- Ahead of our
Independence Day, we spoke to experts about what Brand Indiastands for today, how it has evolved the years, and what would a pitch for Brand India look like today.
- We try to answer a few of these questions with
Ambi Parameswaran, Founder, Brand-Building.com, Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Advisor and Mentor, Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist & Angel Investor and the former Asia-Pacific Marketing Head of HP Inc, Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish BijoorConsults Inc and Karthik Srinivasan, Brand Consultant and Social Media Expert.
On the occasion of our 74 th Independence Day, we thought of sitting back and reflecting how far we have come as a nation in the last 74 years. A lot of work has gone behind building Brand India over the years into what it stands for today.
However, the year 2020 has brought with it massive changes, not just in India but across the world. The pandemic has perhaps changed how we live our lives forever. The business landscape is changing too.
For years now, our country’s population has made us a rather attractive market for many global players, with most of the biggest global brands trying to make inroads into India. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent clarion call for becoming ‘Vocal for Local’, has brought about a wave of enthusiasm to adopt local brands. And things are changing slowly.
The ban on Chinese apps have further also given rise to numerous Indian players coming into the picture and wooing consumers with their innovative, differentiated offerings.
So when we talk about the image of India as a brand, it is safe to say that it is ever-evolving. However, in our attempt to dive a little deeper and decode what Brand India stands for today, we caught up with some experts from the industry. They helped define Brand India for us, told us how it has evolved over the years and told where we stand in the global scheme of things, while also giving us a pitch for Brand India.
Ambi Parameswaran, Founder, Brand-Building.com
Brand India has traversed a vast terrain in the last 74 years. From the days when the Western world gave us a few years to come apart at the seams, to becoming a basket case, economically, today we are the world’s largest functioning democracy. We have our problems and have not achieved a China-like miraculous rejuvenation, but we are not a country going out looking for aid.
Brand India has emerged into a brand that stands for a number of things in the minds of the global citizens. On the one hand it is seen as the originator of Meditation, Yoga and nature-based cures. On the other end, we are seen as world leaders in Information Technology services. Our hospitality industry is widely recognized as among the best in the world.
But there are pieces missing in all this. We are a poor country. While millions have been pulled out of severe poverty, almost 25% of Indian households live below the poverty line.
Is GDP a good enough measure or should we look at a different measure? While arguments may rage over that question, we cannot have a large percentage of our population going hungry, without education, without healthcare, without a proper roof over their heads. So there is a lot of work to be done.
Brand India, which was once set to become a global disappointment, is no longer in that corner. The world is wanting Brand India to come out shining. It is up to us to rise to this challenge and become a kind, spiritual, democratic world economic power.
Happy Independence Day!
Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Advisor and Mentor
I think we have evolved from a colonial state into a country of our own.
But over the years we have not come to mean one thing or a few things to people around the world. Yes of course mystics, spirituality, yoga, elephants, cows, ancient civilisation, world’s largest democracy and land of diversity all seem to stay with us.
But as a country we need to mean much more. I remember in the old days we always associated ruggedness and quality with German products. We associated quality with British and American products and so on.
When Japan first made an entry into the world market, we associated them with cheaper products. I bought my first National Panasonic two-in-one because it was cheaper than the rest. Some people told me it would work fine but wouldn’t last very long. I was OK with that. But it didn’t take them long to overcome that reputation. Most Japanese products I have bought last me longer than anything else. I know people who finally sell their Toyota Corolla after a good 10 years because they are almost disgusted that it won’t stop.
Or the famous triad London-Paris-New York became the epitome of fashion.
When China entered the world economy, they were in the same situation as Japan in the 70s. Cheap products. But again, China overcame that long ago. I look at my Apple charger in my MacBook Pro and see that it says it is produced in China. And I wonder why I still can’t fit an Indian 3 pin plug into my wall socket without holding it up with matchsticks or some other packing. I wish we made plugs that would fit perfectly. Again, China is just the world’s supply hub for everything. And they can make batteries but they can make Boeings as well.
In this context I would like India to mean something. I know that we are known for software but I am disappointed that we are known to be the cheaper software engineers around the world (code coolies) who are capable of working long hours. I also often wonder why the software that Indian engineers are producing is making the developing countries more developed. Why is that technology not available in India?
India needs to be a value-added manufacturer of goods and services in the world economy. It’s not the samething as being an exporter. An exporter rarely dominates the world market.
We have the chance to be the world’s supply hub. We have an advantage of being democratic, trustworthy and honest.
But let us please leave our pride of jugaad behind. It’s only a low-cost ingenious solution that can work in India and nowhere else in the world.
Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist & Angel Investor and the former Asia-Pacific Marketing Head of HP Inc.
As India enters into its 74th year as a free nation, it’s interesting to look at how we’re perceived by the world and where we clearly need to get to.As far as perceptions go, while we’ve dusted off the colonial legacy of maharajah’s and elephants, we’re still steeped into tradition, and seen as a nation that takes two steps back for every step forward.
While nations younger than us have moved ahead and given their citizens a better livelihood, we still find ourselves battling age old disputes, debating reservations, struggling to get basics right – education and healthcare for all; clean drinking water and functional infrastructure.
A word-cloud of business related attributes on India would have terms like | poor infrastructure | dysfunctional legal system | unresponsive bureaucracy | corrupt policy makers | archaic labour laws |in short a difficult environment for business.
On the positive side, India remains the world’s most vibrant – if sometimes floundering – democracy, with diversity that would make most continents seem homogeneous, in comparison. It’s vast and growing middle class and dramatic growth of the internet and digital services, offers a world of opportunity that Jio platforms cleverly used to woo global tech majors and some of the world’s premier funds.
Then of course, we have the shining stars that still make India so alluring – Yoga, Bollywood; world class management talent; tech and software geeks running the world’s back end; an emerging hub for startups; a deep culture of service and the ability to get the impossible done surmounting the odds.
Going forward we need brand India to build a strong culture of trust and reliability; speed, efficiency and quality, while still keeping our multicultural ethos.The lumbering elephant needs to trot… The world is waiting.
Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
From a state of food shortage, to one of disease and death (a very high rate of infant mortality included), a very low level of literacy and a very deep degree of poverty, Brand India has traversed many, many miles. And yes, there are ‘miles to go before we sleep’ for sure!
India today is a robust brand in the roster of nations. Our second largest population number makes us a market for many from every nation. Additionally, higher prosperity indices make for a robust domestic consumption market itself. A strong government at the centre, a host of very positive reforms that relate to health and education in particular will lead us to the dreams that India aspires for. It is clear that India does not lack for positive policy initiatives. If at all there is a lack and lag, it is in the implementation.
As India evolves, we need to tackle the key issue of jobs for all. And that is the only red flag for now in our brand progress.
Brand India today represents numbers for a start. The 1.3 billion plus population number is a number no nation can ignore. The important aspect of Brand India is the fact that we are a vibrant and strong democracy. A democracy that fought for its freedom, went through early tumult of a nation in the making, and has emerged over the years as a strong force to contend with. A strong democratic force.
The diversity of India is its other appeal. A diversity woven into a seamless unity under the nation and its positive governance structure. Yes there are differences and noises of dissent and fight of every kind, and that is indeed the true nature of India. Each and every voice of dissent is a positive voice that seeks the same goal: a strong, mature and prosperous India. That indeed is the beauty I see in the political dissent we witness today. No one is right and no one is wrong right now. Time, debate and dissent will cobble together the future for this great land of ours. That's the beauty of brand India for me.
Karthik Srinivasan, Brand Consultant and Social Media Expert
The pitching of Brand India depends on who it is being pitched to. For instance, if it is being pitched to voters in India, the narrative would be very different, compared to Brand India being pitched to overseas investors.
If it were a generic pitch to no specific group in particular, I'd perhaps pitch Brand India in the following manner:
India is all about largeness.
Largeness in emotions
Largeness in meaning
Largeness in faith
Largeness in consumption
Largeness in giving
Largeness in living
There is good and bad in the largeness - it denotes excesses, history (largeness in time), population, loudness among others. But that unique combination makes it larger than the sum of its parts.
India is greater than the sum of its parts.