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Navigating India Cultural Differences: FT: “think local then act global”

by Brandi Moore on July 21, 2010

HSBC continues to serve as the model for those global corporations seeking to balance local preferences with a brand identity.  But does this model work for all companies?  In yesterday‘s FT article they interviewed several experts about the reality of globalization.  Specifically the article pointed to the fallacy that globalization eliminates business cultural differences.  Instead the opposite has happened as countries like India have gained dominance in the marketplace, companies need to spend more time tailoring what they offer to the local culture.  In India this is of great importance for American companies to consider since India’s business culture is so different from the US.

The companies in the article follow a simliar set of steps that we use at IndiaThink: Assess, Identify, Mediate or AIM.

  1. ASSESS. They assess the local market. What does the local market understand about their existing brand and does that brand need modification?
  2. Identify. They IDENTIFY differences. They look for how this existing brand may fail.  For example, if your brand teaches Dutch management practices you may have a problem if these are played out inside India or Brazil where all people are not expected to be treated equally.  In some countries its acceptable for the Prime Minister to stand in line at an ATM.  This is not going to be acceptable other places.  Identifying how these differences might mean nothing changes.  Perhaps the attraction to your brand will be that its different.  Its important to understand that this may also not be the case.
  3. MEDIATE. They mediate by offering altered products or modified brands.  How can an American company be American but mediate to accommodate a new market? McDonalds did this beautifully in India by serving up different items than in the US.  But McDonalds does not stop there.  It also offers different things in the north than the south of India to accomodate vegetarian preferences in the south and interest in eating chicken and lamb in the north.  No beef is served on either menu.

Final word: remember during the Identify process companies may come up with: nothing needs to change.  And this is OK.  Your brand may be global.  But remember, brands are not people.  When it comes to managing people and directives culture still matters.

Thanks to McKaySavage’s photostream for the picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/3058666051/in/set-72157600199764408/

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