Brands that grew with India and on Indians

What happens when the scent of a biscuit becomes inextricably linked with the history of the place where it is baked? The makers find it difficult to tinker with it, as Parle Products, the manufacturer of the world’s largest-selling biscuit, Parle-G, experienced recently.

News of the company shutting its iconic biscuit-making plant in the suburb of Vile Parle, Mumbai, where Parle-G was first baked in 1939, evoked a strong response, prompting Parle Products to release full-page ads this week to allay any fears of the brand’s demise. Seven decades ago, the biscuit was produced to nourish British soldiers during World War II. The brand was called Parle Gluco.

The break from its colonial past came in 1947. Parle Gluco, which became Parle-G in 1980, was presented as an alternative to imported biscuits.

If Parle-G defined snacking in post-independence India, Amul was generic to packet milk and butter. The cooperative that originally owned Amul – Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers Union – was formed in 1946.

Amul, the brand, was created in 1955 as milk farmers across Gujarat chose to join Kaira under the leadership of India’s milkman, Verghese Kurien. The brand was subsequently transferred to Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which now has a yearly turnover of more than Rs 23,000 crore. The cooperative’s butter brand – Amul Butter – has been a chronicler of India’s history from 1966, the year its mascot, the Amul girl, was created by Mumbai-based daCunha Communications.

Cadbury, a British import introduced to Indians in 1948, is another brand that has a unique place in post-independence India. It remains the country’s largest chocolate brand, with a market share of 65 per cent today. Cadbury did this with a combination of taste, innovation and first-mover advantage.

One of Cadbury’s enduring brand associations was the Bournvita Quiz Contest (BQC), first launched in 1972 as a live event across cities. Another brand that has made India its own since independence is Pond’s. Launched as a cold cream in 1947 by American major The Pond’s Company of America, it was its foray into talcum powders in 1956 that made it a household name among Indians.

Current owner Hindustan Unilever, which globally acquired Pond’s in 1987, was able to add a new dimension to its skincare portfolio in India. The brand today is positioned as a premium skincare solution for men and women. Asian Paints, the country’s largest paint company, founded in 1942 by four Indian partners in a Mumbai garage, would not have become what it was, had it not been for the sheer hard work and dedication of its owners and a lovable mascot called Gattu. Created by legendary cartoonist R K Laxman in 1954, Gattu raised Asian Paints’ profile in a low-involvement category such as paints and helped position Asian Paints as a consumer brand.

Parle-G
Launched in 1939 as a military-grade biscuit Became an affordable alternative for the masses in 1947 Has remained true to its core in the past seven decades

Amul
Launched in 1955; co-operative that created it was formed in 1946 Remains India’s largest food brand
Is generic to milk and butter in India.

Cadbury
Launched in 1948 as an imported chocolate Is the largest chocolate brand in India Has stayed on the top thanks to innovation, taste and first-mover advantage

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