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A recently released research from Boston Consulting Group states that the next wave of international corporate success stories will be authored by none other than the movers and shakers of India Inc. As India continues on its journey of billion dollar acquisitions and bullish stock exchanges, there is a significant question that looms large on the horizon of such economic growth: “Do we have strong global brands?” Indian companies are in a very interesting position which can be aptly summarized in a debate after none of the India based brands made it to Interbrand’s international brand survey. The question posed was:”How is it that the fastest growing free market democracy has not produced a global brand to rank among the Top 100 in the world?”
While what led to the exclusion of Indian brands from the glitterati might largely be due the criterion that the brand consultancy chose to prioritize, what is of interest is the duality. At one level, India is being associated with economic growth and global power, at the other level it is still perceived as a low cost provider of goods and services (being associated with quantitative as opposed to qualitative deliverables. India, very much like China, runs the risk of falling prey to the cheap, cheaper, cheapest trap. Since much of India’s success has come in the services sector, there is a significant challenge that the country faces of high impact corporate branding. Companies are beginning to take stock of the situation and are focusing on branding as a strategic boardroom activity.
These are, no doubt, very interesting times when Indian companies are positioning themselves as international players while Multinationals are trying to capture the Indian markets with their highly focused regional marketing programs. Branding on the international stage is replete with its own set of complexities. For Indian business conglomerates like the TATAs who have always had a strong Indian grounding, it has been a significant challenge to project the apt brand image while entering the global markets. No organization would want the kind of bad press and monopolistic allegations that accompanied the Mittal- Arcelor deal. The TATAs have established their presence in newer markets and have accompanied the same with new branding activities in places like South Africa, China and US. The TATAs are working with local bodies like the South African Marketing Council to develop branding and communication campaigns for TATA Motors in particular and the group in general to project the South African establishment as a local company that is promoted by an Indian group.
Global branding by Indian companies, particularly in the West, will involve a very subtle balance of highlighting and underplaying the indigenous connection as the experience of Kingfisher has shown. While it cashes on its Indian connection in UK where there is a significant population of Indian immigrants, it chooses to project a more global image in markets where the demographics are different. Indian companies are no longer willing to bite the dust as low cost service centers of the world’s leading brands, a challenge that is looming large on the horizon of the IT companies. India is still to find its place under the sun as manufacturer for leading products. As services and especially IT and ITes continue to contribute more and more to the national pie of GDP, branding on the global stage becomes imperative.
Wipro has done well with its “Applied Innovation” campaign. The IT major has upped its marketing and branding budget by 70% over the previous year. There has been a realization that communicating a unique value proposition is of paramount importance as the struggle intensifies globally as well as domestically. This signals a significant shift in the marketing orientation of these firms as it is being reflected in the massive budgets that are being allocated for their branding initiatives. IT services firms have overcome their callousness about branding with these expenses amounting to a measly 1% of their revenues hitherto.
Divakaran Mangalath, Chief technology officer, Wipro Technologies said, “In today’s competitive environment, it is extremely important for organizations to invest and innovate with their product design and customer service. Competitive advantage can be generated only through innovation and doing things differently from others. That havng said, one can not afford to lose sight of the mundane operational aspects of large businesses and realize that most of the times innovation would be about day to day improvements and changes in terms of people and operations. This, in my view, is a much more sustainable way of applying innovation as opposed to the top down approach of bringing about a paradigm shift in products and delivery mechanisms.”
The other IT bigwig, TCS, is planning to spend $8m to $10m over a period of one year on a program of advertising and branding under its new marketing initiative, the essence of which is the slogan “Experience Certainty.” The branding is expected at two levels. It will help the corporate giant consolidate its identity and place it at par with global maharajas like IBM and EDS apart from endowing it with an identity that will facilitate the hiring and retention of the right talent. In the first phase of the campaign the focus is on print media. TCS has come to terms with the challenge that it was suffering at the hands of global leaders like IBM, EDS and Accenture because of their focused branding which has given them a substantial recall value as well as an enviable mindshare.
According to Mrydul Vats, Assistant Manager, Software and Services Research, IDC, Indian companies face multifarious challenges with respect to branding and these challenges are all the more glaring in the IT services domain. In an exclusive interview to 4Ps: Business and Marketing, he said, “Today if you look at the international market, the Indian companies are at the lower end of the market. In a lot of areas, they don’t even have the infrastructure to compete with players like HP and IBM. Both Infosys and Capgemini had an employee force of 60-65,000 employees. However, while Capgemini managed a revenue of 13 billion with the same workforce, Infosys could only manage 3 billion. The other challenge that Indian companies face is that they are not perceived as vendors who can provide high end services. They are still known as vendors who have merely perfected the offshore delivery model. For instance, internationally TCS has never managed to create waves unlike Infosys whose “Think Flat” campaign has got it decent attention from the international business community. The point is that consulting that is perceived as a lucrative option is still not considered the forte of Indian companies and this is where branding can play a very important role.”
The “Applying Innovation” campaign at Wipro aims to break through the glass ceiling. The idea behind the campaign is to position Wipro as an Innovation Leader by analysts and industry influencers alike. The company is trying to position its corporate brand as a strategic innovator. According to Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro Ltd., “Innovation is about action versus just ideas, as much about implementation as about design. It is not about mere incremental improvements in our course of daily operations or a one-off new brilliant idea. It is a culture that needs to be created consciously and pursued assiduously by an organization.”
The theme is reflected in every aspect of its branding like its website, collaterals, brochures, events, media messaging, analyst relations, influencers. With the larger than life media hype projecting India as the next global ddestination, the efforts seem understandable. Even though organizations are not dreaming of corporate branding in their sleep, the campaigns show that they have certainly started thinking in that direction!