What ails Brand India, today?

Had a say about what ails Brand India, today, and what could be done to improve the branding, for Brand Equity (Economic Times) today. This is a special feature ahead of the 74th Independence Day on Saturday.

Some additional context.

About the current state of Brand India, and if it has been tarnished in recent years. If so, what needs to be done to fix it:

Brand India is too deep-rooted to be tarnished, but I do think it is seen as something that is in a state of flux. Before the pandemic, there were internal upheavals, and during the pandemic, more than one neighbor behaved unusually. The pandemic too is steadily pushing the limits of what our country can bear even as the Brand’s fundamentals lack credible proof of progress. As a fix, what we perhaps need is stability where economic viability and growth take center stage as topics of discussion, debate, and inspiration – and that needs to start from a place of humility and honesty, without the persistent need to whitewash everything. There is perhaps an undue influence of Government and politics that is overpowering every other narrative, to the detriment of Brand India. It is time for the Government to ease into the background and allow the country’s brand to surface, operate, and flourish.

About ‘vocal for local’ movement and ‘anti-China’ sentiments taking the centre stage and the impact they could have on the idea and image of India:

A brand is not what the brand owners dictate it to be, for the users/owners anymore. It is what the people believe it to be, experience it to be. But very few brands could direct people to think in certain directions intelligently – and a great example for this is Apple; this is a result of delivering on their promise and hence credibly earning the power to sway the narrative. In the case of Brand India, the Government perhaps is swaying the narrative heavily in certain directions (owing to whatever political and geo-political compulsions they have), but without letting it impact recipients positively. The result is the flux or a state where so much seems to be happening, but without tangible progress to showcase for it. That is definitely not good for Brand India’s image.

On what Brand India needs the most right now to take it in the right direction:

Remove politics from consciousness as much as possible. This was the promise anyway: “Minimum Government Maximum Governance”. But it turned out to “Maximum Government Maximum Politics”.

Let Government be invisible, withdraw into the background and do its job silently. It need not compete with the day-to-day trends and news cycle every single day to overpower Brand India’s narrative.

Imagine if IPL was played all through 12 months, instead of the summer months alone. Imagine the resultant advertising and marketing blitzkrieg across all the media we are exposed to. That’s how overpowering the Government’s influence is, on Brand India, instead of playing only before-during election season.

The Government and its politics are not equal to India. India is much larger and bigger than one (any) Government or political party. But the Government, with its need to assert itself as the savior, ruler, and caretaker of India, is overpowering every other narrative under its sweep.

Allow the country and its people to breathe without the need to see everything through Government’s and politics’ lens – there are so many other brands that too build Brand India, beyond Brand Government and Brand Politics. Allow them the time, space and opportunity to do the talking on behalf of India and build Brand India.

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