India as a Brand – Marketing Perspectives


John Mathew
T.N. Rao college of Management Studies


"Selling India is a pointless business"; "No amount of hard-sell can convince buyers to take a 'Made in India' label at face value…"; "…any marketing exercise [to brand India] is a waste of time and effort"; etc. Is India still viewed as a land of snake charmers, elephants and rope tricks? What about the phenomenal strides the country has made in the last 50 years? Over the years, we have witnessed Brand India becoming increasingly distorted in the absence of efforts to manage and develop its associations. The only obvious way out is Branding, or rather re-Branding India. This paper focuses on Redefining/ Repositioning India as a brand. It analyses the core competencies to provide a base for supporting the marketing perspectives. This paper tries to highlight the Marketing Mix to develop Brand India and suggests strategies for the same. It also focuses on the competitive edge due to superior IQ, EQ and SQ.


Is India still viewed as a land of snake charmers, elephants and rope tricks? What about the phenomenal strides the country has made in the last 50 years? Over the years, we have witnessed Brand India becoming increasingly distorted in the absence of efforts to manage and develop its associations. The only obvious way out is Branding, or rather re- Branding India.

The global consumer is faced with a sea of choices. Whether the decision is to set up a manufacturing facility, or to decide on a holiday destination, consumers have several options. They expect to be wooed and convinced through creative and insightful communication, besides of course, being made a competitive offer. Siemens India MD Jurgen Schubert broke mind sets by placing "Made in Germany" labels on "Made in India" products.

What is Brand India?

"A Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination if them, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors." (Kotler, 2003). A nation's brand is a powerful means for value creation and global leadership in this age of globalization and competition.

Critics argue : "Selling India is a pointless business"; "No amount of hard-sell can convince buyers to take a 'Made in India' label at face value…"; "…any marketing exercise [to brand India] is a waste of time and effort"; "Efficiency and quality don't require any hard sell", etc. Brand India already exists, though a need for Brand Repositioning may exist.Brand India is a big brand now.

"Let us check out a few facts and figures as to how the product called India is being differentiated and targeted by buyers from other countries.

o Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Esprit, Wal-Mart, Polo all buy clothes from India. Garment exports at US$6 billion, and are expected to increase 8-10 times by 2010.

o In the first six months of 03-04, India exported over 220,000 cars and bikes worldwide. Auto giants – Daimler Chrysler, Volvo, and Benz – source parts worth US$1.5 bn from India."1

• The Marketing Mix of Brand India

Considering India to be a brand, we need to align the marketing mix variables with the environmental variables. Let us know this analogy:

1. Product: States are competing aggressively with each other to position themselves as competitive destinations for investments and tourism. Marketing Brand India needs special focus on core competencies by states. A synergic attitude can strengthen the brand.
15 of the world's major automobile makers are obtaining components from Indian companies. This business fetched India in 2003 US$1.5 billion. At US$6.5 billion and growing at 8-10 percent annually, India's pharmaceutical industry is 4th largest in the world. As for technology, India is among the three countries that have built super computers on their own. Indian exports were up by 19 percent in 2003, and the country's foreign exchange reserves are in excess of US$100 billion. India is dishing out aid to 11 countries, prepaying its debt and loaned IMF US$300 million. Indian Industry is becoming globally competitive in many sectors such as Pharmaceuticals, Auto Components, IT, Biotech, R&D and ITES. According to a National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) study, the number of middle and high income households in rural India is expected to grow to 111 million by 2007. Thus, the absolute size of rural India is expected to be double that of urban India. The study on ownership of goods indicates the same trend. It segments durables under three groups - (1) necessary products - Transistors, wristwatch and bicycle, (2) Emerging products - B&W TV and cassette recorder, (3) Lifestyle products - CTV and refrigerators. Marketers have to depend on rural India for the first two categories for growth and size. Even in lifestyle products, rural India will be significant over next five years.

2. Place: The location of India is central in the world but access is limited to the key economies. We need to study the locational strategies being used by the neighboring or competing countries and try to ensure the same. Well developed ports, and increasing air routes can make it possible. The turnaround time in Indian ports is down to 4 days from 10 and its telecom in 1999 provided a bandwidth of 155 Mbps. Today it is 75,000 times more and with fibre optic network in 300 cities 2..MNCs are quite profitable in India and are often earning returns that are superior to their global average. Many of these companies are doing better in India than in china. Some are taking full advantage of their operations in India by not only profitably accessing the domestic market but by also providing low cost off-shored services to their global operations. Despite our natural disdain for things Indian, our economy has been the second fastest growing large (>$125 bn GDP) economy over the last five years. Since 1982, India has grown slower that 4% per annum only once in 1992. This year India's economy is about $ 650 bn having grown at 8% (albeit supported by a good monsoon) and is now among the top ten global economies. India's demographic profile is most advantaged in the world and will continue to improve. Infrastructure from a very poor base is improving. Apart from the power sector which is very disappointing. Telecom, airports, roads and ports all have made progress.

3. Promotion: Before talking of establishing India as a global brand, the communication needs to go out to the primary audience, the Indian people in this case, all one billion of them. Influences can be government bodies, media and trade bodies. We need the rest of the world to catch a glimpse of our strengths. Even is a sample of the population gets to know it, they can spread the word. We have to include a series of coordinated marketing initiatives that will use conventional methods like advertising and developing a brand ambassador's network to make an impact in the long term. We have to plan out innovative measures like bringing select groups from media houses and educational institutions for structured India tours for long term support to brand development. On our domestic front we have to develop a strong partnership between the representatives of state, select ministries, sectoral associations and community institutions to drive alignment and coherence in brand communication efforts. For this we need to conduct workshops, research that helps track perceptions of brand India.

4. Price: Is India costly? No it isn't.
A cataract operation costs US$1500 in the US. In India, US$12. A heart bypass surgery in the US anywhere up to US$13000. In India, it is US$900. Over 70 MNCs have set up R&D facilities in India in the past five years. Economic indicators with the exception of the deficit are strong, interest rates are down, inflation is low, exports are growing, for-ex reserves are strong and the rupee is appreciating.

Price competitiveness is only one of the factors that are going to make an organization or its products stand out. But building a brand is all about creating or delivering a kind of uniqueness, an intangible that just cannot be copied. With the easy availability of technology and resources every country would like sell itself as a competitive nation. But for India it has to concentrate more on that intangible to create a nice for itself and stand out when it comes to countries like China and other south-east Asian economies.

Brand India on the Rise

– Indian origin companies taking over global entities

    – Infosys – Expert Information Services, Australia
    – Wockhardt – CP Pharmaceuticals, UK
    – Tata Motors – Daewoo, S. Korea
    – Reliance – FLAG Telecom, US

– Global giants continue to set up shop in India
    – Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, SAP

– Services offshoring to India
    – IT, BPO, call centers

The India Brand Equity Foundation

The India Brand Equity Foundation (earlier India Brand Equity Fund) was founded under the aegis of the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of India with the explicit purpose of developing a strong global identity for India, by leveraging these emergent opportunities. The IBEF aims to do this through a proactive effort to create a strong Nation Brand for the country based on positive and relevant associations. The entire effort is directed towards taking India beyond name recognition (and distorted associations), by firmly establishing a relevant position for the country on the world map. The immediate goal: build positive economic perceptions of India in key global markets.

The IBEF moved to the CII to manage, in October 2002. It was decided that a broad-based branding exercise would best be facilitated through a strong partnership between the government and industry. It is in this context that the CII provides for the executive management and the operational day-to-day functioning of the Foundation, under the Chairmanship of the Commerce Secretary.

Brand India's Need Perspectives

• Need to move up the value chain- better R&D
• Need to project greater ROI on investment – better profitability
• Need to remove revenue dependence on any single resource such as human capital
• Need to carve a niche – IPR and Licensing
• Need for technological prowess and market knowledge – focused domain expertise
• Need to brand products and services – better marketing


Along with the various factors in the Marketing mix that have been already discussed one factor that would give India the stand alone advantage is going to be the combination of Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient and Spiritual Quotient.

When it comes to intelligence and smartness Indians have always been acknowledged world over for their superior abilities. Around 40% of the NASA scientists are of Indian Origin. Even Bill Gates has appreciated the skills of programmers from India. MNC's line up on the doors of the Six IIMs and other B-Schools or repute ready with top dollar salaries.

It has been already proved that the IIM entrance process is the toughest to crack with a rating of 4.5 on a scaling of 1 to 5 compared to Wharton and Kellogg's on 4.3.3

Technical Institutes like IITs have nurtured some of the best brains in the world and N.R. Narayan Murthy of Infosys being the premier example of the same.

Intelligence not withstanding commitment to work and a dogged attitude to fulfill the responsibilities is something that is ingrained in the psyche of the Indians. This attitude and the abilities to put in long hours to fulfill the commitments made has been appreciated world over.

Stressful work conditions and grueling hours have not stopped us from finishing the task given. Emotional stability and attachment to the job as well as the organization is more compared to the counterparts in other nations.

The latest entrant in measurement of the human abilities and skills is Spiritual Quotient. And it is not surprising that they have kept the corner stone of this technique based on the various spiritual foundations in India. With such an old and deep rooted spirituality it is not a wonder that west has been looking towards India for guidance. The necessity of bringing SQ in the picture currently is the need for ethics and moralities in business practices. For short term gains we have never been the people to compromise. Its true that political corruption and red tapism has been the bane of Indian growth and image in the eyes of the outsiders. But as The Beatles sang " Times, they are a changing…"

From the birth of civilization to present days we have been contributing to the growth of the world in our own way. The computer systems that we have become so dependable world over run on the basic principles or "0s" and "1s". And this would not have been possible without Aryabhatt's "Nothing".

The abundant intellectual capital available in the country is to provide further impetus to an emergent world scale economy that is slated to be the third largest by 2050. The achievement of the global Indians and contribution of the Indian Diaspora abroad can be used as a part of the brand ambassadors' network.

We are one of the three countries in the world who have made super computers on their own. Nuclear capabilities have never been questioned after Pokharan. Indian scientists have been on the forefront with breakthrough technologies and findings whether it is Bio-technology, Genetics or IT.

What lacks over here is the change in the mind set of people inside India as well as outside. Perception plays a very important part in the attitudes of the people who are going to look towards us as an opportunity. Unless whole hearted efforts are put to maintain and improve our image the world over we are going to have a tough time competing with our fellow nations.

In a globally competitive environment India as a brand needs to manage its image. India and China have a long and similar cultural heritage and history. But China is still preferred over India when it comes to Foreign Direct Investment. India has to grow beyond the comparative advantage like low cost and develop a brand image for itself.

  • Three million plus graduates every year and approximately 300 hundred million English speaking middle class by 2010.
  • Commitment to quality.
  • Intellectual property protection.
  • Government support.
  • Eco system and Industry momentum from $ 11 bn in 2002 to $ 70 bn in 2008 (McKinsey estimates).
  • Work ethics.
  • Education system and focus on quantitative ability.


Branding India is not a choice but an obvious necessity. If we won't do it, other nations are doing so any way. And position India the way it fits their competitive global strategy. The present scenario looks very encouraging. But instead of resting on the achievement of the limited number of people and companies, steps need to be taken to grab and consolidate on the opportunities that might present themselves in the near future. Launching a new brand into the market is a challenging task but what is more challenging is repositioning a brand and changing the already established perceptions in the minds of consumers.

Footnotes :

2. ibid
3. The Economics Times, August 22 nd 2002,pg 5.


Kotler, Philip 2003, Marketing Management, Brand Decisions. Prentice Hall Inc.
Narasimhan, G V 2003, Marketing Management, The Marketing Mix. Tata McGrawHill.

John Mathew
T.N. Rao college of Management Studies

Source: E-mail July 4, 2005


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