Indian brands keen and competent enough to get globally competitive, says John Brash

The Founder and CEO of Brash Brands and Anil Sondur, Vice President- Industrial Design, Tata Elxsi International, talk about their strategic partnership and the diverse portfolio handled by them

e4m by Deepa Balasubramanian
Updated: Oct 30, 2014 8:07 AM
Indian brands keen and competent enough to get globally competitive, says John Brash

John Brash, Founder & CEO, Brash Brands visited India recently for a series of business meetings and partnership strategy review. Brash has worked in the branding industry for over two decades, advising clients from major global corporations to ambitious start-ups. Brash Brands is a true realisation of John’s dream of providing a successful independent and personal branding service on a much larger, international scale. John Brash and Anil Sondur, Vice President- Industrial Design, Tata Elxsi spoke to exchange4media about the visit, strategic plans and the significance of the partnership between both the brands. Excerpts.

Q.  What is your India visit all about?

John Brash: It’s always a packed agenda when we come to India - it’s such a dynamic place. Besides a number of new business meetings and our partnership strategic review, we were there to support two of our great clients launch two very different brands. Firstly in Kochi, we launched the identity for the very exciting Kerala Blasters Football team, part of the Indian Super League. Shortly after, we launched a new brand, which is set to redefine luxury real estate in Delhi NCR, Lotus Greens.

Q. How can Indian brands become globally competitive instead of just being present in the global market?

John Brash: Firstly, they need to demonstrate their point of view and differentiation – being merely large and successful does not necessarily mean they are maximising their brands’ potential. It is of utmost importance to remember that although brand is an intangible asset, it remains critical, as a large proportion of company value lies in it.  You just need to look at some of the world’s leading brands to see the emphasis on branding practice. Ultimately it is about believing in the IP that you create and not to be afraid of standing up for what you believe in.

Q. How can branding and design be a catalyst for this?

John Brash: Firstly we need to understand the ambition of the company, whether they are looking at IPO, to acquire or to be a true global player. We then work hand in hand with the key internal and external stakeholders, including governments, to drive out the insights that will build a strong brand platform, which is transparent with the company’s vision, mission and beliefs. We then develop the value proposition and drive this across the business to maximise the impact of the new strategy and positioning.

Q.  Building a customer centric brand is key to business success. Please share some insights for building valuable brands.

John Brash: For a brand to become truly valuable there needs to be seamless alignment of its values, its beliefs and it’s purpose across all of its activity. Internally, all stakeholders and employees need to be committed to delivering this vision and indeed be passionate in doing so. Every touch point of the brand needs to bring its unique experience to life – or as we call it, total branding. The combination of these things will increase the value of the brand to both internal and external audiences.

Q. India has become a key market for brands for business investment. What’s your take on this?

John Brash: India is a country with a wealth of opportunity. The entrepreneurial spirit and drive is admirable and something which aligns with Brash values.  Creating a brand that is trusted takes time, dedication and consistency in delivery. It’s natural that brands that have achieved this will want to take advantage of the opportunity and diversify. We have worked with many companies that take this approach, and as they grow, it becomes increasingly important their brand architecture is well planned and considered, so as to allow each business unit the space to grow as well as protect it from the risks of others.

Q. India is on the cusp on new optimism and brand growth. Please comment.

John Brash:
Post the elections; there is definitely renewed optimism. We can sense this with brands that operate within India and those that are connected to India. This buoyancy should be embraced and brands need to take advantage and plan for future growth.

Q. What is the trend that you see in India?

John Brash:
It’s great to see homegrown brands looking to expand their horizons to markets outside of India. For a long time, post liberalisation, the focus was on global brands making their mark on India, but we’re now speaking with Indian brands that are setting their sights and growth ambitions on international markets. Brand has a crucial role in driving this kind of expansion.

Q. How do you think Indian brands are faring on social media as compared to their Western counterparts?

John Brash: As it’s a very dynamic space, India is no longer far behind as the perception used to be in the past. Learnings from global brands are instantaneous – brand owners need to be open to new opportunities and innovations. The market is certainly hungry to engage with their brands.

Q. What is the trend in mobile advertising globally when compared to India?

John Brash: There’s a huge opportunity for mobile in India, whether that’s advertising or payments. Given the scale of the country combined with the rapid availability of low cost smart phones, this is a space where true innovation could happen.

Q. How has the Brash Brands and Tata Elxsi’s partnership been for you?

John Brash: Brash’s strategic partnership with Tata Elxsi provides businesses in India the best of both worlds. International expertise and learnings together with deep local insight and execution. Our client work here is a genuine collaboration across every stage of the project. For example, for our work on Imperial Edge in Mumbai for SD Corp, Brash drove the strategic brand and creative direction, which was taken on the ground into a 3-D environment by the Tata Elxsi team.

Anil Sondur: Tata Elxsi in association with Brash Brands announced a major strategic partnership in 2012. The aim of the partnership was to provide businesses in India the best of both the worlds, leverage the international experience, expertise and learning’s together. 

Through this exclusive partnership, while Tata Elxsi will focus to build Brash Brands business in India, Brash Brands will represent Tata Elxsi’s portfolio of design services throughout its international offices such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Singapore.

We have executed around four projects in the hospitality and the real estate sector in the last two years. There is a genuine collaboration across every stage of the project for our clients. For example for our recently executed work on The Imperial Edge in Mumbai for SD Corp, while Brash Brands drove the strategic brand and creative direction, the 3D experience centre and customer experience design was completely executed by Tata Elxsi.

Another example of our collaborative work efforts is for the St. James’ Court – A Taj Hotel, London where Tata Elxsi and Brash Brands helped design and articulate the brand strategy, brand identity, signage and way finding design for the brand. While designing we ensured to retain the iconic status of the heritage hotel but with relevance to contemporary business and leisure travellers, position it as a contemporary brand, and create a proposition that stands out against competition while retaining the distinctive feeling of Taj. Over 100 collaterals to be used across various consumer touch points for the luxurious hotel were designed and developed.

Q. Digital advertising/ marketing spends are still miniscule when compared with other communication mediums. Do you expect the scenario to change? 

John Brash: We really don’t think it’s as simple as that. India is a very diverse country; there will always be brands that need to invest heavily in ATL to get their message across to consumers.  As digital penetration continues to increase across the country, we will see larger percentages of marketing spend shifting across to support this. You can already see this happening with brands in tier 1 and 2 cities.

Q. How have you blended design and technology at Tata Elxsi? Which are the brands using your services? How have they benefitted?

Anil Sondur: Well, Tata Elxsi is a design company that blends technology, creativity and engineering to help customers transform ideas into world-class products and solutions. We design products, which are not just aesthetically beautiful but are functionally feasible and have the ability to create a high brand recall amongst customers. We bring human insights, coupled with design excellence and knowledge of new technology to design products and services for the connected world of tomorrow.

Some of the noteworthy brands which Tata Elxsi has worked on includes BodyMedia Fit armband, a wrist – worn accelerometer used to track everyday living in all environments and terminal 2 - Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai

Q. Digital advertising/ marketing spends are still miniscule when compared with other communication mediums. Do you expect the scenario to change? 

Anil Sondur: Well I think the scenario is slowly witnessing a change. The use of Digital Ads and Marketing is picking up in India, as digital media is becoming a part of the media plan for most of the marketing strategists. Especially when the audience involved is the youth, companies are investing on digital marketing spends to tap the potential.

For instance, online e-commerce has become significantly popular in the recent past and most of the retailers, FMCG and CE brands are looking at advertising / marketing in these portals.

I think the biggest change in digital advertising will take place through mobile especially with the increasing usage of smart phones and the cost of data becoming lesser. Also through mobile marketing, marketers and advertisers are able to precisely target their customer base, interact with them and measure the results of their campaigns effectively.

Q. As per BransZ report by WPP, out of the top 10 brands, 9 are from FMCG. How can other categories get their presence felt?

Anil Sondur: FMCG companies are extremely consumer focused; therefore, we believe that they have accepted design to be the core for consumer satisfaction way before than other technology or other companies. But we should understand, even a software producer needs to focus on design to increase business results.

However the scenario is changing, today it’s not just FMCG or automobile companies who focus on design but every industry, be it Telecom, Retail, Pharma or Healthcare are giving tremendous importance on design to attain business growth in order to cater to the fast changing customer requirements and needs.

We believe that each and every company / industry needs to focus on design to forecast a steep rise in their respective profit margins. Though organisational scalability and sustenance are critical elements for companies’ existence, relying on these alone will not deliver a decent ROI. Therefore, for any company that chooses to innovate, the foremost challenge is to understand that the real value creation today comes from using ‘design’. Adoption of Design thinking is another key area that we are trying to promote amongst the corporate world today.

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