When India opened the doors to its market in 1991, it allowed an influx of international brands looking to claim a slice of its large consumer pie. But the year also marked the end of the road for many brands which had enjoyed a monopoly over the Indian market.
For some, competition proved too tough, while for others, already struggling to keep afloat, liberalisation was the final nail in the coffin. The white Ambassador, once the favourite car of India’s politicians and bureaucrats, ended production in 2014, after sales dwindled drastically. Luna Moped, which famously rode to success with its ‘Chal Meri Luna’ tagline, found itself in the doldrums as the moped market started shrinking in the 1990s.
Other brands are still around, but their star has dimmed. Ritu Nanda’s NikiTasha kitchenette, which manufactured home appliances, still retails on e-commerce sites, but has only a few takers. The stylish Avis jeans, which distinguished you as a fashion-forward dresser before the 90s, pales in comparison to the Levis and Lee Coopers today.
A look at seven other brands which gradually disappeared from the scene post-liberalisation:
1. Premier Padmini: At the height of its popularity in the 1970s and 80s, the Premier Padmini was a symbol of luxury and glamour. It was the natural choice for youngsters, women and celebrities, in contrast to the Ambassador’s stuffy image as the bureaucrat’s car. ‘Pad’, as it was referred to, was manufactured by Premier Automobiles under license from Fiat. But India’s favourite car couldn’t survive the strict pollution norms and the fleet of modern, more efficient cars from multinational companies. In 2000, the company ceased manufacturing. Padmini does live on in the ‘kaali-peeli’ taxis on Mumbai roads, but a 2013 order calling for the ban of vehicles older than 20 years might end Padmini’s ride forever.
2. Gold Spot: “The zing thing”, as proclaimed in its advertisement , was Parle’s answer to international cola brands. The fizzy orange soda proved a hit with children and young people, sold by vendors in large tubs filled with ice to keep the glass bottles chilly. After international brands such as Coca Cola and Pepsi arrived on the Indian scene, Parle’s hold on the Indian soft drink market started slipping. In 1993, Parle sold Limca, Thumbs Up and Gold Spot to Coke. While the other two drinks still enjoy their old popularity, Gold Spot was phased out to make way for Coke’s own orange drink, Fanta.
3. Yezdi Motorcycles: The Yezdi bikes were the result of collaboration between Czech company Jawa and a Mysore-based firm, which was called Ideal Jawa. The hardy bikes made appearances in many films, but lost out to the more fuel-efficient Japanese motorcycles. Though production stopped in the 1990s, Yezdi motorcycles have retained their cult status among their loyal fan base.
4. Big Fun Bubblegum:Wildly popular in the 1980s, Big Fun bubblegum can be credited for inaugurating the chewing gum craze among Indian kids. During the cricket world cup in 1987, in a super-hit promotional strategy, they started offering collectible photos of Indian cricketers at the back of the wrapper. By the early 90s, however, Big Fun had been completely wiped out. But the brand still finds pride of place in many cricket anecdotes as a footnote , with cricket fans recalling the excitement with which they bought and unwrapped Big Fun just for the pictures.
5. Dyanora Television: One of the first television brands in India, Dyanora meant an elevated social standing in the neighbourhood. The screen had shutters on both sides which were kept closed when the set wasn’t running. And every time you needed to turn the volume up or down, you had to walk up to the set and fiddle with the knobs. Dyanora benefited from the license raj, but competition from international brands such as Sony, Phillips, Samsung and LG meant it had to be turned off forever.
6. HMT watches: A 2016 government order sounded the final chime for HMT, approving an earlier proposal to shut down the ailing PSU. HMT was the undisputed king of watches in India, the ideal coming-of-age gift. While many rued the watchmaker’s end, it was a mixture of changing technology and arrival of Tata’s Titan venture , which sealed the beleaguered HMT’s fate.
7. Vijay Super Scooters: During their heydays in the late 1970s, Vijay Super Scooters zipped around on Indian roads. In 1983, the government gifted a Vijay Super to every member of the World Cup winning Indian cricket team. Scooters India Ltd, a Lucknow-based state-run enterprise, had bought the rights to manufacture the Italian scooter Lambretta in 1972 and the Vijays were the Indian children of that deal. By 1997, the company had ceased two-wheeler production and was instead concentrating on its other product, the three-wheeler Vikrams.