The Make My Trip ad inviting Pakistani fans to avail discounts is awful—not just in taste but timing, too. Who makes things difficult for a fan like me on an India-Pakistan match day? I have been forced to sit before a computer even as my men in blue hit the ground to take the Pakistanis down for the record eighth time in a World Cup encounter. But I had no choice; it was ‘India’ before ‘Team India’. The MMT ad that slyly preys on Indians’ hate for Pakistanis has made us look even smaller. Yes, ‘smaller’. We had started to appear ‘small’ even before the cricketing extravaganza began. First with the Pakistani team’s visa issues and then… more visa issues. This time for fans from the neighbouring country who are missing from the stadiums.
The full-page advertisement published in a national daily reeks of poor research on the part of MMT’s creative team. The print ad begins with ‘an open invitation to Pakistani fans’ and ends up being an open invitation to hate that my country is now facing from the Pakistanis on X (formerly Twitter). Certainly not the kind of engagement I was looking forward to. World Cup is the melting pot of the best cricket can offer in the ODI format. Fans wait for years to witness this. And when it comes to India-Pakistan, only cricket should speak—the ball talking to the bat. Not offensive exchanges fuelled by an ad that offers ‘discounts’ to the rival country’s fans for each wicket lost.
Not a sporting image, MMT
What they have missed is the fine line between banter and coarse. Just like the one-day format of the game, its hype, too, won’t last. Social media amnesia, you see. If anything, it leaves the brand with an image that’s not representative of Indian ethos and certainly not sporting. Trivialising the ‘Atithi Dev Bhavo’ philosophy and using it for a nation and people with whom we have tense and complex relations shows an insensitive approach and a poor understanding of the target audience—Indians like me who travel and quite often use MMT’s world-class services.
And a Bharatiya travel company headquartered in Gurugram (for Gurgaon wasn’t Bhartiya enough for us) making fun of the Urdu-speaking Pakistani team’s English is ironic, to say the least. The ad shows Pakistani fans enjoying a meal with a smashed TV screen (suggesting Pakistan’s loss) in the background and a note reading ‘BOYS PLAYZ WELL’. Did the ideation team not know that India is soon becoming Bharat, and in Bharat, English speakers don’t receive special treatment? And Indians don’t bully unless provoked, be it foreign policy or the cricket field. This MMT ad is nothing short of a bully. Leave that role to the Australians, MMT. Or the Black Caps, if the Ozs are being too soft this time around.
The ad is almost vile because it asks Pakistani fans to book accommodation and travel tickets and avail offers, ignoring the fact that such cricket lovers are missing from Indian stadiums this World Cup. Call it geopolitics or poor planning, but that has happened. The scarce number of Pakistani supporters coming to India means they do not need travel or accommodation advice or advertisements like these.
The much celebrated ‘mauka mauka’ ad series has long been part of the India-Pakistan fan ecosystem. It is also a reminder of that thin line of sensitivity. The MMT ad, too, saw a mauka to gain some publicity as Indians burn in the fever of cricket and rivalry. Except what it has turned out to be is simply cheap publicity.
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)