Managing and handling Incredible India as a “brand” is like teaching an elephant to dance! Indian corporate have been known as elephants who have learnt to dance by managing change through restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, reengineering, sticking to core competencies and diversification, as the case may be, that we have heard about ever since 1990-91, when the Indian economy was liberated and opened up. Teaching the elephant India to dance is a stupendous task. Yet it is happening. A bit slowly, but surely.

The Government of India’s tourism department is selling “Incredible India” as a country for picture and colours! But the reality is much deeper and beyond this. There is the world and there is Incredible India coming to terms with it, and to be recognized as a player on the same turf as other countries in business and other ways.

Post ADASIA at Jaipur
In a recent full page feature in The Times of India, after the Asian Advertising Conference (ADASIA) in Jaipur, celebrities and icons of Indian business have described and voiced their opinions on Brand India, which became the sub-theme at the ADSIA along besides its main theme: “Breaking the Rules”.

Kumaramangalam Birla reiterated that our mahaan Brand India signifies deeper aspects than from India just as a product. Brand India connotes India’s prowess in many forms and fields. What thus is needed, he believes, is to inject an element of pride within the country and then go out and command respect for it outside the country. He stresses on doing this by building on our success stories – IT, manufacturing, tourism, and so, backed by our values, ideals and images.

Anand Mahindra expressed that for Brand India there is no mountain too high for it to climb. All we need to do is to get rid of the negative stereotypes about us and develop a well-managed communication strategy to put out the message about its people, its ambitions, and its growth realities.

Alyque Padamsee, the self-proclaimed “God” in advertising, talks of Chandrababu Naidu’s example of how the CM marketed Andhra Pradesh to the rest of India and the world. He urges good advertising and public relations to project the natural intelligence of the Indian people -- the brain box of the world. Supplementing this view, Cyrus Oshidar of MTV, says that the go-getting spirit of young Indians, their ability to set goals and work towards them are qualities that will stand India in good stead. He thus was referring to the new India and the new Indian economy today and tomorrow.

In another Sunday editorial, journalist Shobha De raises questions on the concept of Brand India. Like, “Will our country continue to shine with politicians of the kind we have today? How good do they make us feel, and how they make world feel towards us? If this is our (doubtful) image, she suggests we change our Ad Agency instantly!!

In all this, there is one key question that still prevails and is being debated. Some of us believe we are in a position to take on the world – especially our direct competitor Brand China. Others say, no we are not. First let us manufacture a solid product, and then go out there and sell it! Our quality is still poor, our infrastructure is weak, corruption is rampant, and now there is the specter of communal problems. Only time will tell. We are talking still of India being the super power in the year 2012!!

Unique India
However, India is unique in many ways. We are the largest and most stable democracy in the world. We have without any revolution evolved, transformed and progressed from an agricultural economy to and industrial economy, to an information and IT economy today.  What we need is the spirit of “India first and India last”.

 China in comparison may be a powerhouse, as termed to be, but in my view it is only a source for manufacturing and outsourcing (meaning for cheaper production). India on the other hand, on similar parameters is a powerhouse with a difference! It is a market for purchase and consumption first ( true purchasing power at the marketplace) and not just numbers (population as made out to be) – and therefore a good hunting ground for MNC companies and products. Far different from 1970, when George Fernandes drove out IBM and Coca Cola, and clubbed big business as being BAD business. I believe, if IBM had stayed on then, our IT situation viz. hardware and software today would have been far better than Singapore or some of the other countries who are now ahead of us.

 India for anyone is a long-term bet. The needs of our people (consumers) are varied and up-to-date, and only the supply of the range and quality of goods and services is still restricted. There is dire need for consumer orientation on a bigger scale. In respect of information and knowledge (data mining) on consumers, and the right communications to them to be loyal partners in business and profits. Furthermore, India with it geographical location on the globe and with English as the mother tongue in business gives us an edge over China and other countries for business and overall economic exchange.

 India today is interestingly witnessing the diffusion and innovation, as the B-School theory goes, with the intense competition at the marketplace. With commodities being generated into brands, MNCs weaving desi designs to catch the local eye, to private labels jostling with branded Indian and foreign goods all across the country. The pressure no doubt is immense if one looks at the successes and failures of Indian and MNC brands. Brand India is a unique case of glocalisation! One of the most interesting examples in the present day global business world.

New paradigm
The debate on “Made in India” and “Made for India” in the minds of business and consumers has no meaning today. India is and has to be strong domestically to be strong globally. Indian products must be of good quality and strong in delivering benefits to buyers, if India is to be the “brand” to be reckoned with. The signs towards this are visible with entrepreneurship and globalization taking place in some sectors. Indian players are making a mark in name, image and performance as brands and companies. With the right marketing mix, consumer orientation and best practices.

India has woken up to the liberating influence of what economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction” – the death of the outdated at the hands of the modern. In India the old companies are rebuilding themselves, while the new ones are leading the charge into the new millennium. This is so across public sector and the private sector, and the impact is radical. PSUs are heading for disinvestments and privatization; many companies are on the block or being merged for synergy and profitability. As a nation, in this respect, we must forge ahead in unison and with a renewed confidence and hope.

Towards this it is also imperative to achieve a synthesis of understanding and relationship between the government and industry on a range of issues in order to crystallize our responses to the challenges ahead. The corporate sector has to spearhead the process in areas of intellectual capital, globalization, infrastructure, information and technology, corporate governance, education and social welfare. Particularly in respect of aspects such as intellectual property rights and patents regime and such future issues. India cannot go untouched. And we require the staying power in all our sectors with the right resources, products and trained people. The government has to support this with the right policies and ensure fair practices and competitiveness within the country and in the global arena. Any slow down, or an insular attitude in this, will hurt the country’s as well as the industry’s prospects and growth.

A Knowledge Economy
India’s true claim for success will be in the knowledge intensive businesses and services, which leverage on our known and available “brainpower”. The effort of business and the government to increase market capitalization of companies is a positive indicator of this in the private sector. The focus in general has shifted to value driven new economy businesses. Exiting form old businesses to new ones is no longer a tedium and a stigma. In fact the perspective is long-term, and the goal is to build the future of business and industry, and Brand India.

The new economy is all about new knowledge based operational frameworks, entrepreneurship, new ideas and technology allowing companies to innovate, customize and reshape the way they have operated so far. The concept of e-commerce and doing business electronically is a living example of the trend and desire towards this, and which will ultimately distinguish the professional and successful players from the rest across industry and businesses.
We are re-discovering the dictum that “Knowledge is Power”. India will prosper. In fact India’s future depends on it. Its people and systems are in place to a large extent. It is in the implementation that fine-tuning is now being done and necessary.

To enlist Indian in Brand India’s growth mission is no longer a matter of making impassioned speeches or issuing eloquent manifestos. Like so much in business, it comes down to using information properly – internally and externally. To communicating and creating peer group awareness and gaining from it within companies and as a nation as a whole. That is the challenge and opportunity for India Inc. and the newly coined name Brand India concept, today.