by Shereen Singla
Why I decided not to buy (and subsequently not use) Foreign Brands
So this conscious and deliberate decision came at a time when I was reading about The Swadeshi Movement of our Indian National Movement, which was an economic strategy to uproot the British Empire from India and aimed at the revival of Indian domestic products and industry. It pondered upon me how a simple yet effective tool was employed by Gandhi and his associates to strike the 100 year old rule of British. This simple thought inculcated in me a feeling of nationalism and a feeling of “Indian-ness” . I wondered what power our indigenous products had over their imported counterparts during that phase, and how in present times we conveniently seem to have forgotten its importance and do not hesitate to belittle our Indian industry !
The fascination of buying an imported product has always been associated with the fact that it is grown or produced in a particular country and transported to us. However, in the present age one of the facts that many people do not understand or probably do not know is that MOST of these foreign branded products operate in a franchise model where the franchisees only make use of the brand name and the established business model, and the raw material and labour sourced is INDIAN, so the whole purpose of buying a ‘foreign’ product is rendered useless as it is no more transported from abroad but manufactured in India itself and what we pay is not the cost for a product but a price for the ‘Brand name’. This ‘high brand’ mentality is slowly eating up our Indian industry and economy. Indian consumers admire global brands as a status symbol. Higher the value of an international brand, higher is your status in the society. The few brands or products that we import become double their value because of various import duties and other taxation charges levied on them, and in this race of ‘SUPERFICIAL GLARE’ we end up spending a huge chunk of our hard earned money on items that are available in the Indian market at a much lower price.
Because materialistic things display status and wealth, the easiest and most common way to display someone’s stature is through designer fashion goods. Indian consumers crave for Michael Kors, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and many more, forgetting the fact that India produces enormously talented designers that effortlessly blend respect for age-old traditions with forward-thinking aesthetics. India has to its credits names like Manish Malhotra, Ritu Kumar, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal, Abu Jani, Raghavendra Rathore and Anita Dongre among others.
One of the most common arguments put forward by the users of foreign brands is the ‘high-end quality’ that they offer neglecting what the Indian industry has in store for us. We don’t trust our Indian products because we never really ‘want’ to trust them. Two centuries of British rule ensured that we developed a lasting inferiority complex over our culture, education, industry and our products. Despite 69 years of independence, we are still plagued by ‘Self Loathing Indian Mentality’. Our country has a lot of resources along with skilled craftsman and newer technology which offers an equally rich quality. What is required on our part is an attitude of non-scepticism towards our home made products.
Another argument generally advanced is that the Indian industry is not well developed and not upto the ‘standards’ of international market. When I decided to change my course of preferences to indigenous products, I started looking out for a catalogue of Indian brands and I was surprised to see a lot of Indian brands competing with the international market. I was amazed to know the story of Lakmé (the brand name is the French form of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who is renowned for her beauty). It was started in 1952 famously, because the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was concerned that Indian women were spending precious foreign exchange on beauty products and personally requested JRD Tata to manufacture them in India, and today it is one of the leading brands in the cosmetic industry. Similarly, Titan Company is the world’s fifth largest wrist watch manufacturer and exports watches to nearly 32 countries around the world. In the same vein, VIP Industries Ltd. is world’s second largest and Asia’s largest luggage maker. Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. has, in a short span of less than a decade recorded a turnover higher than what several companies have managed to achieve over several decades. It is targeting much older fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) majors like Colgate-Palmolive and Nestle, and today its wide array of products compete directly with international products. It has also taken on the big players in other geographies, exporting its products to Canada, the USA, Mauritius and UK, among other countries. These are just one of the few testimonies of the ‘standard’ and ‘quality’ of our Indian brands. It is upon us to discover the innumerable options that our country has to offer and show a little faith on them.
The reason the foreign companies capture the Indian market easily and effectively are because they emphasize a lot on branding. They spend a lot on their advertisement and marketing campaigns. The names being signed as ambassadors are really popular stars with a mass appeal. This strategy ensures that we are ‘lured’ into buying their products. However, Indian products have rarely emphasised on promotional campaigns and heavy advertisement. But with changing times, Indian companies seem to have come a way forward to compete with their foreign counterparts. A lot of consumers in India are unaware that many popular, foreign-sounding brands are really Indian: Koutons, Monte Carlo, La Opala, Franco Leone, and Da Milano, to mention a few.
In the current age our Indian brands are no less than the foreign brands. Our country has a lot of potential to produce high end quality products. What I want to emphasise is the fact that in this ‘dazzle’ of ‘foreign brands’ we are drowning in the sea of western hegemony and destroying our Indian-ness. International brands lack the quality of individualism and ethnicity in their products since they are made for mass consumption and have a commercial value. Alternatively, Indian industries such as handicrafts and textiles design each product specifically and for its own people. One of my major reasons for turning to Indian brands among others as mentioned above, is the fact, that I feel humbled to be connected to my nation, I feel a certain sense of pride in wearing what my country produces. Indian brands, if given a chance, have the potential to beat the foreign brands at an international level. It is upon US to promote these products. It is not a call to completely boycott the foreign goods, but it is a call to ‘prefer’ Indian goods over the foreign ones. ‘Make in India’ will only be successful if we USE ‘Made in India’ !