A cursory glance at the global business landscape reveals the undeniable power of effective branding. Giants like Pepsi and Nike stand as a testament to this fact. Branding, at its core, is about crafting a unique and positive image of an organisation that resonates with people upon hearing its name.

In a similar vein, the concept of “Nation Branding” pertains to the collective perception that individuals hold about a particular country. The importance of a robust national brand cannot be overstated, given its potential to yield significant economic and social benefits. This refined perspective underscores the pivotal role of branding, not just for businesses but also for nations striving to make their mark on the world stage.

While the idea of nation branding might be relatively new to Pakistan, it has been adopted globally. For instance, Kenya has long been recognised for its superior black tea, India is celebrated for its spicy culinary offerings, and Italy is synonymous with style and fashion. These are all facets of nation branding that have been successfully cultivated.

According to the 2023 Nation Brand Index by Branddirectory, Pakistan is positioned at 45th place, while India has secured the 8th spot. A key factor that has bolstered India’s national brand is the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. This programme has not only boosted domestic manufacturing but also enhanced India’s image as a hub for innovation and quality production.

Learning from countries like India can help stakeholders create a positive perception of the country’s goods internationally

When Pakistan is mentioned to individuals around the globe, it often conjures images of a nation where women are subjugated, extremism is rampant, and modernity is absent. However, this portrayal is not entirely accurate.

In reality, Pakistan possesses the potential to establish a positive global image, characterised by its diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and entrepreneurial vigour. This potential underscores the need for a more nuanced understanding of the country beyond prevailing stereotypes. Several industries in Pakistan, including textiles, tourism, IT, and sports goods, have the potential to become global leaders.

Despite Pakistan’s high potential to establish a strong global brand, several obstacles hinder the realisation of this potential. Key among these are political instability and a lack of robust infrastructure and strategic planning in the industrial, tourism, and economic sectors. These challenges must be addressed to unlock Pakistan’s potential on the global stage fully.

India, the Asian giant, has captured global attention with its remarkable strides in innovation. This image of India as a powerhouse of progress didn’t materialise overnight; it’s the result of meticulous planning and relentless effort.

The nation’s brand is intricately crafted, reflecting a rich tapestry of cultural diversity, historical wealth, and biodiversity hotspots. The significant advancements in the IT sector and aerospace technology have further solidified India’s position as a modern, innovation-driven nation. This narrative continues to shape global perceptions, reinforcing India’s standing on the world stage.

A key catalyst for India’s progress has been the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Launched in September 2014 by the then newly-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, its primary objective was to invigorate the local manufacturing sector and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

The initiative targeted 25 sectors, including Aerospace, Automobile, and Pharmaceutical. The outcome was a significant improvement in the ease of doing business. A multitude of regulatory rules were abolished to liberalise the FDI regime, transforming India into one of the most attractive investment destinations. This positive shift has further enhanced India’s branding as a nation.

One of the major obstacles hindering Pakistan from emulating India’s success is the lack of liberalisation in FDI and the absence of a conducive environment for doing business.

As per the Sludge Audit, an entrepreneur seeking a loan to establish a business in Pakistan faces a daunting process that requires 12 visits and spans approximately 3.7 months for approval. This cumbersome process deters investment, posing a significant challenge to Pakistan’s economic growth and its image as an investment hub.

Drawing inspiration from the transformative ‘Make in India’ initiative, it’s time to carve a niche for Pakistan on the global stage. The first step is to identify and focus on industries with high growth potential. Next, we need to distinguish our products from those of our global competitors, possibly by emphasising their superior quality.

Effective storytelling is crucial in this digital age. By leveraging global media platforms, we can highlight our achievements and strengths to the world. Investment in human resources and infrastructure is another key aspect, as it forms the backbone of any successful economy.

Lastly, we must streamline our business processes to attract FDI. By doing so, we can position Pakistan as an attractive destination for international investors. This comprehensive approach will help establish Pakistan as a prominent global brand.

The writer is a student at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, February 12th, 2024

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