I’m in India several times a year and on each visit I’m astounded by how much has changed—and how much has not changed. There was a time when this stasis would be dismissed as a sluggish attitude toward progress, reinforced by a protective government that desired foreign investment but was less enthusiastic about foreign brands.
That’s an old story. Believing it is a good prescription for failure. India has relaxed ownership rules across key industries, such as aviation and defense, and it’s liberalized market entry requirements for certain overseas retailers. To make doing business in India easier, the parliament has taken unprecedented steps to replace a complicated mix of national, state, and local taxes with a single Goods and Services Tax (GST).
While all this is happening, young Indian entrepreneurs have launched an impressive number of new brands across multiple categories, many in just the past few years, since we launched the BrandZ™ Top 50 Most Valuable Indian Brands, in 2014. Most of these brands are not yet eligible for inclusion in the BrandZ™ Top 50 because they’re either not publically traded or not yet large enough in brand value.
They cannot be ignored, however, which is why this year we’ve introduced a new section in the report that describes these brands and analyzes why they’ve appeared and how they’ve achieved success. Marry this new section with the rest of this report, especially the BrandZ™ analysis of the India Top 50, and you have a clear view of the brand landscape in India today.
Which brings me back to my opening point: So much has changed; yet so much has not changed. India does branding India’s way. That means that global brand building assumptions usually fit, but not always. When the assumptions do fit we explain how they fit, and we discuss their implications for brands. For example, Difference, a BrandZ™ component of brand equity that’s important in every market, is critical in India.
Sometimes assumptions don’t form a perfect fit, however. Here are just two examples of the ways in which assumptions need to be flexed for local conditions:
- In many countries, it is easy to divide consumers into categories like urban and rural. That used to work in India. Now, while urban and rural Indians continue to differ in certain areas, like income and education, they are drawing closer, and when it comes to brands they have similar mindsets.
- In many countries, consumers in the rising middle class look in one direction only — straight ahead. In India, people are looking all around all the time, ahead to the future and back to 5,000 years of culture from which they derive inspiration.
The bottom line, if there is a bottom line, is this: The rules do not apply the same way in India. India is so multifaceted it needs to be viewed through a wideangle lens, which is what this report provides and why this report can be of such value to marketers building valuable brands in India.