“Swadeshi” products from India Inc

Friday December 04, 2009,

7 min Read

Once upon a Time (as all fairy tales have to begin) there was an entrepreneur in a mystical land called India. This entrepreneur was a harried and yet hopeful sort of fellow who despite all the opposition dreamt of making products and building companies. The only catch here is that these fairy tales came true.After all my cribbing about how India is the Pits when it comes to being original, I though I might as well call on the only part of my life that remains un-jaded and write about that. Long before Cable Tv and multiple channels hit Indian households, we had the ever reliable “Doordarshan” supplying us with endless original entertainment. From legendary shows like the Mahabharata and Ramayana, when honest simple village folk would worship the “telly” on telecast and await a glimpse of their Gods to “Chandarkanta” (yeesh and Yakku to you too), Mowgli and my personal favorite “Krishi-darshan” (because that farmer speaking in Hindi would put me to sleep instantly hehe). It was an age where the common Indian would only get to know of Indian products. Despite the changes that have come about these products have survived to this day and are still making waves because of the entrepreneurs that dreamt them up.

I had a look through the ole “wiki”, through my old books on famous Indians and then their company websites and realized that here are honest to goodness success stories that do not have the stamp of a Family corporation or a multinational on it. Not that I have anything against the big guns of Indian Industry, it’s just that I root for the underdogs and these underdogs have real good bites.The first company that stood out was Nirma. The ad jingles still make me nostalgic and it was a story that I was familiar with. Dr. Karsanbhai Patel was only the son of a farmer but knowledge of chemistry and a desire to make a better life saw him make entrepreneurial history. Forget Steve Jobs forget Bill Gates, Karsanbhai made his own product with his own hands literally (in a bucket, in a shed no less) and built his company with real sweat and grit selling his wares door to door. The fact that Nirma was 10 rupees cheaper than the competition meant that Karsanbhai soon claimed a large chunk of the market. Fast Forward to 2004 when Nirma sold about 800,000 tones, making it one of the largest volume sales by a single brand name worldwide for that year (which means there was a lot of dirty laundry being washed somewhere)Establishing it quite firmly as a brand that has withstood the ravages of time and global economy with excellent humor. Nirma ads still show up on TV and the jingle has got a makeover which goes to show that you just can’t keep a good man down.

My next Home grown Entrepreneur was the savior of young men and women that sought clear beautiful skin and was responsible for many generous applications of turmeric cream on to my face which explains my good looks too…Though Shri K.V.Pendharkar is no more, the VICCO Group has become a part of Indian culture bringing Ayurveda to the masses like never before. Vicco Turmeric skin / sun screen cream, Vicco Vajradanti (lightning teeth???) powder and paste and Vicco SF (Sugar free) paste still command a respectable presence and represent the marriage of ancient science and entrepreneurship. About 15% of Vicco’s total production goes to overseas markets like Asia, Europe, America, Africa and Australia so even our NRI brethren can be beautiful like us.

The next product has family history, my uncle was a martial artist/pehelwan and in the “akhara”/dojo where there are many falls and bruises galore only one product came to their rescue. "Zandu" balm permeated the household after every tournament that my uncle participated in and thanks to his skills at inflicting pain, many others were also able to discover the benefits of the balm. “Zandu” is actually the nickname of the ayurvedic physician from Jamnagar, Gujarat who developed the product. Way back in 1864 he set up a 'Rasa Shala' to manufacture products for his personal practice. His grandson Shri Jugatram Vaidya was responsible for the pharmacy that makes Zandu's Natural Herbal products (Ayurvedic Products). Since 1910 Zandu Balm has been easing creaking backs and sore muscles and is sill going strong.

Every tourist season in Darjeeling we would know that our faithful customers have arrived. From the woolen wrapped figures shivering in, what was our summer (leading to much local laughter), to the chapped lips and conversations about the view of the Himalayas, one product was omnipresent, “Boroline”. It’s a well known fact that the world travelling Bengali has taken this humble cream in its green tube around the world. What is less known is that ”Boroline” is a symbol of economic sufficiency and “Swadeshi” entrepreneurship brought to life by Gourmohan Dutta in 1929. It also represents the powerhouse of Industry that was Bengal before the decay set in. The cream in the green tube however still travels the world with every intrepid Bengali and my Grandmother still uses itJ.

My last pick (maybe my knowledge only runs so far) is an advertising phenomenon and the most successful rural development model till date in India. The pride of Gujarat, “Amul” has flooded our homes with its products since 1946. It s Dairy Cooperative managed by Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), which today is jointly owned by some 2.8 million milk producers in “Gujjuland”.

Amul has not only made India the biggest producer of milk and milk products in the world but also is the world’s biggest veggie cheese brand. Under the leadership of Dr. Veghese Kurien “Amul” has entered markets like Mauritius, UAE, USA, Bangladesh, Australia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and a few South African countries. Its ad campaigns featuring the polka dotted butter loving girl has induced many a guffaw and laugh since the 30 odd years that “Amul” adopted her as their Icon.If I have missed any companies or Entrepreneurs it not deliberate maybe if you will point out who I missed I’ll write on them too. I hope that this refreshes our collective memories of what our country is capable of and what our entrepreneurs have achieved with the resources they had. More interestingly the link between science ayurvedic or otherwise is interesting seeing as how most entrepreneurs were science aficionados first. I have not offered my usual jibes and ripostes of wit buts that because I hold these men in sincere admiration for their unique contributions. History has lessons to teach us and I have shed but a little light on our “Swadeshi” Products and Entrepreneurs, hopefully someone will catch the clues in here. Jai Hind!!! J

About me:- I am a Content Writer and a Voice & Accent trainer. I also moonlight as an arm chair political thinker and economist. My views are usually cynical (take no heed) and hopefully enlightening. My views are mine and solely mine and in no way shape or form reflects the stance, leanings or ideology of yourstory.in

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If “Zandu” was making the pain go away, Dr. S. K. Burman was ensuring that Indian bodies and minds were gaining the full measure of nutrition and healthcare. Many an Indian child has grown up on spoonfuls of “Dabur Chawanprash”. The foundations of Dabur were laid by him more than a century ago in 1884. The brand name Dabur is in fact derived from the words 'Da' for ‘Daktar’ or ‘Doctor’ and 'bur' from Burman (and I did not make that up). His vision of serving people has burgeoned into the 4th largest company nationwide which makes about Rs. 2,834 Crore annually. The company has made the transition to the global market very nicely and boasts many ad campaigns featuring famous cricketers.
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