Self-reliant India: The bounce of vocal for local

As the ‘Made In India’ movement gets revived in a new avatar, it is time to understand its many dimensions that will make it either run, hobble or stop altogether

Published: 26th May 2020 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th May 2020 01:25 AM   |  A+A-

The new hashtag floating around in our imagination of a modern and national life of commerce and business in India is #VocalForLocal.India therefore has an all-new hashtag in the era of Covid. Go local. Trust local. Go for a self-sufficient and self-reliant India. Make-in-India. Believe in Made-in-India and put your buying power into products and services that are made locally.

As the first signs of a revivalism of the “Made In India” movement in a new avatar just about happens, it is time to understand its many dimensions that will make it either run, hobble for a while or stop altogether. To an extent, there is an argument national, and an argument economic attached to this movement floated into public debate and mindset by our PM Narendra Modi.

Movements and campaigns: Movements such as the “Vocal For Local” campaign can be best championed by leaders who enjoy national repute and might. PM Modi is certainly the biggest of them all in the country and commands such a following and might. The campaign, coming from him, is bound to make for traction and action.

This very articulation of intent had many a multinational brand and their many avatars scurrying into strategy huddles to think up a counter plan. In the case of the better prepared, these plans were already ready as a Scenario Plan in mind, a business-continuity plan on paper, or in place as early and tentative market action even.

Brands in the great Indian marketplace have viewed the rise of movements national and nationalistic for years as a possibility of game-changing market action. The rise of Patanjali Ayurved, the rise of discussions that said that hand-picked, hand-made, local, old, green, organic and natural products are better than the factory-made, the chemical and the formula-run have been around for a while.

In recent times, MNCs, MNC-looking and MNC-sounding brands scurried to put together avatars that looked local in formulation. The game did not stop there. In came market action not only to be local, but look local as well. And why not? These brands have been in the country for long decades, and no one thinks they are foreign brands at all. A Nescafe is as local to Peddapalli as it is to Geneva. A Maggi noodles is more ubiquitous and local by its presence in India than it is in Switzerland.

Market action by the MNCs has therefore to date been well thought out, tried and tested. The clarion call of PM Narendra Modi to get “Vocal for Local” is a nudge moment. There are indeed many types of brands in the great Indian marketplace that are poised to take advantage of this call of passion of PM Modi. Each has their agenda clearly set.

The three types: The first type is the very brand that started the movement of branding in this country itself. This is the MNC brand, imported from foreign shores and sold in the Indian market. Literally every other branded detergent, noodles, cola, coffee and more started this way. When volumes gained in the country of import, local factories were set up. When local sourcing meant monetary advantage, that went local as well. The factories are local, the workers are local, and the consumers are local. Possibly a portion of the profits are repatriated to the overseas owner. And that is the tenuous but clear link of ownership that is foreign. But so be it.

The second type of brand is the Indian MNC. The large corporation that makes in India for India and the world, but the one that does not have the commitment to repatriate a portion of its profits to an overseas destination.The third kind of company is the completely small and ‘desi’ company. The company that makes local products for locals. And maybe the larger ‘desi’ company that makes for locals within the boundaries of India and for the Indian diaspora. Haldiram’s is a classic example out here.

As the days and months go by, we will see action from every one of these three kinds of companies. While the MNC will start looking, sounding and emoting more ‘desi’, the ‘desi’ companies big and small will start exploiting the opportunity to whip up consumer sentiment in their favour.

All said and done, PM Modi has stirred the pot of thought in his usual manner. As the movement “Vocal for Local” gets floated, one wonders whether it is a movement or a call. There sure is a difference. A movement is one that is owned by the people, trusted by the people and spurred on by the people. A call is one that is promoted by governments, by bodies public, and by market entities with a vested interest in the call.

Imagine a tennis ball and its traction of bounce. When first bounced, the bounce is really high. Unless patted and bounced again and again, the bounce has a tendency to lessen and lessen in traction, till it dies out altogether. Even this call of “Vocal For Local” has the ability to do just that. Unless the first bounce by PM Modi is kept going by government bodies, individuals, and competitors in the space of Make-in-India, even this shall subside and still.Let’s wait and watch. In the end, it is the end consumer who takes the biggest call. Unless he, she and they bounce it, even this shall die.

Harish Bijoor

Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults



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  • Aman

    Well well said!
    1 year ago reply
  • JJJackxon

    Interesting headline. But thoroughly disappointing article. Nothing but platitudes. Waste of time.
    1 year ago reply
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