The COVID-19 pandemic halted supply and value chains abruptly, bringing global production levels to a standstill. In an atmosphere of breeding uncertainty, small local businesses need more support than ever before, being one of the primary shock-bearers due to the pandemic. Indian Prime Minister’s ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign renewed optimism among Indian brands, who quickly took the cue and aligned their brand reputation with the campaign. Big Indian players re-fashioned their marketing strategy promptly and their sales pitch now focused on ‘Indian and Indigenous’ as big themes. While the ideological foundation of the campaign is not novel, we remind ourselves of the historic call for self-reliance through the Swadeshi Movement of 1905. After a century, India’s vision for self-sufficiency has come to the fore and gained prominence through campaigns like ‘Make in India’ (2014) and ‘Vocal for Local’ in 2020.
Brand Identity and Ownership
Big players recognized the urgency to identify with our Indian roots to reach out to customers, during the pandemic. However, the ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign is not only for the big brand. India’s desire for self-sufficiency and self-reliance reflects in the campaign, which businesses of all scales, including start-ups can identify with. The campaign infuses affinity with home-grown start-ups and develops a sense of brand ownership in businesses. Entrepreneurs were the drivers of supply when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed India into uncharted territory. This exhibits the potential they own and highlights the need to harness this potential by supporting such brands at a national level.
The big players in the market were quick to respond to the Prime Minister’s call, but it is the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that will benefit the most from this campaign. The financial stimulus package worth Rs. 20 Lakh Crores to revive the economy in times of pandemic-related adversity unveils measures that directly benefit the MSMEs. These relief measures include collateral-free loans, subordinate debt for stressed enterprises and equity infusion through a fund of funds. Apart from financial help, the definition of MSMEs is under re-construction to allow flexibility. MSMEs contribute a sizeable chunk in the manufacturing output of the economy. The structural strengthening coupled with brand intensification will help MSMEs carve an identity for themselves.
Make in India and Buy Local
‘Vocal for Local’ extends a former campaign, Make in India, launched in 2014 to boost manufacturing and production in India. The pillars of Make in India lie in innovation, skill development, investments, intellectual property and infrastructure. Spanning 25 sectors of the economy, Make in India is outcome-oriented and systematic in structure, clearly defining the investment opportunities in India. A well-rounded policy, it educates and informs potential investors about the new developmental projects, schemes, policies directed at the ease of doing business and new initiatives in India. Amplifying the attractiveness of potential investment, Make in India succeeded in transforming India’s investment and manufacturing landscape. ‘Vocal for Local’ carries the same sentiment in establishing a brand reputation for Indian goods, banking on the collective optimism that the campaign has generated.
Some critique this campaign as ‘taking a step back from globalization’, however, it is not so. In a highly globalized world like ours, India has asserted its presence. If anything, this campaign strengthens the sense of brand-ownership for home-bred innovations and ideas. ‘Vocal for Local’ does not seek to replace foreign brands but promote Indian brands. The pandemic posed as an opportunity for businesses in India to assimilate into the campaign and persevere through these difficult times. The breaks in the supply chain during the nationwide lockdown exposed vulnerabilities in the business ecosystem. This drove down the demand for a range of commodities and hurt businesses. Individual changes in brand consumption patterns are necessary to support the innovation that home-bred brands and entrepreneurs bring us. Being ‘Vocal for Local’ is as necessary on a personal level as it is on a national level. For these brands to thrive, being ‘vocal’ about ‘local’ is taking a stance for indigenous entrepreneurship and skill. In the resolve to make India self-sufficient and self-reliant once again, we must appreciate the ideas and innovations that arise from within our country.