The Americans are coming!
In 2002 when Infosys was ramping up operations in Australia and I was brand manager, there was a headline in the Sydney Morning Herald that sort of scarred me. It was “The Indians are coming” IT was one of the first to benefit from digitization, and being able to deliver work remotely to anywhere in the world is the underpinning of the Indian IT industry. Today their workforces are distributed globally and you would pick the right team for the project regardless of where they are, though a large number of global firms have at least some of their IT talent located in India.
The coronavirus induced lockdown has accelerated digital working like never before. While, after a couple of months, we may all miss the ‘old’ way of working, the new normal has taken root. A recent survey shows that 69% of urban Indian professionals want to work from home. There is also a global trend of professionals renting vacation homes for a month or more so that they can work out of a much nicer location.
Great! You’ve proved that your job can be done from anywhere in the world. Now you’ll have to prove you are the best person in the world to do it.
In manufacturing there will be brownie points for proximity – the lockdown showed that you needed at least critical elements of your supply chain close at hand. But in services and anything digital, proximity need not be a consideration. “I’d like an agency near my office’ is going to be replaced with “I’d like an agency willing to work in my time zone”. Ditto speakers for webinars. It is an expensive proposition to fly down a renowned international speaker to India. You’d have to pay for at least 3 days of their time and business class airfare, and stay at a nice hotel. But webinars are just an hour from the convenience of their home! Still pricey but much less. Last Friday I was thrilled to interact with David Aaker as part of a series we are partnering with Future Generali India Life. The same series has the likes of Nir Eyal too.
The only barrier to a seamless global flow of digital work is regulatory restrictions. And mental hurdles.
In the digital-first economy that is emerging post lockdown there is global competition for a shrinking pie. So you have to craft a positioning statement that outlines your superlative. For example, this week Cure Fit announced that they would like to start charging for their online classes. But then they have to compete with the universe of apps and fitness videos available online, such as Nike Training Club (NTC), which is free. NTC is a masterpiece of content marketing, and really tough to compete with because it’s not even Nike’s core revenue stream. Education? There’s Khan Academy or MIT’s open courseware.
In every space there will be a max of three top players and then a long tail of niche players. One way to differentiate would be local language. For example, if Cure Fit offered classes in Indian languages that would make it the best for India. Another would be local knowledge – for example the syllabus of an online education app would be tailored to the local school syllabus. This is true for individuals too – either be the best in the world or best in a category. The winners in the post lockdown world are truly global and/or rooted in their home culture in a meaningful way. Made for India is powerful.
A decade ago when I was pondering entrepreneurship, Rama Bijapurkar helped me apply marketing frameworks to identify areas of uniqueness. And we touched upon a thought that I then elaborated in my 2009 book, No Money Marketing – “own your superlative”. You have to be the best, the fastest, the cheapest, oldest or saltiest or sweetest or whatever in at least one category that is relevant to your users. She also helped me to better understand my own strengths using a framework I love – Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept. So I’m very happy that I’m going to have a chance to listen to her “in person” again tomorrow ie Friday at 11.30am IST as part of the same webinar series from Future Generali India Life. Register here to get the details of the livestream. Or join my watch party on CMO India group on Facebook.
And if you’re looking for a bit of intelligent fun, test your knowledge of Indian brands with this Quiz!
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Jessie Paul
Jessie Paul is the Founder and CEO of Paul Writer, a firm she founded in early 2010 to raise the bar for marketing in India. Previously, as Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro’s IT business and as Global Brand Manager at Infosys, Jessie has been recognized for her contribution towards putting the Indian IT industry on the global map. With over 18 years in services marketing, including a stint with Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Jessie is considered an expert in brand globalization and has been named one of the most influential business women in the Indian IT industry.

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