In a globalized world, ‘Americana’ has long encapsulated the rich mix of distinct cultural and historical elements that define the essence of the US. From iconic brands like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Levi’s, to cultural icons like Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift, not to mention Hollywood and Big Tech, export of Americana has contributed to the US’ tremendous soft power across the world over the last century. This phenomenon underscores the transformative power of cultural exports in shaping perceptions and cementing global influence.
It is against this backdrop that India finds itself in a strong position, poised to leverage its deep-rooted history, diverse culture, unique design aesthetic and growing technological prowess to usher ‘Bharatiyata’ on a global scale.
Bharatiyata is not just a description of what is quintessentially Indian — it’s a call to establish a global presence that celebrates India’s unique cultural identity and spirit, and precipitates its pervasive permeation into global consciousness.
Imagine Indian brands making a statement on bustling 5th Avenue in New York, adorning Oxford Street storefronts in London and gracing the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Picture global celebrities walking the red carpet at MoMA and at Cannes adorned in attire that proudly boasts India’s unique design imprint. Envision global leaders not only exchanging traditional Indian greetings with a namaste but also being chauffeured in vehicles of Indian brands that bear our distinct design signature. Flying Air India should be looked forward to by flyers across the world, making flying global synonymous with Indian hospitality.
This ambitious dream may seem incredulous initially, but history bears witness to cultural shifts. German cars, for instance, brought with them an appreciation for Germany’s engineering excellence, while the Japanese gave us a lens into their focus on design. What do we want people to feel when they think of anything from India — its products, brands, technology?
Bollywood and Indian music have been India’s most recognizable cultural exports so far, capturing the imagination of audiences worldwide. Indian cuisine has evolved from being a regional delight to gaining international acclaim. Indian flavours, spices and culinary techniques have found their way into kitchens across the globe, with Indian restaurants becoming a staple in major cities. The enduring popularity of yoga is another noteworthy example. While India might not have reaped substantial economic benefits directly from yoga, its global acceptance has positioned it as a symbol of holistic well-being and mindfulness.
However, Bharatiyata envisions transcending these established domains to create a robust, deliberate presence across sectors that weren’t historically associated with India. Coexistence of India’s rich heritage with its rapid modernisation has opened tremendous opportunities for us.
Bharatiyata is about our space technology programme that cost-effectively delivers satellites from dozens of countries into space. It is also about how quickly and comprehensively we built and embedded UPI in each nook and corner of Indian society. Now, we’re taking it to the world. Bharatiyata is also about the graceful saree and timeless kurta-pyjama becoming a global fashion statement.
While we see glimpses of this when Jennifer Aniston wears a gorgeous Manish Malhotra lehenga in her 2023 movie, Murder Mystery 2, Bharatiyata is when the Paris or Milan fashion world eagerly awaits the latest collections of Sabyasachi, J J Valaya and upcoming Indian designers and brands to define the trends for the global fashion season. It’s about Zara carrying Indian designs in its stores in Copenhagen, and Louis Vuitton doing an entire range of products inspired by India.
The vision of Bharatiyata extends beyond merely enhancing visibility to arrive at a point where our cultural heritage is feted and embraced globally. It is an acknowledgement that India possesses the skills, means, tech prowess and stature to propel its unique brands on to the global stage. It is about when the world knows that if it is Indian, it must be good, in fact, special. In the same way ‘Made in Japan’ became synonymous with quality electronic products or South Korea’s K-culture became the gold standard for music, films, dramas, fashion, food, comics and novels in the early 2000s, it’s time for the world to be embracing i-Beauty.
Beyond aesthetics, integration of Indian design and tech into global markets can lead to job creation, and economic growth. It would also provide a further positive shift in the narrative surrounding Indian innovation and creativity. India has already made significant strides in tech, producing a pool of skilled professionals and innovative startups. ‘Make in India’, amplified by our ambitious startups, can extend beyond tech to include creation of iconic Indian global brands.
India must dream big and convert those dreams into reality. Bharatiyata is more than just a celebration; it is also a strategic vision to build global brands that encapsulate the essence of India and evoke emotions and aspirations on a global scale. With the convergence of culture, tech and economic potential, India stands at the cusp of creating a lasting transcultural legacy. It’s time for Bharatiyata to take over the world. Apna time aa gaya.
By Kunal Bahl