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When Indian IT was still not a thing, one brand decided to be different. Unlike Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Patni and others who made their Indian origins a virtue, Cognizant was and is staunchly American. Companies can be gigantic global enterprises like Google, but still belong to their home country. Not many of us would consider Android particularly American (if we ever think about such things). But it is as Huawei has discovered to its cost (if you’re not aware there’s a bit of stickiness over Android licensing to them because they’re Chinese.)

Can you value a country brand? It’s an imprecise science (or art) but here’s an attempt by Brand Finance to do so US is ranked #1 and followed by China though the value is roughly half. India is at 9. Belonging to the top brand of the world is a privilege and clearly gives you a fillip even if once in a while you are asked to make decisions that go against your best commercial interests.

Of course individual countries may be stronger in a particular industry and thus more relevant to you or your business. But the point to note is that you should think carefully about country brand in your positioning mix and not necessarily opt for the default when you choose your company headquarters.

As for India, there is much opportunity to build our soft power. We have many cultural assets that can be branded and marketed. Even in areas like design the Indian cultural heritage provides us with so many unique templates that can be internationalised. Global distribution chains like Netflix and Amazon are a golden opportunity to make ourselves know.

There is also the darker side. The country brand acts as a master brand and can decide which geographies are ok and which are not for its sub-brands a.k.a MNCs. So self-reliance is an insurance policy in critical areas. As the world moves to digital, communication channels and fintech will become as critical as the roads and railways of the past. You may have laughed at the ill-fated Khimbo from Patanjali but perhaps a desi communication tool is not such a bad idea if we can crack it.

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