Wednesday, May 06, 2009

After I posted this, I came across comments of Faith Popcorn on the same issue-" In the next decade, the spirituality will become much more integral to daily life as companies and employers begin scheduling meditation or "spirituality breaks" for employees to pray or otherwise connect with a higher power. Noting that more Americans attend religious services than all sporting events combined, she adds: "Pick-your-own religions will become the new status quo. For example, people may combine Jewish ritual with Catholic sacraments and Zen principles."
I am sensing BUFFET-SPIRITUALITY is the next trend!
On one side the religious lines are hardening, and on the other levels of society, but the time for personality based preachings is over. Human intellect is seeking multiple answers in multiple hues. People are picking up the rght elements from Zen Buddhism, Indian mysticism, Yoga, Arabic Sufism, and more moderate virtues of other religions. People are designing their own religion. A buffett of spirituality, that matches their inner needs. Some of the comments I received on this trend are-
"New thought and new age thinking is definitely more accepted and mainstream now than ever before. I can't speak outside of my own experience with Christianity. Traditional mainstream churches are struggling with membership, Attendance is dwindling in the Catholic and Episcopal churches and I suspect in other denominations as well. Very few people attend under the age of 70. Young people want more discussion and less dogma. More entertainment and less ritual. Oprah and The Secret were the tipping point in the West. Even those who call themselves Christians are dabbling in Buddhism, Kabala and Sufi philosophy.Look at the success of Deepak Chopra! I think that is a very good thing and there's no going back. I think recent global events have made people more aware of the damage done by rigid beliefs. They reject the rigidity but still seek spiritual guidance and comfort."
Marilyn Ellis Owner, Lighthouse Organizers LLC, Harbor Light Coaching

"I concur. I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, but as I matured and educated myself, I found Catholicism wasn't meeting all of my needs; I needed to take a little from Zen Buddhism and mysticism. I think people have been partaking in this form of Buffet Spirituality for longer that we think. I also think it makes sense, due to Globalization... :"
Stephanie Benney Account Executive, PrintSmartz

"I've noticed that a lot of the publicity around positivity as a religious mindset - tuning into the power of the universe, to make your immediate dreams a reality has died down since the fall. In this economic climate, there's real opportunity for religions that give people hope and comfort of the eternal."
Patricia Smith Brand Development & Communications Strategist

"Speaking from a background in the psychology of religion, I disagree. Nothing new or future about that. The "shopping-mall of religions" is a hallmark of modernity, dating back at least to the advent of bourgeois culture. Open-ended media, the self-help shelves, consultancy-culture and increasing available resources (e.g. time, travel funds, etc.) may influence the spread of spiritual ideas and short-term interest, but religion needs to compete with science, therapy, entertainment and other (more current) offers on the open market of ideas and need-fulfillment. If anything, the recent fear of religious conflict probably puts a lid on new spiritual practice these days - and I don't anticipate a reverse pendulum-swing around the corner. "
Andreas Lieberoth project developer and freelancer

Monday, May 04, 2009

What would be te core values of a global product brand emanting from India?

I posted a question on two online groups I subscribe to- “What do you think would be the essence/qualities/values of a global product brand emanating from India?”

I provided the following explanation from my side, to guide the answers-

There is not a single product brand that emanates from India and world knows it. Tata (Nano, Titan, Jaguar...) has a promise but long way to go. With rich heritage, bright business minds and hard working generation India stands a chance to create one. What values should this product brand be built on?

Question was posted at my IIT alumni network and similar other groups where one can expect certain maturity of the understanding of the paradigm we are talking of. Answers ranged from highly IT centered view of the World (full of ‘Service economy’ jargon) to more mature ways of dealing with ‘Brand India’ before we talk of ‘Product brand’ from India. However, most seemed way disconnected from 'Branding' phenomenon. That is the reality of India.

Here are some interesting exeprts-
“The capability of the brand to win the value equation with its strategic consumer target against world class competition” - Devarun Ghosh at Procter & Gamble

"Brand has many levels of understanding. Brand personality can be a combination of communication, credibility, brand attributes that simulate with the product as well as the geography coming from. Personality of BMW (neo-professional, young achiever, pacy lifestyle) is different than personality of 'Force India' (honest, challenging and hardworking). As it was said brand 'IIT' probably the best ever brand India has ever created. What could be the personality? Intelligent, young, aspiring to go to the top, emerging from the crowd through sheer hard word! Brand emanating from India should have capture the essence of 'India' though depending on the product / market segment etc. I would propsoe to have a personality combining: - Intelligent - Dare to dream - Hard working - Young, challenging - Quailty assured".
Sudip Mazumder Experienced Program Manager

"Innovation. Yesterday's competitive edge becomes tomorrow's standards. Around the world, 'Quality' of products is taken for granted so no one can brag about the quality of their products anymore. It is a given in consumer's mind. The best business minds and hard working generation in India lacks Creativity and Innovation that can sustain its economy in Global Arena. It is always not about low cost. If cost alone matters, China will be the winner. Almost, all the products imported in US from China are 'Commodity' items, quality or continued support of which is least expected. For e.g., when a consumer in US walks into a store and picks up something with label 'Made in China', the characteristics "Quality" doesn't even spark in his/her mind. With so many software giants (most of them are the largest in the world) being in India, the situation is that we don't have even a single s/w product that India can boast of. Everything is focused simply on services and not the products. The businessmen in India at large are still short-term focused, without a long-term strategy. Tata's Nano caught the world's attention simply due to its size and prize.I am sure that Europeans, Japanese, and Americans wouldn't come forward to accept Nano in their markets. I am sorry to say this, but the truth is that in the Western world largely in EU and American continent, the image of India is still "slumdog", poor quality, unethical behaviors, snake charmers, swamijis, poor life standards, untidy, .... you can name everything. I have lived in US for 22 years now and have my kids starting the second generation. But this is the reality. The whole image of the country must be given a facelift. Only then its products will even be considered for acceptance into the Global Brand."
Muthu Chinnadurai Senior Business Systems Executive

"Manoj, let's start with what's a global brand.. It is something people around the world relates to and associates with a specific service or product, correct? When you think about it, India holds it's own in many spheres of human activity.. what immediately comes to mind is travel - India has a brand recognition in that space with Taj Mahal, the Himalayas, and the beaches of Goa and Kerala. Take food, Indian curry and tandoori is a recognizable brand the world over.. I am not sure if any single firm has capitalized on these globally recognizable 'India' brands.. and then there are certain other areas in industry, like IT or back-office operations and call centers, where Indian companies like TCS & Infosys have built up powerful brands, and these firms are so successful in building that brand that people here tend to think every Indian here in the US works in the IT industry! So is the case with call centers, though on latenight TV shows here, the hosts talk with an Indian accent when they refer to call centers! (not always in a good way though).. And in education, IITs & IIMs are globally recognized Indian brands.. These are some of the successes..there are many more like these, I would imagine. And then there are globally recognized images of India which are very negative.. poor basic infrastructure, corrupt government machinery, the vast division between rich & poor in India, and the red-tape everywhere..etc etc.. that doesn't do any good for 'brand India' globally. What India has failed to produce however - and I think this is what you are trying to address, though the usage of 'brand' got me to start off with broad strokes - are a globally recognized brand in engineering or consumer products.. and, i believe this has to do with quality of what Indian firms produce! Right from market analysis through product design, companies seem to focus on making something that meets 'some' of the customer needs, at the cheapest cost, getting them the highest margin, inevitably ending up with sub-standard products.. quality in production I believe is better, though here again, quality is applied with a focus on reducing cost, with an eye on improving profits, rather than making quality products. So Indian firms end up with products that could only be marketed in developing or under-developed economies like India, where customers are willing to trade-in quality for price. An Indian firm could successfully build a product that could become a global brand, if they design and build quality products for the global market.. it could be in any industry, and doing it in india will be no different from doing it in the USA, Germany, Japan or Brazil.. it just need companies to go back to the fundamentals of product development and quality management. There are no short-cuts to get there!"
Baiju Krishnan VP at Citigroup

My final note:

Baiju did capture the sort of background summary of what I am asking. All the discussion on 'brand India' is about that. However as Baiju indicated, I am asking a more pointed question- About Product Brands. I am a bit biased on product brand because that's what people see selling in the shopping streets when we visit other countries. A high end software, sitting inside a giant reactor, made by India is not visible to people. So I am talking about the product which people/consumers can touch and feel everyday.People think of Volkswagen as a well engineered car brand. Sony got the miniaturisation and thoughtfulness of Japan right. Newer entrant Muji, built a brand on good design and no-frill attitude that pervade japanese culture and Zen paradigm. Ferrari exahults the flamboyance of Italians. Harley is about great American Adventure and Exploration. On the other hand, let's take a humble example- a ball pen/gel pen - BIC is BIC..the legend. In India, we might easily have at least 100 manufacturer making gel/ball pens. They would be producing close to 5 million pens a day-all world-class. Technology is no different. Take Another example, Titan Watch- the king of Indian watch market. Look at VIP bags...almost as good looking bags as Samsonite but not quite TUMI. So even if we leave the services, out of our discussion and just focus on daya-to-day physical products, what is that value that people would like to remember/relish about an Indian brand? It won't be surely 'Low Cost'- this is a short term phenomenon til our labour becoe costly. 5000 years of history and all the bright and shining mind can not make a brand on 'quality', 'price' or 'engineering'...these are primitive differentiators. Let me sya what I have in mind...some pointers that you can add on- Longevity: Western countries make products that become useless soon. Indians never like to throw things. Married-for-ever is the institution that we revere. Can we use this micro phenomenon to build a design principle that says- make a product that should RENEW itself over a period or find a REUSE after its jobs is over. We know how housewives store all the free glass jars for containing dals and other condiments in the kitchen. Can we use this one a bigger scale i.e. Design a vehicle that would only require minor upgrades and minimal invasion to become new. Can we decidedly use tougher coatings on the body that it would remain scratch proof. Can we build things as a part of new brand character, that may be a bit costly but remain SOLID and REUSABLE to the core? We are talking of sustainability in the way that West does not understand and it comes to us naturally. Being a developing and deprived society for the time being, should not guide the brand character that would last for 100 years next.... Does it make sense? Can we find more such values that are core to the India but worthy of being taken up as a brand character for emerging Indian product brands?

Manoj Kothari