I found Modi's IAA speech (marketing India to the world) yesterday quite remarkable in terms of the original Indian ideas it contained - thoughts that went beyond rhetoric and deeply substantial, in sync with some Rajiv Malhotra's novel ideas in his book 'Being Different' that Rajiv has also explained via his videos. I've tried to transcribe some of his observations into English to the best of my ability with some limited annotation (words in italics)
Why he attended this event
Modi: I could not escape attending this event because of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami's father (aged around 90?). His father used to work and scrutinize each issue and I observed how there are different angles of examining the same issue.
There are many topics where we have our own personal problem entangled, and because of this, 'Brand-India' is not displayed to the world with any strength of conviction. The first requirement for being able to so is self-belief and self-confidence. If you are taking an product or topic to the world, but you don't believe in it yourself, then you just cannot do it. After 1200 years of slavery, we Indians have developed just a colonized mindset, that when we find a white man, a six-footer, who rattles off English vocabulary, we retreat into our shell. Consequently, even after 60 years of independence, haven't been able to overcome this problem.
There are some things that have symbolic value. Everything has symbolic value that opens door, and the belief you have in this symbolic value is crucial. You may find great orators and speakers who deliver nice lines, but communicators are few. In the last century, the greatest communicator was Mahatma Gandhi. In this world where people resort to shortcuts (cutting corners), the focus is on impressive marketing. We have a choice. whether to go with inspiring marketing or impressive marketing. If you look at Gandhi's personality, there was nothing "impressive" about him, but was truly inspiring in totality. Simply dressed, humble-living. He talked about Ahimsa, but carried a stick. Today's world hasn't paid much attention to this communication of contrast. He did not wear a cap, but many wear the Gandhi cap! What strength!
In those days, there was little media coverage. extremely tough to transmit information. Gandhi's words, spirit, without any dilution, diversion, or loss in translation, reached every last person. Friends, such communicating skills are rare, but on this point, nobody in marketing has written a book on this topic. Please form a committee, and next year, please research and launch a book "Gandhi, the great communicator". it must become a case study for world top universities. This also means that branding of India has also been accomplished! This is how its done. Even today, our mental colonization, we talk of Tulsidas as India's Shakespeare, and Sardar Patel as India's Bismarck. Why? It's because of our lack of confidence. We should be saying the reverse (Shakespeare is England's Tulsidas, Germany's Sardar Patel). This is how we must express comparisons, but we have lost our identity.
If we want to talk of a brand India, we have to understand our core competencies, only then can we effectively market our brand. The world knows MLK, but we don't know if the world views Gandhi in a similar manner. When the Gandhi movie was made in the1980s, a publisher friend remarked that all his Gandhi books were sold out after the movie and reprints were required. Friends, Attenborough did a job. If in the last 50 years, for the benefit of humanity, if we presented the values of Gandhi to the world, and force them to think about it, we would not even had to strive for a brand-India, the world's universities would be coming to India searching for Gandhi here.
Global Warming and Environment
The world is abuzz with talk about global warming. When people are in search of something, when they find what is necessary, it is immediately accepted and in marketing u go to the top. The world worries about global warming and searching for solutions. Who worries the most? Those societies who most exploited nature the most. Those who most toyed with nature and today, are the champions in the fight against global warming. Winning Nobel prizes (as a society)! We are the people, whose nature, whose Sanskriti and cultural heritage if protected and popularized, can convince the world that we have the best answer to global warming. We don't have that confidence. Ganga did not get polluted as long as it was considered Mother Ganga. Once it was viewed as some H20, the degradation began. Our ancestors called it 'mother', plants were called 'Paramatma' (highest souls) so trees were not cut, living in harmony with nature. People mocked us for worshiping trees, cows, and rivers, and labeled us 'backward' We believed this criticism and began to destroy our natural heritage. Today the world talks about protecting the environment, while we received this as a cultural treasure. Gandhiji would pour back half a glass of Sabarmati water because that was what he wanted. Nothing more. No exploitation or milking of nature. Such lofty ideals and vision our ancestors had, and the world desperately seeks a solution to global warming. With such ideas for brand India, via these ideas, with a scientific approach, and keeping with modern terminology and presentation, move forward.
Heritage Sites and Tourism
In the world of architecture or heritage building, France is well known. Suppose India was as small was France, and all of its monuments and heritages were present in the same space, then we would encounter a heritage building every three steps. Why can't we globally market this heritage? For those in tourism, this can be such a big deal. But for us, this is just some vague building built by some old king. We have the world's oldest port, 5000 year old Lothal, oldest citiy Dholavira. Have we every wondered - how great our ancestors were. If you go to Dholavira, you will surprised to know, 5000 years back, road signs are there! Which means people from other parts of the world must have come there. Did we market this with pride? No. Dholavira had a 5000-sitting capacity stadium for sports. Sports, entertainment, social gathering must have been there 5000 years ago in India! If the world hears about this, they would be most interested in visiting. We must have faith in our cultural heritage and values.
Music and Soft Power
(India's real soft power (not the superficial Bollywood type) is one of the key ideas that Rajiv Malhotra has promoted)
If you just take only music and market it to the world, then we can give a lot, which doesn't even know that the 5am music is different from the music during sunset. The afternoon music is different from that at night. Let them know about this heritage. Did i market this? No. Dance, Drama .... My ancestors gave me this heritage that I haven't presented to the world. Even when our kings were fighting, the world was not running on military power or economic power, even though that is important, it is soft power that built relationships. History is witness to this. Two potentially warring kings ceased hostility when a sister of one king tied a Rakhi to the other king. This is an example of soft power. We are more rich in soft power than any other country in the world. The power of music is immense. Why are people united by music? You must have attended concerts too. Music is not just meant for the ear. It is tied to the mind and heart. If you listen to an hour of loud western music, take a break, and then listen to an hour of any original Indian music with rhythms. Western music enthralls the body, but Indian music deeply influences the heart and mind. Impact on bodily senses is shortlived joy. The joy that reaches the mind can even be Chiranjeev (eternal). The difference between western and Indian music is just as wide as listening to mighty ocean waves, versus listening to a small stream. Have we branded this? No.
(Rajiv mentions this is already multi-billion dollar industry and India has missed the boat big-time)
The world is crazy behind Yoga. If you know how to breathe in and breathe out, regardless of how low the rupee falls, dollars will fill your pockets :) There is no bigger market for India's knowledge industry than Yoga. If you ask our govt, why we aren't exporting Yoga, the world is ready to accept it ... We did not brand it. who first taught the world how to breathe in and out are not marketing Yoga. Today is about holistic health and healing. Desperate for it, sick of medical drug based treatment. Such a big market. Have we a brand-India that markets our traditional medicine and treatment approach? Herbal medicine is our ancestral treasure. We performed the world's first surgery! In Mahabharata, Karna was born via genetic science :)) We are pioneers in medicine. What the world desperately seeks, we have. But we need to have belief in ourselves, but we don't have that belief today. During Pandit Nehru's time, there was Haathi commission about marketing Ayurveda. Due to the craze of socialism in those days, there wasn't any emphasis on marketing. The report came out that Ayurveda is fine as far as its substance, but it can only be popularized by improved packaging. Friends, China is #1 in the world in Herbal medicine export, when it OUR ancestral treasure. If we properly package, perform value addition, and brand it, we can market it to the world as traditional food if not medicine, and make it part of a holistic heath care offering and preventive care solutions. The market is ready for this.
Youth and youngsters are committing suicide today all over the world. In such a situation, are there ways to prevent them from taking this extreme step? Our ancient texts and treatises on Yoga, Pranayama, etc. focus on the inner sciences (adhyatma vidya, in Rajiv Malhotra's terminology). We can't sell Taj Mahal to everybody. We can only sell what a person needs. We still haven't progressed beyond Taj!!
Vegetarianism is another popular movement today. When Clinton was first elected, I visited the US. Our team visited a hotel in Houston. ... If we are late, we say "this is Indian time, isn't it"? If every Indian says this, insulting India, then how can we do branding of India?? This has to change. So I reached early. The Gujarati person (secretary) there embraced me. I asked why. He said he was vegetarian, and there were many Gujarati veg restaurants. He was proud of it. The world is receptive to it. Have we ever done an Indian food festival? In Japan, our curry is popular. Did you know that Subhash Chandra Bose's brother introduced Indian curry to Japan. This is again our cultural treasure. Not just food travels when we market this properly, the entire Indian identity goes along!
Science and Literature
When we talk about Nobel winners, we talk about Einstein, but not our people. When we talk about literary greats, why do we take the name of some random western guy but not the name of Rabindranath Tagore? To effectively do brand India, we have fill our minds with India. Like the cricket ad that does "i eat, sleep cricket etc', If we do "India, India ...." every moment, then we can do effective branding of India :))
Organic Lifestyle Market
My background is in RSS. There are stories about what we can and cannot do. We cannot do fashion shows it seems. I organized a fashion show. I was sure those who "love" me would call me out. I held it in Porbunder. I know how to create a stir :) Our NIFT/NID students in their campus totally live in their western world, no sign of India whatsoever there. We selected those kids and make them come on the ramp. They liked doing such stuff anyway :) We played Vaishnav Jan song, used Khadi costumes, in Porbunder, on Gandhiji's birthday, with Vinobha Bhave's disciple in the audience - we tried to market Khadi in a fully modern manner. VB's disciple was very impressed. The point is, the world is looking for chemical-free cotton, natural grown cotton. Our Khadi has that strength. The poor get their livelihood from Khadi, but we have limited it to politician's houses. If we make it a global market, it would light the cooking stoves of many poor people in India. Holistic lifestyle seekers would be proud to wear a Khadi that is chemical free and natural, and willing to pay a premium for it. Maybe 10% of our farmers still haven't used pesticides but continued to do natural, traditional organic farming all their life - our people don't know that in the global world, organic food market is massive. (Cow's milk example is given). Our farmers have traditionally done organic farming for centuries. We don't have certification facilities, authorization procedures etc., so we cant create an organic food market. If the farmer can sell his products with organic branding, he can command a premium price in the world market. The point is, from a farmer's livelihood perspective, we can fulfill our vision of Brand-India in a harmonious manner.
(Extempore again) Seeing Kiran ji, i recall that our nation is celebrating 100 years of our film industry. The world's biggest industry that feeds lakhs and crores. But we lost the opportunity to do global marketing. If I could, I would have done a branding of India just via Indian films. But fear not, I'm not entering this world :) But I've talked to (some names) for hours on such topics. We should stop trying to impress the world, but inspire the world. India must be branded properly, and this should be our dream. Thanks.