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L K Advani on Indian 'superbrands'

Business Standard | August 25, 2008

Brand awareness, brand building, brand management and the whole concept of 'Business Organisation as a Brand' is relatively new in India. It is an outcome of the liberalised and competitive business environment that was created in the early 1990s.

During the 'Licence-Permit-Quota' Raj, there was no opportunity, incentive or compulsion for Indian companies to prove themselves. The ruling party of that period did not trust the Indian entrepreneurial class.

As a result, India's economic growth was severely stunted. My party was strongly opposed to this Soviet-inspired economic model that successive governments had followed until the arrival of the 1990s. And when this model was jettisoned, we supported the change enthusiastically.

The change enabled thousands of new private sector companies to enter the marketplace. Many public sector companies also restructured themselves to better meet the requirements of the consumer.

Thanks to liberalisation, our people were also exposed to the products, services, technologies and business management practices from abroad. Indian companies realised that they had to not only compete amongst themselves, but also compete, survive and succeed against foreign firms.

There are many reasons to rejoice at the emergence of Indian Superbrands. The most important reason is associated with national pride. Many of you will recall that in the past - and I am referring here to the era of the 'Licence-Permit-Quota' Raj - many Indians had a craze for "foreign brands".

And because these imported goods were not easily available, the craving to have them was even more intense. At that time many Indians believed that India could not produce goods or provide services of matching quality. This created an inferiority complex among these Indians.

The emergence of globally competitive Indian companies has dispelled the inferiority complex. It is these great Indian companies - Tata, Reliance [Get Quote], Aditya Birla Group, Moser Baer [Get Quote], Infosys [Get Quote], Wipro [Get Quote], etc - that have enhanced the reputation of India as an emerging economic power. The national pride associated with this phenomenon has tremendous transformational power.

I find that 'brand' is now being used in political parlance, too. Insofar as this concept is not used loosely in politics, the true reputation of a party or a leader should be judged by the credibility they enjoy. One must be true to one's own beliefs. One's practice should match one's precept. The test of the survival of a free society and a vibrant democracy is whether our public life has a sufficient number of people who value their own credibility, who safeguard the trust that people have in them, and set an example.

There is a close linkage between the brand value of individual companies and the value of 'Brand India' as such. The value of 'Brand India' depends on how good are the infrastructure facilities in our country, how attractive is the environment for investment and doing business, how efficient, transparent and corruption-free is the functioning of various government bodies and how good is the law and order situation.

If investors and businessmen are satisfied on all these counts, naturally trade and businesses will thrive and many more 'Superbrands' will emerge.

Sadly, the environment for investment and business in many parts of India is far from satisfactory. I am told that there is still a lot of red-tapism, bureaucratic harassment and delay for small and medium companies.

Infrastructure is improving in some states, but it is still very poor in many other states. Corruption is rampant. Judicial delays are the order of the day. Our education system, especially the system of higher and professional education, is in need of radical reforms.

We have a strange situation in our country where on the one hand tens of thousands of young men and women are in need of employment, but, on the other, properly skilled and trained people are not available for the jobs that do exist.

All this is unacceptable. We must change this situation. Without changing it, the true potential of India's development cannot be realised.

Excerpts from a speech by L K Advani, Leader of the Opposition, at the release of a book: Business Superbrands, in New Delhi on August 20, 2008


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