Chapter Twenty Three: Shah Rukh Khan and Cadbury Ad- Love and Hate in the Times of Social Media and Machine Learning

India is starting to celebrate the festive season which is around the corner. Advertisements of big brands wrapped in relatable content are appearing on our television and social media. Cadbury is known for its relatable advertisements. Cadbury released an advertisement that features Shah Rukh Khan, who is battling to save his son Aryan Khan in a seemingly vindictive drug case. Despite evidence that seems to be suggesting that his son, Aryan Khan, has not consumed drugs but was only present or invited at the wrong place at the wrong time, has been kept in custody till 28 October from 3 October 2021. The advertisement looks interesting as on its surface it promises to promote the local businesses ‘This Diwali, we helped hundreds of small businesses by making India’s biggest brand ambassador, their brand ambassador.’ The advertisement allows the local businesses, who have been badly affected due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, to promote their ventures by creating their own advertisement in Shah Rukh Khan’s voice over.

You can watch the advertisement here: 

The Indian economy has been in a terrible shape in recent times, particularly, during the ongoing pandemic. The lockdown imposed by the central government in March 2020 forced thousands of people to leave the cities due to shutting down of business. Many migrants died while returning home but the government remained unmoved by the misery of the people. Thousands of small and medium businesses have been shut down and lakhs of people have lost their jobs and many are facing salary cuts and loss in their income. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy over 10 million people lost their jobs because of the second wave of coronavirus and 97 percent of households' incomes have declined since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Constantly rising fuel prices have also been adding financial burdens on the people, particularly, who live at the margin. 

Users have hailed Shah Rukh Khan as a trend setter. You can read some of the reactions here:

The Cadbury Ad uses Machine Learning innovatively that allows the local business owner to recreate their own advertisement in Shah Rukh Khan’s voice over and face to promote one’s business on their social media networks. Machine Learning is a data driven technology, hence, we must pay attention to the data policies of these initiatives, as it states that profiling of personal data and/or analysing and improving the quality of Cadbury’s products or services can be used. The Ad is being hailed on social media as path breaking and innovative as it allows to promote local products. However, such advertisements by big corporations such as Cadbury are paradoxical as itself, perhaps, has destroyed the local sweet shop. In the garb of promoting local business, technically, selling their own products. Through its catchy tagline, ‘kuch meetha ho jaye’ [Let’s have something sweet] creates an image in the minds of consumers that sweets or celebrations mean Cadbury.

You can visit on the website here:

In the face of an aggressive market oriented environment, local products need to be protected. Big corporations have increasingly attempted to reach out to the people residing in remote parts of the country through relatable advertisement campaigns. In a capitalist economic structure, selling products by manipulating emotion is a well known strategy. However, empowering local businesses needs a bottom up approach by providing them new avenues to expand their business. Especially, with growing penetration of online service delivery platforms such Amazon and Flipkart. Increasing penetration of the Internet has increased this vulnerability as big tech companies are giving big discounts to attract customers. There is not an iota of doubt that the local products and businesses are battling for their existence and needs protection from all the spectrums of institutions from social to political.

Shah Rukh Khan, India’s biggest movie star or according to an estimate, perhaps, biggest global film star with 3.5 billion followers around the world is currently battling to save his son in what increasingly seems like a deliberate attempt to frame in a drug case. You can see some more reaction on Shah Rukh on the campaign where some people hailing him as a superstar but some of them abusing him as Islamist and druggist:

However, Internet and digital literacy can also be instrumentalised in providing a new customer base to these local products and businesses as well. Towards this end, Digital Empowerment Foundation’s attempt in Chanderi, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, is a shining example. Chanderi, known for its handloom and weaving, was about to lose its glorious past due to shrinking market space. In order to connect the weavers of Chanderi to consumers, DEF took multiple initiatives such as DigiKargha, and Chanderiyan. Along with this, DEF’s programmes such Wireless for Communities (W4C) to connect the Chanderi’s weavers to the Internet, subsequently, to the world and initiatives on digital literacy helped weavers to use the opportunity that the Internet has to offer. Such initiatives at community level are critical to empower local business and products as it creates a sense of solidarity. Even to create personalised advertisements through not just Cadbury and to promote products one needs Internet and digital literacy.

India’s craft traditions and craft skills, passed on from generation to generation, are not just an important part of its cultural identity but a crucial means of sustenance for numerous communities. According to official figures, there are about 70 lakh artisans engaged in craft production for their livelihood. As per unofficial figures, there are about 20 crore artisans who form the backbone of India’s non-farm rural economy. The development focus of the model allows the integration of both the social and economic capital needs of targeted artisan communities in an effort to lead them towards inclusive growth. Projects under DigiKargha work with support from Media Lab Asia for Chanderiyaan, Ericsson for Bank-e-Loom, Mphasis for Musiri, Nokia for KanchiLoom, UNDP for Warli, and Microsoft for DigiKala, Kaulava and Pochampally. The cultural heritage of India needs to be protected, DEF in partnership with UNESCO India and the Indian Heritage Cities Network initiated the project to digitally enhance India’s culture and heritage to showcase the potential of the areas through rich text, photographs and videos.

To know more about DigiKargha please visit:

To know more about Chanderiyaan, tap on the link below:

To know more about W4C please visit:

To know more such initiatives please see

India needs the sweetness of Cadbury or rather sweetness from the local sweet store, and the healing touch of Shah Rukh Khan not bitterness and hatred of the psychotropic ideology.

What’s Up at DEF?

As we discussed above as to how DEF’s programmes such Wireless for Communities (W4C) continues to connect the unconnected, particularly in the telecom dark settings.

This brings us to an important aspect for all of us, Media Information Literacy. Tap below to have a look at the visual representation cum definition of MIL:

Similarly, read how DEF's Digital Daan program is helping people cope with the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

The importance and instrumentalisation of MIL and connecting the unconnected is reflected in DEF’s Digital Sarthak programme. Read below Kaveri Devi’s story about the same:

Happy Diwali and Go Local, Folks!!

Write a comment ...

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad

Show your support

Kindly support to fight digital divide and connect marginalised people. Donate here

Recent Supporters

Write a comment ...

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad

TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad, is a weekly conversational bulletin curated through the news and discussions on social media as well as what's happening on the ground. Through the eyes and ears of Digital Empowerment Foundation across rural India and global south, TypeRight aspires to focus on bringing the contextual relevance of digital technologies and developments on the society - both connected and unconnected.