It was one fine day in May 2018 when the thought was placed in my head. Gautam, you are so passionate about the city and are recognized for your voluntary contributions, why don’t you run for mayor of Toronto city.
Interesting idea, after all, the mayor is the CEO of the city and I am in transition so why not explore the option?
Spoke to a dozen people and each one gave me a thumbs up and soon it became real. Getting the 25 endorsements was not as easy a task. Some people were fully supportive yet others did not want to be involved with politics. Very interesting turn of events. It took a month and by 8th of June, my papers were filed and I was a formal candidate for mayor. We had barely four months till the DDay and began to put together my strategy. We had to rely on digital media and the website was created as the go to platform. All supportive social media was to push viewers to the website. The website took about a month to create and by mid July, we were ready to hit the air.
I reached out among my network and had many people put up their hand in support. Companies based in Toronto, London UK, Michigan US, Hyderabad India and Mumbai India reached out and supported me with content, SEO, graphic design and online media placement. A team of about 50 volunteers across different cities were mobilized, some getting to know me for the first time. A senior communications director took charge of a team of communication experts who were pushing out content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, YouTube and other online channels. Funds were raised through the network and went towards media buy and PR.
Financing was tight and challenging with the bulk being received from close well wishers and self. But the time and passion dedicated by the volunteers was priceless. It was like handling a global scale project and spending every waking hour in managing this big campaign. Then in September, the public speaking mayoral debates began.
My 10 Point Action Plan was converted to short videos and beamed on YouTube and Vimeo among others. The mayoral debates gave me opportunity to meet and share ideas with other candidates, some were friendlier than others. We discovered that media had to support you for public exposure and most media wanted funding, that was a challenge especially among some of the smaller candidates with limited financial backing. The period required a very high energy dedication and constant pressure to perform. It was literally a 24/7 effort for these months and one didn’t expect the kind of focus the campaign required. An experience that was priceless and possibly once in a lifetime. They say usually the incumbent stays ahead in the race and that was clear in ours.
Among the 35 candidates running, the incumbent was always in the lead and had full media support. When the numbers came in, being in the top 15 was beyond our expectations and although our vote numbers were few compared to the leaders, they were three times more than we realistically expected. The campaign does not stop on Election Day and the work continues on the financial closing, meeting and thanking supporters and in the general wind up of the project.
Someone asked, if you could rewind the clock, would you do it again, and my immediate answer was a big resounding YES. It was an experience of a lifetime!