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Branding your Business

So much about India seems familiar that it can make it seem deceptively simple and conquerable.

Everyday, organizations around the world are lured by the Indian growth story, sometimes narrated in sizzling detail by the media and at other times by ambitious local associates. Most often than not these assertions that argue for the average Indian’s need for “progress” do not represent the true nature of the market place or the consumer.

In many ways, the face of India to the world of Global businesses are an English speaking minority who more often than not reduce the complexity of the Indian market to understanding local idiom. As if learning to say "namaste" with one’s hands folded reverently could single handedly transform this otherwise perplexing consumer market into the proverbial golden goose.

This tendency to oversimplify the Indian reality, has caused even the most astute amongst business managers to drop their guard.

This has resulted in countless marketers importing branding and business principles that have served them well elsewhere, only to discover that their strategies are not resonating with the Indian consumer.

Brands as big as Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola have learnt the hard way that they need to define themselves in Indian terms. They have struggled to accept that the average Indian’s desire for progress does not follow the trajectory of western society.

We have seen brands occupying what seemed like unshakeable leadership positions lose their initiative. Nokia, which till recently had a near 70% share of the mobile phone market, today struggles to cope with local brands who have created a lineup of phones with disruptive features that appeal to a new generation of mobile users.

Why do so many entry strategies fail when it comes to the Indian market? One would assume that given the poor success rate, global brand managers would have learnt from the mistakes committed by their peers and predecessors.

The underlying flaw: evaluate the market potential, category state and consumer evolution to tailor the existing global brand offering The key to this problem lies in the assumption that consumers around the world are fundamentally the same, albeit at a different point on their evolutionary curve.

Not a marketing problem alone, but a cultural problem

Culture, the invisible driver?