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  Amit Shahi INDIA Future of Change: Engaging with the World
by Amit Shahi
April 1, 2011

The most successful nation-branding campaigns are not built on colorful logos or fancy slogans, but on effective showcasing of societal changes and successful projection of the emergent reality. As contemporary India asserts itself within the ever-evolving global power dynamic, a series of well-orchestrated nation-branding campaigns are seeking to connect the world with the opportunities being created by India’s successes and challenges.


With its multifaceted nature, nation-branding is often more expansive than typical corporate branding. Yet the basic strategies for creating a corporate brand that stands out amidst the clutter can also be applied to nation-branding. First, the nation brand must promote its uniqueness, then its credibility, and finally its dynamism.

The first instance of Indian nation-branding, one that displayed India’s extraordinary side, was the “Incredible !ndia” campaign. The campaign, conducted by the Indian Ministry of Tourism, helped to introduce global audiences to the mystical, magical side of India’s culture and heritage. This campaign is widely recognized as one of the most successful tourism branding campaigns, and a masterful work of public and cultural diplomacy.

The evolution of Brand India continued with a move to make “Incredible India” also seen as a credible business partner for the global community. In 2006, India embarked on the “India Everywhere” campaign, led by Confederation of Indian Industry and India Brand Equity Foundation. We at theIdeaworks, had the privilege of designing the campaign that was unveiled in January 2006 at Davos during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. The India Everywhere brand campaign sought and successfully garnered mindspace of CEOs and top global decision makers at the World Economic Forum, as well as through its diffusion by media multipliers in global media agora. The world’s “fastest growing free market democracy” had begun its conversation with global business.

Today, Brand India is entering a new and distinct phase. Through a coordinated campaign of nation-branding that brings together various stakeholders in Indian civil and cultural society, India is revitalizing its national brand on the international stage. One such platform for this discussion is found in the INDIA Future of Change initiative.

The INDIA Future of Change initiative is a dynamic exercise in nation-branding and public diplomacy—one that seeks to emphasize India’s role as a catalyst for change. It works to create awareness amongst audiences worldwide about the emergent reality of India to foster a better understanding of the modern Indian landscape. To do so, the initiative promotes India through its culture, diversity and democracy, as well as through its innovation and entrepreneurship.

This unique initiative is a public-private partnership that brings together multiple stakeholders within Indian society. It has been conceptualized and developed by theIdeaWorks, and with the support of the Public Diplomacy Division of India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Other actors in this venture include the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, Design in India and the Financial Times, which all serve on the board as knowledge partners.

As the world’s powerful gathered in Davos, INDIA Future of Change held two unique public diplomacy events that focused on corporate diplomacy and nation-branding on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2011.

The first panel that INDIA Future of Change hosted included all-star ensemble of business leaders, policy makers and academicians to discuss how India can surpass China in economic growth. Part in parcel to this discussion was a focus on corporate diplomacy and how the private sector can work with the Indian government to project the business realities of a new India and where it fits into the global marketplace. The panel discussion was moderated by the esteemed Martin Wolf, the Associate Editor of the Financial Times.

INDIA Future of Change convened a second panel featuring experts from the fields of innovation and design, as well as business entrepreneurs. The design, innovation and entrepreneurship panel sought to create a dialogue among the global creative classes about India, and how the field of design can lead both to innovation and entrepreneurship, and how each field can communicate a new Indian brand. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, moderated this discussion.

In the realm of nation-branding, these events served as a platform for discussion about Brand India, and created a multilevel dialogue between Indian government officials, international business leaders and members of the global creative class.

Meanwhile, theIdeaworks helped spearhead the overall “India !nclusive” brand campaign at Davos. The India !nclusive branding campaign, which was manifested in a series of large-scale outdoor signs and posters in Davos as well as banners on public buses, was practically everywhere to be seen in the snowy Swiss city. The India !nclusive campaign focused on projecting India’s achievements and communicating an India moving forward. This brand campaign helped deliver a message of commitment to the ephemeral promise that India’s growth is both inclusive internally, and also that India’s external growth helps raise the global tides along with its rise.

India’s nation-branding campaigns are ultimately an effort to communicate a new nation brand that fits the emergent reality of a new India. These initiatives mark creative and innovative efforts at communicating these evolving realities to a global audience, and projecting what the Indian nation brand entails as the country proudly proclaims its emergence as a global player.

   Amit Shahi , the CEO of theIdeaworks and Project Director of INDIA Future of Change, invites the brandchannel community to engage with the initiative on Twitter and Facebook.

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INDIA Future of Change: Engaging with the World
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