Brand India

Brand India is evolving rapidly, like India itself

It potentially can be about global leadership in sustainability

View an Indian street clogged with three-wheel auto rickshaws, motorcycles, luxury cars, women in colorful saris weaving through the traffic on motor scooters and, occasionally, even men at the roadside prodding their water buffalos to keep up the pace. Listen to the incessant tweeting of horns as drivers signal each other. Smell the aromatic spices of the street vendors.

This is Brand India. You can see it, hear it and smell it. Understanding it is more difficult. The cues that work in other markets don’t always apply to India. Sometimes what you think you see isn’t exactly what you get. The women in saris, for example: Are they acting in a traditional role, hurrying to shop for their families or are they newly empowered, hurrying to work at their high tech office jobs? Or both?

The further problem of understanding Brand India is that it’s not static. It’s changing as fast as India itself. And the measurements of that change usually result in superlatives. Current annual GDP growth of 7.5 percent outpaces all other major economies. India’s population is expected to reach almost 1.5 billion in about a decade when it will surpass China as the world’s most populous nation. The 33 percent year-on-year brand value increase of the BrandZ™ India Top 50 exceeds the growth rate of the Global Top 100 for every year since the rankings were launched a decade ago.

Understanding Brand India – both today and tomorrow – requires getting beyond the surface appearance and the superlatives to distill the essence of what makes India, India. And what distinguishes its products and services from those of other nations. The Brand India of today is about the relative presence of various product categories. The Brand India of tomorrow potentially can be a powerful idea that influences how products are made and marketed worldwide.

DIVERSE AND COMPLICATED

Brand India is already as diverse and complicated as India itself. Brand India in part reflects the country’s past as a 5,000 year-old-civilization that has absorbed many cultures, has been governed by successive dynasties, and for over a century was shaped by British colonial rule.

That aspect of Brand India is apparent in the combination of product categories that drove the year-on-year growth of the BrandZ™ India Top 50. Financial services brands increased 49 percent in brand value. Home and personal care categories followed, with 32 percent brand value growth.

The strength of financial services is common in most country markets, although it may be exaggerated in India. The heavy presence of high value FMCG brands distinguishes India. Twothirds of these FMCG brands are part of multinationals present in India for a long time, reflecting western, especially British influence. These categories, and the qualities they represent – the institutional steadiness of banking and dynamic marketing of FMCG brands – are the opposite aspects of Brand India. Newer aspects of Brand India are suggested by the 15 percent contribution of the telecom category to overall India Top 50 brand value, and the anticipated impact of categories that are not yet present in the India Top 50, such as e-commerce and mobile handsets.

A NEW VISION

The apparent chaos of the street, which can seem like the energy trapped inside an atom, is that raw human potential that exists in all countries and gets tamed or unleashed depending on the government in charge, its ideology, competence and temperament.

Almost 70 years after independence, and nearly a quarter of a century since economic liberalization began in 1991, the Indian people, in May 2014, voted for a government with a transformative vision about opening the Indian market further and creating a more prosperous and equitable country – as quickly as possible.

Only in its second year, the government has already introduced many programs to advance this agenda by creating new cities with state-of-the-art infrastructure and digital networks (Smart Cities), and by expanding education, health care and government services more broadly (Digital India). Most significantly for brands, the government launched a program to encourage companies to make and sell their products in India (Make in India).

EXPORTING AN IDEA

As Brand India evolves it initially will be understood differently according to market. In emerging markets, India may continue to be the provider of reliable, good quality, lower cost products such as mobile handsets, motorcycles and entry-level cars. In many markets, the reputation for Ayurvedic remedies and other practices and products with specifically Indian characteristics will persist. Millions of individuals gathered from New Delhi to New York’s Times Square, on June 21, to participate in the first International Day of Yoga, established as a worldwide event by the UN.

Ultimately, Brand India can be associated with a broader range of products. Products in India are already made by brands that are indigenous to India and private; brands that are state-owned; and brands of major multinationals with deep roots in the country. With initiatives like Make in India, this diversity is likely to increase and the global influence of Brand India should expand.

Brand India potentially could be linked with the way products are made. Brand India could signify a particular mentality, a way of living in the modern world in a meaningful and sustainable way. And every brand that makes a product in India would be influenced by the Indian way of thinking and doing. Every product potentially would be produced more mindfully and with greater regard for the customer and also for the wider community and, ultimately, the world.

Brands that engage in India and take on those attributes of Brand India could become better brands, imbued with the higher purpose that consumers increasingly expect. This Brand India could become one of India’s most influential exports.

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