MUMBAI, India — It all started on September 25, when the newly appointed Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, launched his call to 'Make in India', a campaign seen as one of the boldest international marketing initiatives from the Prime Minister’s office.
It was a call to nations focused on defence, aeronautics and other public sector enterprises to use India as a manufacturing hub. The main objective behind the initiative was to focus on 25 sectors of the Indian economy, which would generate employment, fuel secondary and tertiary sectors and utilise the country's vast human capital.
Thus far, 16 sectors have been identified and investments have been encouraging. 330 foreign companies attended this year’s Aero India biennial air show held in Bangalore; China’s Huawei invested $170 million in an R&D centre; French aerospace manufacturer Airbus said it would increase its Indian outsourcing to $2 billion; Japan announced it would pour $33.5 billion into Indian infra-projects over the next five years; and many more commitments have been confirmed in response to the thrust of Modi’s campaign.
However, concerns have been raised that the campaign could reduce the importance of designing and creating in India. Local media have questioned the nuanced interpretations of 'Make in India.' Why is it not ‘Made in India’ or ‘Make for India?’
The world turns to India for many things — the softest cashmere, handwoven Pochampally and Sambalpuri ikats, embroideries from Bhuj — yet the labels on the finished products, which are a culmination of many hours of labour from Indian workers, seldom give the country the rightful acknowledgement it deserves.
It seems that the country’s heritage and artistry are marketed better by foreigners than its own people. As a result, there is a lack of globally recognised brands that come from India.
On the strength of Prime Minister Modi’s 'Make in India' campaign, it’s important to raise the banner for ‘Made in India,’ towards the way that a ‘Made in France’ label elucidates handmade artistry and mighty heritage. These values have become the benchmark of the quality of a product, as well as a way of life.
For India, change must start with a consumer mind shift. There is often a niggling doubt about the overall quality of something that is made in India. Yet we would seldom question such values when purchasing a product made in Italy, even if it is sub-standard.
Perhaps this is because of India’s democratic socialist past. The country’s ongoing economic liberalisation only began in 1991 and, for many, foreign-made products still wield greater social cachet than home-grown ones. Perhaps India simply has not invested enough — emotionally, aesthetically and financially — to create noteworthy brands.
France, Italy, Britain and the US have inculcated the values of ‘Made In’ — their labels imply artisanal, handmade products that are full of heritage. Rich culture and heritage, unparalleled craftsmanship and artistry, an indomitable energy from the people — all these things are present in India, so where are all the mega ‘Made in India’ brands?
We must bridge the gap between India and the rest of the world, giving recognition and respect to the country’s skilled artisans, while establishing fair, transparent trade practices.
Bandana Tewari is the fashion features director of Vogue India.
The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Business of Fashion.
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