Working With The Gandhi Foundation

Sometimes your ancestors call out to you and make things happen in your present. This is how this story goes…Late last year I started to explore my family history from my mother’s side, regarded as one of the pioneering Indian families in South Africa. I knew that my great-grandfather worked with Gandhi when he was in South Africa and helped Gandhi establish the South African Indian Congress; and that my grandfather was very active with the Indian Congress too and was instrumental in creating change, bringing sport, particularly football to the Indian community in South Africa.

Anyway, I started to think a lot about my grandfathers and their work with Gandhi, fast-forward to September last year, when I was invited to speak at Threads of Change, organised by Khadi London, at the Nehru Centre. At this event, the chairman of the Gandhi Foundation, Mark Hoda came to speak to me. He said he followed his instincts to talk to me (this is why we should always trust our gut instincts, that inner voice) and well, as they say, the rest is history. I am now very proud to be working with the Foundation.

The principles of Gandhi are so relevant to everything that is taking place today – we need to be the change to tackle climate change; we need tolerance for each other and more than anything we need collective people power for peace, and harmony and to create balance.

 

Photo Credits: The Gandhi Foundation

New Bhajan Album Launch, Sama

 

Growing up one of the weekly things I did with my mum was go to something called a bhajan, which I would describe as communal singing of spiritual songs. Bhajan is a centuries-old musical genre and a Sanskrit word that refers to any devotional song with a religious theme or spiritual ideas. So, when international musician and vocalist Bhavik Haria, asked me to work on the launch of his bhajan album, ‘Sama’ I knew it was the right PR project for me.

‘Sama – songs of virtue’, is Bavik’s defining new album, and is music that honours the essence of bhajans, with a contemporary sound. To celebrate the album, we are hosting a special event on 5 June 2024 at the prestigious Nehru Centre, Mayfair London. Where Bhavik will be playing music from the album, performing with talented musicians, which includes a saxophonist and violinist, bringing traditional Indian and Western instruments to create a modern form of bhajan. The event includes special guests and the opportunity for the audience to interact with Bhavik at the end with a Q&A session.

Kaykay Chauhan has produced the album with lyrics by Ajay Chandaran and is in partnership with Arts Council England and Atlantic Electrics. It is also a UK-India production, where the sound includes celebrated musicians from the UK and India. ‘Sama’ takes the listener on a soulful journey of transformation, transcending religious labels. The album explores gratitude, compassion, and the liberating power of forgiveness, important reflections in today’s troubled world.

Bhavik has just returned from a sell-out tour of South Africa and to celebrate ‘Sama’, he will be doing a three-city UK tour this summer, that includes London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Bhavik has evolved the sacred vibration of bhajans to engage new audiences. His concerts are hugely popular drawing ethnically diverse people of all ages, from as young as 10 to 70 plus.

‘Sama’ is part of Bhavik’s mission to #KeepBhajansAlive which he successfully started in 2020 and to help further this work the album has a QR code which gives an English translation of the lyrics from Hindi.

‘Sama’ has already earned praise, and Mark Hoda, Chairman of the Gandhi Foundation says, In today’s conflict-torn world, we need more harmony. We are delighted to support Bhavik Haria’s new album, ‘Sama’, which perfectly aligns with our values to promote unity, peace, and balance. We are behind Sama’s journey for goodwill and compassion.”

Bhavik Haria says, “Sama is a special album, that reflects a universal journey we all share – a search for connection, unity, and balance in a world that often feels chaotic. It goes beyond religious boundaries, to resonate universally with everyone, exploring themes of gratitude, compassion, and the power of forgiveness. It has also been a personal quest to instil the timeless tradition of Bhajans with a new perspective that resonates with today’s generation and is part of my mission to #KeepBhajansAlive. Sama is music that explores unique compositions.”

 

For more information about the event on 5 June or ‘Sama’ drop me a line at sangeeta@serendipitypr.co.uk

New Book: Hindu Astrology – Myths, Symbols And Realities By Dr Anthony P. Stone

 

Why does Hindu astrology work? That is the central question explored in the book, Hindu Astrology by the late Dr. A. P. Stone, a book campaign that Serendipity PR & Media is now working on.

Originally published in hardback, it is now being published in paperback by Pippa Rann Books after being out of print for decades. Its publication date is 20 June 2024 and is available for pre-order from all bookstores and online retailers.

Hindu Astrology transcends all cultures and is a classic, answering questions from – where and how Hindu astrology developed; to what are its similarities with other astrological systems; when does it not work; and everything that the professional astrology and general reader would want to know about this intriguing topic. The book foreword is by Garima Garg, expert and author of, Heavens & Earth: The Story of Astrology through Ages & Cultures.

The author, Dr. Stone, was a mathematics graduate, with a PhD in theoretical physics, both from the University of Oxford. He learnt Sanskrit specifically for the purpose of reading the source documents in their original language and went on to write this authoritative book.

Originating in ancient India, and based on the Vedas (the oldest sacred text of Hinduism), Hindu astrology tracks planets, stars, and constellations to predict the future, while Western astrology uses the position of the Sun. Hindus believe that their astrological system gives an insight into personalities, and trust it for decision-making regarding everything from marriage to moving home, to business deals, and even when or what to eat or drink.

Prabhu Guptara, Founder, of Pippa Rann Books & Media says, “Hindu astrology is a fascinating subject and a powerful tool that is trusted by over a billion people to provide valuable insight and guidance on every aspect of life. I wanted to reprint this book and release it in paperback so that the work of Dr. Stone becomes accessible to all who want to understand more about this ancient system”.

Both the publisher, Prabhu Guptara and Garima Garg, who wrote the book foreword are available for any media interviews – contact us for any media queries.

 

More about the author – Dr Stone arrived in India in 1956, and taught mathematics at colleges in Bengal, Kerala, and Delhi. He became intrigued with the Hindu obsession of astrology and learned Hindi at Delhi University and Sanskrit at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to understand the subject. He was accepted as a Fellow of the Indian Association for History and Philosophy of Sciences, and a Life Member of the Indian Mathematical Society and of the Indian Society for the History of Mathematics.

The renowned psychologist Carl Jung, in his book Psychology and Eastern Religion, says about astrology, “Everything that we are not consciously in contact with, appears to us as destiny”.

Camilla Long’s column in the Sunday Times, ‘Enninful’s big goodbye says his Vogue was never for us’ – Is Wrong

 

 

 

On Sunday, I read Camilla Long’s column in the Sunday Times, entitled, ‘Enninful’s big goodbye says his Vogue was never for us.’ It was interesting to read Long’s perspective, which I believe is one of white privilege and is something that I conclude after a lot of deliberation.

In a nutshell, Long says that under Enninful, British Vogue had lost its way and become empty and that as editor-in-chief, Enninful had failed to do what Vogue was known for, which was to discover new talent of writers, photographers, designers, etc.
Long also references Enninful’s last cover which he created for the March 2024 issue of British Vogue, which is called, ‘Legends Only: 40 Iconic Women’, and says ‘it missed the mark.’ See the photo here, what do you think?!

I re-read Long’s piece, and mulled it over…and it just did not sit with me, so much so that I was compelled to write this post. I believe Enninful had shaken things up at Vogue and put diversity and inclusion at the heart of his vision. There was more modern representation than ever before. More ethnic representation than ever before.

I remember the issue that came out during the pandemic, when everything in the UK was in lockdown and Enninful played a blinder or should I say an ‘equalizer’, by featuring frontline workers on the front cover. For the first time in Vogue history, there were ordinary people on the front of the magazine.

This column by Long misses the point and does not see the difference that Enninful made to women like me, women of colour…the rest of us, who have always stood on the outside looking in…

Representation matters because what we see in the media doesn’t just reflect reality – it also shapes it. On the other hand, positive representation can shift public opinion for the better and create greater understanding and appreciation between cultures and communities.

Contrast this with the photo of the editorial team under the last Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, which came under a lot of criticism when it made its way onto social media. There was no representation whatsoever, it was not an inclusive team.

 

And I shall leave you with this last thought, a Reuters 2021 survey of 100 major UK news outlets found that only 15 percent of the 80 top editors were non-white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Body Shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sad to read that The Body Shop is facing a crisis and that its new owner, the third in seven years! – is expected to put the retailer’s UK business into administration. Aurelius, the private equity firm that bought The Body Shop for £207m in November 2023, took the drastic decision after poor sales during the all-important Christmas shopping season seeped into January. No one knows what this means for The Body Shop’s 200 stores across the country but am sure many will have to close.

The Body Shop was set up by the pioneering late Dame Roddick in 1976, which was talking about ethical products, recycling, and refilling, way back then, which has inspired the beauty sector of today. I love the Body Shop and what Anita stood for, so much so that I included both in my last book, Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations, and managed to grab a conversation with the magnificent Löis Acton who was mentored by Anita, through a stroke of serendipity.  It’s a magical way that they met, and if you have read any of Anita’s books, it’s so typical of Anita.

In the 1980’s the Body Shop was popular, and there were so many of us in love with the White Musk perfume, the peppermint foot lotion, body lotions, and banana shampoo, which all became Christmas stocking staples. So, how did a brand that was so relevant become irrelevant?!

Well, I think the late Dame Anita Roddick can answer this, as she once said, “Be courageous. It’s one of the only places left uncrowded.” She also said, “If you do things well, do them better, be daring, be first, be different, be just.” Finally – “One of the most intriguing things in management and business is the role of storytelling – people need the anecdotes to do the work that they do.”

And that is what I believe went wrong with The Body. All its various owners lost the connection with its community, it stopped innovating, being different, and courageous and stopped storytelling, it rested on the laurels that Anita built, and it got lazy. Brands need to evolve and inspire; they need to make us want them.

But Anita created something more than a brand, she woke us up to being conscious consumers, about fair trade, what was happening to the planet, about having purpose and being ethical, and so much more. So, I will let Anita have the last word on this…

 

India’s 75th Republic Day Celebrated In the UK

What a brilliant night it was here in London, celebrating India’s 75th Republic Day on 26 January at the Guildhall organised by the High Commission of India. It was a colourful affair, truly representing the ‘living bridge’ between these two nations of sharing innovation, knowledge, and culture.

 

Republic Day is a national holiday in India and commemorates the adoption of the Constitution of India and the country’s transition to a republic which came into effect on 26 January 1950. The day is celebrated with a colourful parade, where this year French President Emmanuel Macron was the chief guest, which I believe shows how everyone wants to do business with this powerful country.

Part of the parade is always a display of the country’s cultural heritage as well as its military might and for the first time, an all-women contingent of the army, air force, and navy also marched in the parade.

This strong woman military theme from India carried over, here to the UK, where the highlight of the evening for me was meeting the invincible “Preet Chandi, known here as Polar Preet, who crossed Antarctica, and broke two Guinness World Records in Jan 2023, for both the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski journey for a woman and also the longest solo unsupported one-way polar ski journey overall and is also breaking stereotypes.

They say never meet your heroes as they often disappoint, but this wasn’t the case when I met Polar Preet who was warm, kind, and generous with her time…not just to me but to everyone who wanted to meet her.

Polar Preet was with her colleagues from the British Army, and it was good to see them, fully immersed in the evening, representing the harmony between the UK and India, and a friendship that is highly valued.

 

The Traitors Is Fashion Styling For The Sustainable Fashion Faithful

 

Full disclosure, I have not seen any of the latest season of The Traitors on the BBC, but I have been reading all the articles across the mainstream media about the success of the style success of Claudia Winkleman, the presenter of the show, which has been thoughtfully put together by her stylist Sinead McKeefry. There are so many news pieces, features, blogs, articles dedicated to showing us how to recreate these looks and I am not writing this as a fashion writer, but from the place of sustainability and purpose; and so far, I have seen nothing on this topic.

For those who don’t know, The Traitors is a reality show, which has upped the fashion stakes and caught the attention of the country. It’s a haute country look that has been inspired by the wonderful backdrop of the imposing Scottish castle and landscape setting. It is what I would describe as appropriate winter wear, and what we should all be wearing in the depths of winter to keep us properly warm, none of this acrylic and polyester stuff. The style is woolen cable knit jumpers, sturdy tweed, thick socks with the occasional sweeping theatrical moments.

The wardrobe of the latest season of The Traitors is not about fast fashion. Instead, it will be one that will be brought out every winter, it’s a look that is classic, where the fabric will get better as the years go on and if you look after the pieces well, they will serve you. These are sumptuous knits that will need to be darned with love when holes appear, boots that will need resoling when worn and lovingly polished. This is a style to keep you warm in winter, and in my view what purposeful and ethical fashion looks like, where you invest in this look not just for a season but for the future. This is not a look that should end up in landfill.

It struck me, that the other angle to this clever Traitors look is that it is also about heritage styling and heritage brands, which is wrongly associated with luxury. Especially, as traditionally, prominent heritage companies started as clothing suppliers for blue-collar workers…think of the history of denim or the Doc Marten boots that Claudia Winkleman wears, which are as I have read her favourite boots. Heritage brands have endured the test of time, often with a rugged aesthetic. These are clothes and accessories crafted to do a job, created to serve, and function. Where everything is durable, that can be worn while out and about, and on repeat. The complete opposite of fast throwaway fashion. This is a look for people who know how they want to look, come across, and are confident in their style.

This type of styling is something that British heritage brands do so well and are known for their craftsmanship. As an aside, I think The Traitors will be a boost for British fashion.

So, how am I going to end this piece, well I would love to see more popular programmes, films, and even TV adverts with clever stylists and styling, showing us how to invest in pieces that are meant to be loved forever, not a season. Fashion that is for the ‘faithful’, where pieces become our trusted friends, items that we turn to in winter, summer, spring, and autumn, and is not about dopamine buying.

 

Photo credit: The BBC

Shedding Light on The Challenges Marketing Teams Face On Their Net Zero Journey

I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion with experts on 6 December 2023, where we shed light on the challenges sales & marketing teams in B2B organizations face on their journey to Net Zero – based on the latest business research commissioned by Hattrick in partnership with The Carbon Literacy Trust.

We delved into some of the complexities businesses are navigating and discussed what’s needed for organizations to make genuine progress on their sustainability journey.
Facilitated by Josh Pitman from Priory Direct, the panelists were:
– Phil Korbel, Co-founder/Director of Advocacy at The Carbon Literacy Project
– Sangeeta Waldron, Founder/Owner of Serendipity PR & Media and author of the acclaimed book ‘Corporate Social Responsibility is not Public Relations’
– Christos Tsaprounis FCIPD (he/him), People & Culture Leader, Auto Trader UK
– And Malin Cunningham, Founder/Owner of Hattrick | B Corp™ certified
You can watch here:

Download the report here!

India’s External Affairs Minister of India, Dr S Jaishankar In London

India’s External Affairs Minister of India, Dr S Jaishankar was in London in November. To mark his visit, I was invited to a special event, entitled, How a Billion People See the World, organised by foreign policy agency Wilton Park in partnership with the High Commission of India in London. It was an in-conversation session, with Lionel Barber, ex-editor of the Financial Times with the Minister held at the Royal Over-Seas League.

It was a gritty conversation and Barber put Dr. Jaishankar in the hot seat, where China, Canada, Russia, oil, and India’s rise of secularism were discussed and climate change came up twice. On the issue of China, Dr. Jaishankar emphasised that the rise of China is a reality but there is an equal reality which is the rise of India, and said, “The rise may be different…quantitatively or qualitatively they may not be identical.” While on Canada’s allegation of India’s involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, he said, “Look, if you have a reason to make such an allegation, please share the evidence with us. We are not ruling out an investigation and looking at anything that they may have to offer. They haven’t done so” adding that Canada has not yet shared any evidence on Nijjar’s murder with India.

On the topic of secularism, he said it does not mean non-religious, but equal respect to all faiths, that the “appeasement” government policies of the past made the biggest religion of the country feel like it had to be self-deprecatory in the name of equality, adding that the political and social changes seen in India in the last few years have partly been a reaction “at an intellectual and political level” to this sense of unfairness. Jaishankar was also asked if India had changed since the Nehruvian era to become less liberal and more “Hindu majoritarian” under the BJP-led government. While asserting that India had certainly changed, Jaishankar was categorical that the change did not mean India being less liberal but rather “more authentic” about expressing its beliefs. “We are more Indian, more authentic. We are not today, either currying favour before a global audience or really trying to live up to some kind of left-wing liberal construct which a lot of Indians felt was not us.”

This question-and-answer session marked the minister’s final engagement in London as he concluded his five-day UK visit, oh and to add we were all given a copy of Dr. Jaishankar’s book that day, and I managed to get mine signed!

 

 

 

Podcast – Where Does It Come From

 

They say there’s no rest for the wicked and it’s true! Soon after the Business Show, I did a podcast conversation with Jo Salter, host of the Where Does It Come From podcast about greenwashing, corporate social responsibility (CSR), fast fashion, the power of local communities, fake news, and of course my book, CSR Is Not PR.

So if you have time, do have a listen to my dulcet tones and let us know what you think!