Dimensions of Building Trust in Brands : the Indian experience

There is so much to learn from Corporate India. There is so much wisdom that does not get old at all. This is true of any author. A few threads on trust, as enumerated by one learned Manu Parashar, almost fourteen years ago, is still valid in the Indian context. This article is an attempt to discuss the most important aspects in some detail.

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India is a big laboratory to the world, as far as FMCG products are concerned. There is so much of wealth of information from the real world. When such experiences are put into some conceptual ideas, the emerging mosaic of knowledge becomes very solid indeed. Taken from an article titled "How to build consumer trust in brands" by Mr. Manu Parashar, published in the Indian Management ( a journal of the All India Management Association), issue dated November 2095, pages 34 to 35. the following quotes are simply superb for igniting any discussion on Indian brands.

Now, the quotes. Mr. Paraskar talks about "Competence Dimension". "This forms the base of any trusting relationship. A brand needs to have a set of functional characteristics that make it effective for a customer."

The second dimension is the "Behavioral Dimension". "Not only does the brand have to be competent in performing its task, but it also needs to be consistent. If a brand behaves consistently and fulfills its promise over a period of time, then it becomes trustworthy to the customer. This dimension develops on the base of the competence dimension. "

The third dimension is the "Affective dimension". Here the customer develops an element of attachment to or an emotional bond with the brand. It is the degree to which the brand is believed to want to do good to the consumer" Examples abound in India.

We will discuss all the three dimensions in one go and look up for examples in a) Trust Building in FMCG products b) Trust building in the automobile industry c) Trust building in the service industry d) Trust building in the education industry and e) Trust building by the Government.

Trust building in FMCG products

Talk of functional characteristics and one brand that immediately comes to one's mind is Hamam, the toilet soap from Unilever India. Its declared competence dimension is related to its function as a good health soap. It is exactly this. Hamam has been consistent with this product proposition and has never failed at all. A growing number of customers are wedded to Hamam as it is quite effective in dealing with dust. It has a superb memory recall, with the product also talking about the "empowered woman" concept through creative advertising. Not only is the mother who makes the purchase decision, but it is also the daughter who makes it. Hamam hence makes huge money.

Ditto for Asian Paints that has a range to attract the rural customer. This advertisement is in Tamil, with a little humor in it. One does not know if the same advertisement has been translated into other languages. But on the Tamil TV channels, it is a fabulous advertisement that has lead to repeat sales and reinforcement of the brand as a superb brand. The advertisement has a marriage broker, happily introducing the bridegroom's party to that of the bride, known to him. It is a typical rural house, painted well. The father of the boy remarks that it is so new and the father of the prospective bride says that it was done three years ago, and her daughter is also married. Puzzled, everyone looks up, including the broker. The father then proudly says that he referred to his elder daughter, who now has a child too!!

The superb emotional connect is very evident. The competence dimension is fine and so is the behavioral dimension. The perfect advertisement for an audience that likes humor to a large extent.

When one takes the consumer durables, come March and the same advertisement with Mr. Murthy appears for the brand called Voltas. This "all temperature AC" is also shown as one that saves money, since its technical features facilitate that. The brand has been very successful. Havels is another success story. Its advertisement with the late Rajesh Khanna was a brilliant idea.

Amul towers over all brands in ice cream. Its memory recall is simply superb. It's emotional connect is famous for its ability to talk about current topics. There is humor no doubt, but it tells you a story. The brand is a big success. Of late, in most of South India, there is a now a brand being advertised for the trust dimension, with its owner-founder, Mr. Issac featuring in it. It is a big brand called Aachi. The background shows women grinding the spices with the traditional iron devices, that was the culture some forty years ago. The idea is to reinforce the purity of the brand. This ready-made mix brand is now worth Rs.1000 crore brand, growing by leaps and bounds. VIP brand is still known for its durability in molded luggage.

Trust building in the automobile industry

Some years ago, when the global giant called Honda broke up with Hero, the pundits virtually wrote off the latter. Today, it is still the market leader and Hero Motorcorp as it is called is a force to reckon with. Its products are also exported to many countries. The other two big names, Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors have their own good products and are fighting for market shares. There is perfect competition. The three Indian companies have a big tale to tell.

Thirty years ago, Bajaj Auto called itself "Hamara Bajaj". It still is the pride of India. The TVS Motors company broke up with Suzuki and many thought that it was the end of the story. However, nothing of that sort happened. It has grown from strength to strength and its products are endorsed by giants like Amitabh Bachchan.

Similarly, the new Nano has a big appeal as a family car. The SUVs from Mahindra & Mahindra are sturdy vehicles and have proved their worth on the toughest Indian roads. Every company has its own strengths. In mopeds, the TVS Excel moped still rules most of rural South India. It is a very durable vehicle, ideal for short distances. The sturdy bike called "Bullet" from Enfield has its own followers. Indian products in the automobile industry are all world-class. No Chinese product has ever made it big here. Not even one exists in the Indian market, as of now.

Trust building in the service industry

Before launching his own brand, Mr. Kishore Biyani of the Big Bazaar fame made a thorough study of the highly successful Saravana Stores in Chennai. Armed with the knowledge that the discount model works in India, Big Bazaar, to this day, is the most sophisticated answer to the traditional Kirana fellow. Except that the shop has a huge variety of goods and is a big mall, by itself. Big Bazaar always has discounts to offer. Reliance Fresh a competitor in some spaces of the organized retail industry, also offers discounts.

Sundaram Finance from Chennai stands for integrity and honesty. The reason why over Rs. 2300 crores is in fixed deposits with this giant of an FMCG. It is the market leader and knows what it does. It's NPA is still a measly 1% or less. Sundaram Finance chose to stay away from starting a bank. It could have easily done so. It refused as it wanted to have a larger focus in what it is doing now.

Sterling Resorts is another big name in the service industry. This brand is highly respected even today. In the online segment, Redbus remains the number one preferred online portal for bus bookings. And makemytrip.com is another name that is becoming very famous, based on its record of good service. Karur Vysya Bank and the City Union Bank from Karur and Kumbakonam, two small towns of Tamil Nadu, are also very famous for their standards of superb customer service. Each of these brands has built a tradition of trust.

They also play all the rules of the game. For example, Karur Vysya Bank is now competing on even terms with the biggies like Axis Bank and the HDFC Bank. The differentiators are zero. ATMs, net banking, disbursement of personal loans, a very young workforce. You name it and KVB has it. The service is very fast. The biggies are finding it difficult to cope with the competition. Each of these brands has traditions of trust and are in the game for decades.

Of late, even the Indian Railways is building trust. The provision of good internet services is very good now.

Trust building in education

It is not without reason that there are superb brands in higher education today. Symbiosis Pune is a vast University by itself. Narsee Monjee is another in Mumbai. VIT in Vellore, SRM in Chennai and Amity in New Delhi, Amritha in Coimbatore and kochi, are all brands nurtured through trust. There is a huge amount of reinvestment in each of these brands. There is massive infrastructure and the standard of the faculty and students are so good. The rest, as they say, is history.

There are other big brands. Loyola of Chennai. St.Stephen's from New Delhi. Christ University, Bangalore. MCC from Chennai. St. Xavier's Mumbai. TISS from Mumbai and XLRI from Jamshedpur are superb for HR education. The research facilities are also very good.

Brands are not built in a day in education. They take decades to build. But once in place, these brands can simply take off and go to the next level. It is already happening. They quickly adapt to changing times.

Trust building by the Government

The Government of India is trying to build a brand. The "Make in India" is not a mere slogan. It is a call for action. In the Railways, in the Ministry of urban transport and in so many Ministries, the task of trust building is on. In AP, the Chief Minister is now making the Capital city, Amaravathi, that is being built, as a world-class place in terms of planning and execution, The game is on.


Trust building in brands is a very big topic. The aforesaid examples have been anchored in the context of a conceptual framework. There are other conceptual frameworks too, that afford a meaningful discussion of several Indian experiences. These will form the core of the other articles.


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