The other day I was watching the Hindi movie ‘Barfi’ and I felt that the hero’s name rhymes with Murphy. Later I realised that the hero’s deaf character is actually named after Murphy Radio! That triggered something in me and truck loads of nostalgic memories tumbled out of my mind. Today, in a billion people market like India, numerous brands jostle in the market to get a foothold into consumer’s mind. Back in those good old days of pre-liberalised India, there were a handful of brands in any industry category. When we look back, we find many of those brands faded away into oblivion along with their outdated technology. Here is an ode to the old Indian brands which ruled the Indian market:
The recent Anurag Basu movie ‘Barfi’ not only touched us with its heart-warming charm, but also made us sentimental about the bygone days. Set in the 1970s, the film depicts the story of Murphy “Barfi” Johnson who was named after the radio that was bought on the same day he was born. Back in the 1960s-70s, when radio was the only form of entertainment and information, Murphy Radio was the most powerful brand in India. Every household, actually every wealthy household had a Murphy radio or a Bush radio set, which was triode valve radio fitted inside a large wooden cabinet. The names of medium wave or short wave radio stations were labelled on the dial panel with two huge knobs for volume and tuning.
Those were the glory days of BBC, Voice of America, Radio Moscow and our own All India Radio. Vividhbharati, the colourful movie songs and trivia programme was transmitted by the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation due to a ban of film songs on Akashvani! Today, it is hard to find these radios even in junkyards! I got to know that the happening star of yesteryears Mandakini’s husband Kagyur Tulku Rinpoche was the cute face of Murphy brand. Yeh kahaani toh poora filmi hai!
Which city in India is synonymous for its local trains and taxis? Of course, amchi Mumbai! While things transform fast in this ever changing maximum metropolis, one thing that has not changed is the black & yellow iconic taxi. Premier Padmini, the name that unfolds a flurry of nostalgic memories from the good old days is alive and kicking in Mumbai. Originally named ‘Fiat 1100 Delight’, this cute and compact automobile was manufactured in India from 1964 to 2000 by Premier Automobiles Limited, under license from Fiat.
In the pre-liberalised era where its only competitor was the bulky Hindustan Ambassador, Premier Padmini flourished due to rising popularity among youngsters and women. As compared to the Ambassador, the car looked more modern in appearance, more fuel-efficient and was easy to drive. However, Premier Padmini was only available in petrol version and so was limited to the upper middle class. With the arrival of cheaper and more fuel-efficient cars from Maruti Suzuki in late 1980s, it was twilight life for the grand old lady of Indian automotive scene. But Premier Padmini found a second life when jugaadu Indian taxidrivers began refitting its engines with a gas kit to run on LPG or CNG!
Do the names Crown, Orson, Dyanora, Weston ring a bell in your mind… oh! My! Then you have serious case of Nostalgiphilia and you need to get treated soon! These were the brands that once ruled the Indian consumer durable market, particularly the television market. Leading among them was the Dyanora TV which had a bigger market share in South India. Launched in 1975, the brand belonged to the Dynavision Company, which was joint venture between Tamilnadu Industrial Development Corporation and an entrepreneur Obul Reddy. Dyanora benefitted from the limited competition in the market due to severe restrictions on manufacturing of TVs during the Licence Raj era.
The Dyanora TV was large solid sized cabinet enclosing a cathode ray tube and electronic circuit board. The front panel had space for speakers, buttons for volume tuning and channels. There were 8-10 buttons for TV channels, but there was only one channel – DD National! With the arrival of Japanese and Korean brands, Dyanora had to bid aideu from our lives. Onida is the only brand from that era that has survived the foreign brand onslaught!
When was the last time you went a nearby studio to process your film roll? Before the digital era dawned on us, how did we preserve old memories? Photographs on negative film and printed photos! What seemed like a normal activity for us today, it has become such a rarity. Konica and Kodak were the standard names, which had their branded colour labs ubiquitous in every Indian town. Although Kodak is known as the pioneer in photographic films and cameras, Konica has an equally ancient history tracing back in 1890s.
Konica entered India in the early 1980s and began selling its 35mm colour film rolls at Rs.120, while Kodak’s rolls were costlier. That was the era when it cost Rs.250 to get a set of 36 photos printed on a postcard size! Professional photographers used to mint money during weddings, festivals, religious ceremonies, charging a sizable sum for a photo session! By early 2000s, the decline of film photography had begun and in 2003, Konica merged with Minolta to form ‘Konica Minolta’. Soon in 2006, Konica Minolta exited the photography business completely and Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.