Let's humanise our products
In order to effectively convince Indian consumers to opt for Indian products over more economically feasible Chinese ones, sentiment and backstories must be attached to said local products
"Our 'purse power' will help overcome the Chinese 'bullet power'! We should use our personal economic sanctions against the Chinese products to remove the cheap Chinese stockpile from the market", appealed, '3 Idiots' movie fame, engineer turned social activist, Sonam Wangchuk, through one of his recent videos.
There have been several instances in the past, when such appeals were made, at different platforms, through varying levels. Such appeals, momentarily impacted our buying decisions, to forget later, in our daily rush of life and urge for cheaper goods. This time again, 'no to Chinese products!' movement is gaining momentum, over the digital space and WhatsApp. The trigger to the fire is COVID-19, and fuel to the fire is recent the Galwan Valley episode. This movement, as always, seems to remain, for a short time, till our short term memory will recall the episode!
In a world dominated by cheap Chinese products which have intruded our daily lives and become a part of our cultural and social milieu, it seems difficult to replace them. May it be a festival or an occasion, Chinese goods are easily available in the most remote corner of the country. The lamps or lights of Diwali, colours or water guns of Holi, kites or threads of the kite festival, idols or decor material of Ganesh or Durga Puja, and most other things, are now Chinese made! Presently, Chinese imports account for nearly half of India's trade deficit. Most of the strategic industries are dependent on Chinese produce. The countries across the globe are intertwined like a spiderweb. In such a scenario, to get ourselves detached from this web is a difficult proposition but could be worth exploring, as suggested by Sonam Wangchuk, through an individual-centric, people-led movement.
In the past, such boycotts could not be successful, as Indian products could hardly withstand the competition for cost and quality, with their Chinese counterparts. Further, in the world of economics, there is less space for emotions, as our buying decisions are often led by economic considerations than emotional or patriotic considerations.
In the world of photography, a good photograph is considered good when it has a life and a story, to tell. Without life, it's an image; and with life, it's a moment of reality! If we apply the same principle, then we can say, without a human connection and life, a product is just a product, may it be Indian or Chinese. If we humanise these products, we may feel connected with them. The buying decision then may not be merely on economic considerations, but on emotional connect too!
In order to use our 'purse power' for local products, it is important that they have a better look and feel. Though Chinese Products will remain cheaper due to their economy of scale, we may beat them by winning over Indian hearts. Merely appealing to people to adopt Indian products, may not help till the time we feel somehow connected with our own local products. For that, as one of the solutions, we can use the soft power approach, through humanising our local products!
In one of my tours, I came across a Government supervised handicraft shop, where each local product had a story to tell. The smallest of products had a background material prepared of who produced it, how many people the product — if sold — is going to feed. A human touch with every product appealed to the customers to buy the same.
We Indians are very good in filmmaking and acting. Without any professional training, we have flooded Tik Tok and global giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and others with our own videos and memes. We need to use our video making skills for the benefit of local products. A human story woven around the product, circulated over social media, will help us in connecting with our own products and people behind them. It will enthuse a life into these lifeless products, helping in its recall, and influencing us while making a buying decision!
The story of 'khullad' is a successful case study, to emulate. Indian Railways brought the concept of serving tea in earthen made, 'khullad' during the early 21st century. It became a sensation within a short span of time. The khullad served tea, not only looked good but tasted good too. It was an initiative to support our own potters. The communication built around khullads humanised them.
The honourable Prime Minister, recently, while launching the 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' gave a call, to be 'vocal about our local products, to make them global'. We can become vocal about these local products, by weaving and spreading human stories behind them, through short videos, memes, and images. These local products then won't be products alone. We will be buying emotions too!
The writer is an Indian Information Service officer. Views expressed are personal