How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
The birth of the Global Indian
From whining about the globalisation of India to celebrating the Indianisation of the Globe: tracing and defending the role of media and advertising
Mythili Chandrasekar, VP and Executive Planning Director, JWT Chennai
From chasing Coca-Cola away from the country to the Videocon advertisement, which shows people all over the world chanting the Gayatri mantra, it’s been a long and colourful journey.
Remember the days when everyone whined and complained about the globalisation of India? We should not be allowing serials like The Bold and The Beautiful -- this is deplorable erosion of cultural values, we declared. After all, there was no promiscuity in India at all -- we had to learn it from Ridge Forrester! Let’s blame multinationals for suppressing Indian entrepreneurship. Let’s blame Kerry Packer for corrupting cricket. Let’s blame Baywatch for changing dress codes. Let’s blame Barbie dolls for corrupting our little girls. After all, till then, our little girls never dreamed of wearing beautiful dresses.
And let’s not forget advertising! Let’s blame advertising too. Advertising is showing Western images. Advertising creates unnecessary desire. Advertising makes us buy products we don’t need. Hey, we don’t need soaps and shampoos -- we have shikakai. We don’t need toothpastes -- we have neem stems and charcoal powder. We don’t need foreign cars. We have Ambassadors!
Some of us did try to argue. We went hoarse telling the critics that globalisation is an economic phenomenon. That economics creates change. Media only spreads it. Advertising only reflects it. We went hoarse defending ourselves at seminars on “Globalisation and its impact on cultural values”.
We quoted global economists. “Global business helps put meritocracy in place of hierarchy, democracy in place of dictatorship, modernization in place of feudalism, openness in place of secrecy, freedom and opportunity in place of restriction and repression,” they declared. Thank God for global economists.
We cited market research. Thank God for market research. We told them that 80 per cent of consumers around the world generally welcome global brands, believing they will represent greater competition, better products and lower prices.
Well, you don’t need to say too much of all that any more.
Remember the days when that bright cousin was sent to the USA by TCS, and the Ph.D brother-in-law from Princeton who visited you once in two years? Remember how you worried about your wet bathrooms before their visit? And waited for those huge suitcases to be opened up? Wondering whether they had remembered your Parker pen refills? Remember the annual quota of Camay soaps? And Impulse body sprays? And those awful synthetic sarees? And the trip to Grand Sweets the day before their return?
Well, you don’t have too much of that either, any more.
From the Non Resident Indian to the Now Required Indian
Because, somewhere along the way, our beauties became world queens. Before we knew it, Amitabh Bachchan was in the wax museum. And Deepak Chopra had repackaged the Bhagawad Gita. Before we knew it, the editor of Newsweek was an Indian born. And not just men. What about Indra Nooyi? Wasn’t she a woman? That too from Chennai? Guess what got on to Time magazine cover? Indian yoga. Guess what – Madonna has henna on her hands! Guess what – Dilbert has an IITian called Asok! Guess what – there are 110 Gopalakrishnans in AT&T! Guess how many Indians were on the team that developed Windows? Guess what -- Narayanamurthy spoke at Harvard. Have you read it? I’ll forward it to you. Do you have a Hotmail ID? Hey, guess who created Hotmail? An Indian. Guess what – an Indian is directing a movie on Queen Elizabeth! And who is this Night Shyamalan, yaar? He’s an Indian. Guess who’s swarming all over New Jersey in the Y2K? Good, hard working Indian boys! And before we knew it, good hard working Indian girls too. Guess whom I saw in Frankfurt airport? Dhanbad periamma’s neighbour’s daughter. She works in Wipro. She was going to Chicago. For the third time! And guess what -- somewhere along the way, we stopped calling it Brain Drain.
Even then the grumblers persisted. And even then, we did our bit. Look, we said, Harry Potter has to be translated into Hindi to be successful. Barbie has now come in a saree – she looks like Aiswarya Rai in Devdas. Look, we said, finally, even multinational brands must succumb to Indian taste. See, there’s panneer pizza! And aloo tikki burgers! And the Josh Machine! And the Chevrolet husband brought home the car on Karva Chauth day!
Look, we said, we are not the only ones. Many countries feel this way. “The world is shrinking not because we all have the same ideology or politics or religion, but because we all understand what Coca-Cola means,” we quoted.
Psychologists had asked people in dozens of nations, rich and poor, how satisfied they were with their lives. There was a clear connection between a nation's per capita gross domestic product and the average happiness of its citizens. In terms of psychological pay-off, the benefits of globalisation were going overwhelmingly to the world's lower classes, nations with a per capita annual income under $10,000. Thank God for worldwide happiness surveys.
As the world gets smaller, do its inhabitants become more similar? Or do cultural differences across countries remain constant despite diverse influences from across the globe? According to a worldwide survey of consumers in 30 markets, the answers are: yes and yes!
Look, we said, don’t worry. India will absorb the new without replacing the old. She’ll be fine.
Well, you don’t have to say all that any more.
Somewhere along the way, the tide turned
“America is no longer a premium brand, and the world's love affair with the US, while not exactly over, is no longer blind and unquestioning,” said magazine articles. “During the last decade, there has been a pronounced shift in Western tastes and fashions towards 'Asianisation' – a yearning for the values of older, wiser, more contemplative civilizations.” Thank God for magazine articles.
Somewhere along the way, Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram and Abdul Kalaam and Dhirubhai Ambani and Vijay Mallya and AR Rahman and Arundhati Roy changed the way we Indians looked at ourselves. (And so many others, God bless them all – and God, please specially bless Lakshmi Mittal. And God, also bless the man in the Rajanigandha ad, who buys a foreign company. And all those guys in suiting ads who come back to Indian soil, giving up all those white girls.)
Even then they grumbled. Oh, we are becoming the back office of the world. They are taking advantage of our cheap labour costs. But guess what, no one was listening.
Because, the time, as the walrus said, had come.
From masalas to massages to movies: we are “going global”
Look what we read today. Bollywood we hear is going global! And this is not just about one Aiswarya or one Shekar Kapoor. This is about Paramount Pictures co-producing Indian films for local and global markets. The IIMs are going global. (Or they will, if the Ministry of Education allows them.) Indian animation is going global. Indian housewives are going global – on the Net -- correcting English essays written by Chinese and Japanese children. Our organic farming is going global.
Always a large number in the USA, our students are today the largest in the segment, and now spreading all over – UK, Australia, New Zealand…
Look what we read in the culture pages. Bharat Natyam dancer incorporates Chinese martial arts and Tibetan chanting. English play with Carnatic music. Shakespeare re-enacted in seven Indian languages – all at once, in the same play on the same stage. An American writer (Nathan Scott, born in India, spoke Hindi before English, calls himself a “third culture kid”) using Indian kalamkari art to illustrate an Indonesian tale in English. Reads it out to children in a bookshop in Chennai.
By the way, my brother-in-law’s brother’s daughter who was born and brought up in Indonesia went to study in the USA, and married a half-Chinese, half Moroccan – born and brought up in Paris. We attended the reception in Bombay…he wanted to play “nelangu” (Tamil wedding games), and all her cousins sang Hindi songs, because they had all grown up in Calcutta! How’s that for the multi-cultural Indian?
And look what we read in The Economic Times.
“Indian companies go for global hued hiring.” “Percentage of other nationalities being hired by Indian companies steadily rising and expected to go up”. “We have to become a more embedded part of the countries and communities we operate in.” “International associates will help the team develop a global and multicultural mindset,” say Indian IT heads. Thank God for Indian IT Heads. And thank God for The Economic Times.
“Within the next five years, India’s economy will overtake Japan”. Wow. “In the second quarter of the 21st century, India will be among the three countries that rule the world. The world will become tripolar.” Tripolar? Wow. “Merit, hard work, democracy, secularism, and educational emphasis take India to the front.” Is that us they are talking about? Wow. “Indians work hard, and sleep even less. 46% of Indians, highest in Asia, sleep for less than 6 hours,” says India Today, so thank God for India Today too. “Indians won’t just play with the tail of the tiger. In the near future they will be the whole tiger.” Wow. “India is at the epicenter of the way the world is changing its business format.” Wow. “We are taking America. It’s the Trojan horse principle. Get inside and work.” says a professor in Columbia. Thank God for professors in Columbia!
The other day, I asked a bunch of nine-year-olds to respond to the word “money”. The first comeback was “dollars”!
This is it, I decided! I raise a toast to the birth of the Global Indian! And I do it with a glass of Coca-Cola. As the ad says, “Sar utha ke piyo”.
I say, let’s chant the Gayatri, along with the Videocon advertisement, which shows people all over the world chanting the Gayatri.
I say, let’s drop population control, produce more Indians, and populate the whole world and rule the planet! Let’s Indianise the globe!