000. Garuda Indonesia is one of the seven five-star airlines in the world.

Apart from Bali and Jakarta, do you have any other international gateways?

Other then Bali and Jakarta we have Surabaya and soon we will have Medan as well. In total we have around four international gateways to Indonesia.

Garuda is in talks to start direct flights from India to Indonesia, what is the status?

At the moment I cannot divulge details on this aspect but yes, things are in progress and we are hoping that something will happen soon. Currently, India is our main focus because it is showing tremendous growth after China. So we want to do the same thing we did with China but there are a few obstacles and we are trying to fix these problems.

Most of the times it’s in the news – there are always some promises from the consulate general. So let the big news break and when we are ready we will make the announcement.

Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia emphasises on how much the country has to offer as a tourist destination to Indian travellers. What role you think an airline plays in promoting a destination?

Airline is definitely an important part, it does play a role, however, an airline also has a lot of processes and permits to look after. And then the first and foremost concern is the filling up of the seats in the aircraft. So coming back to the relationship and partnership we need a lot of support from the travel industry of India to be able to give Garuda the confidence to take that flight.

What had kept you away from India until now?

We have been operating offline since the last three years. Earlier we were focussing on China, however, India has grown by 35-40 pc every year for the past three years. So these are good reasons for Garuda to now focus on India.

Travel industry is really counting on us to fly direct. So the sooner, the better it will be for all the stakeholders. The ministry of tourism has set a target of 350,000 Indian arrivals this year to Indonesia. If the flights start early, say in August, the target can be achieved, thanks to the grounds laid by the travel industry of engaging some of the big corporates. These corporates already have a line up of close to about 100,000 people willing to come to Indonesia until the months of October and November. Hence with direct flights we can easily reach a growth rate of 40-50 pc as compared to 35-40 of last year.

Which aircraft do you plan to fly from India if things fall into place?

Initially, we plan to use the Airbus as we already have a new aircraft but yes everything is in progress. We hope we can fly it as early as possible.

What kind of food you plan to have on the direct flights once operational?

Currently I can’t elaborate on that but definitely we will focus on the market we are operating from.

Original article

Interview with Guldeep Singh Sahni

Interview with Guldeep Singh Sahni
President, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI)

By Neha Singla Posted On: May-June 2016 in Insight,

OTOAI: Streamlining Indian Outbound Tourism


The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) was created in 2011 to help the outbound tour operators even as outbound tourism from India continues to boom, says guldeep singh sahni.

What was the idea behind the formation of OTOAI?

It was conceptualised in 2011. There was no organisation that was looking at the issues of outbound tourism. Also we experienced that a lot of overseas vendorscoming to India were not able to find a consolidated platform to reach a recognised outbound tour operator – they would either end up visiting 20 offices, out of which 18 would be inbound operators or car rental guys or visa guys.

In a way a lot of things were coming up where a real outbound tour operator was not being recognised.Government is not doing much in this regard as the sector is already doing well on its own. It’s like when one child is doing well; they would want to focus on the other one – which is okay. Our intention was to recognise the right kind of tour operators and bring them together on this platform where they can actually demonstrate who they are, the kind of work they produce and then the stakeholders will get a platform where they can work with us. In the process we put them on the list of active members and impart education to foray better in the competitive world.

How you think outbound tourism can help the country?

The more Indians travel, the more will be the awareness about India – it automatically complements the inbound travel, if you look at countries like UK where Indians have been travelling for quite a long time now, we have good numbers coming in from these countries as well. So we can look at how outbound tourism can be used for inbound,for example, when a tour operator goes to country he can do some sort of branding for India and become the brand ambassador – we can look into that.

Why you didn’t look at the support from the Bali tourism for the convention there as you had for the first edition in Philippines?

First we wanted to do it on our own and then ask for support; also it was a very short notice, a lot of tourism boards had this issue that it is going to be the end of the year. But this was not the main intention – the idea was to show that we are the tour operators; we can create our own convention and then looking at the results people can come forward willingly and support us and that’s what has happened. We managed to have around 240 delegates – that happened because of the sheer commitment.

How do we differentiate between a tour operator using his social media platforms and an Online Travel Agent (OTAs)?

There’s no way that you can differentiate. B2C will not look into that, they will only look at the cheaper option because for them it’s the same product.

I think it becomes media’s responsibility to educate the customer that they should check the reality of who’s the one who’s in the background. So we can’t say that OTAs are a threat, no, they are a reality because they are there. A lot of people say that more than 53 pc of business goes to OTAs, but I think they are also including the B2B sellers in this number who are doing online bookings. So if you cut that figure out, you will see it’s the tour operators behind those numbers, OTAs are doing their bit but there are still people who want to have that human touch so I don’t think that there’s a threat.

There are still people who want to do their own research and book their holiday themselves because they feel that packages are like school trips, so how do you break that mindset?

It is again the same thing that we educate the customer. When you go on an organised series tour then you are bounded like a school kid. But there are agencies that do customised packages and you will really get the value of it. What happens is that when the young generation will start travelling a lot more and will have hundred other things on their mind then they will not have the time to organise their trips and they will definitely need a tour operator.

> Original articles