Now that the economic rise of Asia has begun, It is our passionate belief that the SMEs of India (and China) will be the global conglomerates of the next decade.
The caliber of entrepreneurs In India has changed dramatically. Earlier, entrepreneurs were usually from a business family, and chose a business area based on licenses obtained. There were others who came from certain communities where there were role models of people in business – Gujaratis, Marwaris, Punjabis were the more typical communities that opted for business.
Today – the environment has changed. The advent of the educated entrepreneur and the celebration and embracing of risk by society has led to an unprecedented movement towards an aspiration to be one’s own boss. The global success of first generation entrepreneurs has also fuelled passion and people across all ages, genders and backgrounds are taking the ‘plunge’ of letting go of the safety net of jobs.
There are many that are jumping into this bandwagon. In this cluttered scenario, how can SMEs stand out? Whether Apple, Google or Infosys, they all started out small, as backyard operations, as visions of a few inspired individuals. When these companies start out, there is nothing that can separate them from thousands of others who are at the same point on the starting line and it is a level playing field for all. What separates them from others is their investment in creating a brand. If they have clarity of corporate vision, brand values, brand culture and brand personality as well as a sophisticated visual identity and language, they signal to the world that they are much more than a small or growing entrepreneur.
Within a year of founding Apple, Steve Jobs brought in a leading branding professional Rob Janoff to design their most known logo of the apple with rainbow stripes, with a bite missing. Impossible to forget once seen, the former head of Macintosh development Jean- Louis Gassée said of the logo: “One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong order. You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust, knowledge, hope, and anarchy.” IBM later hired Janoff, perpetually trying to get some of that Apple magic.
In ads for Apple’s first machines, the logo grabbed eyeballs, and instantly branded a line of products seen at the time as cold, calculating, impersonal and robotic. By comparison, Apple’s logo was scholastic, happy and warm. It set the stage for the brand years before it became such a globally embraced brand.
To share the case of an Indian SME, Gujarat Reclaim and Rubber Products Ltd is a mid-sized firm with a global customer base, growing significantly. While nearing the 300 cr mark, Harsh Gandhi, brought in a second generation dynamism to the company started by his father Rajendra Gandhi, an alumnus from IIT, Mumbai. The next milestone for the company is 1000 cr. As it embarks on this new journey, part of the internal and external stimulus was a rebranding exercise. The new branding reflected the vision, values and culture of the organization and repositions the company as a global player. The brand architecture with its constituent businesses also creates a larger umbrella and an identity of a conglomerate.
The resultant intervention was across all internal and external touchpoints from office/ factory signages to trade fair stalls, website and collateral. Immediately upon the launch of the new identity, the GRP share prices saw a 52 week high at Rs 2020 on April 11, 2012. It also won the appreciation of investors who saw this as a positive move for the company. Additionally the company appointed one international and one Indian distributor in a 3 month period. They have also been able to recruit good talent from well-known organizations and has seen a significant increase in enquiries at international trade fairs.
In India, SMEs can significantly add to their valuation as well instill pride in internal teams through a robust branding exercise. A good branding exercise will go beyond a cosmetic logo and define organizational values and culture.