From WaghBakri to Symphony: A Look at How Gujarat’s Famous Brands Got Their Names

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From WaghBakri to Symphony: A Look at How Gujarat’s Famous Brands Got Their Names

| Updated: July 18, 2022 15:35

At the WaghBakri headquarters in Ahmedabad, one wall of the conference room is taken up by the reproduction of a “certificate” given to the group’s founder by Mahatma Gandhi. The handwriting and unmistakable signature attest to the fact that the Mahatma “knows Narandas Desai to be an honest and experienced tea estate owner in South Africa.”

Parag Desai, WaghBakri Group

It is not known if this letter of recommendation actually helped Desai when he returned to Gujarat to start a business in tea, but is does give a clue to the Gandhian’s choice of brand name. The 121-year-old WaghBakri emblem, which depicts a tiger (wagh) and a goat (bakri) drinking from a bowl together, is meant to symbolise the coming together of the weak and strong; rich and poor; bold and timid, over a cup of tea.

India’s tea industry was highly Anglicised in 1915, and it is so even today, with brand names like Tetley from the Tatas, Lipon and Brooke Bond from Unilever. But WaghBakri has managed to hold its own against these brands and is today the third largest packaged tea company in the country. It is undoubtedly the Numero Uno tea brand in Gujarat, the highest tea consuming state in the country. As for the name itself, there might have been a time it was looked down upon as provincial, but with every other multinational now embracing the Hinglish idiom, WaghBakri is uber cool.

Pradeep Chona, Former CEO Havmor

WaghBakri was born in an era when entrepreneurs chose brand names based on their instincts and their value systems. Ahmedabad’s famous Havmor brand of ice cream was actually born in Karachi and the name is a take on “Have More,” but with a Punjabi twist. “My Dad started this business on a hand cart way back in 1944 and he felt this was the best possible name for a food product. It’s like Rayban for goggles,” says former CEO Pradeep Chona. 

Havmor had expanded beyond ice cream to restaurants when Chona sold the brand to South Korea’s Lotte Confectionery in 2017. “It was a hard decision for me because I had an attachment to the brand. But the Koreans made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he says. Chona has gone on to launch several new restaurants with stylish brand names like 1944, HOCCO and Huber & Holly. Meanwhile Lotte has retained the Havmor name, a tribute to the brand’s power. 

Rajesh Gandhi, Vadilal Group

Vadilal is another Ahmedabadi ice cream brand that started small, as a single outlet in Ahmedabad, and it was named after founder Ranchodlal Vadilal Gandhi.

Piruz Khambatta, CMD Rasna

Branding itself was a nascent concept when WaghBakri, Havmor and Vadilal were launched. Today, it is a mature field and much research goes into picking a brand name. Take the case of Rasna. Founder Areez Khambatta launched his best-selling soft-drink concentrates in 1978 after consulting extensively with his advertising agency O&M. “My father wanted an Indian name that was simple. O&M came up with Rasna, which fit the bill,” says Rasna chairman & managing director Piruz Khambatta.      

The Amul brand name was also created by Verghese Kurien and Tribhuvandas Patel after consultations with several advertising agencies. Most people believe it is simply an acronym of Anand Milk Union Limited, but BM Vyas, former managing director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) says the process was more complicated than that: “The ad agencies initially proposed a series of English brand names and Dr Kurien liked some of them. But Tribhuvandas Patel insisted on an Indian name. Amul came from the word Amulya, meaning priceless. It also linked with Amul Milk Union, which was the clincher.”

BM Vyas, Former MD GCMMF

GCMMF originally marketed milk, butter and ghee under the Amul brand name. Later, when it launched curd, GCMMF created a sub-brand called Masti Dahi. “We were not sure of the success of the product since curd was then largely made at home. We named it Masti Dahi rather than Amul Dahi, just in case it flopped,” says Vyas. Amul has continued to employ this sub-branding strategy with new products like flavoured milk (Kool) and carbonated drinks (Tru).

Kulin Lalbhai, Arvind Group

The thought process that went into the creation of several of Ahmedabad’s oldest and most established brand names is now lost to posterity. For example, most people may think Arvind Mills was named after Arvind Lalbhai, but director Kulin Lalbhai is not so sure. “We know our great grandfather Kasturbhai Lalbhai wanted a name that started with A. Hence the name Arvind,” he says.

Achal Bakeri, Symphony Group

The Symphony brand was also born of a quest for a name starting with a lucky alphabet. Whether its Sakar, Surel or Shrinand Nagar, Bakeri Constructions has always given its buildings names beginning with S. When Achal Bakeri launched his air cooler brand in 1988, he decided to abide by the family tradition. “We wanted a brand name that denoted a certain lifestyle. We didn’t want a functional name that connected with coolers. And we wanted a brand name starting with S. Our ad agency came up with three options. I don’t remember what the other two were, but I chose Symphony.”

Choosing a dictionary word like Symphony is not without risks (though Bakeri says the danger of someone infringing on your brand is minimised if you register the brand name in the markets you operate in). Torrent Pharmaceuticals was originally named Trinity Laboratories. But when it entered the Tamilnadu market in 1976, it was hit with a law suit by another, more established Chennai-based company with the same name. Founder Uttamlal Mehta decided to settle out of court and changed the company’s name to Torrent. The rest, as they say, is history.

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