In an ‘era of short cuts’, people choose the route of ‘impressive marketing’, said Narendra Modi, while outlining his ‘Vision for Brand India’ as the chief guest at IAA’s Platinum Jubilee Global Marketing Summit. Speaking at a Special Dinner Session as part of the event on 30 September, the Gujarat chief minister reasoned: “We have to decide whether we want to do ‘impressive marketing’ or ‘inspiring marketing’.”
Delivering his address in Hindi, Modi explained that there are a lot of issues because of which the nation is unable to project Brand India to the world in its glory - primary among them being India’s (lack of) confidence in India. He stressed on the need for the sellers to be confident in the product one wants to take to the world.
While a ‘general’ brand India does not provide much avenue for branding, Modi urged the audience to look for the symbolic value in certain elements of India, which he said could even work as ‘door openers’.
A brand called Gandhi
“You will get many orators. They would be great with their dialogue delivery. But you will get very few communicators. The greatest communicator of the last century, if there was one, was Mahatma Gandhi,” said Modi.
Noting that there was nothing ‘impressive’ and everything ‘inspiring’ about Gandhi, the speaker quipped, “He spoke of peace, but carried a dhanda (stick). The man never wore a cap, but the whole world wears a Gandhi cap today.”
The point being made was that today’s communication world cannot capture the subtle contrasts he presented. And Gandhi's words reached outside the room he was in, ‘without any dilution or diversion’.
“My first prayer for Brand India is this: make a small committee. Next year when you assemble here, research and bring out a book (titled) ‘Gandhi - the great communicator’. Let the book be used in the best universities of the world. Meaning – your branding is done,” said Modi.
The colonial influence and Indian mindset
Why Indians refer to poet (Goswami) Tulsidas as ‘our Shakespeare’ was the next point the speaker delved into. He questioned the colonial influence and claimed that ‘We have lost our identity’.
“If we talk of Brand India, we have to understand and identify our strengths. Only then can we market it,” said Modi.
He reasoned that if India had, in the last 50 years, taken Gandhi and his values alone to the world, then there would be 'no need' to try and build Brand India. He questioned why the world does not know of Gandhi the way it does a Martin Luther King.
Marrying global need with India’s strengths
With the world worried about global warming, India could draw upon its traditions and show the way on how to tackle the global issue, he reasoned.
“The world is thinking about and worried about global warming. Who understands this best? Those who have exploited nature the most are becoming the champions of global warming. They are getting Nobel prizes,” he said.
“We are people in whose culture, in our traditions, we have things which if we protect and promote, we can convince the world that this is the way to tackle global warming. The Ganga (river Ganges) was not polluted until the day it was called Ganga maa. Our ancestors called it maa. They called trees paramatma. People made fun of us. They asked, ‘What kind of people worship trees? Who worships cows?’ We accepted, and we lost our traditions,” bemoaned the speaker.
And today, when the world is asking everyone to take care of nature, India is poised to lead if it draws on its heritage, he said.
He cited the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who once asked his hosts to only give him half a glass of water, reasoning that he had the right to use nature only for his need.
Modi reflected, “We have such a huge tradition, and the world is looking for answers to global warming. Can we take this to the world? The terminology changes, the truth doesn’t.”
The magic of soft power
Modi outlined with the case of Dholavira in Gujarat, a 5,000 year-old site, that India has not put up with due pride on the world map. Dholavira had signages 5,000 years ago, a stadium with a seating capacity of 5,000 people, and more, he said. “We need to have faith in our heritage,” underlined the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
The world doesn’t know that the music of 5 am is different from the one that plays post sunrise, and the others that are played thereafter, stated Modi, making the case for using India’s ‘soft power’ that manifests in many ways.
Keeping with music, he said, “Why does man develop an affinity for music? Music is not a matter of the ear; it moulds with the mind.” While music from the West impacts the body and is temporary, Hindustan’s music impacts the mind and could be timeless, noted Modi.
He referred to yoga and the huge potential it held globally next, before touching upon richness of Indian ayurveda and the demand for holistic and preventive health across the world. In the case of yoga, he reasoned that India hadn’t branded it. And he shared an example from a commission (Jaisukhlal Hathi) in the 1960’s on how to market ayurveda – which spoke about the need to change the ‘packaging’.
“Today, China is the largest exporter of herbal medicines. If we had packaged it well and value added, it would have worked,” he added, and said, “What the world needs and wants today, we have all of it. But we don’t have faith in ourselves.”
From taking Indian food abroad (a la Subash Chandra Bose’s brother taking Indian curry to Japan) to marrying Indian vegetarianism with the growing ‘vegan’ trend, Modi cited cases where one could marry global demand with India’s strengths.
Organic farming, which a lot of Indian farmers practice as the norm without even knowing the significance of it, was another aspect that India could take abroad, according to the speaker. The hurdles of certification overcome, what fetches the Indian farmer a rupee today ‘will fetch him a dollar’, said Modi.
His last stop was the 100 year-old Indian film industry. ‘An opportunity missed’ to brand India through the world’s largest film industry that flourishes here, he pointed out.
“To create Brand India, we need to ‘eat, live, breathe’ India,” he surmised. Modi signed off, saying, “Let’s stop trying to impress the world; let’s inspire them.”