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A 'Saffron' makeover for Left to rebuild image!

Last updated on: September 8, 2010 08:45 IST

Left plans a 'Saffron' makeover to rebuild brand Bengal

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Namrata Acharya & Ishita Ayan Dutt in Kolkata

The Red bastion of 33 years, which is showing signs of crumbling in West Bengal, is going in for a 'saffron' makeover.

The Left Front government has roped in the United Kingdom-based Saffron Brand Consultants, headed by image artist Wally Olins, to rebuild the image of brand Bengal.

The formal appointment is expected next week and the work will have to over by January next year. Saffron will shortly set up a camp office in Kolkata.

Olins comes with impeccable credentials, with a client list that includes LVMH, Coca-Cola to Visit London, the Royal Opera House, East Timor Development Agency, and the European Patent Office. But giving a facelift to brand Bengal could possibly be his most challenging assignment yet.

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Image: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee.

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Left plans a 'Saffron' makeover to rebuild brand Bengal

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State government officials confirmed the development, but Saffron is tightlipped.

"We are yet to get a formal letter of appointment from the government. Hence, we cannot share any details right now," Avik Chattopadhyay, who runs Saffron's Mumbai operations, said.

Olins met West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta in June.

The initiative had been taken by Olins himself, as he felt brand Bengal could yet be salvaged.

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Image: Left Front supporters block a national highway in support of the Tata car project at Singur village.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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Left plans a 'Saffron' makeover to rebuild brand Bengal

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Bhattacharjee and Dasgupta must have been impressed by what they heard. For, Saffron will be paid Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) as fee.

Though the timing is curious as West Bengal is going for elections shortly, state government officials say the brand-building exercise will be totally apolitical in nature. The brief is quite clear: Olins is not here to help the ruling party.

The diktat from the state government is that there should be no political overtone or undertone in the brand-building exercise.

"There has been a lot of misunderstanding on Bengal. We need to set that right. They will examine the strengths of Bengal, and see how it can be projected positively outside as well as within the state," said Niloy Ghosh, special secretary of the Information and Cultural Affairs Department.

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Image: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

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Left plans a 'Saffron' makeover to rebuild brand Bengal

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The target: Investors and people at large, which would entail Saffron reaching out to rural Bengal as well.

But few are willing to give Olins even a slim chance of success in his new assignment.

The image of Bengal as an investment destination has hit rock-bottom after the Nandigram fiasco, when an unspecified number of people were killed in police firing following a turf war, the seeds of which were sown in a special economic zone project.

That marked the return of the ruling party's arch rival, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who is now the Union minister for railways.

Even as the public memory of Nandigram started fading, came Singur, the original site for the Tata Nano project.

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Image: A street in Kolkata.

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Left plans a 'Saffron' makeover to rebuild brand Bengal

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After a very dramatic agitation against land acquisition, led by Banerjee again, Tata Motors pulled out of the state in 2008. In the ensuing years, the ruling party has done miserably in all elections.

However, the move to rebuild the image of a state is nothing unique. Several state governments have in the past resorted to outside help for brand building.

One example would be the Gujarat government roping in actor Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador to promote its progress in various fields.

The Maharashtra industries department has hired consultancy major Ernst & Young to boost the image of brand Maharashtra.


Image: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Photographs: Jayanta Dey/Reuters
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