Brand India and the 're-emerging economy'

MUMBAI: The India Brand Summit 2006 kicked off today in Mumbai. The event was inaugurated by chief guest Marico Industries Ltd. chairman and MD Harsh Mariwala. In his address to the gathering he sighted along with examples a few critical marketing strategies that need to be adopted.

Mariwala believes that innovation should be the prime focus for an organization to grow. Yet, this need not be a path breaking endeavor but can be incorporated on an every day basis. With the example of their acquisition of Medicare shampoo which they turned around by using an oil format, as the oil penetration was higher than shampoos in the rural markets. Similarly, the company also adapted Parachute to meet the requirements of consumers by progressing from tin to plastic containers with wide bottlenecks keeping in mind that oil solidifies in winter. In addition, they also came out with Rs 1 sachet in the shape of the bottle that he says received a great response.

Another factor that he highlighted was how marketers could now use the modern retail format approach for test marketing that primarily allows for dialogue with consumers. He added that too much time is spent on research, "The response a product gets in the market place is very different from what research will throw up." At a National level these formats are still fairly small but he predicts that it is growing rapidly. With so many brands fighting for space within the retail format, this is where packaging is crucial.

In addition, Mariwala added that merchandising and relationship building was also very important and when organizations provide solutions with their products such as Oil of Olay which not only provided skin care solutions with cream but also with oral solutions like vitamins.

He concluded that the dream and challenge among Indian organizations is to build a global brand by leveraging the Indian advantage in products such as Indian tea, basmati and oils. He added, "You have to continue to reinvent yourself with further innovations as the environment is changing, moreover take consumer insight more seriously."

This was followed by a plenary seession titled, 'The Elephant can Dance-Why brand India is suddenly cool?' Chairing the session was Hindustan Times editorial director Vir Sanghvi, while the other members of the panel included Film producer Mahesh Bhatt, Hutchison Essar Ltd. deputy managing director Sandip Das, Saatchi & Saachti MD V Shantakumar and ICICI Bank Ltd joint MD & member of the board Lalita Gupte.

Bhatt kicked of this session saying that the once maligned Indian film industry is now inviting foreign investors as he sighted an example of Volkswagen's Rs 3.5 billion offer to invest in Bollywood. He said, "We are at the threshold of a new beginning. Given that about 50 Indians from Rhythm and Hues India contributed to the visual effects for the Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is reason enough to say that India is well prepared to be the hub of globalization."

On a rather optimistic note, Bhatt referred to India as "An 'open society,' a democracy, free of repression, having a free press, allowing decent and only in such a situation that creativity can take root. As long as we retain this free spirit, then will the elephant fly or else it will come crashing down."

Sanghvi intervened that although Bollywood has always been big, today it has acquired a branding that is largely due to the values of the new generation that see it as 'cool'. Also, this has become a great global phenomena because the Indian diaspora can identify with it and this in turn has contributed to the global expansion of brand India.

ICICI's Gupte brought to the discussion the view that India is not just about snake charmers and bullock carts but a thriving economy that spells business opportunities reckoned with quality. What's critical is that in India we give quality at the cheapest price and being the fastest growing economy "India is not just cool but rocking."

Das provided an understanding through the history of India to provide an insight into the future. "Today we call it an emerging economy but in actuality it is a re-emerging economy." He highlighted the strengths and weakness of our nation by saying that, on the one hand India along with China contribute to 80 percent of the world's GDP, yet we have the highest rate of malnourished babies and soaring poverty levels. Nonetheless, the mood of the nation is buoyant once again and this is largely due to the generation of youth. However, he attributes this coming of age of software and services in India, now scrambling to become an economic super, as something accidentally tripped upon.

He suggested that we need an agenda and a battle cry as, "There are two India's, one is shinning and the other is not." Although, India has been refereed to as an uncaged tiger, Das would rather say that the tiger sprints fast but the elephant which is more apt to India has the much needed stamina.

Saatchi & Saachti's Shantakumar brought to the fore an advertising perspective to brand India. A brand is a promise that has to be engineered rather than something stumbled upon. In that endeavor he suggested that we need to consistently build quality, use intellectual capacity and youth energy to innovate, build infrastructure to benefit all and we need to tale responsibitlity of who we are and not leave it to happy circumstances. He did surprisingly mention, "India is the most corrupt Nation, but we need to take responsiblity for it." At the base of the pyramid for brand India he said, "We need to set our selves an engineering task, from which we can gain an opportunity to earn love and respect. Once we have respect from this we can build love."

Although, the speakers did consider the set backs confronting our Nation, on a rather optimistic note, Sanghvi asked them to name three brands that they felt had the potential to be respected for the next 10 years. Das inferred Bollywood, intellectual services and the healthcare industry were worthy of mention. While Shantakumar quoted Reliance, TCS and ICICI, while Bhatt ended by addressing the youth of India saying, "The future is yours, seize it!"

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