December 18, 2007
Written by C.N.
The recent troubles concerning the quality of Chinese products has undoubtedly hurt the reputation of all Chinese companies. But what about India? In many ways, India lags behind China in terms of economic development and still experiences high-profile incidents of bad publicity, but should these shortcomings suggest that all Indian companies are inferior?
This question is at the heart of an emerging controversy in the corporate world. First, Ford Motor Co. is selling off one of its most prized and prestigious subsidiary units — Jaguar luxury cars. Two of the most serious potential buyers are Indian corporations. As Time magazine reports, the possibility that Jaguar will be owned by Indian companies has many people predicting doom and gloom for the brand:
A group of U.S. Jaguar dealers said they opposed the possibility that Ford, Jaguar’s owner, might sell the British luxury car brand to an Indian firm. . . . The dealers said that the sale to an Indian company would hurt Jaguar’s image.
“I don’t believe the U.S. public is ready for ownership out of India of a luxury car make,” Ken Gorin, chairman of the Jaguar Business Operations Council, told the Wall Street Journal. “And I believe it would severely throw a tremendous cast of doubt over the viability of the brand.”. . .
A few days later Indian Hotels, which owns the luxury Taj hotel chain and is itself a branch of the Tata empire, was told its overtures to New York Stock Exchange-listed luxury hotel and cruise firm Orient-Express were unwelcome — and potentially damaging. . . .
Many Indians shared Kumar’s sense of outrage. Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath warned that, “There cannot be any discrimination against outward investment from India.” In an era of globalization, he said, “trade and investment [is] a two-way street.”. . .
Both Orient-Express and Jaguar’s Gorin emphasize that their judgments were based on business strategy alone. . . . “My concern is perception,” [Gorin] said. “And perception is reality.”
If people like Gorin want to talk about perceptions, by all means, let’s do so — the perception that Jaguar or any other “luxury” brand will be damaged if bought by an Indian company is about as blatantly ignorant, prejudiced, and racist as you can get.
It is nothing less than another ugly form of racial profiling — prejudging someone, some group, or an entire country based on biased perceptions and broad generalizations.
I find it rather ironic that “White corporate supremacists” like Gorin and Orient Hotels CEO Paul White (what an appropriate name) conveniently ignore the fact that Indian companies such as Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, Indian Hotels, United Breweries Group/Kingfisher and others have become so successful and powerful despite their alleged “inferior” brand image, especially considering an “all-American” owner like Ford basically ran Jaguar into the ground under their ownership.
Ultimately, blaming one’s racist views on “consumer perception” is just a cop-out. It would have been better if people like Gorin and White would have just come out and said “Whites should not have to work for a bunch of third-world Indians” — at least that would have been more straightforward and honest on their part.
Update: On January 3, 2008, Ford Motor Company picked Tata Motors (one of the two Indian companies bidding) as its top pick to buy its Jaguar and Land Rover subsidiaries.
Second Update: On march 36, 2008, Tata Motors’ purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover for $2.3 billion was finalized and officially announced.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Racial Profiling Against Indian Companies" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/12/racial-profiling-against-indian-companies/> ().
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