Why the India Shining campaign is good

Copyright New York Times
I was attending a workshop on branding this week where a speaker contended that even if organisations do nothing about their brand image, they end up with a ‘default’ brand; so it makes sense to invest in putting out a desirable brand image. Even if the purpose of the brand is to convey a intended message to the external world, it also ends up influencing the internal ‘self-image’ of the organisation as well.

Cut to India.

Ten years ago, CNN’s visuals of India usually featured the ubiquitous cows on India’s roads, so was it with stock photos in newspapers. More charitable media showed images of past glory and accomplishment – the Taj Mahal, assorted ancient temples etc. Today the visuals are usually of ‘knowledge-workers’ in Dilbertland, certainly better than bovine intrusions and more importantly, forward looking.

Compared to previous attempts (Mera Bharat Mahaan – My India is Great – a self-inflicted pat on the back for unknown achievements), the India Shining campaign was the first time Indians were given a message of hope for a better future. This (internal branding) message was not lost on the international media and investors. Unfortunately the campaign became a victim of its own spectacular success; suspect because of the sinister religious rightwing history of its creators and the electoral opportunism of its immediate context. These factors should not be held against the fact that it is doing good for the country.

Just as sovereign credit ratings make or mar credit ratings of corporations, sovereign branding imposes a premium or a discount on the market valuation of its companies. We have not yet reached a stage where Indian companies command a premium, although ONGC’s public issue of over US$2 billion was oversubscribed within minutes, with such brand-name investors as Warren Buffet rumoured to have placed over US$1 billion on the table. (The Sage of Omaha has since denied this)

Once the elections are done and digested – India needs to invest further in its branding


The trend has made globalization a dirty word even to many well-heeled professionals. It has made software engineering look like a risky major for American college kids. And it has made India suddenly relevant – in terms of US jobs and pocket cash, not nuclear warheads and Kashmir. [Christian Science Monitor]