Is "Brand India" not inclusive?

Listening to Mr Santosh Desai at the QED - The Liberalisation Debate recently, got me thinking about 'Nation Branding.' Mr Desai talked about the emergence of the term "Brand India" in conversations, discussions and media narratives which have also gained considerable acceptance recently. This term in itself, adds 'marketing sheen' to decision makers language  keen to promote India overseas. What is interesting to note, and Mr Desai raised it at the discussion, is the exclusive nature of the term "Brand India."

What it means, is that through its very usage and promotion, it advocates an India that is reflective of a certain group of people, and, that serves certain interests only. "Brand India" is not inclusive but thrives on exclusion.   It excludes an India which is bigger, larger and pervasive. The narrative does not do justice to the reality, and, does not acknowledge the presence of the 'many other Indias' that are not necessarily aligned to the corporate, GDP growth driven vision of India, but attractive, real and numerous nonetheless.

So, an over reliance on marketers for shaping an image of the nation will not amount to anything. The role would remain with the able Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers who should move towards becoming 'public diplomats' irrespective of assignments or postings from being just 'diplomats.' 

To illustrate it further, one of my favorite marketing campaigns in India remain the "Incredible India" series. This campaign aims to promote India as a tourist destination, and promotes a 'brand of India' completely excluding the problems of traveling within India for tourists, especially if you consider issues like security, infrastructure etc. Consequently, we still do not feature among the favorite tourist destination of the world. To be fair to the campaign, it is asking too much to expect such an initiative to bring about a fundamental shift in attitudes, nonetheless, what I am thinking now...Is Nation Branding possible at all? Or is it a myth created by marketing agencies?

This is where the "India Is..." contest of the PD division of the Government of India seems more meaningful. This is one program that seeks to capture 'many Indias'. Read my post on The "India is ……." Global Video Contest

In one of my previous posts, almost two years ago, I introspected on  a possible strategy for India. This is to be based on development of strong messages that is aligned to the overall values that India stands for. Guess it holds true. We need to ask ourselves what are the values that we bring to the world that defines our way of life -- this is our power, our influence. An enduring brand will be based on a deep and real emotional connect.

Is Brand India not inclusive?

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

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