Media has been abuzz over the last week with speculations about the renaming of India to Bharat.
During the recent G20 Summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's country plaque also had Bharat written on it, which fuelled heated discussions about the potential rebranding of the world's largest democracy.
Beyond the immediate economic considerations, this shift has far-reaching implications for India's identity and brand equity on the global stage.
To decode this, Campaign India posed a question to marketing experts: What will be the cost of rebranding the country, especially the short and long-term repercussions of the loss of brand equity in India? Does it also relinquish the incalculable brand value built up over decades?
Harshil Karia, founder, Schbang
A brand is a time-saving device. It helps stakeholders who are associated with it to make faster decisions and thus enable decision-making.
In this case, institutional investors, governments, and citizens - all are stakeholders who will face friction with a change in brand name.
Why is the brand changing? What are the advantages of it? How will it make my experience better? Is there something amiss and that is why things are changing?
All the above questions will be asked by stakeholders. The cost of these questions will be friction. Even if there are satisfactory answers there will be an economic impact.
The cost of changing the brand name to India will be reduced speed of transaction and greater doubt. While one can talk about the intangible costs of the same - it's critical to emphasise that the cost of a brand change is economic mainly.
Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer, Bang In The Middle
No, it doesn’t, Bharat or India or Hindustan will all remain the same. No loss of any brand equity. The land, the people, the history, the culture, the religions, the markets, the economy, plus everything else including the flowers, and fruits, and our faces, will all remain the same. Just that there will be lots of money that’d have to be spent in changing everything that has India as a prefix or suffix across everything. It’s a simple thing. Not a complicated thing. As people, we shouldn’t complicate it and give it a spin that’s negative for us.
Jayshree Sundar, professor and former president - North, Leo Burnett, New Delhi
When thinking through a brand, you typically think through all the attributes of it. The colour, the logo, what it stands for, the tone of voice, in other words, all the equity infused into it over the years. It takes crores of investment. The quickest recall for all of this is, of course, the name.
Often country names get changed at the time of independence, to signify a major change in its culture, politics, geopolitical borders, etc. That name becomes the new identity for everything from that point onwards. Wiping a slate. A fresh start. Every social, economic and cultural step forward from that point on, gets attached to this new name.
For us, this pivotal moment in history was 1947. Since then, India has been the brand that we are all a part of till today, and that’s 76 years of Brand building which today has come to stand for a collective image. Largest democracy, smart people, resilience and growth. Bharat is the Hindi term for our country and is well understood within. But it is by no means the external-facing brand. So yes if it is changed it means cleaning the slate and starting over again. To simplistically assume all the values will get seamlessly transferred from India to Bharat is a very innocent view of Brand Building. The pivoting question is why does it need to be done?
Harish Bijoor, business and brand-strategy expert
I do not believe this is a rebranding exercise at all. Both India and Bharat belong to us as a nation. The govt of India has merely decided to use Bharat in some usages and India in others.
To that extent, since there is no rebranding there is no additional cost to this exercise at all. I think one is reading too much in this seamless usage of both names. Both are our names!
Soumitra Patnekar, strategy lead, Enormous Brands
Brand India has taken shape over the last 75 years or so. Therefore, for any rebranding effort to succeed, one must consider this legacy.
Moreover, we find ourselves at a juncture where our nation stands on the verge of something transformative. The next 10 to 15 years will solidify India's position as one of the top 2-3 economies in the world. Consequently, I would argue that there is no better time than now to assert 'Brand India
Cause it further gives credence to how modern institutions and ideas can flourish and take shape in societies with rooted ancient civilisations.
It showcases our openness and cements the idea of merit-based institutions creating world-class assets( Chandrayaan to Sundar Pichai) without compromising our spiritual core (yoga, ayurveda etc.)
Collectively, all these elements have contributed to building the Brand Idea, which will serve as a force multiplier over the next decade or so.
Does it relinquish the incalculable brand value built up over decades? While Bharat i.e. India will reverberate in the prevalent context, it is still an ‘inside out’ expression. More importantly, it will first need to reframe ‘Brand India’ itself.
One could argue that it is a representation of a young generation of confident Indians who take pride in wearing the 'Bharat' label and claiming their roots and identity.
Even this then needs to be built bottom up with the creation of newer role models and cultural symbols, especially for the outside audience.
Lastly, consider the fans chanting and the resounding sounds of 'India, India' that you've heard all these years. Now imagine the same with ‘Bharat’, and you will know the answer to your question.