Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, narrated his journey of transforming Kerala into God’s Own Country to making India Incredible, on day three of the Goafest 2017. Addressing a crowd comprising the who’s who of advertising industry, Kant said that for him, brand building is about consistency in growth.
Kant said that he first changed the government norms for hiring of creative agencies and that brands handled by him, be it Kerala- God’s Own Country or Incredible India or Make in India- did so well only because he refused to compromise on quality.
“Even for creative hiring the government rule was to give it away to the lowest bidder. But I pushed it to the level that it reached the Finance Minister and the norms were changed. Now when hiring the creative agency, 80% score is for the creative calibre and 20% for costing,” said Kant.
Kant’s success story started as secretary of tourism in the Kerala government in the 90s where he not only explored the state’s potential for tourism but branded it as “the destination” for holiday.
“My experience with Kerala helped me create Incredible India. The first crucial decision was to make Kerala an anti-thesis for all that western tourism stood for. We found unique strengths of Kerala. We shifted focus from beaches to backwaters. We promoted Kerala’s Ayurveda massage, their unique boat races. We financed the poachers and converted them into tourist guides. We brought it's cuisine to centrestage and finally we were the first state to create a brand and an advertisement for state tourism,” said Kant.
Kant’s hard work soon attracted the then Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s attention who spent a week in Kerala where he closely associated with Kant. The stay impressed the PM so much that soon Kant was working on making the Incredible India campaign. But this journey too had its own challenges.
“Within days of my appointment in the Union Tourism ministry there were challenges like the 9/11 attack, there was an attack on Afghanistan, there was the Gujarat earthquake and what not. The hotel industry was struggling to get customers. There were visa issues. So there was a lot that we had to resolve to ensure tourists start visiting us again,” said Kant.
Kant said that besides focusing on creating a series of brands for India he also focused on several initiatives to restore Indian heritage, launch strong campaigns on cleanliness, improving infrastructure etc. “The government is working on initiatives that will improve infrastructure drastically,” he added.
Kant is now engaged on making his latest initiative “Make in India” a success. The first phase of the initiative was launched in Maharashtra last year. Under this, the government is working on making business easy in India in order to boost the country’s manufacturing industry.