12 Apr 2015 19:02 IST

Will brand India roar?

Will a renewed brand promise be one that can be leveraged to successfully elevate India’s standing internationally and perhaps have tangible returns

‘Make in India, Make for India’ is the line on everyone’s lips ever since the Narendra Modi-led Government launched its ‘Make in India’ initiative in September last year. The aim is to encourage companies to manufacture their products in India. A staunch proponent and implementer of the view – by his own admission, long before the philosophy was adopted by the Government as part of its reform agenda – is Piruz Khambatta, chairman and managing director of Rasna. Speaking to cat.a.lyst on the sidelines of a promotional event in Chennai, Khambatta put his own spin on the catchphrase, turning it to ‘Make in India, from India’.

While make in India emphasises making in India for use in India – for instance, building a submarine in India to be used by the Indian Navy – one should also look at making in India for the world, he says.

Make in India, From India

Exports, he feels, will be the key to this as they will lead to an increase in production, to meet domestic and foreign consumption. And producing more would lead to a fall in the cost of products, also known as economy of scale. “The reason why China is able to sell and manufacture cheap mobile phones is because it makes them in large numbers for its own population and the world at large,” Khambatta adds. This is economy of scale, a principle according to which, loosely put, a cost advantage can be gained by an enterprise if it expands the scale and size of its operations and increases its output. Owing to it, the cost per unit of the output generally ends up falling as fixed costs are spread out over more units of output. Not only will exporting products result in prices of goods falling, since it would force enterprises to produce more, it will also lead to companies, as shown by Tata group, “to make an impact and grow globally,” he states emphatically.

Here, ‘Made in India’ won’t only be something one would want to buy because of its low price, but also something one would want because it was developed in India. And brands which can boast of such a reputation are few and far between, says Ashish Mishra, Managing Director, Interbrand India, in a news report in Business Line. “There are a number of large Indian companies that do business globally but none of them have a global brand. In fact, in the top 100 global brands, there is no Indian company,” he adds.

Opportunity for a country brand

There’s no denying that the prospects of ‘Make in India, from India, for the world’ sound enticing. That said, one can’t help but wonder if ‘Make in India’ will translate into a ‘Made in India’ brand. Can this be an opportunity for another government to, yet again, try its hand at creating a country brand? Back in 2006, the ‘India Everywhere’ campaign was started by a section of Indian leaders to deliver a message to the global community: India is the fastest-growing free market democracy. At Davos that year, Nandan Nilekani, the architect of this campaign, was quoted in the media as saying that through this campaign they had demolished the fallacy that democracy and economic growth were incompatible.

Futile propaganda

Will a renewed brand promise be one that can be leveraged to successfully elevate India’s standing internationally and perhaps have tangible returns, such as attract investment and propel growth? Simon Anholt, founder of the Good Country Party and the publisher of the Anholt-GfK global annual research studies, is a bit pessimistic about the future of such an endeavour. “Although I’m supposed to be the person who coined the term ‘nation brand’ back in 1998, over the years I’ve found I’ve had to spend more and more time trying to discourage governments from wasting taxpayers’ money on what is effectively futile propaganda,” he says. He believes there is no proven way of manipulating international perceptions of a country by means of communications, marketing or any other artificial method. “All my research over the last two decades shows unequivocally that countries are mainly judged on the basis of their perceived contribution to humanity, not by their economic success, beautiful landscapes, history and heritage, or anything else that frankly provides little or no benefit to anybody who doesn’t happen to be a citizen of that same nation,” he explains.

According to the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, the largest annual international survey of national image, which was launched in 2005 and has now collected more than 200-billion data points tracking perceptions of 50 countries (and 50 cities in its sister survey, the City Brands Index), India has typically ranked around 27th place out of 50 countries since 2008, but its scores have fallen noticeably (to around 31st position) during the last two years, Anholt says. But irrespective of this, domestic and international corporations are quite taken with the idea of a country brand. Most recently, Germany-based automobile components manufacturer Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions unveiled a series of products in Bengaluru, articulating its philosophy as being: ‘Design in India to make in India’.

“If India wants to be more admired," says Anholt, "and one thing I have succeeded in proving over the last twenty years is that being admired produces more trade — then it has to do more for humanity and the planet, not simply become more powerful or successful for the benefit of its own citizens. It’s as simple as that,” he explains.

Long Haul

Having said that, Anholt adds: “The exports of a country — when they are extremely high-profile consumer brands that are widely associated with their country of origin, such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Gucci or BMW — can contribute something to the image of a nation, but only over decades and generations.”

So, perhaps, this time around, the inverse would hold true: It won’t be the country’s brand image that will pull the weight of a product’s brand image, but a product’s image will go into building the ‘nation’s brand’. This time, the made in India will try to make the image of India.

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