Historically, the Swadeshi movement started from Town Hall, Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 7 August 1905 to curb British products and improve the dependency on domestic production. Decades after the Swadeshi movement, the country is pushing hard to find economic footing. Nowadays, buying local products is an idea of contributing to the nation’s development. For the past couple of years, there has been nationalistic hype in the country and, again, a call to buy local products. So we went into a flashback to find out some of the home-grown brands that Indians have been using for generations, not because they are homemade but because they are downright incredible.
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It would be difficult to find a purse or a restroom shelf anywhere in West Bengal and across India without a green metallic tube, Boroline. Formulated in 1929 by Gourmohon Dutta, a Bengali merchant trying to establish a pharmaceutical company that would help the nation become self-reliant. Ninety-four years later, millions of Indians still count on multi-purpose perfumed antiseptic cream.
It was in early 1940 when four friends, Champaklal Choksey, Suryakant Dani, Chimanlal Choksi, and Arvind Vakil, assembled to start a business to sell household paint supplies. At that time, the market was impacted due to disrupted imports caused by the second world war. We all might have seen Gattu, the mascot of Asian Paints, which represents a tangled-haired young boy in half pant with a paintbrush and a bucket at his feet. Besides India, today, Asian Paints is a business monopoly across Asia.
In 1946, when the nationalist crusade was on the rise in Gujarat, Tribhuvandas Kishibhai Patel was quite influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and began a rebellious movement to help poor dairy farmers and landless labourers. He gathered a group of farmers to meet Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who suggested they form a cooperative of their own. Later, Amul played a crucial role in Operation Flood, which accelerated the growth of the Indian dairy industry. Over the years, Amul was synonymous with pop culture in the country thanks to advertising executive Sylvester da Cunha and art director Eustace Fernandez, who made Amul a pop culture by conceptualising Amul Girl. Amul’s popularity is still intact seven decades after its inception, and it is one of the most trusted brands in Indian households.
As the dark bottle of Old Monk is opened, you are hit by a strong aroma that brings you to your happy zone. Many Indians, even NRIs, feel nostalgic whenever they see a bottle with a sleek design and a jolly old friar logo. Probably, Old Monk would be the first drink we had tasted when we first started experimenting with alcohol. Manufactured by the brand Mohan Meakin in the 1960s, Old Monk has been a favourite dark rum for billions of Indians. The popularity of Old Monk is not restricted to India; it is sold globally, including in several countries in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.
A drink titled ‘Summer Drink of the East’ that has had the same popularity and acceptance across South Asian countries for generations can be easily seen in Indian grocery stores and pharmacies. Unani doctor Hakim Abdul Majeed started Hamdard Dawakhana to provide people with cures for heat strokes, dehydration and diarrhoea. He had no clue that he was creating a product that would last long unchanged for more than a century. Descendants of Hakim Majeed have taken Rooh Afza to neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, which also became popular in the Middle East.
Influenced by the Swadeshi movement, Silk merchant Mohanlal Dayal bought an old shut-down factory in Mumbai’s Vile Parle area, and his prime motive was to make it a confectionery. Actually, a few years ago, Mohanlal went to Germany to learn the art of making confectionery. He returned to India in 1929 with a confectionary machine which he bought for 60 thousand rupees to start probably India’s best biscuit brand and the world’s largest brand in terms of sales. Before the inception of Parle, the market was dominated by British brands like United Biscuits, Huntley & Palmers, Britannia and Glaxo. Parle came up with Made in India biscuit in 1939 for the people of India, which was also cheaper. Since then, the popularity of Parle G has been intact, and it is still one of the most consumed biscuits in India.
These brands have stood the test of time and have earned a special place in the hearts of Indian consumers with their quality, innovation, and commitment to excellence.