India’s largest consumer-facing companies including ITC, Parle Products, AmulDabur, Bisleri, Godrej, Marico and Voltas have begun pushing ‘vocal for local’ themes across all advertising and marketing campaigns and last-mile sales pitches. This follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s exhortation to this effect in his address to the nation on May 12.

“We are highlighting Indian roots and have started promoting ads with this message on digital media and TV, particularly news channels,” said Dabur CEO Mohit Malhotra. The maker of Vatika shampoo and Red toothpaste competes with multinationals such as Colgate Palmolive and Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL). “Made in India will be a key factor likely to influence purchase decision and the vocal for local campaign has the potential of harnessing India’s traditional knowledge like ayurveda,” he said.

Modi had urged Indians to be “vocal about local” brands and buy products made domestically in a speech themed around a self-reliant nation. He had also tweeted that “local is not merely a need but a responsibility.”

Cigarettes-to-consumer goods maker ITC, which makes Aashirvaad atta, Sunfeast biscuits and Vivel soap and is aiming to achieve ₹1 lakh crore in sales from its non-cigarette consumer businesses, said it will continue to strengthen its Make in India pitch. “ITC has invested extensively in developing a vibrant portfolio of Indian brands which support millions of farmers and creates large-scale livelihoods, with 25 Indian vibrant brands created from scratch,” ITC executive director B Sumant said.

Cos to Leverage all Platforms
Brand specialist and social commentator Santosh Desai said the theme may not sway consumer preferences too much. “Most consumers are not aware of brand ownership, except for a few like Patanjali which have been built on Indian-ness,” he said. Yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali has extensively leveraged the swadeshi angle across all its brands, from shampoo to noodles to toothpaste.

A day after the PM’s speech, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clarified that local does not imply only products made by Indian companies, but also those manufactured in the country by multinationals. While the party won’t issue any directive to buy local, a BJP spokesperson said people might themselves start buying good quality products made in India.

The country’s largest biscuit maker Parle Products has already released a series of ads for its large brands including Parle-G, Hide & Seek and salty snacks on themes such as “support swadeshi businesses” and “seek local.”

“We will use all platforms for communicating that we are a swadeshi brand,” said Parle Products category head Mayank Shah. “We will have similar, if not same, creatives for other platforms to reinforce our Indian roots. The creatives will be across media platforms.”

Global companies headquartered in the US, Europe and China have a large footprint in India with heavy investments in manufacturing and raw material sourcing across all sectors, from consumer goods to appliances to apparel. Market share is evenly split between these and domestic brands.

Indore-based packaged foods company Prataap Snacks, which sells products under the Yellow Diamond brand, has released ads on social media on “being swadeshi being a matter of pride.”

“Consumers will get vocal about local when they love us,” Prataap Snacks chief operating officer Subhashis Basu said. “A consumer will not be vocal sustainably for a local product if it’s not good, which comes with taste, quality and value for money.”

India’s largest diary brand Amul said it will increase its emphasis on the theme, something it has been doing for three decades. “As far as food is concerned, consumers prefer local brands since it suits their taste, (are) fresh, affordable and its share will further grow,” said Amul managing director RS Sodhi.

Even in consumer electronics, brands such as Voltas and Godrej Appliances are going to significantly push ‘vocal for local’ themes in marketing campaigns and last-mile pitches to consumers, once the market opens up.

Voltas managing director Pradeep Bakshi said localisation efforts will not only reflect at the back-end such as manufacturing and supply chain, but also in customer centricity and marketing initiatives.