Last week, when global brand advisory Interbrand announced the launch of Breakthrough Brands across the world, it was presented as a celebration of the new breed of upstarts and challengers that are reshaping the market and are an embodiment of growth. After all, we live in an era where consumers want to be in control or, more specifically, control the design of the lives they want to live. Consumers are using brands to do it, because brands are the vehicles through which things happen. Three Indian brands, Faircent, PayTm and Zomato, were featured in this study.

“Breakthroughs reflect the times we are in — the age of you. Brands and businesses need to move faster than ever before, as they are expected to move at the speed of people’s demands — at the speed of their lives,” says Jez Frampton, Global CEO, Interbrand. The characteristics for brands and businesses looking to grow include agility, flexibility, and adaptability. According to the study, Breakthrough Brands are built on that premise, often because the restlessness of their founders led them to a new breakthrough — and they demonstrate it daily. They build it into their very culture by rejecting bureaucracy, discovering and fostering new ideas, and accelerating decision-making so they can race to market. Breakthrough Brands set the pace for the market, and for all other brands, particularly when they reflect the pace of people.

Why Indian brands are different

“Increasingly, people all around are beginning to use brands to design their lives for better experiences. The breakthrough brands are doing this a lot better than the conventional ones,” says Ashish Mishra, managing director of Interbrand’s India operations. He adds that there is a fundamental difference between the kind of experiences that are being created by the Indian Breakthrough Brands as against the Breakthrough Brands from the developed markets. And that difference lies in the kind of experiences being created.

“While the developed market Breakthrough Brands are focused around enhancing experiences, the Indian counterparts are skewed towards surmounting challenges. So it is the infrastructural deficiencies, lack of penetration and unorganised structures that are being resolved through the Indian Breakthrough Brands. While the former are leveraging need states of freedom, indulgence and expression, understandably the latter are creating enablement and empowerment,” says Mishra

Breakthrough Brands excel in three core areas: Brand promise and differentiators, visual design and aesthetic, and brand marketing and awareness. But some such as Rajat Gandhi, Founder and CEO, Faircent, believe that in India there is a slight deviation. He says, “In India, brand building is mostly confused with advertising and hence, the custodian of the brand is the marketing department.”

Faircent is a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending marketplace for loans. Here, borrowers and lenders interact amongst themselves to decide on a mutually agreeable rate for their transactions (loans). Faircent claims to provide an opportunity to borrowers to get their requirements funded at viable rates and enables lenders get the best possible return on their investment.

Customer experience rules

However, he adds, in new-age businesses across the world, it is the customer experience which drives the brand engagement, whether it is Google, Amazon or Apple. “The startups or businesses mushrooming in India still rely heavily on advertising and multi-million dollar budgets from VCs. Some businesses also believe in the last man standing theory and want to buy the customer,” he says. According to him, the world has moved beyond it. At present, brands are about shared ownership with the consumer which the world is witnessing across industries, be it travel (Uber), or hospitality (AirBnB).

Gandhi adds that to build a shared economy brand such as, the differentiation is to transfer the ownership of brand from business to customer wherein the owners co-create the brand and the experience along with their customers.

“Breakthrough brands are built by consumer evangelists, through the cumulative experience of all its stakeholders and that is our strength. Our success can exclusively be attributed to this experience whether it is the product, the technology, the customer-interface or the communities we have built to deliver a world-class experience to our borrowers and lenders.”