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The art of national branding

June 21 was the fifth International Yoga Day. The Indian High Commission in Bangladesh celebrated the day by inviting around 7,000 Bangladeshis for doing yoga together at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on that day. Our Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan, and State Minister of Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury were also present at the program led by the Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das.
Actually, the yoga day celebrations had commenced in India with motivation by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. For an average person, PM Modi’s initiative was meant to display his own charisma through an unusual event that can draw the attention of many. However, to my mind, it was more than that. India took it to the UN and got the co-sponsorship of 175 member-states, and thereon, the Indian missions have started celebrating the day in many countries.
Now, teaching yoga at the Indian missions in many countries, including Bangladesh, isn’t new. They have been inviting yogis from India for running learning sessions for Bangladeshi enthusiasts at the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre for several years now.
Now, why did India go for celebrating the day in a considerably big scale? We allowed them to celebrate the day in our most important stadium. The reason is simple.
India is in the process of branding the country through yoga. The art of yoga itself reflects a whole range of positive messages. Yoga stands for improved health, mental peace, caring for mother earth as well as society. If an individual or a nation can identify themselves with this art, it is likely to boost its own image in the global stage. The nation would also be synonymous with the positive messages that yoga imparts. I believe this is a unique way to brand a country positively.
Have you seen the colour of the t-shirt that the Indian mission distributed among the eager participants at the Bangabandhu Stadium? It was the colour of their flag.
This isn’t the first time that India has branded itself. It has established in people’s minds that it is the biggest democracy in the world; it has also established that it is a beautiful country and is now one of the most sought-after tourist destinations. It has been constantly strategizing about what to communicate about the country in the global stage and implementing their strategies.
The reason I mentioned these aspects of India is because these seemed quite impressive to me and there’s a lot to learn from them. It’s not only India, but there are many countries who have branded themselves very positively. Some came up with literature, some with the environment. For example, our close neighbour Bhutan has branded itself as a carbon-minus country. They have not only branded themselves, but also proved it through their actions.
Sometimes, I wonder about us. What would be our branding? How would the world know us? Our War of Liberation? Our economic development? Our initiatives for Digital Bangladesh? Bangla language? Our literature?
We still don’t know what exactly we may communicate about our country to the world. A nation needs a personality, a character through which other nations would evaluate us, respect us.
I feel this is important; building a personality in the eyes of the international community is important. However, when I think of communicating something about my own country to the outside world, I hardly can find any.
There’s hardly anything that may be a branding tool for us. We do have cricket these days, but there are many cricketing nations too.
I have been nurturing the dream of requesting the government to establish Bangla Cultural Centres in at least 10 countries in the next five years.
We need to be on the minds of people across the globe if we want to portray ourselves as a great nation. Maybe, a new campaign to introduce Bangladesh to the world. We do have an ongoing drive for making Bangladesh digital. There has been quite a lot of work on this front. However, I feel very little communication across the world was made in this respect. Many countries that emulated our Digital Vision have made quite a lot of noise and everyone thinks they were the pioneers.
Having said that, while there’s a lot happening on our digital front, the state machinery is engrossed in internal communication only; the government is busy impressing its internal stakeholders.
There’s no international-level campaign for our journey towards digitalization. At the same time, I also feel we are far short of making “Digital Bangladesh” a unique selling proposition. And more so, it doesn’t feel quite right for branding Bangladesh in the international arena. We need something more than this.
One way to reach to the international population’s top of mind is, I believe, to establish Bangla Cultural Centres in countries across the world. Amazing things would happen when we go for our cultural centres. We know the project would be a bit expensive but we have been executing many expensive projects over the last decade. I can assure you that Bangla Cultural Centres won’t frustrate us.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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