The Politics of Names

“I am from there. I am from here.
I am not there and I am not here.
I have two names, which meet and part,
and I have two languages.
I forget which of them I dream in.” 

- Mahmoud Darwish

Spirited Away
Nomenclature is a tricky thing. The name lies at the beginning of all deeds and at the end of memory. It is sometimes the burden of infamy or the herald of conquest. Wars have been fought over names. Names are often mired in the quicksand of a person’s identity, or a person’s politics.

In Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, the witch Yubaba enslaves her servants at the bathhouse by stealing their names, and consequently giving them a new name. The simple act of renaming someone in a fantastical universe becomes a metaphor for bondage. Thus, the protagonist’s journey to gain freedom from the spirit world and release her parents from a spell that turned them into pigs, is connected closely with the theft of her name. It is her very identity – the one thing that Yubaba the witch cannot truly take away from her. The name is associated with memory, belief, nostalgia, conviction, and holding on to a different and more familiar reality.


Brand social responsibility 2.0

  21st Nov 2013, Business Standard

The country's largest fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), has just kicked off Project Sunlight, simultaneously with Unilever's other markets, to compile the social missions of its many brands. It is an attempt to invite consumers to get involved in doing small things to help their own families, others and the planet. In India, HUL will highlight brands such as Lifebuoy (cleanliness), Dove (improving women's self esteem) and Knorr (work with farmers).

It is a manifestation of how brands are combining CSR with business objectives.

HUL has been scaling up initiatives for social good across brands. Its recent Domex Toilet Academy, for example, has the objective of building 24,000 toilets by 2015 in areas where there is lack of sanitation. The motivation came from the increasing importance its parent Unilever is giving to the cause of social good as espoused in its "Sustainable Living Plan" flagged off three years ago.

Besides specific sustainability targets, managers at HUL were asked to interpret a social purpose in the local context. The lack of basic sanitation afflicts Indians is well-known in a country which accounts for almost 60 per cent of open defecation in the world.

HUL saw an opportunity to plug its brand Domex, a toilet cleaner competing with Harpic from Reckitt Benckiser. Hemant Bakshi, executive director, home & personal care, HUL, says, "We realise the importance of the need for safe and hygienic sanitation practices. We have an important role to play to help make our communities free of open defecation. As a brand, Domex can make toilets free of disease and safe to use."

Under Lifebuoy, the company has been running a large school contact programme to help sensitise children to the need to wash their hands. Experts say, it is a clever marriage of social and business objectives. By targeting children and instilling in them the need to use a soap to wash hands, HUL is playing a good corporate citizen, even as it creates a ready market in the schools and among the parents of the students.

Tanishq and Havells, through their recent ad campaigns, have been questioning so-called taboos. Tanishq's on-going campaign for its bridal collection, where it portrays remarriage of a woman with a child, has been noted as a break-through by pundits on social media (though, a similar trope had appeared in a Femina ad in 2001).

Havells, the electrical components and appliances brand, touched on issues such as inclusivity (a domestic help being asked to join her employer-family for dinner at the table) and women's rights (a husband's decision to adopt his wife's surname) in its summer campaign this year. Vijay Narayananan, vice-president, marketing, Havells, admits the campaign did stir people enough, making them sit up and take notice of the brand. Launched at a time when the clutter is high on television, Narayanan says the campaign induced recall in a low-involvement category such as fans.

Tata Tea's Jaago Re campaign, meanwhile, has evolved into a viable platform for change. Jaago Re's current edition, coinciding with the relaunch of Tata Tea Gold, dwells on how women should not be ignored by politicians since they constitute 49 per cent of the voter base. Harish Bhat, MD, Tata Global Beverages, says, "At a time when the country is gearing up for elections, it made perfect sense to dwell on this aspect."

As corporate social responsibility (CSR) becomes mandatory for Indian companies, the seriousness with which most are approaching it has increased. Gautam Chemburkar, partner, KPMG, says, "From something that was tracked by a small team, CSR has moved up as a key item on the CEO's list. By making it mandatory for companies to disclose what they've done with the two per cent of profits they now have to set aside for CSR activities, companies will track where the money will go, since it will form part of their distributable profits."

According to industry estimates, the likely obligation arising out of the CSR Bill, which comes into force next fiscal, will be $2 billion (or Rs 12,400 crore). This is if the cumulative profit of India Inc will be $100 billion (or Rs 6.2 lakh crore) by then.

Chemburkar says the Indian corporations can't afford to ignore such an amount. "If earlier companies paid lip-service to CSR, restricting their efforts to communities around their factories, today the scope of their operations has increased," Alpana Parida, president, DY Works, a Mumbai-based brand consultant, says.

Beauty major L'Oreal has just announced its commitment to transform the way it does business by 2020, spanning the entire value chain from manufacturing, marketing to business development. L'Oreal, like Unilever, hopes to touch consumer lives with not only sustainable products, but also initiatives that can help make a difference.

Alpana Parida is president of DY Works (erstwhile DMA Branding).

A Great Experience

Like every other new joinee, I was extremely perturbed before entering DY Works. What will the place be
like? How will the people be? Will I learn new things? How will my experience be? These questions kept playing on my mind, but I was put to ease at the end of my first day itself.

The ambiance was much more relaxed and friendly than I expected. I admired how people had so much to do and yet took the time out to speak to and explain things to a new person. It did not take me long to realize that DY Works was a closely- knit organization, with a management that truly cared for the welfare of everyone. I was amazed at how they had a massage and yoga session during office hours.

I think one of the most fun days at DY Works was when we had to create the letters of ‘DON’T STOP’ in a
three- dimensional, creative and unique way. It was amazing how every team came up with something so brilliant and unique. Another fun day was the day when we celebrated Diwali with the decorations, games, food and bonding. Though there was a lot of work, many such wonderful experiences filled my time here.

My experience here was truly like no other. I had come here to learn and I managed to learn a considerable amount about marketing. Whenever I had too much work that was boring and taxing, there was always a fun assignment in the middle. One such assignment was that of making word maps, which I found really cool. As I put together presentations, I learned some interesting things about the coffee market and the hair care industry. I liked how, there was someone (Ashita) always there whenever I had any questions, concerns, to teach me things, to review my work and in general.

There was a lot of work, but it also came with a considerable amount of learning. The leading FMCG client based team - Ashita, Snehal and Vinay- which seemed like the team that burnt the midnight oil way too often, was great and it was a pleasure working with each one of them. As I said, my experience at DY Works was wonderful and I will definitely miss the people, work and the experience, as I go back to my life as a college student.

By Neha Daswani
Marketing Intern,
DY Works


Branding and Packaging in the Dairy Category: India vis-à-vis International markets

The role of advertising for fast moving consumer categories ends after creating awareness for a product. In today’s cluttered media space where advertisers are constantly fighting for recall and top of mind awareness for their brands, whether the customer decides to buy a product of a certain brand or not, is more often than not decided on the aisles of the modern retail store or the local kirana store where she actually gets to see, touch and feel the product (packaging). And not at the time that she is exposed to the TV commercial or the press ad. Yet, packaging is still to get its due in the Indian scenario.The dairy category in India however has seen some interesting developments in recent times that are indicative of a new trend.

Branding in the dairy category in India

Over the years with the advent of modern retail, Indian brands have been focusing more than before on the packaging of their products so as to lure the fickle consumer.Dairy is one such category that has been seeing innovations in packaging. Amul and Nestle ruled the roost for a good many years. But with the arrival of other local, national, and international brands like Britannia, Mother Dairy, Go, Danone, Kraft, etc. the competition has stiffened. All brands are fighting for shelf and mind space. Blue and Yellow colours seem to be predominant in the category with most brands belonging to one or the other colour palette.  Internationally, the entire colour palette has been used for the dairy category. Primarily since dairy products there are available in a lot more formats, flavours and varieties than they are in India, the ingredient story is built on the pack very prominently. With the arrival of these newer formats in India, the pack graphic design scene will surely see changes here as well.

‘Go’ as a branding case study is interesting. When it came in with its new packaging, it immediately cut the clutter with its bold logotype and imagery in an otherwise sedate looking category. Interestingly, for its non-traditional dairy products like flavored yogurts and various cheese spreads among others, it went with the name ‘Go’ which is nothing but an extension of the mother brand ‘Gowardhan’. The brand architecture was designed smartly so that the new child brand gained from the equity of the mother brand but at the same time had a distinct identity of its own since it very clearly targeted a different consumer set than brand Gowardhan did.


Design Vacuum

 19th Nov 2013, The Financial Express - Brand Wagon

As you drive around any metro or even a small town in India, you see mushrooming buildings of steel and
glass framing an emerging skyline. These buildings are modern, cookie cutter boxes, with tons of glass and steel and are clones of any such edifices in the world—be it Dubai, London, Singapore or
New York.
Anyone who knows India knows of the dust and dirt on the streets. In that scenario, glass? The cleaning systems are rudimentary—and square feet after square feet of glass is difficult to keep clean.
The glass surfaces everywhere have begun to collect visible amounts of dust and dirt—and each building spends enormous resources on fighting this battle. And that is just the problem with some of the functional aspects.
The inspirations for architecture in India could have been many—from digging into the rich tapestry of architecture and design history of India, to the understanding of local materials that are both environment friendly and cost efficient, to an inquiry into Indian public spaces and the collective expressions in those. The starting points of inspiration are many.

India is a land of transposed design. Indeed, I believe this to be a theory true for most developing nations.
Progress means picking up designs from the developed nations of this world and super-imposing them on the developing nations—with little thought or attention to local contexts.
Why does this happen? Why has the power of design been consistently overlooked by developing nations in everything—from airports to large hydel dams, from consumer products to malls, from clothing to automobiles? There are no more than a handful of local insights or solutions.

In a country that is hot and humid— like India is, men’s collars turn black and grimy every day, detergents sell proverbial tons thanks to their ability to clean collars and yet in the shirt wearing history of modern India, there is no record of any innovation on the collar. It is not that this is a nation of people who lack the intellectual capital. Far from it. Nor a nation that does not show an entrepreneurial orientation to adopt
new ideas.

Again, far from it. Then why is design not part of the Indian consideration?
The answer lies in history. In 1657, an Elizabethan era of scientific inquiry, when the western world was inventing the pendulum clock and understanding the principles of probability—Aurangzeb, a particularly ruthless and regressive Mughal emperor was ascending the throne of India.
By 1757, when the spinning jenny was heralding the industrial revolution, changing the way people lived and worked and giving the first taste to capitalists of the profits to be enjoyed through industrial design, the seeds of belief in the power of design were sown. When the first cars and the Macadamization of roads were defining a new way of life, India fought and lost its first battle of independence, the Battle of Plassey, to the
East India Company, which quickly established the latter’s rule. The ammunition and ships they brought with them helped them establish a stronghold in the country. And the systematic plunder of India’s natural resources and the decimation of local enterprise began as even the most basic commodities such as salt and sugar began to be imported. This was also an era when imported fabrics from Manchester took over the local markets and local weavers and craftsmen began losing their livelihoods. This then, is the beginning of a super-imposition of external sensibilities and aesthetics on the local population. Local enterprise shriveled and toeing an imperialist line was mandatory for economic profit. The power of design was completely absent.
In another 100 years, by 1857, the zipper, the safety pin, the fax machine, fibre optics (yes, 1857!) and hydrogen fuel cells were all invented, while India fought and lost the second battle of independence—also called the Sepoy Mutiny depending on which side of the Himalayas you come from. It was importing everything finished and designed and was exporting everything raw and unprocessed. Every bit of value addition was done outside the country—and there was never an economic benefit of design that was demonstrated to the local population. Everything indigenous was slowly lost.

A decade after India gained independence, in 1957, India was trying tocatch up with the world. And it transposed development into India. The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad— was modeled after Harvard Business School. The architect—Louis Kahn— designed what was perhaps his finest work, but with no integration of the Indian societal context in design. The management education in India needed to
understand the social context of sons inheriting family businesses and needed to enable them rather than
create managers for multinationals companies selling soaps and detergents and a well-segmented demographic. The Indian Institute of Technology was modeled after MIT, medical schools were set up and all indigenous forms of knowledge in medicine and sciences, to say nothing of the arts and crafts, were fading. The world had already tasted space travel, nuclear energy and computers and India was in a hurry to stay abreast with the world.

The same was true in case of large infrastructure projects such as hydel projects or big engineering projects. There was never a search or a debate about local micro solutions that maintained the local ecological balance and became a source of livelihood rather than uprooting the local population.
In this historically challenged world of transposed development, the Indian entrepreneur never learnt the fruits of design thinking and manifestation. The economic power of a new idea, service or product that met the local needs was generally not experienced. The luggage that needed to become a seat at the crowded railway station never got made.

This dependence on transposed thought extends to the word of branding as well. Not only is the product design cut and pasted outside the context, so is the brand, its positioning and its packaging.
Local studies in semiotics and mining of deep cultural insights to understand implications on design and brand creation is often not practiced in category after category.

When Amul decides to propagate the much vilified ghee, by saying one spoon a day is good for you or Cadbury identifies a place for chocolate as a mithai equivalent—the brands see a sudden explosion in the market place. It is my belief that a deep cultural connection is necessary for a successful
brand and product design to exploit the market potential to its fullest.

Alpana Parida is president of DY Works (erstwhile DMA Branding). The views expressed here are her own.


"Innovate or Die is the Mantra"

7 Nov 2013, Print Week India

On the first day of Print Fair, Alpana Parida of D Y Works stressed the necessity of innovation for the printing businesses to survive.
In her presentation 'Printing Industry - The Next', for more than 60 delegates in the audience, Parida showcased how it is important for any business to define itself. Citing the example of Kodak, Parida said, "When a business is defined in relation to the technology, they tend to fail as the technology matures and advances," said Parida.

She shared an instance where a manufacturer of printed bags, when they found no value addition in the jobs being produced, started making security envelopes for banks. "Today, he is not just a printer but a security solution provider," added Parida.

Parida highlighted the fact that there is very little integration between the three important aspects of a job namely substrates, design and printing. She said that there has to be a synergy between these three to bring about innovative concepts that would make the printed products more relevant in a world where print seems to be on a decline.

Parida observed few industry trends such as decline of personalised printing, move towards sustainability, down-gauging of packaging,  functional packages, making packaging to work harder namely as point of sale etc.

"Change is the only constant; the sooner we learn and plan accordingly, it is better for our business," concluded Parida.

PrintWeek India, in collaboration with Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai, is hosting ‘Print Fair’, a five-day event to showcase the depth and breadth of top print work and print ideas in India. The show runs from 6 to 10 November at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai.

By Rushikesh Aravkar

Alpana Parida is President of DY Works , a leading brand strategy and design firm