Brands in the News

Rebranding India

8 Oct 2014  


India Prime Minister Narendra Modi

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently wrapped up a triumphant visit to the United States

  • He joined Barack Obama for dinner at the While House.
  • More than 18,000 people filled Madison Square Garden to see him speak.
  • He appeared with Jay Z, Beyonce and No Doubt at the Global Citizen Festival.
  • Top executives form PepsiCo, Goldman Sachs, Google, Boeing, BlackRock and others met with him to discuss investments in India.
  • He addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

It is hard to see what else Modi could have done during his visit. The man was everywhere.

Modi is a gifted brand builder. He has a compelling story, he understands the power of brands and he appreciates the importance of symbolic gestures.

India needs a leader like Modi because its brand is troubled.

People are quick to group India with other emerging markets. It is, after all, one of the BRICs. Like China, India is an enormous country and presents a remarkable opportunity for growth. There are areas of India where the potential seems to be coming to fruition. The IT sector is a notable success.

The problem is that India also has negative associations for investors, especially manufacturers. The political system is complicated. Securing permits to build is hard. Power is unreliable. The transportation network doesn’t work well. Even getting a visa is difficult.

The result is that India is not a big player in terms of global manufacturing. While labor is inexpensive, companies don’t invest as much as they could. According to an article in The Diplomat, India makes up about 2% of global manufacturing. China, by contrast, accounts for over 22%.

This is a huge problem for India. The population is growing quickly and the country needs direct foreign investment to spark manufacturing investment and provide jobs.

Some of this is reality and some is perception. The perception matters most; companies can overcome logistical challenges but they won’t even try if they think it is a hopeless task. As long as business leaders believe India is a difficult place to invest, they won’t take action.

This is where Modi can have an impact. One of his key messages is that he believes in change and investment. He recently launched a new campaign encouraging the world to “Make in India.” He committed to simplify the regulatory process. It is a compelling story.

Improving business conditions in India won’t be easy. It will take government policies and motivated companies. Modi’s leadership is a critical first step.

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This week I am working with forty brand leaders in the Kellogg on Branding program. It is a terrific group. There are participants from sixteen countries and a remarkable range of industries including hospitality, consumer products, chemicals, financial services, technology, fashion, entertainment and non-profits. The program covers everything from positioning to global branding to brand measurement. The next session is in May, 2015. You can learn about it here:


Special thanks to Nidheesh Patel (Kellogg ’16) for his contributions to this post.

3 Responses

  1. PM Mr. Modi has made a impact in his tenure of state chief minister of Gujarat, has taken state leadership scope to a newer level. He has kept agendas emphatically simple. Make in India, Clean India…. specifically to be mentioned. He has made efforts to not to go by rule book but to go by strategy that further accentuates his agenda. Simplicity of his agenda has made complex goals to appear perceptibly achievable. First and foremost he has gained confidence of the countrymen and opinion leaders and rest perhaps is matter of ceaseless perseverance and collective efforts to reach the goals.

  2. Andrei Mitran says:

    National rebranding – I admire the brave move. However, I do not think there are any quick rebranding alternatives for Prime Minister Modi. Investors wil probably look for cultural change, which requires persistence over time. However, consistency over time is challenging in most political environments… If he succeeds, India will certainly be a model of transformation for us all. He will need some early/small wins to keep momentum…

  3. Uday says:

    Modi also seems to be re-branding himself. From an autocrat stained by human rights abuses to economic reformer and someone who gets things done.

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