Is “Made in India” a problem label in the West?

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Everybody from industry captains to investment bankers, seems to be chanting the “India Story” these days with great relish. But is the saga really that gripping from cover to cover? Or are there portions and paragraphs where the narrative slips, requiring the authors to revise the script a bit?

Take the chapter of “Corporate Image”. It goes without saying that it is important, even valuable for any company in the modern marketplace. But in the case of Indian companies, it appears as if even the best of the lot have some way to go before they look better in the eyes of readers in the affluent West.

Even if you are the Tatas!On paper, the Tata Group is arguably the most respected corporate in India and is perhaps among the best in the world. In reality, though, its Indian origin seems to have become its Achilles‘ heel.

Example?

Example 1: The Tatas have been snubbed in their bid for the US luxury hotel brand, Orient Express, because “any association with the predominantly Indian chain would erode the value of its premium brands… The hurdle being perception in the market place and perception is the reality. It’s about saying there are image issues of the bidder…”

Example 2: American dealers of Jaguar, one of the two luxury cars that Ford is selling off, are opposed to an Indian ownership. And last week, The Wall Steet Journal quoted the Jaguar business operations council as saying Jaguar and Land Rover should not be sold to the Indian bidders as “US public is not ready for ownership out of India for a luxury-car brand such as Jaguar“.

So, do Indian companies have an image problem? If so, of what kind? Are American and British companies right in suspecting perception and image issues with Indian companies? Or are they blinkered by bias and prejudice?

Is having a better image more important than competencies and capabilities? If Indian IT firms such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS are supposed to be have a great image overseas, especially in the US, why isn’t this positive image rubbing on to Indian companies in other sectors?