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Maharaja may take a back seat in Air India rebranding

Jul 11, 2023 10:49 AM IST

Air India’s new management has maintained the Maharaja will continue to be part of the airline, but the executives now say the mascot will likely not remain in the same role

The iconic mascot of Air India, the Maharaja, is set to take a back seat in the new branding plan finalised by its new management under the Tata Group, two key executives close to the development said, without divulging details.

Air India’s logo ’Maharaja’. (AFP File Photo)

The rebranding, which is likely to be announced next month and will be implemented by the end of 2023, includes a new logo and livery, and a fresh tagline, they said, declining to be named.

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The current logo of Air India, in use since 2014, shows a red swan with the orange Konark Chakra image on it. It is also displayed on the tail of Air India’s aircraft.

Air India’s new management, after the government sold it last year, has maintained the Maharaja will continue to be part of the airline, but the executives now say the mascot will likely not remain in the same role.

The Tata Group hired Prasoon Joshi-headed McCann Worldgroup India to improve the airline’s branding.

Air India did not respond to queries despite repeated attempts.

The 76-year-old Maharaja was designed in 1946. Umesh Rao, an artist with an advertising agency, along with Bobby Kooka, Air India’s then commercial director, had created it, which became the Air India’s brand icon. It has since been closely associated with the airline’s identity.

Air India no longer wants to connect the Maharaja with the modern era, the executives said.

“The Maharaja personified high living or royalty since air travel back then was not as common or easy for the common man,” one of them said. “Hence, it seems to be a disconnect for the era. The airline was considering doing away with it, but it has decided to let the mascot remain but in a different role.”

The Maharajah mascot has been synonymous with the airline, but the airline would use it to its benefit, an expert said. “If the airline is thinking on these lines, then they surely may have plans (on the Maharaja mascot). It will all depend on how they use it,” said Piyush Pandey, a brand consultant and executive chairman at Ogilvy India.

On being asked the timeline for the changes to be implemented by the airline, a second executive said: “The airline aims to bring in all the changes by the year end.”

The airline in the coming months is set to receive the country’s first A350 aircraft that will consist of the premium economy cabin. The airline is expected to receive 40 new aircraft, including Boeing 737 MAX by the end of 2023.

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