You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Not my words, but Henry Ford’s. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” So proclaimed Warren Buffett. Might India’s government fall victim to what marketing mavens call ‘myopia’ by throwing away the age-old reputation that India the brand has accumulated for a mere election, this being an issue which a Medici sample survey among 534 urban residents found to have no impact on voting intentions?
Why do politicians want to fix things that aren’t broken? Any rebranding is a tedious exercise, one that should be done with an abundance of caution and wide research; it’s not to be decided with the toss of a coin, or on the advice of an astrologer. A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for our acceptance. It just isn’t what politicians tell us; it’s what we tell each other it is.
If India, in its own inimitable style, wants to imitate Turkey’s renaming by Erdoğan, it must remember that like with most startups which copy and paste, this could prove costly economically and probably culturally as well, no matter how many pundits insist both ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ are allowed under the Constitution.
Imagine the bills of rebranding. Outlook magazine estimated it to be around ₹15,000 crore, funds which could help fight poverty. There would be operational expenses, too, in revising all currency notes, coins, passports, sign boards, maps, letterheads, consulates and much else. Contracts handed out will also make space for corruption.
Rebranding India involves reshaping the way it is perceived domestically and internationally. Renaming is so extreme that nations rarely consider doing it, and if at all, only in exceptional circumstances. Turkey has been known as Turkiye internally since its inception in 1923, and the change faced no resistance. Ankara had its reasons.
Constitutionally, India is alternatively known as Bharat. A politically motivated switch from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’ for all references would not only be a waste of public resources, but also an abuse of majoritarian power. Such decisions should never be one-sided, and what’s done for domestic public consumption will not help internationally. Without full support at home, the use of Bharat may adversely affect inward tourism. Politicians may have specific constituencies in mind, but bureaucrats must demur.