Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Peter Paradox

What will be your reaction if you stumble upon a man from Mannargudi who walks and talks like he was born and brought up in Manhattan? You’ll snigger at him, right? And if that farcical facade got on your nerves, you might just mutter: Enna da, eppidi Peter udraan (Tamil slang for – oh maan, what a pseud)!

Curiously, we don’t apply this derisive ‘Peter’ label to home-grown brands that appropriate very international-sounding names. We don’t mock at a Maharashtra-born ‘London Pilsner’ beer or a Ludhiana-made ‘Monte Carlo’ turtleneck. On the contrary, we seem perfectly fine if a local brand creates an aura of being European (Case in point: Fiama di Wills).

Strangely though, we do look down upon native brands that have a very native name. Somehow in our heads we grade a ‘Meenkashi’ as ‘downmarket’ while we’re happy to classify ‘Fish Eye’ as ‘uppity’. What our conditioned mind forgets is, ‘Fish Eye’ is but the English version of ‘Meenakshi’!

Funny, isn’t it? On the one hand, we make fun of people who are very put on. On the other hand, we are totally at ease with brown skin brands that pretend to be white skin. I’ve never quite fathomed this great Indian paradox.

Luckily, there are still a few brave hearts who are not at all ashamed to court consumers with Bharatiya names. Tanishq (Hindustani for Body Love) is a fabulous example. The company had a choice of riding on the super successful ‘Titan’. They could even have milked the mother cow ‘Tata’. But instead they boldly bet on Tanishq - without ever losing sleep over picking an ‘uncool’ brown skin name. The gamble was well worth the trick as the jewellery brand rakes in over 7000 crores of moolah, today.

The crunchy Hindi moniker Kurkure is another blockbuster brand that’s unabashedly desi. Come to think of it, Aashirvad Aata, Radio Mirchi, Vatika, Meera, Santoor, Aaj Tak, Rasna, Vimal, Mufti, and Amrutanjan have all been equally successful. Given this overwhelming evidence, you’d be surprised to know that only 3 in 10 brands launched in India opt for an Indian name. Makes you wonder if we are all just wannabe goras.