This is something about which I have been wanting to blog for a while, and would love to know what IEB readers think.
Check out this article, written around March 2006, by Amelia Gentleman, the IHT correspondent in New Delhi.
Its a well written article, and makes some good points, but what I found intriguing was this bit, right at the beginning:
It takes a while to identify anything Indian inside the Metropolitan Mall in the rich Delhi suburb of Gurgaon. Harrison Ford peers from the cinema posters; Tommy Hilfiger lines up alongside Reebok and Benetton on the shop floor. Only how a cleaner balances flattened cardboard boxes on his head, and the prominent sign at the escalator (‘Be careful of your sari while riding the stairs’) hint this is not a shopping centre in Alabama.
American tastes colonise the food hall. Tex Mex jostles with hot dog stalls and ice cream parlours selling Smoothies. At Pizza Hut, teenagers buy Indianised versions of the global brand – Spicy Korma and Tikka Chicken pizzas, sprinkled heavily with green chillies
I found this very surprising, to say the least. I was in Delhi for six months last year, and having been in Gurgaon, spent a fair amount in the very mall mentioned in the article. I was struck by the proliferation of local brands and the high level of localization. It is certainly much higher than most other emerging markets (and even developed markets in Europe, where American cultural influence is very strong, and quite resented at times).
In India, across a lot of spheres, the ‘soft power’ of Indian culture seems to be quite evident. Films are probably the most obvious example – but even in other areas, such as clothing, food, the growth and sustenance of local brands and the preference for them is very noticeable (‘soft power‘, as some call it).
To give a rather cliched example, the lines for the latest bollywood flick, in the very mall mentioned, would always be longer than the latest Hollywood flick. Even on television, the massive popularity of Ekta Kapoor’s drama factory soaps far outstrips all of the American offerings. Even major American consumer brands, such as Pepsi, have used Indian role models, localizing far more extensively than in other markets. There is definitely a lot of fondness for international, mostly American, products, but it certainly doesnt swamp all else.
My impression has been that if there is one country where malls and consumption has a very strong local flavour, it is India. I certainly dont find the Metropolitan mall easily inter changeable with a mall in Alabama (whereas most other malls would)
I would love to know what others think about this.
Cross posted on Smoke Signals.