The venerable Tirupati laddu is all set to join a distinctive list of goods like Champagne (wine), Darjeeling (tea) and Kancheepuram (silk) whose distinctiveness lies in their geographical origins. Champagne, the experts have it, isn’t something that can be grown and bottled in Bhatinda, no matter how much the recipe mirrors the ‘real’ bubbly. So when you talk Champagne, you talk about only the sparkling wine from the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes cultivated within a designated area in the northeastern part of France. Thus, the sparkling wine, Marquis de Pompadour, cannot be marketed as Champagne.
The question that leaves us puzzled is whether the Tirupati laddu is worthy of such a strict tag. Like other laddus, the ‘Tirupati’, too, is made of flour, sugar, clarified butter, cardamom and dry fruits. There is no patent on this formula. Devotees are given an orb free of charge when they seek the blessings of Balaji. Just insisting that it tastes “like no other laddu in the world”, alas, won’t cut any ice. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD)-made laddu may rock, but it’s still not ‘unique’.
For those whose job it is to worry about intellectual property rights, the Tirupati laddu is worthy of a B-school case study. When India and Pakistan are struggling to register basmati rice as a geographical indication, the hullabaloo about the Tirupati is baffling for the non-faithful. Is the good Lord listening?