This year’s list of “The Forbes Global 2000 – the biggest and most powerful listed companies in the world” includes 56 Indian companies. What stood out in the list released by the US business magazine is that global dominance of the developed world in the corporate world is declining. Apart from the 56 Indian companies, 113 Chinese companies too found a place in the list.
Corporate India has become a major non state actor shaping perceptions about the country. With the recent scholarship in Public Diplomacy moving away from the narrow traditional state-centric conception of public diplomacy to include a range of non-state actors with some standing in international politics and economics, the role and potential of Indian companies in shaping foreign public opinion needs a more focused attention. How do these impact the overall public diplomacy efforts of India? With the democratization of information through uncontrolled media like internet, non state actors have been greatly empowered and also gained legitimacy hitherto unprecedented in international affairs.
Consider these recent developments and the consequent ‘messages that can be laundered’:
- Religare Enterprises Limited’s recent acquisition of Parkway Holdings to consolidate its healthcare model, and, stated goal to create a global healthcare model/company that doesn’t exist currently
- The ability of Indian companies to provide drugs at cheaper rates compared to developed countries without compromising on quality
- Tata’s “Nano.” The $2500 car!
- Tata’s acquisition of Jaguar, Land Rover and the steel maker Corus
- The ability of Indian cell phone operators to innovate and offer services at tariffs that’s among the lowest in the world.
- Bharti Airtel’s forays overseas and acquisition of Zain to emerge as a major player in African market
- The resilience of Indian companies during the recession and the strong performance of the Indian financial sector
From innovation, ambition, creating value to strong regulatory frameworks and good corporate governance the themes for messaging are many. And we haven’t even talked of IT/ITeS! There are many more such examples across sectors. How do we plan to communicate all this? Corporate India by its successes overseas also builds India’s political capital and influence. Hence, there is also a need for the state to push towards strategic industries in strategic markets. Non-state actors have to be strategically incorporated into an overall public diplomacy strategy.