Mumbai: Jai Ho. That anthem resounded as much for Slumdog Millionaire, which swept eight Oscars, as it did for India’s brand value on Sunday night.
Not only has the image of India received a boost from the global acclaim garnered by Danny Boyle’s movie, but its film industry and tourism will also get a brand fillip, marketing experts say.
“What this will mean (for India) will be something somewhat similar to the effect of The Lord of the Rings on brand New Zealand,” says global marketing expert Martin Lindstrom.
Triumphant note: Composer A.R. Rahman holds his Oscars for best original song Jai Ho and best music score for Slumdog Millionaire. Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
The trilogy shot in New Zealand, besides being a multiple-Oscar winner and a big financial success, boosted international awareness of that country and spurred a dramatic increase in the number of tourist arrivals.
Lindstrom says Slumdog will do the same for India, predicting that tourist traffic is likely to increase by at least 15% over the next three years.
David Haigh, chief executive officer of Brand Finance Plc., a UK-based brand valuation firm, predicts that there will be “a film-making boom and an upsurge in commercial and tourist interest in India as a result”.
India’s tourism industry, which contributes around 6% of gross domestic product and gives employment to at least 40 million people, took a beating after the 26 November terrorist siege of Mumbai.
The tourism ministry had earlier set itself the target of doubling the number of foreign tourist arrivals to 10 million per year by 2010, when India hosts the Commonwealth Games.
Slumdog, a story of hope that traces a street urchin’s rise above his roots against a backdrop of grinding poverty in Mumbai, bagged Oscars for best picture, best director for Boyle and best music score and best song for A.R. Rahman for Jai Ho, besides four other awards. “The movie has created a new face for Brand India,” says Suman Srivastava, CEO at advertising firm Euro RSCG Pvt. Ltd. “It’s an optimistic story, and spells triumph for A.R. Rahman, and brands Airtel and Nokia ( which have him as endorser) will benefit from it.”
Atul Hegde, CEO of Ignitee India Pvt. Ltd, the digital agency that does online Incredible India tourism campaigns, says India has an opportunity to leverage Slumdog’s Oscar success and the buzz around it to boost its brand value.
Haigh of Brand Finance says Hollywood is finally recognizing that India is a low-cost and creative source of film content, causing US film studios, directors, actors and writers to beat a path to the country. There is no doubt that Hollywood money will follow, he says.
“And where film goes, more general economic activity follows. People want to see where films were made or set and they fundamentally reappraise their opinions of people and places,” he says.
That is why New Zealand gave attractive subsidies to persuade the makers of The Lord of the Rings to make the films there. Similarly, the new film Australia, while ostensibly a historical film, is expected to benefit tourism and investment in Australia. Brideshead Revisited caused a boom in visitors to Oxford.
Slumdog will make Western tourists look beyond the Gateway of India in Mumbai, says Srivastava of Euro RSCG, the media agency for the Incredible India campaign. “They will be more interested in the real Mumbai: the Maximum City side of it. Terrorism will fade into the background.”
Within this, shanty town tourism should also thrive, according to Krishna Poojari, co-founder of Mumbai-based Reality Tours and Travel Pvt. Ltd, which also does tours of Dharavi, reputed to be Asia’s largest slum.
Beyond the expected rub-off on tourism, the global attention attracted by the movie could help soften Western critics who argue that their jobs are being lost because of outsourcing to low-cost India, said Lindstrom.