Branding in Indian Companies? If Only It Were True

You would think, judging by the amount of time Indian businesses spend talking about branding, that they might understand something about it. If only that were true. But it seems to me, and I’ve been working in India on and off for more years than most people have lived, that for most Indian companies branding is still the logo and maybe a slogan. It absolutely amazes me that so much time and effort and so many words are spent talking about branding and so little is actually done. Where are the Indian brands that have real significance?

Tata, India’s most influential company by far, operates outside India for the most part through a variety of brand names, Jaguar, Landrover, Tetleys, Taj Hotels and so on, without even the slightest reference to the Tata name. It’s true that Tata Steel and TCS use the Tata name but, for the most part, Tata, the name of one of the greatest companies in the world, is left to languish and there isn’t even, as far as I know at any rate, a programme to launch Tata as a worldwide brand name, the equal of the very best that exists in the rest of the world. Think how that would help; in recruitment, in acquisitions, in sales. Think how it would help Indian business. Think how it would help the national brand—India itself—as a whole.

As far as the rest of Indian business is concerned, I can’t tell the difference between one Reliance and another, can you? Indian companies, as it seems to me, for the most part, operate through a complex web of brands and names, few of which have any real global significance. In most cases, they don’t even have national significance either. Of course there are a few exceptions—but not many. So, isn’t it about time Indian companies stopped talking about brands and stopped thinking about brands simply as little bits of  design with a few words stuck underneath, and really thought about what branding is.

In the end, a brand is about identity. A brand is about having a unique idea, personality and style and demonstrating it in everything that you do, in your products, in the way your people behave, in your communications, advertising and other promotions, and in your environments, your offices and showrooms. A brand is not a logo, it’s a presentation of who you are and what you stand for in everything you do and to every audience with whom you deal.

Come on India — wake up.


Wally Olins was the chairman and co-founder of Saffron Brand Consultants. Widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of brand strategy and corporate identity and ‘the world’s leading practitioner of branding and identity’, according to the Financial Times. Formerly chairman of Wolff Olins, Wally was the author of several books including the seminal work Corporate Identity, published in 20 languages, and Wally Olins On B®and. 

This piece was written for Kyoorius Magazine’s sixteenth issue.


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