I am not a negative person. I am not anti-India. It is in my blood to B+. And truly, I Love India. Which is exactly why I am writing this from the heart, with no holds barred.
What is Brand India really about? What is the India beyond what we see in doublespread ads and the glossy billboards plastered everywhere from Marine Drive to Times Square and Davos?
What are the dimensions of Incredible India, India Shining, and Atithi Devo Bhavah which our spin doctors and marketing magicians fail to reveal?
What is the product we are selling? And are we all collectively responsible for corrupting its core values, and communicating a falsehood – as we ourselves have blurred the lines between what is right and what is wrong?
Here is how I see it. From marketer’s perspective.
The qualities of a good product (and the parallels for the product that is India)
- It must be well built
- It must function smoothly
- It must be user friendly
- It must be compatible with the environment
- It must durable
As a simple test, rephrase the statements above into questions about product India, starting with “Is it…” and see if you can honestly come up with the answer “yes it is” to even one question, leave alone all five of them!
My submission is, we are as much to blame as the administration (cutting across party lines), for the fact that “we are like this only…”
On one hand we have people who year after year design and produce this bad product with no after-sales service. And on the other hand we have a whole lot of people who buy this product year after year without complaining.
From design, to construction, to maintenance – everything provided by the government is of inferior quality and faulty. From basic infrastructure like roads, sewage, electricity and water – to basic support systems like municipal bodies, and law enforcement agencies like the police.
People turn a blind eye to roads made of mud, sewers made only on plans, electricity only in dreams, and water only on the roads. We pay bribes to public servants, more often than not for simply doing what they are paid for in the first place. And we commit crimes like building illegal structures and jumping red lights, knowing that there are no repurcussions which a few hundred rupees cannot overcome.
And then there are corrupt corporates who take advantage of the chaos, knowing fully well that people neither have the time, nor the ability to challenge them. The result? Faulty products from manufacturers, illegal charges from financial institutions, and so on…
“Politicians battle Corporates. Corporates battle the Administration. The Administration battles the People. The People battle… well everyone!”
The result, as I see it, is we are building a brand, that despite all its potential, is today really a cheap convenience. As long as our ‘cost of production and consumer acquisition’ is low, people and businesses will come and get the best they can out of India without complaining too much.
The moment our costs rise, we will get knocked out of the ring by China with its production capabilities and potential as a new market. Because quite simply, China is pulling out all the stops to ensure they can answer “yes” to all the five questions above. Intent, followed by Action. A good product, supported by good branding.
So who are we really kidding? What are we nurturing? What are we doing all this for? Another sleepless night without electricity? Another bumpy ride on the road? Another series of unanswered calls for service? Another bribe to the cop who comes to verify your legitimate passport address? Another protest outside your factory by out-of-work politicians? Another act of vandalism by out-of-their-mind, self-styled moralists?
This, incredibly, is the product and brand India we deal with every day. This is the product we brand as incredible and shining… invoking patriotic fervor internally and attracting business externally.
Incredible it is. But not exactly as the ad suggests.
Mumbai (7) and Delhi (24) star in the 25 Dirtiest Cities of the World 2008
India ranks 72 in Corruption list
Exporting the Malaise – India tops world Bribery List!
A wide angle view of India (India features towards the end of the article)
Coming soon: India fights back: a brand new movement!