Opinion: Jai ho brand India

A strong digital India will be at the core of a strong brand India, explains the author

Aug 19, 2020 11:18:00 AM | Article | Atul Hegde

The famous quote goes 'products are made in the factories, brands are built in the Mind'. As we celebrate our 73rd year of Independence, 'Brand India' seems to be at the forefront during these tough times. Some of it fuelled by the obvious angst towards Chinese brands and most of it by the rightful size of our huge consumer base. But the big difference this time around is the sheer mind space that Brand India has captured amongst all Indians. Truly great brands cut across consumer segments, class barriers and touch your hearts. Brand India is surely knocking at our hearts.   
As a nation we have always undervalued the power of Brand India. And it’s great to see that the collective push we as proud citizens are now giving Brand India. There is absolutely nothing wrong in foreign brands entering our country and servicing the huge Indian consumer base. What is important is that we as a country do it on our own terms and every foreign brand here reinforces Brand India. Yesterday there was a brand launch that set me thinking. I was at first amused to see the popular Chinese brand MI, launch a program called 'MI for India' with a lot of fanfare. To make it even more interesting the CEO was in Indian tradition attire trying his best to speak in Hindi. While this was both cringe worthy and funny to watch and can be dismissed as a desperate attempt by an obviously Chinese brand to water down the raging anti-China sentiment among Indian consumers, if you look deeper there is a lot more to it. MI has always been committed to a larger play in the ‘Make In India’ story and is generating thousands of jobs for young Indians both in the manufacturing sector and the service sector. It is a brand that from day zero has understood and acknowledged the power of the Indian consumer. What has changed now is that it is embracing the Power of Brand India. This needs to be applauded and encouraged and I’m sure now on we will see many more foreign brands follow suit. This will serve as a great enforcer for Brand India. 
Brands like Amul, Mahindra Rise, Tata group have always been in the forefront of building Brand India and also products that have been world class. So how’s it different now? The biggest shift has been a genuine preference by consumers on ground for Indian brands. Do not mistake this for a momentary Swadeshi movement. Buying Indian products vs buying into Indian brands are two very different things. We are now seeing a new wave of pride in Brand India among Indian consumers. We know that a large part of the success stories of countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea, have been built by a strong national brand. This in turn gave birth to many national brands in those counties that went on to become global brands. India is witnessing that at the moment, and unlike the countries mentioned above, the Indian marketplace is large enough to cater to the ambitions of these home grown brands and they do not necessarily need to go out seeking foreign brands.  All major international brands will want to come here. Look at some more of the recent developments; from Wal-Mart to Facebook to Aramco some of the biggest corporations in the world have all made it very clear that they want a piece of the Indian market. When a Chinese brand opts out of the sponsorship of the world’s largest sporting spectacle, there are enough Indian brands to fill this void. All of this will further strengthen Brand India. 
Last but not the least, the pandemic has brought with it a huge surge of digital adoption globally. India with its lowest cost of data, highest number of smartphones and a massive digital literate population has top grid position to leverage this. We are already seeing a digital payments revolution in the country powered by homegrown companies like NPCI. Companies are now working overtime to create a strong digital presence for sales and marketing. All of this will go into making a strong digital India. And a strong digital India will be at the core of a strong Brand India. Jai Hind! 
The author is co-founder, Rainmaker Ventures.