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Maharaja takes a back seat as revamped Air India unveils new colours, logo, livery

By, New Delhi
Aug 11, 2023 07:50 AM IST

The rebranding, widely watched since the company bought the carrier from the government 18 months ago, is part of a $400 million plan.

Air India launched a new logo and livery on Thursday, unveiling a sweeping new rebranding could be conspicuous by the absence of its famous mascot, the Maharaja, a decision that the Tata Group-owned airline’s executives said was meant to reflect a pivot to more global audiences.

Tata Sons chairman N Chandrashekaran and Air India CEO and MD Campbell Wilson during the unveiling of Air India's new logo in New Delhi on Thursday.(PTI)

The rebranding, widely watched since the company bought what was once a heavily indebted carrier from the government 18 months ago and began reviving it, is part of an $400 million plan that involves purchases of hundreds of new jets, hiring of thousands of new staff and flying to dozens of new destinations.

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“Rumours of Maharaja’s death are greatly exaggerated, he will live on,” said Campbell Wilson, managing director of Air India, during the launch of the rebranding inspired by the jharokha, a style of making ornate windows in the classical Indian architecture. The choice symbolises “window of possibilities”, he said.

The rebranding includes a design with golden, red and purple colours that replace the old logo of a red swan with orange spokes.

In an exclusive report on July 11, HT had said that the mascot would lose its prominence when the airline get rebranded.

Wilson added the Maharaja will now mainly feature on Air India’s domestic flights and not on its international services, since the mascot is not as relatable to an international customer base.

“Values of the Maharaja will be retained. It is relevant to Indian diaspora but not necessarily to the global audiences,” he said.

“We (the new management) wanted to take the essence of the Maharaja the warmth of hospitality service and the ethic, and distil it down not just into the way that we behave, which is going to be obviously part of our DNA, but also in the way that we use it to carry forward some of India’s legacy in a classy and elevated way,” he added.

In a short video presented by Wilson, the mascot was attired with accents of the new colours.

“We have gold of the Maharaja on glassware, on fine crockery in the premium cabinets, which we feel is a very nice way to represent India to different market segments so that they (passengers) understand the history in the class of your Indian whiteboard logo, essentially, for premium services being offered for credentialisation of the Maharaja,” he said.

Bhumika Shah, creative director at FutureBrands, the creative agency behind the rebranding, said: “Instead of losing the equity of the Maharaja altogether, we’ve used very elevated touch points that can be used in a subtle manner. In the slightly more luxurious experiences, like on the cutlery, we plan to use him in certain very premium segments of the brand like boxes of chocolate and others.”

Shah added that the agency carried out studies and found that the portly, moustachioed mascot was relatable to older generations but did not resonate as well with younger people. “Nobody knows about the Maharaja because he’s wild, he’s just been slapped on everywhere in various parts of the experience or journey --- wherever you go into the airport and all, he’s used when he is frivolous,” Shah said, adding that the approach now is to make sure the mascot is featured more sparingly.

“We have made him a little slim and given him essences of the elements that were created as the new visual identity to go on to his cuffs. The little peaks of the window that we created went on to his ‘sherwani’ and we cleaned up his turban a little bit and made it a little less busy looking. He also looks a little younger, a little cooler,” Shah added.

The first new jets with the new livery will fly out in December this year when the first of the new Airbus A350s enter the fleet, Wilson said.

The company is spending $400 million to refurbish the interiors of its planes, which will include new seats in every cabin. “By March 2024, 33% of the airline’s wide-body fleet will be upgraded, and over the next two-and-a-half years, its entire long-haul fleet will be reborn,” said the company in a statement.

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