Heart of the Market

Do you pledge to play more often with Leo? Do you pledge to use the treadmill? Do you? Your heart and its well-being are not only an advertiser’s paradise, but they are used to convey the wide disparity that exists between the social classes.

The Times of India has started the Billion Hearts Beating campaign together with Apollo Hospital. The ads refer to an audience that will have access to the good things of life. The assumption is that heart diseases affect only the urban individual, that only their health is of any consequence.

You might say that readers of the TOI are not living in villages, so it is perfectly fine to address this group. Here is the problem: It creates a closed group that begins to believe that only certain sections suffer; the rest are peripheral.

Some of you might recall that a while ago Quaker Oats had joined in. I had written then about what a sad trend it is of marrying concern with consumerism and blatantly plugging products. While Apollo Hospital does have facilities for such care and is directly involved, what do oats and newspapers have to do with it? You’d quibble that this is sponsorship and support, and the corporate sector can help in educating. I’d have gone along with that if it were only about you and me.

Of the millions who will suffer from heart diseases, how many eat oats or are amenable to the idea? How many even know what oats are? Quaker is not an Indian company; it is a multinational that wants to make a dent in the Indian market. Is there any proven study that shows oats reduce the risk of heart problems or reading a particular newspaper will educate you more?

I called it a trend. It is worse. This is a money-making racket through fear.

We already have false images of people in white coats telling you that your toothpaste has been certified by them so little children can eat as many chocolates and ice-cream as they want. There is one absolutely ridiculous ad where a kid is complaining of a tummy ache and the ‘doctor’ model says it is not the stomach to blame but the germs that find their way into the hands. You get the right soap and all is well. While the germs-on-hands theory is true, the stomach does have a mechanism of its own. No one bothers to ask or tell us that children or adults do not walk around with soap.

If these heart waalas are concerned, and there has got to be more education here, then they could have added some simple message of eating daliya, which is porridge, which is what oats amount to. The minute you want to ride on the salesman’s gravy cart, there is a chance of credibility going under the horse’s hooves.


  1. FV, Quaker Oats is a division of Pepsico Inc., and companies like Pepsico selectively target their ads to the "segment" that drinks their sugary swill, as you probably know.

    What really gets my goat is all these people yelling swadeshi-swadeshi and having Swadeshi Jagran Munchies, that do not do anything to study the traditional cultures of the local populace and start to document all such practices, and then spread the more healthy and useful traditional practices....as opposed to ensuring the propagation of Khap Panchayats.

  2. For example, Ragi and wheat porridge is a low-cost staple diet for many rural people in Kannada and Tamilnadu -- it is usually porridge and buttermilk and if you want a bit of bite to it, grab a raw green chilli to chomp on. This is before a hard day's work in the fields -- none of these people who do actual manual labour need additional aids for removing cholesterol or suffer from heart diesease, since they do plenty of aerobic exercise as part of the job. (Of course, they are exposed to other dangerous factors like arbitrary chemicals harmful to the human body, but that is another thing...)

    It is only the urban don't-move-out-of-your-chair existence that results in heart disease and the like, which in turn makes some mid-level marketing/sales executive get all excited at the potential of selling horse food to humans, but then selling sugar-water is a multi-billion dollar industry, so what to say about that?

  3. Correction: previous post it should be "Karnataka", not "Kannada".


    and an Indian doc's web page on the topic of heart disease among Indians:


    I went searching for news items that Indian Professionals were at high risk to Heart Disease, and sure enough this seems to be a in-topic among American NRIs (link above).

    It makes sense that Pepsico is targeting the segment of Leo-loving-treadmill-walking crowd to hawk Quaker Oatmeal to them. BTW, Quaker's products cost quite a bit more than just plain old oats by the sackful that we buy for our imaginary pet stallion.

  4. Al:

    The urban population is more prone to heart diseases - at least there is more research on that - but the rural population is not immune to it. In fact, from what i have read, incidents of cardio diseases will increase in rural areas. This compounded by the fact that there are several other causes of early mortality.

    Who is interested in collecting data? And what is done with that data, anyway?

  5. FV, data that does not help a neta or a political party win the next election is considered useless data, and even that data is more likely fudged than not.

    After all, who wants to know the average income and average calories intake of the poor man on the street when it is much more profitable to know his caste and whether he is considered OBC?

    If caste and other divisive political issues were not around, these losers we call the Indian politician would have to actually deliver on governance...why else are the likes of Lalu, Mulayam, Mamata, Veerappa Moily, and Nitin Gadkari, and their ilk bent on adding caste to the census, we need to ask ourselves. These hatemongering losers know that they would have to face the wrath of the voter for not delivering on life issues for the average voter even after being in power for decades in their respective states...all these worthies will get an A+ in demagoguery and parochial hatemongering though.

  6. Another example of pure business interests in the Tamil Industry being portrayed as "patriotic behaviour".


    We have LTTE troublemakers in India creating a racket about such things. However, in reality, this LTTE troublemongering does not have widespread support in Tamilnadu.

    Why does the Tamil film industry have to boycott bollywood for holding an awards ceremony in Sri Lanka? And such boycotting is supposed to be patriotic?


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