Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Thoughts behind Incredible India campaign; Will Amitabh Kant succeed creating brand NITI?

Kant with PM Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (file photo)
LAST week, DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant was appointed as full-time CEO of NITI Aayog, the body that had replaced Nehruvian institution, the Planning Commission. Kant, known for marketing and branding skills, has possibly been brought into the NITI for giving it a major makeover. In his book, “Branding India: An Incredible Story” Kant spelt out how he had created Incredible India campaign amid many challenges. Maybe, Incredible India, and then Make in India will inspire him in NITI too. Here are some of his thoughts as he created the “Incredible India” brand:

• I had no idea what was in store for me when I was posted as joint secretary, ministry of tourism, in the summer of 2002. The pride of having contributed Kerala’s emergence as a premier tourism destination had made me very optimistic and I wanted to contribute my bit to India. But in no time I realized that things were not so simple. What welcomed me was a severe crisis. Looking back, I am certain it was this dire situation that catalyzed Brand India. (The crisis that Kant mentioned here was that the year 2002 saw a decline of 6% in tourist arrivals and 3% in foreign exchange earnings as compared to 2001. Also, hotels in India had gone down to 25 to 30 percent)
 The best part was that “God” taught me the basics of his own country. My experience in Kerala (as tourism secretary from 1997 to 2001) was a blessing in more ways than one. After having partnered Kerala’s incredible journey from an unknown destination to India’s No 1 tourism hotspot, moving to tourism ministry in Delhi was the perfect challenge for me. However, the dynamics and scale of the challenge as I discovered in no time, was frightening.
• The biggest challenge was the task of holding the entire canvas together with one powerful idea that would help achieve the vision of unifying India as an aspirational destination. After almost a year of research, debates, discussions, public contests, focus groups and what not, that idea was christened “Incredible India”.
• Until 2002, India had 18 tourism offices abroad. There was no positioning, common branding, or a clear precise message. One foreign office called it “Spiritual India”, and another termed it “Cultural India”, and third “Unbelievable India”. The clich├ęd visuals such as saffron clad sadhus in the Himalayas and rope tricks performed amidst crowd…
• India is a land of contrasts, a combination of tradition and modernity, a land that is at once mystical and mysterious. India is bigger than 23 countries in Europe put together… “Incredible India”, therefore, necessarily had to be the mother brand with the states establishing their own brand entity and emerging as sub-brands.
 Rich tapestry that that is Indian cannot be captured in the single word or expression but ‘Incredible” comes close enough. At times overwhelming but always ‘Incredible’.
 The initial phase of the exercise was to create a distinct image for India and an effective style of communication.
 The style was created with the logo ‘incredible India’ where the exclamation mark forming the “I” for India was used innovatively.

Now, Kant’s task of branding NITI will be no less challenging. But you may expect a mega Make in India or Incredible India like campaign for NITI too. Or who knows, with the Kant’s journey to NITI, the campaigns such as Make in India, Start Up India etc. may actually migrate to NITI? 

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