Gonzalo Brujó, who was recently elevated as the global chief executive officer, Interbrand, was visiting India to interact with clients and observe success stories coming from the market. In an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, Brujó talks about the increasing importance of Indian brands at a global scale, key challenges brands face and why acts of leadership by companies will impact their relevance.
How critical is the Indian market for Interbrand? Does it figure in your top five markets when it comes to clients and business?
India is quite an important market for us and it is going to be even more important going forward. We see the economic situation of India growing really fast. A recent FT report said that India is number five economy globally. But the most important thing about India is that Indian companies are going international. I think it is an important subject for us. They are expanding in Pakistan, China, Australia, US and in the European Union. We want to be wherever our Indian clients are and we see more and more positions from the Indian community around the world. We are looking for countries that have good liquidity and India has good liquidity to acquire businesses around the world which is something we are beginning to see. For instance, Tata, both in auto and engineering space, is also doing fantastic work and Hero (Electric) is also doing amazing work in the EV space. More and more thriving companies in the US have Indian leads so the connectivity between the CEOs of American companies and India's know-how, analytics and data is becoming quite important.
How big is your India team? Are you actively looking to hire and expand?
The team is less than 50 people but the reality is there are people who are based out of countries near India that work with us. We are witnessing 20 percent growth y-o-y in the India market and we want to generate more growth and hire more people.
We are entering India's decade of possibilities and the acts of leadership are going to be important in this market.
How are Indian consumers unique and what are the key characteristics that set them apart from their global counterparts?
I don’t see much of a difference except education or religious sentiments are sometimes different. One of the things that I like about the Indian community is their ethics and beliefs such that they are much more connected to nature than the other markets which I think is good for the kind of the businesses they do. The meaning and purpose for Indian business leaders are probably greater. That comes from historic and cultural background.
On the face of it, we talk about India being a place of contradiction. It is a value driven market but there is also a great deal of luxury brand market potential in the country. Brands are built on human truths and they are more consistent around the world than the topical insights. The cultural resource and the history of India makes it well poised when it comes to meeting the world on what is more aspirational.
Higher relevance, meaningfulness and the focus on the purpose driven nature of brands and the primacy of purpose in many businesses is the driving force for millennials or workforce. The sensibilities, tone, voice and design as we practice brands can be different due to cultural influences.
What kind of brands are leaving an indelible impact on consumer minds? Any Indian brands that fit into this list?
Post pandemic, companies are trying to be as different as possible. It is like starting a new race and everyone needs to position themselves. Companies that have a clear purpose are doing really well because at the end of the day we have suffered in the last three years and it seems like not much is going to change because of the economic situation. In such a scenario, purpose becomes important because it motivates the employees to try to do different things and motivate them to go in different directions. I think the second thing is ambition companies need to decide what is going to be their ambition to ensure that their employees are not working just for the salaries and there’s something more to the job. The third thing is to decide the company’s trajectory: how can they grow beyond a certain limit and what’s the strategy to follow. Globalisation is another criteria that impactful companies follow to diversify and tap opportunities.
The meaning and purpose for Indian business leaders are probably greater. That comes from historic and cultural background.
The affinity between the company and consumer is another critical area. We always tell our clients that today companies are managed like an aeroplane where you need both the pilot and co-pilot. The co-pilot here is the customer, companies need to listen to them as much as possible. Infosys, in the US, is trying to do the same to stay relevant and competing with global brands such as IBM and Accenture. Make sense of the ecosystem of products and services so the corporate brand and the product brand should have perfect articulation of the strategy. The sense of belonging between the brand’s services and products is going to be very important in the single ecosystem to make sure you can go faster and grow faster around the world.
Higher relevance, meaningfulness and the focus on the purpose driven nature of brands and the primacy of purpose in many businesses is the driving force for millennials and the workforce.
The most prominent brands globally are demonstrating new acts of leadership and that’s why they are being looked upto. This could be in the context of environment, diversity, inclusion and equality. What Nike did in the context of Black Lives Matter movement and despite the pressure they stood their ground.
In India, Hero Motocorp is another example with their ambition to become number one EV and cycle brand globally. We have branded their EV project Vida which is in the conscious mobility space that is going to be the future of mobility. Switch Mobility (Hinduja Group) is another brand that comes to my mind. Both these brands are demonstrating purpose at scale which comes from India. Sustainability cannot be a niche play for it to be effective. These brands could be the global brands in the next green mobility space.
How do you measure the value of a brand and its evolution when it comes to measuring intangibles?
This year, besides managing brand value, we will also be managing ESG (Environmental, social, and corporate governance) which is also going to be quite an important way of seeing how companies are impacting the world and what is going to be their social and business contribution. There are three key components to all of our valuations: an analysis of the financial performance of the branded products or services, of the role the brand plays in purchase decisions, and of the brand’s competitive strength.
What are the key challenges that brands are facing today?
To respond fast to their customer needs has to be one of the biggest challenges. Today, customers are moving faster than the companies and brands, which means companies need to listen constantly and act quickly. We are over communicated, there is a lot of information out there and everything is public. Brands also need to go back to the basics which is transparency and ethics towards their employees and bigger stakeholders. Companies need to over communicate internally to make sure so that their employees feel motivated and also connect with consumers. There are plenty of competitors in the market; brands need to find relevance as much as possible and for that they need to keep listening to customers to create something new.
Another challenge is to figure out the proliferation of the touch points where brands interface with customers.
What's your message for the best Indian brands?
The sky is the limit for Indian brands. I think the opportunity of India to go beyond is fantastic. The economic growth of the country is going to help the Indian brands to go beyond and internationalise as much as possible. The first message is that they can do it. The ones that are already there on our list are going to be the references for others to follow. India has a sizeable entrepreneurial population that is aspiring to do something. We are entering India's decade of possibilities and the acts of leadership are going to be important in this market. Companies are going to be driving the change on social behaviours, ESG and ethics. I see a very bright future for Indian brands in the long run and they are on the right track.