Prem Rawat: Keeping the Customers Satisfied
Unless Prem Rawat is a complete fool he must have realised 30 years ago that there was little chance of being the hot new thing ever again. Doing more than keeping the existing customers satisfied and hopefully replacing the ones leaving was obviously far beyond his work ethic and talents. All he has to do is jet around the world giving speeches to his fan base enough times to make it seem that there is still some life and hope in Prem Rawat Enterprises Inc. even if Maharaji World Peace Saviour is done and dusted. Keeping up Rawat's appearance of authority and power to his devotees' eyes is of utmost importance and part of that is making it appear normal people just naturally respect him even if they don't understand who he really is. Rawat's brand is old and tired, as are his existing and loyal, long-time customers but they generate a surprising, though undisclosed, amount of funds - about $3 million is publicly donated to his 2 major public organisations per annum.
In the beginning stories about Rawat's brilliance and spiritual power and divinity were mostly word of mouth. This is how Rawat was able to gather followers to generate enough money to support him in relative luxury in the West and finance the movement that created publicity and attracted more and more interested people. Lord of the Universe, King of Kings were just some of the titles passed among the young and eager 'premies.' Much of it was silly. Gleaming posters of Guru Mahara Ji hung on walls to show how he shined from inside. Things became more restrained as time passed and early success dribbled away.
Rawat has a range of activities used to generate PR.
- Rawat makes relatively small donations to various NGOs doing charitable work and his minions arrange photo-ops for cheque presentations.
- He meets local dignitaries and engages in self-promoting back-slapping for photo-ops. He can always ensure at least a small crowd will attend.
- He addresses gatherings based on some small organisation such as a local chapter of the United Nations Association. His minions and web-sites portray this as an official association with the United Nations Organisation
- His minions hire halls in prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Oxford and "invite" him to speak to a gathering of his long-term devotees. His minions and web-sites spin this as if it is an official association with the university
- He is interviewed by small-time media desperate for content that is free
His minions and their machinery then create a blizzard of press releases, web site pages and folderol, apparently targetted to outsiders in "the world" but really created to impress the current customer base and keep the donations rolling in to allow him to keep up the Knowledge facade and the Rawat family opulence. Even the money invested in growing Prem Rawat Inc. in India is probably at least as much to impress the Western premies as to show his Big Brothers that shorty, shorty Fatso Little Brother is the Man. A relatively paltry amount of his followers' donations goes to charitable causes. Most of it is spent on efforts to promote him as Maharaji the internationally respected World Peace Teacher and to "Spread This Knowledge" but all this is really done to keep the current customers believing they're part of a dynamic and meaningful something as they view the websites and stream videos of his speeches.
He used to call himself "The Greatest Magician" and this redirection is working pretty well considering. The numbers at his Annual Peace Retreat are small (usually around 3,500) but they've been stable for 25 years and they, and the larger cohort who can't afford a trip down under every year, generate enough cash flow to keep his bum on the pilot's seat of a Gulfstream 550 though not enough to afford a G650. The loyal devotees have aged gracefully when we compare them to what they looked like in 1979 but they are way down on energy though way up on financial wherewithal.