Mr. Dharen Chadha
Managing Director, Momentum Strategy Consultants Pvt Ltd
Thank you Bharat! Building global brands out of India – when you look at that theme…when we look at that theme a question sort of kept coming back to us and the question was are we actually asking ourselves the question a little too late? In other words have the events already overtaken us? Is this a situation where the market main fact is running ahead of us marketers?

We all know that for last many years now economy is been opened up but for last couple of years you all must have sensed it, we’ve certainly sensed it, that there is something different in the air as you walk down the streets, as you walk through the shops, you get the sense of someone who has been sick for very long and appetites have suddenly begun to come to them now. You know that they are standing up now and are finding that their bones and sinews are renewing themselves and there is a new vitality that seems to be in the air.

One of the things that we like to do in our brands is to look at Hindi cinema as a mirror of a kind of consumer change that is going on in India. And what I would say to you is that our analysis of it shows that the sixties was the Age of Innocence, and the seventies was the Age of Anger, then today it is the Age of Desire. Basically the consumer is very keen to consume, the consumer is lapping up just about everything that is of decent quality. The world is here, it is very much here. In fact world class is here and the consumer wants not a cheapened version of somebody’s dream anyway. The consumer wants the very best.

Twenty years ago when you did research in India the big thing that you heard again and again was “budget dekh ke chalna padta hai”. The big theme here today is “ cheez achi dedena bhaiya , do char paise lele na”. Whether we like it or not, whether we reach out to the world or not through our brands the world has already come in. So do we really have a choice is the question.

When I first came back to the country in 1997 and we began to work with the clients like Titan in watches and Blue Star in air-conditioning and so on, I was interested to see the body language there. And the body language was in a state of funk. There was tremendous fear where Titan was confronting the entry of Citizen. There wasn’t the kind of confidence that said we have a strong brand and we can fight these guys. So when we went out to talk to consumers we found that the consumers hadn’t yet given up on Titan, far from it. The body language that we have today is however is very different. It’s a body language which says we can take them on here and to me that is the first big triumph. Because the moment you resolve that you will do it the rest automatically follows. However the question that arises is, all these self confident people that we are now seeing around us are perhaps being a bit too simplistic. I mean is this a typical Indian tendency of swinging from one end of the pendulum to other end of the pendulum. So the last many years it is always been about how depressing everything is and we are just zero point two percent (0.2%) in world trade etc.

I’m reminded of the conference that I spoke at about a year ago where a fellow speaker of mine who is a very good man, Chief executive of one of the largest engineering multinationals in the world and began to speak like this and went on and on for nearly twenty to twenty five minutes about how depressing everything is and how, the conference was in Bangalore, it was like look at the roads of Bangalore and we talk about being the IT capital but just look at the roads of the Bangalore. You know I heard this for so many years and suddenly something happened you know and it snapped in my mind a little bit and when I stood up to speak I said that I’m tired of that story, I’m really tired of that story and I have heard enough and I turned around to my fellow speaker and I said to him gently, as gently as I could, I said haven’t you had every single foreign associate of yours come into this city and say that the domestic airline that I just took was a world class air line. Yeah! And I said confidence comes from celebrating the little victories and if you go on and on this way that is not going to help us in any way. So that’s what I felt then and then recently about couple of months ago I think, couple of my friends dropped in on a Sunday morning as it happened, it is very interesting, both have come back from Davos and one of them is a guy who heads Wipro in North America and European business, and he said to me “Dharen you should have seen it to believe it. You should have seen the kind of impact that India was having in this place. India was the flavor of the month, India was all over. And we completely eclipsed the Chinese”. And couple of days later the friend dropped in and this guy, hold your breath, had just gone to Stockholm as head of global R&D at ABB and he said the same thing to me. He said, “You should have seen the Indians, they were such a suave savvy crowd, you know that they spoke so well, they dress so well, there was a little bollywood show, they could talk about the wine and cheese, Americans were in turbans over there and it was incredible”. As he said that I turned around and looked at the Chinese and the Chinese were pretty much the same people they used to be. They were this shifty eyed, collective hoard of people, very awkward you know, very much struggling with their English and so on. And I said to him, for heaven’s sake let us celebrates the little victories, let’s not go on that India bashing trip again. And he said something to me that hit me like a hammer on the head, he said, “Yeah Dharen you know however when you fly into Mumbai or you fly into Shanghai you wonder if you got the two countries mixed up”. He said to me “I agree with your little victories but what about one of our problems with Indians is that we start to think of the little victories as the big ones”. Yeah and that’s where perhaps we fall down. So there is this tendency to swing from either one end of the pendulum which is the pressure and the 0.2% or there is a simplistic sort of over confidence or bravado and it makes you think about this word ‘global’ for instance the way we Indians use it you know. I worry about that word actually, I don’t like that word at all frankly. I think its too global and that’s the problem with it. That the word global is too global, it’s too round a word, it’s a fat word. It can be stretched in any direction that you want to stretch it into. Somebody starts to export 10% of his turnover and we say that he is a global player. We don’t even have heart to call our domestic airports- domestic airports. We have to call them international airports. There is something in the way we use this word global , we use it perhaps a bit too lightly and here is a little quote from Professor Prahalad which I think is a very interesting definition of what a global company is. A global company he says is one which has global cash flows. You must be able to take money from the American market and move it to Brazil, and you must take the money from Brazil and take it to Taiwan and so on.

So the question is that how many of our companies are in this position today. Yeah! The other very interesting thing that is being said by another great academic is Rosebeth Moss of Harvard who has talked about the idea of cosmopolitanism. Basically what she has said is that’s its only when a very large number of the work force of an organization becomes truly cosmopolitan, we have companies which are truly global….Are our companies alive to the fact that by the time that they become global a very large portion of the work force will become non Indian? We will have yellow skins, we will have white skins, we will have dark skins and we will have all kinds of skins. One of the things that we may wish to consider that if they take longer than we think and in fact to build a global brand out of an emerging market is not so easy and the question that arises is …how many of our brands have the kind of determination and the bloody mindedness of a Samsung? Yeah. Optimism is easy but as Jim Collins in that great book said “the Stockdale paradox” as he called it, is not for easy optimism. It says essentially that you have to retain the faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties and at the same time you will confront the most brutal facts of the current reality whatever they might be. So basically we could have reduced the discussion of this seminar to how do we do the right kind of PR when we move out of India? In fact Romit Chatterji my friend who couldn’t be here today but will be here with us tomorrow with TATA Sons, it started with… the idea of the seminar started with conversation with him where he was struggling to understand why the Inter Brand despite the massive evaluation of the TATA group was unwilling to include it among the top hundred brands in the world. Quite simply because they said that you don’t have a global foot print, you may be as large as you think you are but you don’t have a global foot print. So why don’t we have a global foot print? Because of the way we don’t have the world class propositions. So why don’t we have world class propositions? Because maybe we have yet to build world class competence, and therefore the focus in this seminar is going to be to recognize in the future that the brands are not going to be the little things that are going to lie on shop shelves. This is not about how we can have a Tiger beer or Dilma tea. This is not about how I can do a little bit of PR to facilitate my entry into new market. This is going to be in fact recognition of the idea that increasingly, in the future, companies are going to be brands and Indian companies will be brands and that if companies are brands then I’m afraid that the whole function of brand building gets taken away from the marketing department and more and more CEO’s are the brand managers. There is a great deal of marginalization of the marketing function which should worry all of us. We have become the bells and whistles of the business world and I think that if there is one thing that we can succeed in doing…we would like to succeed in doing…is to raise the level of the discussion amongst the marketing profession. And which is fitting therefore I say that ISA has assumed this content with both hands and said yes this is what we need to talk about. And the nature of the speakers you will see over next two days is… we have thirty –thirty five of CEO level speakers, people who are concerned with selling their brands at the front lines. And so the level of the discussion is going to be at a very high level and I think that we also have an outstanding audience. I mean when we have seen the kind of audiences we have had in the past, this audience has been cut off to ensure that a very high quality group of people participating from different areas. We are going to have lots of time for Q&A, because we think that we will all really learn together when we talk during those fifteen twenty minutes after every session. I’m going to encourage everyone to bring everything that they can and to bring in any insight that you have. We’re going to have to be a little tough on timing because we have a lot of ground to cover. But I’m sure that if we think of it together we can make this discussion very productive.

I’m looking forward very much ladies and gentlemen, two days of very serious yet very enjoyable, very enlightening and enriching debate. Thank you very much!
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