After India shed its socialistic legacy, the country has become a breeding ground for world’s leading corporate brands. While most of these brands have emerged since the days of liberalisation, some of them are historic brands that date back to the pre-independence era. In this compilation, I have tried to collect a select few historic brands that have shed their old image and donned a new identity in sync with a nation in transformation. So don’t be perturbed if you can’t find great names like Godrej, ITC and Bata that have not changed their logos much.
Gattu to Gradient ribbon – Asian Paints
The origin of a brand that is India’s largest and Asia’s third largest paint company is surprisingly humble. In 1942, the founders, Champaklal H. Choksey, Chimanlal N. Choksi, Suryakant C. Dani and Arvind R. Vakil, chose their company’s name ‘The Asian Oil & Paint Company’, by picking a name randomly from a telephone directory! However, the founders of Asian Paints understood the concept of design much before any Indian company realised the value of branding and design. In 1954, they commissioned the famous cartoonist R K Laxman to design their mascot: “Gattu”.
After over four decades, Gattu was eventually phased out in 2002 during a rebranding exercise. Again in 2012, the Asian Paints logo was rebranded, but this time, the previous logo’s logotype has been kept intact, with a change of colour and accompanied by a gradient ribbon.
It is hard to forget the famous Bajaj Auto ad, “Bulandh Bharat ki bulandh tasveer, Hamara Bajaj!” Aired at a time when there was only one TV channel across India, that ad became imprinted in every young Indian’s mind. The company was founded in 1930 by Jamnalal Bajaj and soon the Bajaj brand gained a foothold in every Indian household through its omnipresent Bajaj scooter emblazoned with the hexagonal Bajaj logo.
However, the advent of liberalisation brought in a wave of latest technology Japanese bikes and scooters that made Bajaj look jaded. By early 2000s, motorcycle sales surpassed scooter sales and Bajaj Auto lost its market share to Hero Honda. In an attempt to recapture market share, Bajaj Auto restructured its business and launched new motorcycle models under a new brand. ‘Inspiring Confidence’ became the leitmotif of Bajaj Auto in 2004 with a dynamic, stylised and trendy ‘B’ with the logotype moving from lower caps to upper caps.
Banyan tree revitalised – Dabur
While Bajaj had to undergo a total transformation to shed its old jaded image, Dabur wanted to remain connected to its roots, literally! This homespun herbal specialist brand was started way back in 1884 by a Kolkata based doctor, Dr S K Burman. His name became so trustworthy that the company’s name ‘Dabur’ is derived from his name, ‘Daktar Burman’! The original logo had a banyan tree – a symbol of nature and protection – and a logotype underneath it.
The current logo adopted in 2004 retains the tree image, but gives it a dynamic and vibrant visual. The tree trunk mirrors the form for three people with their arms raised conveying exultation in achievement. The broad trunk represents stability and its multiple branches represent growth. The transformation in the company has reflected the change in its brand, which has become the world’s largest ayurvedic products company with a billion dollar turnover today.
Hindustan Lever to Unilever
Established in 1933, Hindustan Lever Ltd has dominated the Indian consumer goods market as though it was born in India. In fact many people did not even realise that it is an Anglo-Dutch multinational company until the company’s name was changed to Hindustan Unilever Limited! The erstwhile logo of Hindustan Lever had a bold typography in letter ‘H’ with a foundation of a steady effect of an angular, growing leaves, depicting the letters ‘LL’. The logo’s dark green colour lent an evergreen appeal to the visual that has high recall value even in current times.
Just before completing its 75 years in India, the company became Hindustan Unilever Limited in 2007 and adopted a new logo with a new visual treatment of 25 different icons inside the letter ‘U’ (signifying the organisation’s diversity). However, I feel the distinct leaf green image of HLL was far better than the present cluttered look of HUL logo!
Hero Honda to Hero Motocorp
Remember Hero Puch? The trendy 50CC handgeared moped was the favourite mode of transport for youngsters in 1980s. The moped’s manufacturer soon joined hands with a Japanese motorbike maker and a new brand was born. Hero Honda Motors began producing India’s first 100CC bikes that were light, easy to manoeuvre and affordable as well.
By the time the 5 millionth bike was rolled out in 2001, the joint venture between Honda and Hero Motors was beginning to wear out. Both the partners decided to separate amicably and in 2011, Hero Honda became Hero Motocorp. As part of its major rebranding exercise, a new logo was created utilising the negative space to depict ‘H’, forming as part of a ‘Closure’ technique. The designer also claims to have incorporated the Indian catapult in the design, which is not easy to spot! Whatever that is, the company’s rebranding was a phenomenal success with the “Hum mein hai Hero” TV ad becoming the anthem for the youth.