No, says Stephen Manallack, author and communications trainer in Australia. Instead, Indian businesses should preach morality as 'brand India's' ethos. The West is ready to listen.
"We must become more Western" was the comment from an Indian business leader who has been successful in the west. We had been talking about India's booming economy and the fact that, despite this success, business and political leaders in the west were talking a great deal about China but little about India.
But my friend thought some more and revised his analysis to: "It is not that we should be more western, but we must become better in our relationships with the West."
Now I could agree with him. Relationships are built on good communication and right now the Indian story is not being well communicated outside of India. Sure, the numbers are there, facts are listed, points are made, but this lacks the emotion and personal connection to be good communication.
China, on the other hand, is sending out "personality" type messages that have impact: massive scale combined with individual energy, the restless giant, and so on. Every Chinese business function I attend in the West has cultural impact; Chinese decorations, art forms, music and dress. These package the business and economic message in a personal and acceptable way.
India for most part is sending messages that don't stick, lacking personality. Who cares about the statistics, where is the colour and life? Strange that perhaps the globe's most colourful and most lively country is so restrained in communicating with the west.
There is a powerful reason why India should not seek to become more western: put simply, the west had made a mess of it. For instance, the Gallup Organisation has been researching western community happiness since the '05s and has found that although the standard of living has more than doubled (larger houses, two cars, every electrical appliance and so on), the level of happiness in the west has stayed about the same. Negative indicators such as personal depression have increased tenfold. That's a poor return for over five decades of material growth. Why would you want to copy that?
On top of that, western business leaders have lost confidence when discussing values and ethics, in part because of some terrible corporate collapses such as Enron, but also in part because of the massive decline in spirit and values in the west. Once upon a time, a business person could clearly state that he or she was honest in all dealings because of sound religious belief. Today, the honest are not sure why they are that way, and even less inclined to talk about it.
I saw a clear example of how to project values when N R Narayana Murthy, chairman and chief mentor of Infosys Technologies, spoke in Australia to a largely western audience. His speech was a magnificent personal account of how to grow a business and imbue it with values. Infosys has the motto: Powered by intellect; driven by values.
But one comment by Mr Murthy aroused powerful interest. He described his approach to corporate ethics and governance by the simple statement, "A clear conscience is the softest pillow". Western hands reached for pens to hastily write it down. "Did you hear what he said, wasn't that amazing" were among the comments flying around the room after the speech. Even a senior government minister was soon quoting him.
While this was indeed a good comment from a wise man, against the fabulous success of Infosys and Indian IT companies in general, it was hardly earth shattering. So why did it have such a huge impact on the western audience? The West is naïve on values, and hungry for it.
By the way, Mr Murthy is such a good speaker and ambassador, if I was running "PR India" I would put him on a full time globe-trotting speaking role to take the Indian message to the West.
Some Indians might wonder how can India talk values when there is still so much corruption? Don't wait until you are perfect and totally corruption-free to talk values; the West is ready to listen now. The first rule of good communication is to know what is of interest to your target audience - the West is interested in values and principles and does not know where to turn. It does know not to look for this from China, where it sees a poor track record on human rights and a tough "business first" approach. So that creates a real opportunity to reinforce "brand India".
My case for adding personality to your global communication is supported by brand expert, Jack Yan, author of Beyond Branding. Jack Yan says: "Even the most traditional companies tell us that brands are emotive. Brands are not about how much money they can generate, but how much passion. These brands tap into our consciousness and our causes."
India lags China in the consciousness of western business because it is not projecting your culture. Bring your celebrations and festivals to the West, providing opportunities for western business leaders to learn. Bollywood has a bigger role to play in this; bring your stars to the West, link them with the business messages. Hollywood has done this for decades. When you organise functions and meetings in western cultures, make sure there is some Indian music, some of the colour and perhaps some large displays of great quotes about life and values. Western audiences would lap it up.
Of course, good communication anywhere in the world includes being a good speaker, having the right visuals, meeting and greeting people in a way that gives them comfort and confidence. But also see culture and history as your strength.
Western business leaders would be stimulated to see quotes from the great Mahatma Gandhi such as, "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes". Another of his quotes that would resonate so well with the West is: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony". Why display this kind of material? Display it because it is a value-addition for western business, hungry for contact on values and ethics. In this way it can become part of your brand.
India has given the world Ganesh, Krishna, the Upanishads, Buddha, the spirit of Diwali and in more recent times the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi and others. Western business is ready to learn; what a communication opportunity for "brand India".
also see : The
Six Sigma Primer
*The author, a member of the committee of management of the Australia India Business Council, is a communications consultant, trainer and author of You Can Communicate (Pearson 2002).
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articles by Stephen Manallack