India has moved 8 points up to rank 134 from 142nd position among 189 countries in ease of doing business. This was revealed by the World Bank after revising its earlier figure of 130, after data corrections to its ‘global business index’ report.
Even though it’s not a quantum jump, but given the size of Indian economy it’s indeed a remarkable achievement.
Some attribute this success to ‘Make in India’ campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendar Modi in 2014 to brand India as an attractive business destination.
Branding India is a work in progress for a long time. This however has gained currency only recently with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Incredible India’ ad campaigns. These two ad campaigns have grabbed enough eyeballs and are seen as milestones in effort to brand India.
With ‘Make in India’ and 'Incredible India' ad campaigns, a tectonic shift is witnessed in the efforts of branding India. The two ads have shifted the focus of India being a place for tourism to a destination for doing business.
Earlier, branding India was done only for the purpose of tourism. This journey began when the British government laid the railway-lines in country.
The theme exotic India was put on posters and distributed across European cities to attract tourists to India.
In those posters India was marketed as a land of ancient civilization, mysticism, spirituality, saffron-clad sadhus meditating in Himalayas, wildlife, tigers and lions, snake charmers and magicians, rajas and maharajas.
The British government periodically revised their tourism broachers but in content the brand India remained the same as the purpose was to attract foreign tourists.
This image of India was altered when the country gained independence. Now brand India was filled with imagery of a developing nation. Bhakra Nagal dam, Bhaba Atomic research centre acquired prominent space, even as spirituality, history and culture filled the images of such ad campaigns.
As the country was struggling to develop for nearly four decades, no significant effort was made to differently brand India. India was still a nation in the making that oscillated between capitalist and socialist mode of production.
The exercise of branding India in the socialist scheme of things was still a bourgeoisie’s pastime.
India as a result was seen as a part of the non-rational world, where superstition guided people’s world view. In certain perceptions, India remained a country marked with material deprivation where poverty, hunger and backwardness were a way of life.
During those formative years, India’s population explosion too filled the imagery of the country. The image where in some overcrowded urban space, hungry children would be performing rope tricks, begging for alms doted the western mind.
India’s image rapidly started changing since the country began its economic reforms in the 1990s. Branding India got a shot in the arm with the introduction of computers, cable TV, and internet.
The entire discourse of branding India underwent a sea change since those years and it was for the first time the country was seen not as a tourist destination but a place of endless business possibilities.
However, during the years preceding Vajpayee’s government, no calibrated efforts were made to brand India through full-fledged ad campaigns to reflect India's growth story.
The first such attempt was done in 2002 through the ‘Incredible India’ ad. This was almost a decade after the liberalization of the Indian economy had started.
Some say ‘Incredible India’ ad campaign was necessitated because country’s economic growth was slipping down, and the Pokhran nuclear explosion had left the world sulking at India.
Whatever maybe the reasons; ‘Incredible India’ was a milestone in branding India. Although it was tourism ad, it had a huge role to play in proposing India to be a forward looking country beckoning people for doing business.
The ‘Incredible India’ ad campaign’ heavily harped on the spirituality and ancient history contents, but added few other unique selling points to it.
The new seductions were India’s growing GDP, booming stock market, where information highway is dominated by satellites and digital technology, besides bollywood, and cricket as running Indian themes.
The ad ‘Incredible India’ changed the entire image profile of the country. It was able to erase the stereotypes and clichéd images associated with the India.
The ‘Incredible India’ ad gave a new meaning to brand India. The ad campaign resurrected India’s image from tourism hub to business destination. India was no more a struggling country, but a place where growth and development were taking place at a breath neck pace.
The journey of branding India continued with ‘India shining’ campaign, a brainchild of then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani. However, this campaign became the nemesis for the NDA’s rule.
It was the theme song ‘Chuck de India,’ from the same movie released in 2007 that filled the atmosphere provided another milestone to brand India differently.
Buoyed by India’s triumph and success in various fields, ‘Chuck de India,’ unofficially acquired a wider connotation, epitomizing India as a confident nation and drove home a new Indian mindset. The theme song became the swansong in the journey to brand India.
Under Prime Minister Modi, ‘Make in India’ campaign is another sincere effort in the same direction. This ad campaign is built to encourage multinational, as well as domestic, companies to manufacture their products in India.
‘Make in India,’ campaign uses both India as huge market for products and services as well as a lucrative destination for investment.
‘Make in India’ campaign has been able to effectively present India’s business perspective and have succeeded to leverage business partnerships in a globalizing market-place.
The campaign has started showing results with India jumping 8 positions from 142 in 2014, to 134 in 2015 out of 189 countries, in the ease of doing business. This is no mean feat.
In the journey of branding India, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Incredible India’ ad campaigns, has given a new enthusiasm, vibrancy and dynamism to the country.
The two ads though have different time frames are loaded in content with the same purposes, projecting the attractiveness of India as a destination for doing business.
Since both the ad campaigns have been able to succeed in getting the objectives translated into reality, it’s being debated which of the advertising product is better of the two.
Amitabh Kant, the brain behind both the ad campaigns bats for the ‘Make in India’ ad, but for a common Indian 'Incredible India' hogged much more limelight and created a far more buzz than 'Make in India,' though the latter may have attracted more businesses.
[Author is a senior Journalist based in Chennai who can be contacted at email@example.com]