In these days of open borders and instant connectivity, the barriers to global brands have been demolished one after the other. India has more global brands in the product and services sectors that it needs or cares for.
What India needs is adoption of global concepts (call these brands, if you like) as it prepares for occupying a pre-eminent position in the world in the next seven years. Here is my wishlist:
Planned Cities: Mush-rooming urbanisation has seen the growth of disorganised, unplanned and ugly looking cities and suburbs in our country. Road and public transportation networks do not keep pace with the growing population, and by the time city planners wake up, there is not enough space to build roads and other physical communication facilities. We need to learn from the Americans and Europeans on how to build well planned cities and how to build structures that lend a timeless character to a place. I hope we can import this mindset.
Honesty: Corruption has cast deep roots in our society and has spread like cancer. Although the silent majority finally had a chance to make themselves heard through Anna Hazare, this is not a problem that will vanish. Centralisation of power leads to corruption. Democracy has so far not been able to dilute the concentration of power in the hands of a system and a small minority. How do we grow out of this abyss and become a country with a ‘developed market’ mindset? What would it take for this change to be accelerated?
Innovation culture: Is it not a pity that a majority of the technological innovations in the past century originated outside of India? Will things change in the next 100 years? I hope they do. We need to import a mindset of innovative thinking. Our culture of “follow traditions without questions” has led to a less innovative performance. Is our education system liberated enough to teach students to ask questions rather than meekly follow what is written in the text books? Perhaps not. That is the reason why we don’t have any Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerbergs in our midst. Most of the Indian commercial success stories in the post liberalisation India are really photo-copies of international innovations. With all the boom in consumer durables, there is hardly any truly Indian innovation that we can be proud of. I hope we can change this situation.
Destination India: Despite our rich heritage, our multi-religious history, the sheer beauty and diversity of our landscapes, we are not able to command a big chunk of the world tourism market. There is much to be learnt from countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai. These countries have consciously built infrastructure, trained people to be welcoming to tourists, and have created concepts that would appeal to a wider group of tourists. We have a golden goose, but we are not allowing it to lay golden eggs. I hope we embrace tourism as a source of wealth.
Sustainability: While the West went wild with plastic bags, Indians were recycling old newspapers for use as shopping bags. Our culture teaches us not to waste food, because someone somewhere may be going hungry. We have been culturally taught to save for a rainy day, which is why our domestic saving rate has been the envy of many a rich country. However, with accelerating affluence and consumerism, we are saying goodbye to our natural sustainability processes by blindly adopting the same destructive trends that increase the carbon footprint in the developed world. While the West is waking up to sustainability, we are going in the other direction. I do hope we can take some initiatives to stop this carbon tsunami that may flood our universe with garbage.
Healthy mind, healthy body: Obesity, depression and greed come bundled with increasing affluence. As we are emerging into a country with over 350 million middle class consumers, these demons are being fed. Rather than wait another 10 years for this crisis to hit us, we should take corrective steps to make our country a healthier place – both for the mind and the body. Let us go back to our routes and create a global brand that we can export to the developed world, for a change.
Efficient democracy: We are proud to be a democracy. But China, a communist country, is reaping far richer rewards of capitalism by efficient structuring of its industry and infrastructure. Our form of democracy has many pitfalls – three steps forward and two steps back – and is slowing down our progress. We need to build a new model of working democracy that allows freedom of expression and choice to co-exist alongside efficiency, entrepreneurship and progress. A new global brand of democracy that could be the role model for other.
(Pranesh Misra is Chairman and Managing Director, Brandscapes Worldwide.)