Of Pranav Mistry, American Accent and How to Sell Your Indian Product to Indians

Do NOT be seen like them. For Indians, India is not aspirational. Foreign (identity) is.

First, Pranav Mistry is director of research at Samsung.

Secondly, he launches Samsung’s Galaxy Watch* – the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for Samsung (their NextBigBet); and is certainly a moment Indians need to be proud of (after all, we take pride in everything that Indians achieve when they move out of the country).

The Slumdog Millionaire
The Slumdog Millionaire

But then. Indians took to the usual, i.e. finding fault and in fact, trolled Pranav instead of celebrating his success.

But then, we are Indians and we are like this only. For a lot of them, Pranav Mistry destroyed the entire image of the country in one shot. Well, he spoke like Indians and exposed the (Gujju) accent to the world.

Of course, with due respect to those who have mocked Pranav Mistry’s desi accent, this isn’t anything new. His accent has been in the talk since TED days (2010) and the current state is just an amplification driven by the fact that there are way too many Indians on Twitter trolling away to glory (and eventually, trending).

While we leave the accent discussion for another day (Aakar patel has written a nice piece on this), here is an important lesson for those selling premium products/services to Indians. I am clearly saying premium, because we Indians do pay for utilities, but when it comes to buying premium products, the brand value (driven by perception) is one of the decisive factors.

Lesson: Do NOT sell Indian Brands to Indians, the Indian way. Sell a Global Identity. An Identity that spells like white-skin brands.

Koutons, Monte Carlo, La Opala, Franco Leone, and Da Milano : Heard of these premium brands? Do they sound Italian? Well, they are all Indian brands, who have decided not to Indianize themselves. (READ : Why Indian Brands Do NOT Prefer Being Called Indian). That helps them charge a premium price.

Truth #1: Indians do NOT trust Indian brands

Indians have a strong fetish for global brands (and anything white-skin) and when it comes to choosing a lifestyle brand, Indians do prefer a ‘foreign’ styled name/identity.

Something like Munich Polo. Or Louis Philippe. Or Van Heusen. Or Peter England. Or Titan.

Aside, did you know that Titan is a JV betwen Tata Group and Tamilnadu Industrial Development Corporation.

Truth #2: (Few) Indians often tend to bring down the ones moving up.

No better way to describe this than the story below (via Quora):

“Somewhere in Japan, at a port, arrived a ship. It had a container filled with mice for experiments. When authorities checked the container, they panicked. There was a hole in the container. They feared that these little filthy creatures would have escaped. They enquired about the origin of the containers. They came to know it had come from India. They quickly wrapped up the investigation and went for lunch.

When others asked, they said “Oh! Those were Indian rats. They would never have escaped. You see, Indians cannot see others rise and grow out of the box. Once a rat would try to climb out of the box, others would grab its feet and pull it back.”

In fact, going with my Pluggd.in NextBigWhat experience, we have seen enough Indian (startup gurus) trying to bring us down and spread false news about us.

TL;DR:  if you are seen as an Indian brand, your chances of receiving support/encouragement from desi crowd is extremely low (as opposed to a foreign brand). The truth is that perception of an Indian brand among Indians is nothing to talk about (duplicate maal hai).

So what’s cool (for Indians)?

Pranav Mistry talking in an American accent and the next day, it makes headlines and he gets compared with the likes of Sundar Pichai (that Chennai guy who made it it big in US of A).

The tweet troll focus was not on Pranav Mistry’s achievements (the fact that he is spearheading Samsung’s next gala move), but how he spoke (and brought shame to the ambitious Indians).

What’s surprising is that US press didn’t have much of a problem with his accent (they focused on the product details), but we Indians took it as an embarrassment, a shame on us.

What am I trying to say? Well, let’s get back to the question.

So how do you sell your desi Indian products to Indians? Simple.

Do NOT be seen like them. For Indians, India is not aspirational. Foreign (identity) is.

– Do NOT talk in their own language. A global brand can talk in Indian language (and that’s damn cool!), but a desi one needs to fake their identity to gain acceptance. (with white-skin name to foreign models).

Before you call me names, let’s talk about 10 premium brands from India that have taken the desi brand names to market themselves (in India).

PS: I am not talking about the likes of Micromax etc – they aren’t premium. By premium, I sincerely mean the ones for which you are eager to shell out extra cash, the way you would like to do for Amazon (vs Flipkart), or Uber (vs. Ola).

Get it?

* Pranav Mistry’s Samsung Watch Launch Video


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