Indian IT brands lack global punch

Written by P P Thimmaya | Debojyoti Ghosh | Debojyoti Ghosh | Bangalore | Updated: Mar 11 2013, 07:57am hrs
The brand prowess of Indian IT services firms as a cost-competitive and high-quality offshore destination has been well established. But now it seems they are struggling to break this mould and move to the next level of branding, to showcase a truly global identity.

The current state of brand identity among the top-tier Indian IT firms Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies does not reveal any distinct image and there seems to be no strong differentiation between the four. This comes out very starkly against established global players such as IBM and Accenture, who continuously reinvigorate their brands to create a very distinct place in the marketplace.

On the branding strategy of Indian IT companies, Ray Wang Principal Analyst & CEO, Constellation Research, a technology analyst firm, says, In the past, the goal was to demonstrate capability and to show that Indian IT services companies could compete globally. The big shift now is the move towards a brand identity thats distinctly global and not just Indian. The move now is to showcase innovation, highlight creativity and corporate responsibility.

Till now, the brand identity of top Indian IT firms was to a great extent associated around the leadership of the companies. Be it NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani for Infosys or Azim Premji in case of Wipro. This has not been the case with global technology firms where their brand image has always been on a larger canvas like IBM talking about a smarter planet or Accenture projecting itself as a leader in consulting.

There is certainly very a high-decibel impact when IT giants such as IBM and Accenture come out with their brand campaigns, with the entire organisation, starting for the CEO, rallying behind the theme. IBMs advertisement campaigns generally speak about the larger challenges facing the globe and how technology could help solving them. This generally does not come across as any kind of sales or marketing pitch. Accentures tagline of High performance. Delivered is another example of a brand-occupying mindspace.

Prathish Nair of Transcend Consulting, a specialist brand consulting firm, says when companies like IBM come out with a brand strategy, they very clearly communicates about a much larger cause.

Harish Bijoor, a brand expert, adds, Indian IT companies need to understand that as they enter a global format, it is not just about having global employees, but also global strategies. They mostly go for branding as a cosmetic exercise. Companies need to focus on core branding, which looks at the products and services strategies of the organisation. IT firms need to invest in branding at the DNA level.

Though there are a lot of intangibles associated with a brand, the importance of having the right branding strategy cannot be ignored. By and large, the practice among Indian IT firms have been to present white papers, participate in important seminars or drive a public relation exercise.

According to Bijoor, Infosys is the loudest in brand building followed by Wipro, with the quietest being TCS, which is part of the old Tata group ethos of not talking much in public.

Leaders of Infosys have always been on the public front, with a very strong image. For now, it seems that companies are very aware about the need to create a distinct and strong brand image, with some success coming from the banking product business of Infosys and TCS.

Experts argue that in an environment of economic challenges what would hold them in good stead in the future would be a strong brand-building exercise.

"It's time to focus on activating customers who are fans and having the customers tell more of the services companies success stories," says Wang.

Recently, TCS had announced it has added $1,179 million in brand value over 2012, growing by 28.9% annually, to reach the $5-billion brand value mark. It also retained its position among the Big 4 most valuable IT services brand worldwide in the ranking carried out by Brand Finance, a leading brand valuation firm.

TCS continues its rapid increase in brand value and cements is position as a 'Big Four' IT services brand. The companys strong performance across brand-related activities such as client engagement, community development, sponsorships and employee satisfaction has earned it a place in the elite club of only three AA+ rated IT services brands, says David Haigh, CEO and founder of Brand Finance.

However, the brand value of Infosys declined by 39% to touch $2,206 million in 2013 from $3,628 million in 2012, according to Brand Finance. In case of Wipro, the value touched $1,904 million in 2013 as against 1,769 million, showing a marginal rise of 8%.