The lexicon of Brands from Markathon
No, A isn’t for Apple and
D is not for Durex
This lexicon of brands lists some memorable Indian brands that we grew up with. While some have been displaced by multinational brands, others still rule the roost. A lexicon of brands that looks at the curiosity of sorts that the Indian market has proven to be for brands which came into existence before or soon after the opening up of the economy and how they coped with the flux that resulted from it.
Archies – Before the Hallmarks of the world and way before Chumbak, Happily Unmarried and other such kitschy outfits entered the ‘social expression’ space, Archies helped India express itself with Holi, Diwali and Rakhi greetings. Started in 1979 by Anil Moolchandani, the company is now present in 120 cities in 6 different countries. It went public in 1995 and was listed in the NSE and BSE in 1998. “The most special way to say you care” is still around in the times of ‘HBD’ posts and virtual cakes on facebook.
Burnol – It is one of the oldest antiseptic cream brands in India and has changed hands many a times, starting off with Boots, being bought over by Reckitt Piramal in 2001 and finally coming to rest in the brand portfolio of Dr Morepen Labs which marketed it as the “Burn Specialist” creating a high recall among Indian consumers and reaching the first-aid kits of almost every household in India.
Camlin – now known as Kokuyo Camlin with Kokuyo of Japan acquiring 51% stake in the company, Camlin was started in Mumbai in 1931 and still the market leader in producing art materials such as watercolours, poster colours, pastels, acrylics, and stationery. What started as Dandekar & Co that began to produce Horse Brand ink powders and tablets evolved into the maker of Camel Ink for fountain pens went down as the stationery brand that almost every Indian child went to first day of school with. Every kid before the 1990s for sure!
Duckback – started in 1920 in Kolkata by Bengal Waterproof Works Ltd now (Bengal Waterproof
Ltd), Duckback ruled the roost of rainwear in India for many decades before it was put out of its leading position by increasing rubber prices and a failure to innovate to more modern products. The company made a comeback in 2012 and now manufactures soft and hard luggage options amongst other things. Duckback was one of the foremost ‘swadeshi’ brands to appear on the horizon.
Essel World – India’s largest and foremost amusement parks has withstood the brunt of a booming travel and tourism industry. Operated by Pan India Paryatan Private Ltd (PIPPL), a subsidiary of the Essel Group, the very mention of the amusement park still summons to mind the jingle “Essel world mein rahunga main, ghar nahi jaunga main”. Essel World and its younger cousin, Water Kingdom, have remained iconic Indian brands.
Fryums – So those colourful ‘snack pellets’ that are often the only things that add colour and crunch to mess food across the country were actually launched by TTK Healthcare. If too much of a good thing was ever bad for a brand, then the brand was definitely Fryums. Fryums became popular and thereafter turned into a generic brand in its own right. So much so that other manufacturers began to manufacture ‘fryums’ too and slowly the brand was lost but the product’ Fryums endured. Not particularly to the advantage of TTK Healthcare, of course.
Gili – India’s first jewellery brand was launched in 1994 and is credited for introducing many practices in the thriving jewellery industry in India. It was the first jewellery brand to sell in departmental stores and to have uniform quality and designs at all its stores across the country.
Hero Pens – Not an Indian brand, but it has been a part of every Indian kid’s childhood, nonetheless.
Hero Pens, with their hooded nibs were the first fountain pens that most of us began the journey of
endless hours of scribbling with. Founded in 1931 as the Huafu Pen Factory, the Shanghai Hero Pen Company owns the brand of Hero Pens which can still be found with retailers online and offline as well.
Indrajal Comics – Brought out by Benett Coleman and Co – the publishers of The Times of India, Indrajal Comics first brought to India Lee Falk’s Phantom stories and progressed to his Mandrake stories, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, Allen Saunders’ Mike Normad, Kerry Drake and many more. Though they stopped publishing in 1989, in the 27th year of Indrajal’s existence, old prints can still be bought off eBay and in dusty second-hand book stores in the forgotten by-lanes of old cities that reek of nostalgia.
Jumbo Circus – Started by Badnasheel, a businessman, in 1976, in the city of Calcutta, Jumbo Circus is credited to have brought the entire circus scene to India. With acts ranging from acrobatics, to ‘boneless acts’ to animal shows, which are now banned, the circus continues to be staged even today in cities such as Chennai. In the times when television was only just crawling into India, Jumbo Circus made leaps and bounds in the entertainment business.
Kismi – the ‘elaichi’ flavoured sweet from Parle Products was launched to serve as a mouth freshener. Available in Kismi, Kismi Gold and Kismi Toffee Bar, the sweet has been a favourite over many years and still occupies shelf-space in mom and pop stores across the country. Often alongside other landmark sweets such as Mango Bite, also from Parle Products Ltd.
Liberty Shoes – Based in Karnal, Haryana, Liberty Shoes was perhaps the first shoe brand that most
of us dawned when we stepped into school on our first day, even before Bata came and buckled our tiny feet with its offerings. Currently the brand is present in over 6000 multi-brand outlets across the country and has a presence in over 25 countries through more than 50 stores. Mysore Sandal Soap – In production since 1916, Mysore Sandal Soap is manufactured by Karnataka Soap and Detergents Limited, a subsidiary of the Government of India, the soap and its iconic packaging have almost become a part of the heritage of South India. Loyalists of the soap still hunt it down from the elusive stockist or order online. Nataraj Stationery – Established in 1958, Hindustan Pencils Ltd is the largest pencil manufacturer in India, with the brands Nataraj and Apsara being exported to over 50 countries. Their state-of-the-art manufacturing units with latest machinery set up daily produce 7 million pencils, 1.5 million sharpeners, 2.4 million erasers, 0.2 million scales, 0.8 million pens.
Original Choice Whisky – John Distilleries Pvt Ltd which owns the brand Original Choice Whisky also manufactures rum, brandy and other distilled alcoholic beverages which it markets under more
than 10 brands. Set up in 1992 in Bangalore, it has 16 manufacturing units in 12 states and revenue of
over Rs 9 billion. Another home-grown brand that has largely remained obscure.
Parry’s – EID Parry, which has been in business for more than 225 years, has many first to its credit. It was the first company to manufacture fertilisers in India and is currently engaged in the production of sugar and sugar-based goods. It is an instantly recognisable name in India, especially its southern parts and is known for its collaborative efforts with sugarcane farmers.
QuickChek – Another one of Dr Morepen’s products, QuickChek was the first pregnancy test kit
manufactured in India. Its promise was that it delivered results in a matter of 5 minutes and offered
easy-to-read results. One of the brands which did not really catch on, but was nonetheless worth a mention due to its pioneering efforts.
Rasna – Owned by Pioma Industries in Ahmedabad, Rasna was launched in early 1970s and is still popular today, to the tune of having more than 82% share of the soft-drinks concentrate market in India. Apart from gaining ground against the mainly carbonated soft-drinks market that emerged in the 1990s, Rasna was also the first brand to centre its communication around the child being the influencer in the purchase of soft drinks and implanted its tagline “I love you, Rasna” in the minds of more than one generation of Indians.
Spykar – Started by Prasad Pabrekar in 1992 to introduce some home-grown competition to the Levi’s, Pepe Jeans and Lee Coopers of the world that were making themselves comfortable in the country, Spykar is now a Rs 500 crore brand and recently Kishore Biyani’s Future Lifestyles bought a 75% stake in the fashion label. Created with a premium feel, using mostly foreign-looking models and locales for its communications, Spykar attempts to create a presence in the minds of the Indian youth by alienating itself from the country of its origin.
Topaz Blades – manufactured by Malhotra Shaving Products, Topaz Blades and Laser Razors are now present in countries across the world, with a strong presence even in the quality-conscious countries such as the USA, countires in Europe and the Middle East.
Uncle Chipps – “Bole mere lips, I love Uncle Chipps” – the jingle not only rang in the market leader in snacks in the 1980s, but also launched film director Shantanu Moitra’s career. In 2000, the brand Uncle Chipps was bought by Frito-Lay (PepsiCo’s snack division) from Amrit Agro Industries Limited for $6.6 million.
Vadilal – from a hand-cranked soda fountain to being the second largest ice-cream player in India
with a brand worth over $4.5 billion, Vadilal has come a long way. Started in 1907 in Ahmedabad by
Vadilal Gandhi, Vadilal now has significant exports and a diverse range of offerings – from frozen goods to ice creams. It is the quintessential Indian brand whose true worth and reach are often undermined because it blends so well in the background, where it has been for really long!
Williamson Magor – Now McLeod Russel India, Ltd, Williamson Magor was established in 1869 and it accounts for a production of 100 million kilograms annually, from estates in Assam, West Bengal, Vietnam and Uganda. It is one of the foremost exporters of tea in the world.
Xmex – Started over 15 years ago, Xmex is India’s first plus size fashion store now has considerable
retail presence – of over 1000 multi-brand outlets in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata. It also has a thriving wholesale business and its products can be ordered online from a number of etailers. Perhaps a harbinger of the ramifications of a shifting lifestyle, the brand makes the list for being ahead of its times in capturing a market that seems to be ominously hurtling towards reality. Yezdi – Ideal Jawa Ltd, popularly known as Jawa started operations in 1961, with the help of former Czechoslovakian Jawa Limited and by 1968 had established wholly indigenous manufacturing of motorcycles under the brand name Yezdi. The idea was to offer consumers a product that was home-grown and offered value for money. The tagline “Forever bike, forever Value” was coined to reinforce the same and the ideals of the brand remain unchanged even today, in the face of stiff international competition.
Z talc – Led by the vision of four brothers Sunder, Guna, Mohan and Shivaram, Argus Cosmetics was launched in 1992 to serve the needs for male grooming products, a category that the brothers believed was neglected by leading players in the industry. The first product to be offered was the Z-talc and the product portfolio soon expanded to include face.