There are some organizations that like the virtue of silence. And amongst these, is CII. For years, I have been a critic of most chambers of commerce because from the outside they seem to be little lobby groups working for vested interests but it is only when you get into the organization that you realise the collective good that is being done: for building what is certainly a more robust and healthy Brand India: where it is the economic value that is touted rather than the so-called free spirit of a vibrant democracy. One such organization that CII has established, is the India Brand Equity Foundation and the purpose and the objective of the IBEF is to position India across economic indices and make it an attractive place to do business with and business in. What is equally surprising is that this Foundation is run in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of India. Now one would have thought that there is no way anything effective comes out of such partnerships but my recommendation to anyone both in and outside India be they in industry or academia is to visit the website ibef.org and get data and insights, both of which are updated daily.
Which for companies and colleges in India and abroad is a godsend because the one thing we in our country sorely lack is the process of effective research and data mining. To that end, the IBEF will be a boon to those who want to look at the various economic indices and work out a potential feasibility study. What I found very exciting was the fact that today we have in India, organizations such as the IBEF which are committed to helping Indian business and industry in a manner which is far removed from the facade of lobbying that we would often attribute to their working style. What’s more we need organizations like the IBEF to be funded and funded by corporate India because if the Indian market is to be recognised as a potential economic powerhouse, then wily-nily we must be the people standing behind the building of Brand India. And it is precisely this integration that will yield optimized results for any country competitive advantages that we will be required to build. In his seminal work, many years ago, the revered professor of strategy at the Harvard Business School, Michael Porter had said that countries like brands must seize the advantage of establishing national advantages which in turn will help them position themselves: advantages that they will be synonymous with and which will accrue incremental revenue and incremental investment. Thanks to the likes of Infosys and Wipro not to mention the venerable TCS, Brand India has moved from the snake charmer to the mouse. The latter in the context of software and computers. We need to take the whole process of Branding India forward in a manner which will help identify key national advantages: not the least being a working knowledge of English and as IBEF so succinctly puts it, a vibrant free-market in the world’s largest democracy.
What’s more, we’ve got so many things going for us. Never has a Government in post-independent India been headed by a man who understands economic imperatives and has created a team of first-rate professionals be it a Chidambaram or a Montek or even a Kamal Nath. There has been an enduring commitment to follow-through rather than reverse the reform process and this too is advantageous when we speak of a Brand India that is ready to forge ahead. But a lot of work still needs to be done as far as the effective promotion of Brand India is concerned: for starters we need to recognise that like consumer brands, national brands also nestle in shifting sands. In some issues ago, Business week wrote of how contract manufacturers were re-inventing themselves after the onslaught of cheaper Chinese manufacturing basses in the footwear business, And brands need to be conscious that today’s advantage may be tomorrow’s liability and thus a certain amount of crystal-ball gazing will always help as also putting in processes of planning that are a criticality.
But it is only when you have organizations like the IBEF providing an impartial yet highly researched platform, where knowledge and not information is captured that you can begin dreaming of how to build the national brand and the advantages thereof. It is only though this kind of partnership that we will be able to provide a holistic brand identity to a country that is often compared to China and borrows its Oriental positioning. The fact that the Ministry of Commerce has partnered a chamber of commerce is in itself an indicator of the times ahead and if the IBEF is allowed to pursue the goals it has set for itself, the first steps towards structured brand-building Brand India have been taken and taken well.