Several decades ago Albert Mehrabian coined the 7-38-55 rule of communication, whereby in any face to face communication, words used have a mere 7% weight.

38% of the message is understood from how those words were said and even greater, 55% of the message is understood from the facial expressions of the speaker while saying those words.

In short, the visual impact that the speaker can generate is far more potent and efficient than any words in the dictionary.



Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be using the same formula to showcase a new face of India to the world.

In his (much discussed) trips abroad, besides his other agenda, he has ensured that his impeccable ‘style with substance’ resonates an image of India that is rich, vibrant, prosperous, confident and ready to take on the world. And the results have been noteworthy.


He has forged new friendships, created a buzz, ensuring India gets recognized for all its worth. Indians now have a no visa treaty with lot more countries; also India is now a strong contender for a permanent seat in UN Security Council with a lot more countries on our side.

He has a modus operandi, and he is creating the right ripples with his signature appearance (albeit there have been times his designer took it too literally).

Perception of India has changed globally in these years under his tenure compared to what we were able to achieve in all the past 67 years since independence. The tiny steps to progress are now gaining speed from a trot to a gallop and hopefully a full throttle shortly.

August Image, a leading Image Management consultancy in Mumbai has put together a study of the visual impact of Mr. Narendra Modi’s dressing style and his body language regarding his predecessor, Dr. Manmohan Singh, a man with very impressive credentials, yet who came across as a weak leader.

They are two different people, coming from different economic and educational background, having a very different style of leadership, yet both occupied the seat of the Premier of India.

The objective of the study is to gauge how far the visual portrayal of a person can impact the credibility and the trust he can generate in others.

Let’s take a look:

His ever-confident stride and expanded body give an impression of fearlessness. The visual impact it generates seems to suggest that he is bold and brave to handle any crisis that comes his way. No other Indian head of state before him has had so much of machoism on display!


He expands his body, creating a larger than life impact on the onlooker. It reflects his credibility, confidence and keeps the viewer in awe of him. And in his image resonates India’s image!

This physical proximity says a lot more than mere words. This is the closest they have ever been to the USA, A move that has changed the international dynamics of India’s relationships with rest of the world.


We may seem close here as well but look carefully; Obama has his hand on Dr. Manmohan Singh’s shoulder, a sign that he can control India.

When premieres of two countries shake hands, there’s lot to be studied in that whole act. This is a glove handshake indeed, suggesting closeness in Mr. Singh’s and Obama’s relationship. Their mutual respect for each other was a topic of discussion during Mr. Singh’s tenure but look closely at the hands. Who has the upper hand?

The two-handed handshake here again, but this time India’s prime minister has the upper hand!

Dr. Singh failed to learn the politics of handshake. It’s an unsaid rule; the person on the left of the picture has an advantage of keeping his hand up. All the leaders scramble to take their positions just before the shoot, so that right messages go out from the pictures. Dr. Singh almost always allowed the others to have the upper hand on him.

Mr. Modi has taught himself the tactics of body language, and he uses them with aplomb to show other heads of state their true place!

In this picture, he is a step ahead, and his hand is on top. In body language analysis this is to read as he will dominate the show no matter what pesky tactics the neighbors adopt.

He learnt the handshake trick quickly and knows with whom to practice.

No Indian leader has ever been able to strike such bonhomie. This man has absolutely no inhibitions. The unabashed glee on his face shows how comfortable he is with the US President; many other heads of states would vie to be in his shoes.

A perfect statesman – he has a vision and the ability to build the consensus to achieve that vision.

President Obama was the first American leader to be the chief guest at India’s Grand Republic Day celebrations, an honor that underscored the growing warmth between the two countries. Getting Mr. Obama to India for our Republic day sent quite a few messages to all our neighbors including China. Mr. Modi has a strategy and he’s abiding by it very strategically.

Mr. Singh was a simple, humble economist seated at the Prime Minister’s chair. He could not get himself to exude the authority the chair demanded. In his simplicity he bowed down to others. In the study of body language, bowing down to others makes you look weaker.

He allowed others to lead him, once again making him look weaker.

In contrast, Mr. Modi knows how to stand tall. No one can cower him down.

Mr. Modi is a self-taught man. He has imbibed learnings from great leaders in his life. It seems he has also taught himself the science of body language as is clear from the two pictures featured here.

He has grown wiser as he grew in the ranks. The downward facing palm in his earlier pictures has now become inwards. There is a contrasting difference in these two gestures. The downward palm shows dominance, whereas the inward facing palm suggests inclusiveness.

Therefore, in his speeches when he vocally assured the people of India that he will take them along in the journey of India’s progress, we believed him. He has learnt to match his words with a synchronous body language. There’s no dichotomy in his words and actions lending veracity to his words.

A poll analysis showed that more women voted for BJP. An interesting study in body language shows that women are more accurate judges of body language and Modi has their vote!


He now uses this gesture in his speeches, a circle made with index finger and thumb. This gesture helps one to be perceived as thoughtful, goal oriented and focused. These are the very traits one looks for in a good leader. Mr. Modi is making all the right moves!

Now a look at his dressing style. His dressing sense is vibrant. There’s always something new and fresh to look up to. It’s a rich look. That is the message of the new India he gives to the world, to the old and new allies.

The vibrancy and the richness of colors and textures in Modi jackets symbolize affluence. His wardrobe is unpredictable; He always adds a zing to his outfit, a touch of youthfulness and creates a point of emphasis, making it look grandiose.

His color choice is impeccable. He chooses pastels to match with his white facial hair and then he creates a dramatic impact by contrasting it with the bright accents of his “Modi Jacket”.

Dr Singh in contrast had a very predictable wardrobe. A black or dark blue bandhgala with light blue turban became his trademark look. It could not generate any interest in the onlooker and never became a topic of discussion.

Mr. Modi is surely working towards bringing India to center stage. His personal image has also become a tool for the purpose and thus has been carefully crafted to send the right messages in the international arena.

A picture speaks more than a thousand words. These pictures clearly reflect a story of two different personalities with two different leadership styles. The study also shows the power of projecting the right image and how it can be used to get the desired effect.

Managing one’s image is a nuanced art backed by scientific studies. One can curate a strengthened image to achieve success in all walks of life.

The pictures have been compiled by Savieta Batra, an internationally certified Personal Brand Consultant, based in Mumbai.

This article was originally published in the huffingtonpost.