Can We Get Past The Gatekeepers?

It has been a few months of noisy outrage. It started on 14th June with the shocking news that a rising star Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his apartment. Few bought the ‘suicide theory’ and started calling out nepotism and ill-treatment of ‘outsiders’ in the film industry. A few weeks later, a book on the 2020 Delhi riots was canceled by its publisher abruptly. People started raising alarms about the threat to freedom of expression, and the blame was put on ‘influential authors’ who allegedly lobbied to get the book blocked. In other news that week, Congress President Sonia Gandhi offered to resign but was reinstated as the President after a lot of drama. The people, one more time, rued the fact that just one family was controlling an organization with a rich legacy.


One cannot fail to notice a striking similarity in all three events. In each case, people were protesting against systems held to ransom by gatekeepers, cosy clubs, or the entrenched insiders who were allegedly keeping the meritorious outsiders out.

But amidst this gloom, came a piece of news that offered hope. India’s loved cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni concluded a very successful career as millions of fans reminisced his contribution to Indian cricket. If films, publishing, and political fields were accused of nepotism, dynastic control, and cosy clubs to keep outsiders away, MSD was a heartening example of exactly the opposite – of a field where capability and hard work of an ‘outsider’ were rewarded. Here was a former railways’ ticket checker hailing from a small town with no family background in sports, whom the ‘system’ had managed to spot, promote, and empower. India is among the best in the world in cricket because it manages to run an efficient talent search and promotion machinery through Ranji Trophy, local clubs, and good infrastructure. In this system, even sons of Gavaskar and Tendulkar haven’t been assured a berth if they don’t match-up.
Like cricket, other fields too, need to become more open, professional, and meritocracy-based. Political parties need to have greater internal democracy and systems similar to ‘primaries’ in the USA where any aspiring and capable leader can rise to serve the nation. The film industry which traditionally thrived on informal funding and ran like a family business too needs to professionalize itself more. The film industry has given opportunities to dozens of newcomers, and the publishing industry has promoted many first-time writers. But they need to do more to keep the Gatekeepers away, especially in terms of giving visibility and platform to newcomers.

Failure to establish a meritocracy-based professional system will hurt India in many ways. It will hurt us as consumers who get inferior local products and force us to buy more foreign products. It will hurt the young talented professionals because they can’t find challenging career opportunities. Above all, it will hurt aspiring citizens who won’t be able to see a strong, developed India in their lifetime.

To bring about a systemic change, we need more risk-takers and leaders who can challenge the prevailing systems and reform them. We need mavericks who, if not happy with the system, set up new media houses, new political parties, new ventures, new film production company or self-publishing platforms for promoting diverse voices. We need more people like the entrepreneur who, when not allowed entry into a hotel, established his world-class hotel chain.

About the Author

Alpesh Patel

Alpesh Patel is a thinker, researcher, bestselling author, tech entrepreneur. He has been a management consultant with Big4s and authored the book ‘Chalta Hai India’.

An avid reader, Alpesh has diverse interests in fields like Artificial Intelligence, business management, history, social science, films and economics. He is a regular guest speaker at India’s leading B-schools and colleges.

Disclaimer: The views in the article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of MediaCatalyst, its associates or any of its employees.