Changing the name of a company is a complicated process. Not just in terms of the paperwork and logistics involved, but also in terms of marketing. However, over the past few months, several major companies have traded in their old names for newer tags to indicate a change in strategy.
While some companies have just tweaked their names, others have shed old names for new ones. “This is driven largely by circumstances that are either voluntary—such as a change in strategy—or involuntary—as in the case of mergers, acquisitions or change in management,” said Harish Bijoor, chief executive, Harish Bijoor Consults, Inc.
A few weeks ago, Timex Watches Ltd dropped “watches” from its name, a clear indicator that it was moving beyond, well, just watches. The new name, Timex Group India Ltd, served the company’s new corporate plan, which was to move from a one-point product and communication strategy to a broad-spectrum approach encompassing other verticals such as luxury watches and jewellery.
“The change in name was driven largely by our decision to align our operations with the global group,” said Kapil Kapoor, senior vice-president, Asia-Pacific, and managing director, Timex Group.
Zee Telefilms Ltd changed to Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd as it moved into newer areas, while BAG Films Ltd is now BAG Films & Media Ltd and Spice Ltd became Spice Mobile Ltd early this year.
“The name, Spice Ltd, did not reflect the company’s core business. And after we got into the mobile handset business in a big way, it was important that the name highlight our core business area,” said Preeti Malhotra, company secretary and president corporate affairs, Spice Group.
“A far greater number of changes in company names than there were five years ago is a clear reflection of the flux in corporate circles as opposed to five years ago,” said Anand Halve, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.
Halve identified five catalysts for a company to change its name: mergers and acquisitions, change in the nature of business, taking a local business abroad, integration of various businesses, and the need to have a name that will reflect the characteristics and philosophy of the brand.
A name change for a closer alignment with the parent company can be listed under the last catalyst. For instance, Hindustan Lever Ltd changed over to Hindustan Unilever Ltd earlier this year. While India’s largest auto maker, Maruti Udyog Ltd, is now known as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. The change in name was initiated to give the auto company a more international feel with the representation of majority stakeholder Suzuki Motor Corp. in the name, while retaining the brand equity of its Indian name, “Maruti”.
Others do it to represent expansion in business areas, just as Apple Computer, Inc. decided to drop “computer” from its name in January, to represent a company that makes a whole range of products beyond computers, such as iPods, iPhones and other portable media players.
Companies sometimes choose to use acronyms of their name to project a new image that is global and more inclusive of their business expansions. So the use of Wipro Ltd instead of Western India Vegetable Products Ltd to represent a company that sells more than vegetable oil, or IBM Corp. instead of International Business Machines Corp.
Kotawala India Ltd’s changeover to Suave Hotels Ltd reflects not just a shift in strategy, but also a shift from self-proclamation to consumer orientation.
Not all such changes are voluntary, though. Mergers and acquisitions necessitate change in names. “So, just as Indian women after her marriage may choose to adopt a new name or a hyphenated name, companies too change or hyphenate their names to reflect a new alliance or acquisition,” said Chlorophyll Brand & Communications Consultancy’s Halve.
UTI Bank Ltd had no choice but to switch over to a new name—Axis Bank Ltd—before the January 2008 deadline. That’s till when the bank had the rights to use the name of its erstwhile parent, the Unit Trust of India. UTI Bank was hived off from UTI in 2002.
The new name, experts say, will help the bank shed its unintended association with public sector banks, and also give it an edgy, international feel that would be appealing to younger consumers.
Again, Hutchison Essar Ltd changed to Vodafone Essar Ltd after the buyout of a majority stake by mobile major Vodafone Group Plc. A name change it announced with an effective marketing campaign.