India's soft power as its brand asset

Sangeeta Shrivastava and Pradeep Krishnatray

In its symbolic form, branding is about soft power; the power to evoke, not exert, the ability to attract and persuade. Undeniably, nations exhibit soft power. The USA has McDonald's, Harvard and Hollywood. Each of these symbols speaks of, and for, America. Similarly, France has fashion and cuisine, China has its sport performance and the Arab world has Al Jazeera.

Soft power has its uses. As the creator of the coinage, Harvard professor Joseph Nye, puts it: "A country's soft power rests upon the attractiveness of its culture, the appeal of its domestic political and social values, and the style and substance of its foreign policies."

Nye's 1990 book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power distinguishes between soft and hard power. If soft power is about cultural appeal and attraction, hard power is about financial, industrial and military power, even coercion. Undoubtedly both kinds of power build the nation brand, but increasingly in a globalised world it's not the country with the larger army but the country with the better story that will prevail. The fundamental principle is simple: if nations are brands in a world of consumer choice, then soft power will accrue to those national brands that have a compelling story to tell.

India as a soft power