India at 75: Horlicks to Maggi - 15 unforgettable brands we grew up with
1. Horlicks: A glassful of energy
In the last 50-plus years, its popularity was helped by the White Revolution that transformed India into the largest producer of milk — a key ingredient for the malty drink. While competing against rivals like Bournvita, Boost and Complan, British pharma giant GSK enjoyed the lion’s share of the market thanks to its flagship brand. Two years ago, FMCG major HUL bought Horlicks after the merger of GSK’s consumer healthcare division.
2. IIM: Down to business
IIM Calcutta was, in fact, the first of the IIMs to take shape, on November 13, 1961. It was set up in collaboration with the MIT Sloan School of Management, the West Bengal government, the Ford Foundation, and the Indian industry. IIM Ahmedabad followed a month later. Also read: India at 75: Chelpark and 14 other brands that will take you back in time
Established as part of the nation-building process in 1961, each year thousands of students pass out from these 20 institutes and make their mark across streams.
3. IIT: A game of give and tech
Six of these, “the originals”, were established between 1951 and 1994, and have since grown to become 23-strong. The IITs have transformed India into a hub of innovation, of science and technology. They churn out entrepreneurs and problem-solvers. Healthcare, education, agriculture — the IITs have had an impact on all. Also read: India at 75: The Maharajah and 14 other brands that had great impact on us
Government of India’s estimates show that these institutions, where excellence is enhanced, may have contributed anywhere between $300 billion and $400 billion to the world economy.
4. IPL: Cricket carnival
The T20 format caught people’s imagination after India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007. IPL cashed in on that and soon became so popular that many leading world players have preferred to play in the league instead of representing their countries. Also read: India at 75: 'Hamara Bajaj' to Luna - 15 brands that you will never forget
Earlier this year, the media rights for the annual tourney, which stretches beyond 45 days were sold for a staggering Rs 48,390 crore for a five-year period.
5. ISI mark: OK, tested
Set up in January 1947, the Indian Standards Institution (ISI) gave way to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) after a 1986 legislation. The ISI mark continues to be provided by the BIS after testing of industrial products in its labs and is synonymous with quality standards in the Indian marketplace. By 2018, over 20,000 standards had been formulated by the bureau and are currently in force.
6. Jio: A phone in every hand
Suddenly, everyone seemed to be using smartphones. Jio’s cheap data plans extended its reach deeper and across social strata. Whether it was house helps, vegetable vendors, rickshaw-pullers or the upwardly mobile professions — everyone was equally connected. Also read: India at 75: Parle-G and 14 other brands inseparable from the India story
Months before the pandemic hit, Jio also launched a fibre-to-the-home service, which gained ground as the world was pushed to working from home. Now, 5G is on the way. Today, Jio is the largest mobile network operator in India and the third-largest in the world with close to 410 million subscribers.
7. Khadi: The national fabric
Over the past 75 years since Independence, the khadi movement has continued. An All India Khadi and Village Industries Board was created and then the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), a statutory body, was formed in 1957 through an Act of Parliament. KVIC is now what promotes Brand Khadi. Khadi is also a fashion statement. Prominent designers such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Ritu Kumar and Rohit Bal have employed the fabric for contemporary creations.
At the same time, leading clothing retailers like Fabindia have had to back down from using the charkha and selling apparel with the ‘khadi’ tag over trademark issues raised by the KVIC. The Indian government’s push for the idea of khadi is part of its ‘Make-in-India’ initiative. According to the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, KVIC clocked a turnover of Rs 1.15 trillion in FY22.
8. Kissan jam and ketchup: Jam session
Kissan made jams a staple in Indian households and led the ketchup segment until it was upstaged by Maggi. The Rs 500-crore brand has also empowered farmers, helping them gain expertise in cultivation, especially of tomatoes, and played a pioneering role in introducing now familiar items like canned fruits and baked beans.
9. Lakme: Glammed up
It was Simone Naval Tata, a Swiss-born Indian businesswoman from the Tata family, who understood the need to employ aggressive marketing strategies to break taboos around cosmetics and make Lakme a household name — with an affordable range of products suitable for Indian skin tones.
The brand roped in ’80s supermodel Shyamoli Verma as the Lakme girl. In the first Lakme ad, Verma is seen playing a range of Indian instruments — a blend of modernity and tradition. The Tatas sold their stake in Lakme to Hindustan Unilever in the late 1990s. The brand has stayed resilient and is now also the title sponsor for India’s bi-annual Lakme Fashion Week.
10. LIC: Companion for life, and beyond
India’s state-owned insurance and investment company was set up in 1956 by an Act of Parliament, and over 245 insurance firms and provident societies were merged to create this behemoth. The idea was to spread life insurance to rural areas and ensure that each insurable person had a financial cover.
Today, LIC has the largest network of insurance agents in the country — an army of 1.35 million individual agents (as of March 2021). That’s 55 per cent of the total agent network in India and 7.2 times the number of agents with the second-largest life insurer, SBI Life. At 82 per cent, LIC offers the highest return on equity. And, its market share is unparalleled globally — even though it has fallen from 100 per cent in the pre-2000 era to 64.1 per cent in 2020, according to a CRISIL report. Its IPO launched in May was the country’s biggest-ever, and it has recently broken into the Fortune 500 list.
11. Lifebuoy: Keeping health & hygiene afloat
It has since evolved into a family-oriented brand but its messaging has continued to focus on health. Owned by Hindustan Unilever, Lifebuoy first arrived on Indian shores in 1895. Unilever founder William Lever had introduced the heritage brand a year earlier to help contain the spread of cholera in England. More than a century and a quarter later, India remains the soap’s top-selling market, and the diverse range of products — hand washes to sanitisers — have helped the brand maintain its lion’s share and reassert its core claims in the face of a pandemic.
12. Lipton & Brooke Bond: To a tea
Tea has come a long way from Ceylon’s (now Sri Lanka) plantations. Much before Covid boosters, people looked to their shelves for Lipton tea to build immunity. The company ticked its consumers’ wish-list by giving them affordable quick-to-make tea in dip bags. In 1972, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) acquired Lipton and in 1977, Lipton Tea (India) was born. Some years later, in 1984, Brooke Bond, too, joined the mix through an international acquisition.
Brooke Bond earned a special place as a perfect companion for cosy get-togethers, rainy evenings and deep thoughts. Banking on warmth and the power of the beverage to bring people closer, the 115-year-old brand has managed to stand out. Tea today constitutes 80 per cent of HUL’s business.
13. Liv 52: Herbal healing
With the idea of commercialising Ayurvedic and herbal products to suit contemporary needs in mind, M Manal started the Himalaya Group in 1930. In 1955, it launched the Liv.52, a product with hepatoprotective (a substance that prevents damage to liver) effects that became the company’s identity. Liv.52 has been the only herbal medicine in India’s top-10 best-selling drugs.
Himalaya introduced a slew of products under the Liv.52 label, the most important being the Liv.52 HB — the first herbal drug for management of Hepatitis B infection. After years of dominance, Himalaya’s Neem Face Wash edged past Liv.52 as the top money-spinner. But for most people, Himalaya will always be the “Liv.52 company”.
14. Lux: Beauty soap of film stars
Filmi sitaron ka manpasand sabun was how Hindustan Unilever’s Lux was first launched in India in 1941, with Leela Chitnis as its brand ambassador. A line in the ad claimed: “9 out of 10 film stars use Lux toilet soap.”
To land an endorsement deal with Lux meant a new movie star had “arrived”. The relationship of the star with the brand was almost symbiotic. Targeting the upper- and middle-class, Lux was promoted as a luxury soap affordable for all.
From “Hema Malini’s dream-girl complexion” to “the light of Vidya Sinha’s smile”, the soap branded itself as the “secret behind beautiful faces” in the Hindi film industry. In 2005, Lux celebrated 75 years of its stardom, and for the first time featured a male celebrity (SRK, the baadshah) in a bathtub of rose petals with four leading ladies in a TVC.
15. Maggi: Instant hit
An offering from the house of Nestle, it came with the stamp of trust. A product of the industrial revolution, when women did not have enough time to cook after spending long hours working in factories, Maggi liberated a whole generation of Indian women who could now prepare something yummy for their kids in no time.
Maggi soon became synonymous with the category of fast-to-cook noodles. And while it firmly established itself in Indian homes, it also helped launch businesses. Maggi Joints and Maggi Points are a thing now, especially in universities and tourist destinations, particularly in the hills, where they serve piping hot bowls of the noodle prepared with onion, chilli, egg, broccoli, peas, cheese — even chicken.
The brand became embroiled in controversy in 2015 when it was banned for allegedly having high levels of lead. But once restored on Indian shelves, it quickly reclaimed its position as India’s favourite instant noodle.
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