Indian Express – 21st Feb 2018

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 17.55.07BENGALURU: Politics is not an easy game, and now you need to play it well-dressed and groomed. Image consultants in the city say that they are getting leaders and workers approaching them for tips and classes on what to wear and how to carry themselves.Makeovers are mostly requested by people in their early forties and into their fifties, and the aim is usually to appeal to a younger voter group. The consultancies charge anywhere between Rs 1.5 lakhs to Rs 6 lakhs, depending on the services, says Renju Joseph, who runs the high-end Ace Infiniti.

“I get roughly about three queries a week, especially now that this is election time,” he says. They approach consultancies as individuals and are not usually sent in by the parties.Another consultant Shreya Dhingra says that she has been working with politicians for many years. She says that they are mostly looking for ways to connect with their target audience with the right body language. This includes body language, voice and vocal projection. “A senior politician approached us recently because he wanted to reach out to a younger audience through his body behaviour”.

Babu Kumar, who is a BJP worker in CV Raman Nagar, is in his early fifties. He says that the biggest learning for him from this image consultant was that he had a poor dressing sense. “I thought I was good,” he says. “Also I thought I had a social-media following until I realised that it’s the same group of people who are engaging with me all the time. These guys changed my perspective”.He believes that dressing well is one of his responsibilities as a leader. “If, as a representative of my constituency, I am shabby, what message am I sending out about my people,” he asks.

Kumar’s receptiveness is a rare thing indeed, especially when it comes to clothes. According to consultant Dhingra, “Their dressing is a statement in itself and they are very sure of the understated look they want to work with. So, one thing they don’t want advice on is their dressing.”Renju says that they steer clear of “making a person look young”. He says that they groom and style them suited to their age, though the consultants do organise events with youthful themes for clients to participate in. “It is not that youngsters only connect to youth,” he says.

A Congress leader, also from CV Raman Nagar, consults Renju. “Best of intentions are lost in transit,” says George Satish, who is a Youth Congress member. He says that he no difference between an image consultant and a communications specialist. “Grooming oneself is also a form of communication,” he says.
(Inputs from Leah Thomas)

What wardrobe for what ward?
Renju Joseph, of Ace Infiniti, says that they analyse a ward’s economic mix before deciding on the dress code. “A ward like Defence Colony can be accessed only with edgy and sharp dressing, since people in the armed forces attach value to turning up well-dressed. On the other hand, right across the road, a ward like Halasuru deals with middle-class and lower middle-class families. Here, people would prefer dressing that resonates with them such as more whiter and crisper clothing. Another interesting behaviour is that economically weaker wards like their representatives flashy. The lower middle-class wards want their representatives flashier and want to look up to them, however the middle class want their representatives to look like them.”

Leaders bunk classes
Shreya Dhingra adds that while there is interest in self-improvement, the political workers are not consistent students. “They are pretty unsure and unclear about what they are looking for. They don’t attend sessions regularly, and this drags on for months”. Therefore, the consultancy has made a conscious effort to take fewer clients from this field. Another consultant Liji Thomas too says that coordinating with a political leader’s team is difficult, since it is difficult to squeeze in classes into their busy schedule.

Better halves are enrolled too
Shreya Dhingra says that few political leaders also come to consultants when they want to their spouses to step into this field. “A few months back, I met a certain politician who wanted to get his wife into the work he does. He wanted us to train her. The younger politicians, especially, want to involve their spouses with the interface like with reaching out to people, making calls, fixing appointments and doing other business-related work. They want their spouses to look better, talk better and connect with people better.”