BERLIN CHAPTER: House of World Cultures, Berlin
August 12th, 2005
11.00 am – 6.00 pm

Message in a Dabba*: How India wards off the threat of globalization

Doing business in India is quite a challenge for non-Indians. On the one hand, there is the lure of a huge and virgin market place. At the same time the shared experience of CEO’s of MNC’s & Western Entrepreneurs is that India is not an easy place to do business. This project will analyze the grey zone of cultural specifics, which make India a unique spot in a globalized world economy.
In the last 15 years no multinational corporation has changed the Indian panorama. The big ticket companies like Mac-Donalds or CocaCola might exist in every major Indian city, but they have not seriously altered tastes or consumer habits. No power company has taken over power, no IT company has taken over the information or technology trade, even the cellular revolution is lead by an Indian company aptly known as Bharti or “Indian”.
The resistance against becoming a fully globalized territory exists in two forms: The first is conscious – a consciously difficult environment is created so that the multinational corporations do not find it easy to operate in the Indian market. The second form lies in the unconscious nature of the Indian market, which is fragmented, extremely price conscious and very, very fickle. The Indian consumer is more interested in guerilla region-specific marketing rather than the massive advertisement carpet bombardment that the multinational corporations are used to.

Vinay Choudary is a cultural observer, conspiracy theorist and screenwriter based in Bombay. He teaches Film Appreciation at the Xavier Institute of Communication and has lately made the mutual influence of culture and economy focus of his studies.

Respondent: Britta Ohm, political scientist, is currently pursuing her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology with the topic "The Televised Community. Culture, Market and Politics of Visual Representation in India", Berlin.

* The Dabba is a small tiffin box used to carry lunch to work – the Dabbawallah of Bombay or the Tiffin Carrier is one of the most vibrant and successful forms of the marriage between culture & economy that gives birth to resistance.


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