AdAsia shows 'Brand India' will be a major global force

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Last week I worshipped, slack-jawed, before the altar of globalization. I stood before the counter of a McDonald's in New Delhi, capital of India, reading the menu: "McAloo Tikki Burger," the "McCurry" (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) and the "Chicken Maharaja Mac." I feel embarrassed even reporting this stuff. What did the wags who came up with it feel?

This is not another anti-McDonald's rant. (Consumers around the world apparently like this stuff-although why the chain seems hell bent on massacring the English language is beyond me.) I am just trying to make practical sense of the extraordinary experience that was the AdAsia 2003 conference in Jaipur, some four hours by car north of Delhi.

Two weeks ago in this space I previewed India's largest ever advertising, media and marketing event by cross-referencing it to the re-established belief, of Sir Martin Sorrell and others, that Asia is the primary hope for growth in the global industry.

Post-event, I take away the same feeling I had after visiting Shanghai early last year: The story may not be the short-term scenario-about how the opening up of a potentially huge marketplace may lead to untold riches for Western marketers. Rather, the real story may lie in the longer-term tale of how India markets itself and its brands to the rest of the world (and how China does, as well). One thing's for sure: India has no desire to be colonized again under a different guise.

There was much debate among the captains of Indian industry over the future of "Brand India," and about what could be done to establish India's image as a modern, competitive nation. But it was left to a foreigner, the Australian Ian Batey of the eponymous Singapore-based network, to outline a list of Indian brands that could, or should, go global.

Batey said if you haven't heard of the following you surely will: in IT, Infosys, Wipro Sankhya and TCS; in pharmaceuticals, Ranbaxy Laboratories; in consumer goods, ITC; in biotech, Reliance and Aditya Birla; plus Raymond fashions, Ambo mangoes, Tata trucks, Tetley tea, Old Monk rum and Nutrine confectionery.

If the few Westerners on hand (including MindShare CEO Irwin Gotlieb, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' Jeff Goodby, direct marketing's Lester Wunderman and Publicis Worldwide Executive Creative Director Dave Droga) were in any doubt about the arrival of Indian marketing and creativity on the world stage, the event coincided with the naming of India's (and Asia's) first president of the Cannes International Advertising Festival's film and print juries: Piyush Pandey, president-national creative director of Ogilvy & Mather, India.

Pandey said it was a "national honor," and it was treated as such by every TV and print news organization. Like every Indian speaker, Pandey expressed concern that India must be true to its culture and heritage as it markets itself to the world.

In this way, it is earnestly to be hoped that Indian brands will give more to the world than the McAloo Tikki Burger and the Chicken Maharaja Mac give to India. It should not be hard.

Stefano Hatfield is contributing editor to Advertising Age and Creativity.

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