Envisioning a global Indian consumer brand

It is not too far. Omens are on the horizon. Mahindra, Tata, Godrej are only the visible names that are acquiring the marquee consumer brands across the globe. There is an entire cadre of small to medium scale Indian enterprises that have ventured out to acquire global parent companies, consumer brands, design studios and other allied service companies to further their global ambitions.
Hindustan Motors - Creator of Ambassador car,
could have created a world brand. So near yet so far.

So far, by and large, all the acquisitions made by these companies are in the careful-entry mode. Indian managers want to get a psychological entry into the space without upsetting the existing scheme of things. They are learning the rules of the game. Indian acumen & ferocity of business is yet to show up. No doubt, business has to be run as usual but the changes will come and will come slow. The brands and their key managers have been wire-fenced from the Indian influences. Being involved in one of such studies, I know that there is a fear of direct revenue loss, should things change overnight.  More than revenue loss, it is the loss of mind-share in the eyes of the global buyers. The buyer who is used to seeing certain faces and certain way of communication does not want to be a radical innovator in a purchase process. His brand loyalty also comes from the ‘interactions’ and not only from the product. However, the change is imminent and we will see some brands emerging on the global arena with a distinct Indian signature.

Indian signature does not mean just an Indian acquisition and brand being run by an Indian management. I am talking of distinct brand character that is based on deep rooted Indian ethos. Now this, may not be applicable the already existing marquee brands. But it could be a totally new kid on the block travelling the journey of a garage start-up to king of consumer brands within a span of few years.

We have seen some already popular Indian brands in the market. Tata Nano is the name of choice. Though it has not created a market for itself in India as envisaged, it has definitely carved a clear niche in the global consumer’s mind. People are aware of Nano as a car. However, Tata Nano and Chotu-Kool refrigerator made by Godrej (for bottom-of-pyramid consumers), both do not represent the ethos of Indian mind truly. ‘Frugal’ or cost effective design that has come to be associated with India is an aberration at best, to what rich Indian legacy has to offer. ABUNDANCE and not FRUGALITY is a core Indian tenet. FRUGALITY as in pragmatism and minimalism is fine. But if it means just material reduction, making the structures weaker, not accounting for the long-usage comfort, bad-aesthetics- then this is not what India stands for. Being poor, was not a choice for India. India has been a land of riches and that is what the Indian mind is currently yearning to get back to. When we talk of rich, it is about being ‘value abundance’. So when we speak of products ‘LONGEVITY’ is one of the abundance that would emerge to be one of the Indian ethos in the global brands. When VOLVO stands for SAFETY and FERRARI stands for flamboyance and speed, and Indian brand should stand for LONGEVITY. Nano, surely is not about longevity.

Next things, that is deeply Indian is ornamentation. Argument is that it is quite oriental as a value. Yes, it is oriental. But that is okay to be universal oriental value. It is Indian as well. Ornamentation is seen as ‘abundance’ in India. Ornamentation assures the Indian mind that a lot of care has been poured in materialisation. Ornamentation presupposes abstraction. And that is where it distances itself from Western realism. Focus on realism has forced the aesthetics of minimalism on the world. Indian consumers, who are lured into the land of minimalism as styling, are just tasting a new dish served to them. Soon they will get tired of it. Return to the home flavour is the human tendency. When a global Indian brand is envisaged, it will be as much about ornamentation as it will be about longevity. I use a term called ‘samagra’ (which means ‘comprehensive’ in Sanskrit). Somewhere SAMAGRA is also about multi-sensorial experience. What we get when we go to a temple- ring the bell, touch the deity, taste the prasadam, smell the ‘dhoop’- it is always a complete sensorial experience. Samagra on a broader sense points to this ‘enveloping effect’. Car companies in India are getting better at it. Ask Hyundai!

Third thing that Indian ethos stands for is surely EMPATHY. The land which gave birth to Buddha and Mahavir should be the first one to understand the pain of others. Ergonomic, Culture-aligned, Environment friendly & Universal design (inclusive design)- these are four sub-tenets of EMPATHY. These sound clichéd but keeping them in the first cone of focus is what is needed while conjuring up the new global brand. More often than not, businesses run to copy a success of an existing product, brand and thereby, end up copying only the ‘tactical’ end of the success, not the core DNA that shaped it.  EMPATHY needs to built into the core DNA of the global Indian brand. This value goes on to define the service interactions in more pronounced way, not only the product.

VERSATILITY is what is in the DNA of India. No object here is usually used for only single purpose. Idea of multiple usages is another example of ‘dematerialisation’. It saves materials & energy. So while west could have ten different spoons for different kinds of foods and connected scoop and spread devices, Indian mind would rather look at ‘two in ones’. Entire philosophy of ‘Jugaad’ is also a testimony to this virtue.

Indian consumer brands have gone miles ahead where they were ten years back. Today, walking into a VIP luggage showroom is an equal experience (if not more) compared to a Samsonite showroom. Mahindra is running full steam in the auto market while the rest of the players are cringing at the low sales in the domestic market. Aesthetics and Style quotient has gone up several notches. However, manufacturing quality of Indian brands remains a big concern still.

I would surely put the next paradigm change into global brand scenario as FIVE-SEVEN years from now. And this change will see some Indian brands rising. I want to be one of the drivers for sure J.




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