As India celebrates its 75th year of independence, The Drum asks marketing leaders to share their perspectives on the making of Brand India, the defining moments of its evolution and what sits behind its self-confidence and self-expression today.
India marks its 75th year of independence today (15 August) after a year-long commemoration – Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav – of the nation's people, culture and achievements.
In this spirit of reflection on India's milestone moments over the decades, we wanted to hear from agency leaders and brand bosses about their observations and recollections of the key developments that have made India what it is today.
So what makes Brand India special at home and in the eyes of the world in this, its 75th year of independence? Here's what the industry told us...
Sunder Madakshira, chief executive officer, Rezolve India and former marketing head of Adobe India
There are 3Ms that define Brand India – math, mobile, and millennium ahead. Math is quasi for the technological backbone – internet and mobile penetration, IT talent and startup world that is redefining the way the country operates and is perceived across the world. The mobile (aka internet) penetration with super-low bandwidth costs has created a new web of opportunities for e-commerce, fintech and health tech. The millennium ahead clearly belongs to India which has the highest working population in the world.
The Brand India of 3Ms has been established on a foundation of another set of 3Ms – monuments, mind and mahatma. Monuments mean the power of history, the mind as the spiritual capital of the world which is the birthplace of the maximum number of religions and Mahatma Gandhi is symbolic of India’s peaceful freedom struggle.
Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India
There’s one word that India means to me. That word is ‘duality’. We are one nation. We are many nations. What unifies us is as sacred as what makes us different. Both coexist and are important to us. Our duality is our strength. What’s unique is the diversity of local and regional languages and dialects, the cultural nuances, the social sensibilities, the way we talk, our identity, our unsaid national understanding, and our codes. This incredible beauty in extreme complexity is what makes Brand India.
India is a country propelled by the young. Young folks are looking for meaningful action from the brands they associate with. Social purpose in brand communication and advertising is on the rise. It’s an indicator of things to come. The other defining shift has been the rise of the internet and the low-cost smartphone in every pocket that is bringing about seismic shifts.
Pallavi Chakravarti, creative head - west, DDB Mudra India
In talking to Brand India, one has to talk to every demographic and psychographic profile under the sun. It means dealing with Indians who behave like Bharatiyas and Bharatiyas who think like Indians. It means the need to walk on eggshells on the one hand and break new ground on the other. You have the license to be loud and the need to be subtle. It means the freedom to make a billion-plus populace dream and the responsibility to keep it real.
Brand India is as young as it is old, as hungry as it is reticent, as judgemental as it is benevolent. Let’s just say that every brief on Brand India is a tough one to crack. Because it’s on the cusp of becoming a market leader and it intends to stay there.
Arvind Krishnan, founder and chief executive officer, Manja & former managing director at BBH India
India, as a brand, is more of an operating system than a classic one-line idea. It is one of the world’s oldest civilizations that today inhabits one of the world’s youngest populations. In a way, the software has been (is being?) tuned over centuries, the hardware is quite new.
The Indian way is an amalgamation of everything that has come before us and in a way, how we have made it our own. A very strong local culture and a very high openness and exposure to other cultures (via a vibrant media environment and a large diaspora) make us a country of ‘tasters’. With a very strong local culture and very high exposure to other cultures, Indians are very comfortable with multiple identities. Happy to don a dhoti for a century-old traditional ceremony and quickly change into a suit for a business meeting the next hour. And to do all this without any semblance of discomfort or imbalance.
Now, this is very different from say a country like Singapore, which one would say is very uniformly international, or countries in the middle east which tend to be a lot more traditionalist. Very hard to generalise, but it’s a useful tool when you’re looking at different cultures as markets.
Anchal Jain, co-chair, creative and cultural businesses programme (CCBP) at IIM Ahmedabad and founding partner, Val-More Action Advisory
For me, India is represented by the immense beauty in the everyday simplicity of its people. Like any great brand, it is never in a hurry to stamp its authority and allows the world to discover its ‘exceptionalness’, rarity and authenticity gradually.
In a world that is seeking purpose and a strong counter force to a galloping pace of life, Brand India is an invitation to slow down and savour its simple beauty as an inspiration for everyone that wants a balance in life.
India is perhaps now the last frontier of a culture that rests on the ‘handmade’ while embracing cutting-edge technology. From wellness concepts like yoga and Ayurveda to an authentic and extraordinary handloom textile to a range of home products, food solutions, design, tourism and hospitality opportunities, India stands on the cusp of bringing a holistic lifestyle to every heart globally.