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Saturday, December 06, 2003

Branding India

A few weeks back, we were all rather excited about the Sekhar Kapur interview that Edward posted here. Being the 'realist' that I am, I had tried to throw some cold water on his theory. Now, Sandipan has an interesting article up in Outlook which questions some of my premises.

"What is a brand? In business school, they teach you that a brand is a "basket of attributes". Hindi films did not consciously try to do any branding for India. It just happened. The attributes are what the audience perceives. In the Asia-Pacific region, India—as communicated by Hindi films, as interpreted by the fannish legions—stands for beauty, joy, hope, and Asian pride. In Morocco, Egypt and large tracts of the Islamic world, it stands for rock-solid family values, the inviolability of contracts made for human relationships. In the West (in a small town in Georgia, US, a friend met good Southern Baptists who knew of Preity Zinta), it stands for unbounded passion, for a sovereign energy, about a freedom from the should.

Can these involuntary and contradictory brand appeals for India be harnessed together to build a velvet battering ram for the worldmind? Yes, of course. Don't ask me how. I am just a tourist. One request though. Can we stop defining ourselves by an LA suburb? Can we stop calling our film industry Bollywood? It'll be a start. "

In a powerful and balanced accompanying piece, Manu Jain examined what does India, the brand, represents and if it is possible to leverage it. Both the articles are very well written and worth reading in their entirety.

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