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Amul's India chronicles the story of the 50-year-young girl in blue ponytail and red polka dots and how she won the hearts of Indians across ages. It is the contemporary history of the country, told in one hoarding at a time. It is also the success saga of the dairy giant's ad campaign that grew from a solitary lamppost board in ‘Bombay' to 132 billboards on 90 sites in 69 cities — that too by not selling the product directly, but placing the brand inside our minds.
It all began with the Milkman of India, Verghese Kurien, giving a free hand to the ad agency, daCunha Communications. Its chairman Sylvester daCunha and art director Eustace Fernandes created the lassie, with her praying by the bedside being their first hoarding: "Give us this day our daily bread — with Amul butter". Since then, she has given us our daily wit, becoming an oasis of cheer amid the economic gloom of the 1970s and poking fun at the political villains of the 1990s and taking a dig at the Bollywood wagon all along.
In such a newsy and nuisancy country, finding a topic should be a butterwalk. No, says Rahul daCunha, who heads the creative team. "The south does not really speak Hindi. The east does not really watch Bollywood. Most of India is clueless about what happens in Mumbai. And the Hindi belt is obsessed with local politics." There begin his Monday morning blues.
Yet, the Amul girl has a take on all that is happening around: the first test tube baby (Taste tube baby), Ramayana on TV (Ravan-ously Hungry?), the introduction of value-added tax (VAT lag gayi!), Kiran Bedi's ouster from Tihar (Put her back in jail), volatile Sensex (Nonsensex), Narasimha Rao's alleged nexus with a pickle baron (Bhrasht aachar?), the Commonwealth Games scam (Incurable India!), Anna Hazare's fast (Kha na, Hazare!) and Mamata Banerjee's hatred for cartoons (Kolkartoon).
But the utterly jibes had its share of jittery too. ‘Satyam, Sharam, Scandalam' didn't sit well with the IT firm, which threatened to ban Amul products from the Satyam campus. There were a bunch of other controversies too, but the little girl has withstood the tests and tastes of time with patience — unlike the Onida's Devil, the Liril girl, and Air India's ageing Maharaja.
And how she won the love is interesting too. DY Works president Alpana Parida likens her to a butter-loving Krishna, commentator Harsha Bhogle sees a cricket fan in her, socialite Shobhaa De finds a feminist, and ad man Alyque Padamsee calls her the Barbie of India.
Nicely packaged with ample polka dots, the book is littered with vignettes and a collection of Amul's choicest ads. An utterly, butterly delicious treat, and you are never going to get fed up.
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 30-07-2012)