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Here’s The Why & How Behind P&G Shiksha Leveraging ‘Stand-up Comedy’ To Make Its Consumers ‘Stand Up’ For A Cause

In his interaction with Marketing Mind, Abhishek Desai, Vice President- Brand Operation and Category Leader- Grooming, P&G India, highlights how the focus of P&G Shiksha has shifted from building educational infrastructure to remediating the underprivileged by bridging the prevalent learning gaps in India, this time around with Rahul Dua himself hitting the audience with the gut punching tagline- ‘Would you laugh if it was your own kid?’

| Published on June 5, 2024

Here’s The Why & How Behind P&G Shiksha Leveraging ‘Stand-up Comedy’ To Make Its Consumers ‘Stand Up’ For A Cause

In a country like India which is known to be the world’s most populous country with over 142.86 crore people, as per United Nations’ list of most populous countries 2023, the nation’s Human Development Index value in terms of rankings is often placed at the 134th spot as against 193 countries.

That being said, one of the three factors which contribute to the nation’s overall HDI value is Knowledge and Education. And hence, if one pulls a leaf out of World Population Rankings by World Population Review 2024, it is clear that India lags behind a wide margin as the literacy rate of India is 74%.

While literacy rate in itself is impacted by multiple factors, it can be duly noted that it is underprivileged sections of the Indian society which have been subjected to inaccessibility of basic education.

Being a purpose-led brand that it is, Procter & Gamble India, in 2005 took the onus upon itself to aid in remediating the issue at hand within its limited capacity and birthed its flagship CSR program- P&G Shiksha to champion the access of education for millions of underprivileged children in India.

And in the past 19 years, the brand has impacted the lives of as many as 45 lakh children across the country by making a holistic 360-degree educational intervention in the country.

In his interaction with Marketing Mind, Abhishek Desai, Vice President- Brand Operation and Category Leader- Grooming, P&G India, who since the time of his joining has been associated with the flagship CSR Program, emphasised that P&G India’s endeavour with P&G Shiksha is to positively impact the communities that it serves, operates, and lives in as this is precisely something that is woven into the company’s fabric globally.

“Kicked off 19 years back, P&G Shiksha has been one of the first projects that I worked on when I joined the company and since its launch in 2005, it has been a consistent element of pride for everybody in the company owing to the fact that the same exudes the fundamental ethos of P&G,” he shared.

With this, he also pointed out that in the initial years, the company’s focus with P&G Shiksha was to supplement the government’s efforts in creating access to infrastructures for schools and the education ecosystem at large and as the country evolved and solved this over time, the focus widened to include a 360-degree holistic education provision focused on underserved communities across the country.

“We aim to improve children’s learning outcomes by strengthening education infrastructure and making it conducive to learning, by preventing and remediating learning gaps, and empowering marginalized groups to education. Hence, our initiatives are in line with the New Education Policy, which is to educate, encourage and enlighten,” he said.

With this in context, it is also be noted that P&G India rolls out an ad campaign, year after year, for P&G Shiksha wherein it draws the audience’s attention to certain known yet unnoticed and rudimental facets that can impact the education dynamics of the country’s underprivileged sections.

Building on these pillars and the fact that P&G globally is considered to be one of the leading purpose-driven brand, P&G India as a company with its flagship CSR program not only intends to boost its brand awareness in the market but also aims to remediate those in need by identifying the key issues and extending its on-ground support to alleviate the ‘learning gaps’ in India’s education ecosystem.

In fact, in its last year’s campaign for P&G Shiksha, the brand had showcased an underprivileged girl named Bindiya shying away from answering her teacher’s questions by hiding under the table so as to dodge away from being put on spot in front of her classmates owing to the fact that her concepts weren’t as clear as the rest of the students.

Stemming from the same, the brand has taken a humorous stand-up sequence as a hook this time around to highlight the very ironical yet ubiquitous stance of people when it comes to passing their own child’s mistake as cute but ridicule or scoff at others’ children for their inaccuracies.

Conceptualized by Leo Burnett India, the film opens up with a stand-up sequence by a popular Indian stand-up comedian- Rahul Dua and then seamlessly building up to appoint where he points out the issue of learning gap, followed by a pause where everybody in the audience introspects on how they would deal with the situation if it were their own child by making them understand the concepts and supporting them.

Following this, the video also mentions how P&G India along with its own set of in-house brands and external partner is making a difference on-ground by running remedial labs for children to learn, clarify their doubts and bringing them on the same page as their peers as part of the company’s long-term vision for its flagship- Shiksha Initiative.

“Because everything we do starts with the consumer, the Shiksha program also started with understanding what are the causes that our consumers associate themselves with and over a period of time, we realized that it is not just about education about their own kids, but education of the nation as a whole is one of the causes that our consumers deeply resonated with and that’s what led to the genesis of the program. And for the past 19 years, we have been at it because we do believe that making a long-term sustainable impact goes a long way in our ability to make a difference versus going in and out on programs,” he elaborated.

Sharing a personal anecdote to establish the relatability quotient here, Desai said, “When I grew up, Hindi was a challenge for me since it did not come naturally to me as it was not my mother tongue. And that’s why I felt that I was behind others and hence I would often try to avoid Hindi classes in school. But then one day, my mother stepped in and being a pro at Hindi that she is, it was she who helped bridge this gap for me and while I had someone to solve the issue of learning gaps for me, not many of our audiences or children enjoy similar access. And hence, we are trying to bridge that gap by providing those tools under P&G Shiksha to the underserved communities.”

Commenting on the reason behind using humor as a hook for the multi-media campaign, P&G India’s Desai said, “We believe humor is a very powerful tool, but it has to be handled with a lot of care. What had happened when we were starting to think about this year’s campaign was that we were exposed to this clip where a child said something funny and instinctively, we all had smiles or laughter on our face. Just then, the question that was posed back to us- ‘Would you laugh if this was your own child?’ and that really shook us as it felt like a gut punch to us as parents and so we decided to fix this gap.”

Delving further into the genesis of this campaign, he also elaborated that it all roots from the fact that what may seem to be someone’s entertainment can be somebody else’s crisis and hence P&G India as a company has taken the onus to do its part.

Citing a Forbes study, he mentioned that one of the video clips where a child incorrectly answered a journalist’s question went on to become one of the top 10 most searched memes and that the child thereby ended up becoming an object of mockery and ridicule.

“As a brand, we need to move the conversation from there to making consumers aware about learning gaps so that it is no longer ridiculed and everybody can take collective action to bridge them accordingly,” he added.

Sharing his thoughts on why roping in Rahul Dua felt the right fit to the brand for this particular campaign, Desai pointed out that the fact that Dua is a very well-known stand-up comedian and that he himself is someone who believes in the cause made him tick the brand’s boxes when using humor as a way to connect with more and more consumers whilst delivering a much more hard-hitting message.

“For this campaign, we were looking for genuine voices and advocates who can take our messages to millions of consumers and since Rahul Dua himself had faced learning gaps in the past, he just seemed to be the right fit for us. Apart from him, we will also be roping in various credible advocates and opinion leaders for amplifying this campaign over a period of time. We have already started this by inviting Konkona Sen to our panel discussion on the campaign’s launch,” he said.

Sharing the public’s response that the brand has received so far for the campaign, Desai mentioned that everybody has pretty much liked this entire approach of starting with humor, followed by the entire phase of transition from humor to something which really hits one hard.

“Apart from the campaign, what we’re doing under P&G Shiksha is not just building awareness but actually providing on-ground support in multiple ways ranging from early education support and the right technical tools to kids who don’t have access to it with our NGO partners and Mindspark and also creating customized plans for every individual. While we’ve impacted 45 million children so far with the program, the focus is not on quantity but quality as we believe that the bigger opportunity today lies not in unlocking access to education, but in ensuring that the learning outcomes and bridging the gaps therein,” he said.

Concludingly, P&G’s Desai also highlighted that in the past 19 years, 70% plus teachers have told the company that this initiative has made a meaningful difference in the way education is imparted and helped in bridging the learning gaps along with almost every parent coming back to us with similar feedback and that has been the proof of the pudding.

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