Mayur Sahni, Senior Market Analyst, IDC Asia/Pacific
Last Thursday, Democrat Senator of New York Charles E Schumer equated Infosys, and thereby Indian IT companies at large, to being a ‘chop-shop’, ‘that outsource good, high-paying American technology jobs to lower wage, temporary immigrant workers from other countries’. Leading on, it wasn’t surprising to note the proposed increase in levies for H1-B visas but more importantly it resonated the branding of Indian IT companies in US and global markets. While Schumer’s views may not reflect a globally consistent perception, they do reflect the brand perception of Indian IT companies as low-cost, off-shore, companies.

The quintessential question is - Have Indian IT companies made the transition to global brands? During a lecture at MIT, Thomas L Friedman (author of the New York Time bestseller, World is Flat), described Infosys as a “Premier Indian High-tech company’ and herein resonates the issue - ‘Indian’ high-tech company VS ‘Global’ high-tech Company. We live in a global economy and more importantly a flat economy where businesses operate across disparate environments, source globally, and deliver globally. Indian IT companies provide solutions and services to global companies for requirements that are geographically diverse by leveraging resources that are globally distributed. Yet, their perception is unchanged.

The issue really is at the core of the messaging approach. A quick browsing action though the “About Us” link on corporate websites of many Indian IT company will reveal that most of them do not position themselves as a ‘global’ player in the first paragraph; and even if they do it is prefixed with a superlative which could be unsubstantiated. First, we need to move from a superlative based messaging process to a value-based marketing model. Most Indian IT companies’ position their marketing budgets towards focused customer messaging based on building market credibility. While this gives them a focused and controlled messaging opportunity, there remains the gap of setting a media platform which has a global audience. Secondly, firms must consider dropping clichéd tags such as ‘largest’, ‘biggest’, ‘fastest’, ‘strongest’ which are self-laudatory, and rather focus on the value they bring to clients. Hence, they need to build a sustainable marketing model. Yet, not many IT firms have ‘brand’ managers, rather marketing mangers that carry sales targets!

Bringing these elements together will form the basis of a global brand identity that’s consistent, sustainable and aligned to the company’s’ long-term vision and core values. In the new economy, market dynamics will require IT companies to consistently innovate and up the ante in brand image. A key potential facilitator will be innovation in its true sense and not tweaking of delivery models, technology frameworks but creating something new ground-up. Web 2.0, cloud computing, intelligent infrastructure were not recent technology areas where Indian firms have had to play catch-up to industry peers.

It’s evident that Indian IT companies have what it takes to create strong global brands and there’ve been significant efforts undertaken by some. Yet the underlying focus on sales & profitability, stock & stake-holder value has made most of them focus on short-term benefits. The larger picture does remain unaddressed. So while there will be growth in business the essence of creating a truly global brand may be missed.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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