The rankings were released shortly before the news that film stars Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra have been named as the new faces of Incredible India, an international marketing campaign by the Government of India to promote tourism.
The two replace another actor, Aamir Khan, who fronted the campaign for a decade before attracting unwelcome controversy late last year with comments on rising intolerance in India.
"Both Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra are globally recognised faces," noted N Chandramouli, chief executive officer of insights business TRA.
"Incredible India as a campaign requires brand ambassadors that have an audience both within and outside India," he told the Business Standard.
According to Wharton marketing professor David Reibstein, nations should pay attention to how they are seen by others, since enhancing these perceptions could create a large economic benefit.
The experience of tourists is just one of the factors that colour those impressions, he said, along with the experiences of customers, investors, followers of global news and social media, and what people hear from others.
In the Best Country rankings he helped devise for US News, along with brand strategy firm BAV Consulting, India is ranked 22nd overall but first in the Movers sub-category, which is predictive of a country's future growth in terms of per capita purchasing power parity gross domestic product.
A revamped Incredible India campaign is one aspect of building India's image abroad; Make in India – a government campaign to attract foreign direct investment – is another.
"In the same way that personal selling and direct advertising of consumer products aren't readily visible to the general public, nation-branding efforts are not as outwardly visible since these generally are directed at the business community to encourage economic development, investment or trade," Reibstein said.
Data sourced from Business Standard, Knowledge@Wharton, US News; additional content by Warc staff