Archive for the ‘Brands’ Category

Best of Both Worlds!

January 8, 2010

This is in continuation to my previous post. So, I finally reached Bangalore, India. I always strive to blend into the local life although sometimes it is tough and I can’t help feeling out of touch. Things keep changing so fast from clothing styles to one-ways on roads and even the general landscape that it is hard to keep up. This blog of mine is devoted to showcase these new changes in India which may tempt a lot of us to actually go back which seems to be the trend these days anyway.

10 – 20 years ago when I was living in India, there were a lot of things that I craved for but could not get my hands on them easily. A simplest of examples would be Coca Cola. It was not allowed to be sold in India until 1993. Computer and Internet at home was unheard of. It started to show up in a few affluent homes only by 1999-2000. But internet was through the telephone line and the downloading speed was so slow that you could easily have a nap. Yawn!

Despite growing up in a conservative South Indian family steeped in Carnatic classical music, I was hooked on to western music ranging from Pop to Classic Rock to some Hard Rock and Country. Music of this kind was not easily accessible then. I remember hunting down music stores who had a good collection of this music and paying through my nose to have them record it for me in metallic audio cassettes. Same with movies! We would get Hollywood movies only after 3-6 months of its release in the US and not all the movies made it.

Western clothes and shoes for women were hard to get even in the metros where it was mainly worn. All we had were small exports shops. I am sure a lot of my friends in Bangalore just like me have shopped at VT (Victoria Terminus) and La Bamba on Brigade Road. (FYI -the latter still exists). Once I started to work, I would eagerly wait for an opportunity to go abroad to shop. Singapore and Dubai were the nearest cities for our shopping needs. How excited we used to be for the Dubai Shopping Festival and I recall how busy the travel agencies and airlines were during those times.

You know, I sometimes wondered why we had so many local brands starting with a B – Bata (for shoes), BPL (for home electronics), Britannia (snacks), Bombay Dyeing (textiles)! Sumeet blender and Ambassador Car were either an aberration or a relief from this alphabet! 🙂

By 2003, we started to see a few American brands in major metros. But it was only in 2006 the Indian government took a monumental step ushering in a huge change. It started allowing single-brand retailers to own 51% of their business operations in India. That paved the way for a lot of American brands to enter the market like Subway, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tommy Hilfiger, Subway and so many more on the way like Starbucks, Gap etc. My 5 year old nephew and I were so excited to see our favorite brand Crocs easily available in India this time.

Fast forward to 2009 and you will see that India has done a complete turnaround. With the economy booming despite the crisis in the western world, people have more money to spend and more people are getting hooked to urban way of life. But you can’t help notice that the old world charm existing side by side –

* There are malls everywhere housing not only American brands but also “desi” stuff.

* Cars have become a necessity now and almost all the brands that we see here are being driven there along with some unique ones designed for Indian roads.

* High-rise buildings and apartments are coloring the landscape everywhere. But can you really ignore the slums?

* The simple chai and coffee “addas” of my times co-exist with Coffee Day and Barista Coffee parlors.

* You have retail chain giants like Food World and Reliance but the small time vendors like Subamma angadi are also doing just fine.

* The wine industry is booming now and what a range of red wines and some of them as good and crisp in flavor as the Californian wines! Best part is they are from local vineyards that have mushroomed in the last 2 years.

* There is organic food now in India. There are not just stores selling organic vegetables that are locally grown but you also get jeans and tops made of organic cotton.

One of the main reasons a lot of us came here to the US was to enjoy the best of both worlds. As you can see the Indians in India are doing the same. On one hand they can be sporting foreign brands from head to toe and eat at Subway and love pizza but they can never divorce the masala dosa, Ayurveda or Yoga! They might watch all the Hollywood movies and be up to date with gossip but the ring tone in their cell phone would be the latest Bollywood song. Women who would never dream of wearing anything but the noble salwar kameez are comfortable wearing long tunics on jeans or leggings.

All this has happened in spite of the government. If the government had played hand in hand with this incredible change at every step, we would not be seeing a pathetic infrastructure barely supporting this progress.

This change is not only intrinsic but also global. The US companies are now doing a global launch of their new products as opposed to launching just in the US first. I can now go watch Avatar and so also my friend in India on the same day and we can talk about it in Facebook! I love it!

India today is a beautiful blend of the east and the west, the old and the new creating a unique identity for itself and I salute this new brand India!

 Jai Ho!

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