This is the time for Indian brands to step out and reach out to the global world
It’s the time for India!
I have always been a believer and a cheerleader for Indian brands. And it’s the time for them to fly.
I have had the opportunity to work on a number of Indian brands over the last three decades. One of my first campaigns – ‘Chal Meri Luna’ – was for an Indian brand of mopeds that created a stir in the market in its time. I have found Indian brand owners brave and willing to operate from intuition and vision.
Pidilite started advertising its ‘white glue’ – Fevicol – in the late 80s, when it didn’t seem logical to do television advertising aimed at end consumers for a low-priced, not visible, carpenter-used product. It was very farsighted. Fevicol is today one of the most loved brands and a hallmark of quality for its retailers. It has created strong entry barriers for competitors and continues to command a premium. Alongside its strong contractor outreach program, its iconic advertising has built ‘unbreakable bonds’ with that community. ‘Fevicolka jod hai, tootega nahin’ has become an iconic line in everyday parlance in India! Tasting success of Fevicol in the early 90s, the company went on to build a number of other brands – Fevikwik, M Seal, Dr Fixit, to name a few.
Similarly, Asian Paints started its brand building process in the 80s – and this too has enabled the brand to retain its premium position in the market place. It was among the first brands to use a cultural insight – festivals and paintings – to build emotional affinity with consumers with its ‘Celebrate with Asian Paints’ campaign. Again, daringly, without any external pressure for change, just recognising the changing Indian environment and consumer, Asian Paints repositioned itself as a décor brand with its ‘Har ghar kuch kehta hai’ campaign in 2002. In this last decade, the brand has revolutionised the paint market through innovative products, retailing and even services like Home Solutions and colour consultancy. The brand has created a base that now allows it to move beyond paints into adjacent categories.
Bajaj is a transformative brand story in Indian marketing. From an iconic scooter brand of the 70s and 80s, it dared to become a motorbike brand in the new millennium. I was fortunate to be part of the launch of Pulsar that introduced India to power bikes.
Interestingly, all three brands moved global early in their lives, demonstrating confidence in their quality and their ability to compete in the global marketplace. These are just three Indian brands I have had the privilege to be associated with – there are many others built intuitively and ahead of the curve in many categories.
Historically, we, as a culture, have not been very outward looking. While we are very assimilative, our urge to go and spread our wings outside our shores has been very limited. Our entertainment industry, for example, has restricted its appeal to the diaspora when going abroad. Given the size of the local and diaspora audience, the numbers look huge and satisfying. However, of late in the last two decades, it’s a matter of pride to see some of our stars like A R Rahman, Aishwarya Rai, Priyanka Chopra spreading their impact to global audiences. Even if the industry is not pushing its footprint, some individuals are!
We are today in a climate that is both encouraging and exciting for Indian brands going out. The government is making India more visible to the world. Initiatives like ‘Make in India’, ‘World Yoga Day’, et al provide a platform for visibility and creditability for India and Indians. The ‘Incredible India’ tourism campaign (and I had the fortune to be associated with it) publicised over the last decade and half has taken India into the hearts of the world through the sensitive eyes of tourists. This is opening new opportunities for Indian brands.
My dream is that more Indian brands ‘conquer’ the global space. This is the time for Indian brands to step out and reach out to the global world. Just as the infotech industry did in the late 90s and early 2000s to reposition India in the minds of the global business community, home grown Indian brands can enable India to live in the hearts of global consumers. Brands are about winning the heart – and Indian brands know well how to touch hearts, as they are built from the heart. All it needs is a global vision backed by confidence and Indian persistence. The time is ripe, the time in now.