Authentic acclaim

Updated: Dec 30 2007, 04:01am hrs
The Made in India label means different things to different people. To a Palo Alto software firm, it signifies a cost advantage and reliable supply of software code applications. To a European tourist, it could well mean a plush service experience at a five-star resort. To a Thai music listener, it could mean the dulcet strains of Alisha Chinais voice from an Asia-wide hit song with that title. To an American buyer of mass manufactured products, it may spell a big question mark.

But for Made in India to be a brand rather than a mere label, it needs to mean something consistent and credible, offering a set of values that somehow unifies everything that is sold under it. Precedents exist. Made in China spells low-cost bulk manufactures. Made in Germany spells engineering precision. Made in Japan spells ever-improving quality. And Made in India Just three words, as of now. Yet, if India is to emerge as a marketer of significance in the world arena, and ascend the value chain in various product and service categories, we must address the competitive disadvantage of those three words meaning so little to the wider world out there. In this era of globalisation, while perceptions of quality and value are not always driven by national origins amongst enlightened customers, national stereotypes continue to play a role in many markets. This puts Indian products at a disadvantage. It would help, therefore, to have a coherent brand message that can boost the appeal of Made in India products.

That, in fact, was the broad idea behind the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) that was launched in 1996 with so much fanfare as a public-private partnership between the ministry of commerce & industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). More than a decade has passed, but apart from some glib talk and glitzy shows aimed mostly at the easily impressed sections of the local media, nothing has come of it. Such has been the failure of the campaign that Indias major export sectors, from IT and gems & jewellery to leather and apparel & textiles, have all embarked on their own brand-building efforts over the last year or so. Under pressure on account of the rupees rise, they actually live amidst reality and need to work on global perceptions and have little patience for glamour games that go nowhere.

To be fair, the efforts of a solitary foundation alone cannot achieve very much. It was always supposed to be a comprehensive, all-inclusive approach, with all businesses striving to cut themselves sparkling new competitive edges and polish their acts. But clearly, none of this has happened. Are there some lessons to be learned from the highly successful Incredible India campaign that has managed to strike an effect set of notes In five years, India's tourist arrival numbers have grown tenfold. Given its success in creating a global image for India, any attempt to portray the Made in India legend must preferably be in consonance with it (not visually, but in other ways that make logical sense). This would, of course, be a challenge. But one well worth taking on. Once a lead is taken in this context, there is no reason for misperceptions of Indian quality to persist for very long. To be sure, no brand is made overnight. This will take years, even decades, of hard and consistent work.