Analyzing the colonial era and World Wars, this paper aims to explain why India, despite having been a historically abundant region, couldn’t bounce back after the suffering sustained in World War II like today’s developed nations. It explains why the Indian mind-set has grown to be complacent, curbing innovation and disabling us to produce world-class brands.
Over the years of war, Indian economy declined in the world that moved towards industrialization and globalization. Western Europe and USA advanced in improving their production capacity, while Japan and Germany created globally recognized brands post WW II.
This paper establishes the need for India to step out of our comfort zone and establish a second home elsewhere in the global market place. Further, this paper discusses the risks and benefits of doing so. Expanding Indian operations and competing against the international markets would facilitate us with technological advancements and socioeconomic growth. This is not only desirable but also inevitable in today’s technological era. Most importantly, it is the only way forward for India to becoming a global leader it has always dreamed of becoming.
The History That Made India Great Yet Unambitious
If one takes a look at the history of colonization, one can notice that the colonizing nations didn’t have abundant natural resources. Historically, the Indian sub-continent has been a self-sufficient region, blessed with good climate, fertile lands, with abundance of food and water. This has helped us grow intellectually and spiritually over the years, and helped the population flourish.
However, this abundance and self-sufficiency also made us submissive and less ambitious, since we lived on something like paradise on earth. Other regions like Persia & Europe weren’t as lucky as we were. In order to survive, they had to migrate and hunt for resources. Their lands weren’t as blessed as ours. Harsh winters & summers, barren lands, excessive or no rainfalls made agriculture very difficult. Thus they had to innovate to survive.
Over the years, the Indian subcontinent has been invaded, plundered many times, but our culture & identity never eroded.
The Wars That Led to Globalization
Globalization started in the late 19th century, when corporations recognized the opportunities that the emerging markets offered for their product sales. I.M. Singer & Co. became the first US multinational company when they sold sewing machines outside of the US, followed by other organizations like General Electric and Eastman Kodak. However this was scale was too small to notice.
Despite the destruction of WW-I, industrialization played a major role and created excess production capacity for Western Europe and USA. This led to many product companies to expand globally like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo are well known for their global presence.
The Post-World War II Scenario
After the two major world wars (also known as the war for resources especially food), the west nations emerged industrialized whereas the east (especially India & China) were devastated, as they bore the collateral loss of lives, resources and confidence. World War I, affected the Indian sub-continent more than any other country. More lives were lost in India due to famine, than soldiers who got killed in wars.
Post World War II, Japan & Germany took the most drubbing in terms of their infrastructure, self-esteem and their sovereignty. However, these countries were the first to bounce back in the 1970 & 80s. They conquered the world by sheer will and grit, and regained their lost pride. Japanese brands like Sony, Hitachi, Nintendo, Toyota, and German ones like BMW, Mercedes and Bosch became global.
Globalization had a major boom in 1990s. After the world wars, countries were able to allocate more budget to the growth of infrastructure and transportation boomed. Additionally, introduction of internet and swift growth in telecommunications developed a huge potential for services and industrial globalization. Liberalization was in the air and countries started opening up their markets to the world.
The Koreans followed the Japanese. They got themselves western education and then went global with their brands and products. Corporations like LG, Hyundai and Samsung became globally recognized household names.
Today, it’s the Chinese who are going global. It’s the only communist success story that has been able to elevate maximum number of people from poverty within a short span of time.
Has India Been Left Behind in the Race for Globalization?
Looking at all these examples from the past, both pre and post-World Wars, it seems clear that the economies who took the risk of expanding their horizons internationally have thrived. Does that mean that globalization is a one-size-fits-all solution to a country’s success? India has always been considered a tough market to crack by the international brands, and so many Indian brands understand the Indian market so well. So does that mean that we should, too, invest all our energies in globalization efforts just because the other countries are doing it?
The western world coined the term GDP, which measures the consumption of a country. However, is GDP a true measure of the success of a country? All countries owe a debt to our planet as we consume its resources. In fact, India is one of the countries in the world that consume the least per capita. We believe it is something we need to be proud of, rather than be ashamed.
Today, when we look at our country from westerns lens, India is seen as a developing nation. However, life thrives in our country more than any other. We can always argue regarding the quality of life, but if life is the most precious thing on earth, then we are the richest nation!
Being in a comfortable environment has made us cozy and risk-averse. We still haven’t stepped out of our homes in true sense. Indian companies are comfortable doing business at home rather than globally, since we feel global competition is ruthless and the quality demands are too high. It’s time for the Indian companies to take this leap and become true global citizens.
Over the last couple of years, our government has repeatedly motivated us to take the entrepreneurship route. They have encouraged us to “Make in India” instead of taking the easy way out by importing goods. We believe that now is the time to move forward and take the step out of our comfort zone and establish a second home elsewhere. We need to truly learn from the hardship of moving to a new neighbourhood – only then can we call ourselves truly global citizens.
Why Go Global?
According to Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra questions & answers, “Is it for business growth? I don’t think so, because India has ample growth opportunity. Is it for technology access? Perhaps not so, because technology is also easily accessible,” he explains. So it seems there are two major benefits to going global. One, a lot more competitiveness sets in because the levels across segments are a lot more intense outside India than within. Two, it builds the brand image since customers look for global brands more often than not no matter where you are.
Being a global citizen will help us integrate with different cultures and bring in new ideas to our mother land. Simultaneously, it’ll help us share with the global society what our ancestors gave us. Today, the world is benefiting from Yoga, and our Prime Minister is the frontier in leading us to be the global citizen. Nowadays, when we travel the world, people know Modi and his ideas and that build bridges with our international customers.
For the brands, going global may seem like a huge risk, involving unprecedented investment. However, the first few Indian brands to go global will, in fact, learn valuable lessons in market expansions and will be able to represent India internationally, just like how McDonald’s, Nike or Apple represent the US on a global stage.
Globalization will be especially important, and inevitable for any brand, in the technological era. Just like the AI and IoT, the new ideas have to be global by birth.
How to Take the Big Leap
Leaping ahead, India needs go beyond connecting just digitally with the world, but also be willing to setup their home in a foreign land. India liberalized its economy in the 80’s by letting the international brands in. It now needs to focus on liberalization again by encouraging and incentivising Indian companies to step out of their homeland and set up bases abroad.
The new emerging Indian brands like OYO, OLA and Zomato are already expanding out of their home markets. We need to admire their spirit and learn from these new companies and who have had the courage to move out of their homeland. It’s easy to setup a sales office, but to establish operations & nurturing it in a foreign land is courageous step. This is the courage & vision Indian companies need to build for themselves.
There are several international companies who have taken this path. For going global, a corporation needs to study local markets and their own individual needs. IKEA and Toyota can be great case studies. Both faced initial difficulties when going global. However, their success came when they realized what worked in their home markets won’t work in other markets. There is a saying in chess, “You can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent”.
History has shown us that economies have flourished by expanding globally. So in the future, the key focus for India needs to be global expansion of Indian brands by setting up a new home in foreign lands. Although a huge risk and investment, this will encourage competitiveness and push innovation across industries, while putting India on the global map and giving our corporations countless business lessons. Furthermore, these innovations will also improve the Indian quality of life.
And that future is now. Our previous generations have enjoyed the comforts of import and local competition only. Being blessed with natural resources made Indians risk-averse, enjoying simpler career paths. However, it’s the responsibility of our generation to pave the way towards making India a truly global economy. This is the only path that will make India a global leader and influencer, instead of a follower.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.