I like many of my contemporaries in advertising have largely been critical of Reliance and is somewhat culpable of championing the favourite brand of planners and strategists, the Tata brand. At a given opportunity, generally speaking, people have a tendency to bad mouth the Ambanis and praise the Tatas. It is widely assumed that Reliance has reached out and spread corruption across politics as well as the press while Tata has been glorified as the brand that can do nothing wrong. So if you see anything good about Reliance in the press, the presumption is that they have bought the publication that wrote the story. After all, Reliance has one of the largest advertising budgets in India. And apparently, every publication owner is at their beck and call. It’s true that Tata is a conscientious brand. In the past I have had the opportunity to visit their cement plants in MP and UP and seen first hand how well they are maintained (compared to some of their unscrupulous competitors.) and also the facilities they have given their employees are some of the best of any corporation in the country I don’t think, in that sense, there is any other brand like Tata. While the Tata brand has a lot of goodwill, all earned through a tremendous amount of good work, it has also been caught flat-footed many a time. Especially during the 2G scam days.
The public perception is that the Ambanis are the bad guys. They have been the ones colluding with politicians, twisting the rules to suit their agenda. There may be a lot of truth in it. Or no truth at all. If they are all powerful and to be feared as deemed, then why have they been so bad with their narrative? Why are they the fall guys in every controversy? When the Rafale scam was being bandied about in the press, every person who I spoke to held Anil Ambani culpable. After all, he is an Ambani, he would have done it was the general consensus. Maybe, maybe not.
Purpose-driven brands are brands that have a higher purpose than merely making a profit. It has become the new buzzword in marketing. Every other brand and agency are trying to create purpose-driven brands. In fact, at our agency, we are doing that a lot too. Before it became a buzzword or even a phrase in the lexicon, there was a man named Dhirubhai Ambani. A larger than life character, who was maligned extensively by the press and worked against by the business clique that dominated the Indian industrial horizon. But he was a wily man.
He was up to the task and took on the system and turned it around. He found ways to work the system in his favor. He was not the first one to be accused of being a corrupt industrialist. But he was the outsider, so he got a lot of flack. His greatness stems from the fact that he built Reliance against all odds. Everyone knows and acknowledges the fact that he was one of India’s towering visionaries and industrialists. But beyond that, few consider him one of India’s great brand builders. Reliance, through his son Mukesh, has kept this vision intact and carved out one of the country’s greatest brand stories. Purpose-driven brands have a higher purpose than mere profits. Look at Google, is it their mission to create the best search ‘business' in the world? Apparently, no. As stated in their corporate mission statement, it is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The keywords here are ‘universally’ and ‘useful’. If you look at Google, that’s what they have actually set out to do, and accomplished. By pursuing their credo, Google has built a gigantic business that we all agree is beyond useful to all of us. In fact, Google has such a wide positive influence on our lives that most of us cannot imagine a life without Google. It’s not just that they built a gigantic business for themselves, they have also helped others build large businesses. Would there ever have been a Uber without Google maps is questionable. Of course, with growing big came big trouble too, like the investigation by Congress or attacks in the press portraying them as evil. Getting back to Reliance, when Dhirubhai launched his IPO, his stated mission was to make every Indian who subscribed to Reliance shares, rich. He democratized the share market. He issued millions of shares and with his company’s growth, millions of Indians became wealthy. His company’s growth had a fantastic effect on the public. That's why when Reliance had their AGM in Mumbai they had to book the largest stadium to accommodate some of his shareholders. He changed the market not by his machinations, but by his vision and understanding of why Reliance had to matter with the general public to grow to the size it has. Years later his son Mukesh seems to have imbibed his vision as can be seen with the launch of JIO. Dhirubhai had once professed that he would like to see phone calls become affordable to the poorest of people in India. Mukesh has done everything in his capacity to see that this was accomplished with Jio. I am yet to meet a person who is not happy with the way Jio has made data and voice affordable. They have changed the market and every telecom player in the country had to follow suit. What the government couldn’t do with its policies, Reliance accomplished with its relentless vision.
There are three types of brands that serve society intrinsically. 1)Brands that involve themselves in charitable giving. 2) Brands that support causes. Brands like Tata, Infosys and Wipro fall in these categories and are led by people with empathy and principles like Narayan Murthy, Azim Premji, and Ratan Tata. In the 3rd type are brands where 'purpose' is the overriding cause of their existence. They form a cluster of brands that occupy the zenith. Brands like Google, Patagonia, and Apple. And in the Indian context, I dare say, Reliance.