Little India

On the table at Mumbai’s Parsi dairy farm is the last glass bottle, the kind the firm used to distribute milk in Bombay from 1916. Regulations have since turned glass to plastic. The family has split, and with it, operations. We didn’t recount their story for a lack of detail. But it brought us the realization that India has been built like this: by ordinary people to whom their work has never seemed momentous.

The Mysore Paints factory, maker of voters’ ink, is today the sole supplier to young, new democracies worldwide

The issue was sparked by Mint editor R. Sukumar’s memory of a childhood soda: Kalimark (page 20). Pavitra Jayaraman’s journey traces that of our democracy (page 22). Higginbotham’s (page 11) tells of the influence of the Suez Canal. Anil Padmanabhan served time in a 150-year-old brewery that won’t budge (pages 12-13).

How do these brands have the power to move us so?

Each stitches us to the idea of home. It lies in the name of a store stamped in your grandfather’s books, in the suit your natty armywallah uncle wore, in the biscuit you went to buy holding your father’s finger: a deeply personal history that we share at poignant intersections.

If we stand on the shoulders of giants, then these are the shoulders giants among us have stood on.

Gayatri Jayaraman

—Issue Editor

The Indian Army’s .303 story

It is a beautiful gun to look at. with its wooden sturdiness, it has a dignity that many modern guns, like the plastic m16, do not

By Reply To All | Aakar Patel

The most interesting of all the mercenary soldiers of India in the 1700s were the Naga sadhus. They were ferocious, utterly reckless and totally naked.

Policemen in Mumbai with their .303 guns after the attack on The Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP

Exactly 100 years after Gosain’s death, the British introduced the rifle that would cause India to mutiny against them: the Enfield Pattern 1853 with its waxed cartridge. In the hands of Indians, even ammunition was now dangerous. Naturally, the Pattern 53 did not last long, and soon went through an evolution, the Snider-Enfield of 1860. (Read more)

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In the words of the daughter-in-law

In one of the country’s oldest business families, some values run through generations

By The Good Life | Shoba Narayan

My father-in-law was 74 when I entered the TVS family as a young bride of 17," says Prema Srinivasan with a laugh. “You can imagine how it was."

Family album: The TVS clan in Madurai in 1960.

The wife of the youngest son of T.V. Sundaram Iyengar, whose early entrepreneurship has spawned a sprawling family conglomerate, Srinivasan is reminiscing about what it means to be the daughter-in-law of one of Tamil Nadu’s—and arguably south India’s—most iconic business families. “My father-in-law was an extraordinary character," she says. “A man of few words and one who valued quality and punctuality above all." (Read more)

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These are a few of my favourite brands

On polling people about their favourite brands, sepia-toned tears and nostalgia

By First Cut | Priya Ramani

Small wonder: A Mahindra Reva at the Auto Expo 2012, New Delhi. Photo: Jasjeet Plaha/Hindustan Times

Earlier this year, a Wipro group company paid 125 crore for a 7% stake in Fabindia. This was after L Capital, the private equity arm of luxury Godzilla LVMH, bought an 8% stake. Lefties may fret that their homespun kurtas are part French establishment now, but it’s been quite a journey for a company that began as a home furnishings exporter in the 1960s after its founder visited India to give the All India Handicrafts Board and Cottage Industries a lesson in handloom marketing. (Read more)

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Essay | Brand old days

India and our memories of it are coloured by some timeless brands, such as Air, HMV, Iodex and Dalda

By Subroto Chattopadhyay

Sur na saje kya gaaun main," sang the maestro and gentleman, the legendary Manna Dey, when he once handed me his visiting card. It read: “Manna Dey, HMV Artist". Such was the power of the brand HMV in India.

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1700s Thaim Trading Co. Ltd | Always up for sail

From Vasco Da Gama to the lesser modern day traders, the dhow makers of Mandvi have been integral to the conquest of the sea route to India

By Maulik Pathak

Seafarers: Naushad Thaim in front of the vessels his firm is building. Photo: Nirav Mistry/Mint

Naushad Thaim, the 24-year-old managing director of Thaim Trading Co. Llc., says a layout design is mandatory for registration. With about 100 sailing vessels under its management, Thaim is one of the largest firms along the coast of the Rukmavati river, adjacent to Mandvi port. (Read more)

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1800s Solan No. 1 | The accidental legacy

In the hills of Solan, the country’s oldest beer, first malt whisky, and the cult old monk rum are still as heady as they were all those years ago

By Anil Padmanabhan

Liquid gold: Old Monk rum being bottled at the plant in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. Abel Robinson/Mint

Of course, their joint venture, Dyer Meakin and Co., was rechristened Mohan Meakin Breweries Ltd 17 years after the management passed into Indian hands in 1949—it became Mohan Meakin Ltd in 1980. Their premium products, Golden Eagle beer and Solan No. 1 whisky, are mere shadows of themselves though they are still popular in the vicinity, while Old Monk rum, a product added by the Indian management, has acquired a cult following that now commands a global footprint. All the products have continued to source water from the natural spring located in Solan, for more than 150 years, preserving the signature taste. (Read more)

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1844 Higginbotham’s | First edition

Booksellers to the ladies of the empire, the story of this little Chennai book store, now owned by an engineering firm, is also a history that traces the origins of Indian publishing

By Geeta Doctor

A store at the Bangalore city railway station. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

In one instant you are standing outside in the dust and heat of Chennai’s busiest artery, Anna Salai, as the 21st century smashes its teeth down the centre of the road with the up-and-coming Metro Rail; in the other you are in Victorian England.

There is silence. Even the air seems still. You could be in a church, the sloping sides of the pitched roof, with wooden sides, envelop a large hall under which the books have been arranged in serried ranks and titles such as “Religion", “Philosophy", “Travel", “Cookery", “Embroidery" and of late, with racks of CDs and DVDs that tempt you with the images of dancers who ask: “Do you want to learn Kuchipudi?" Or labelled, “Kathak for beginners". (Read more)

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1865 Furtados | The harpsichord store

By staying true to its customers through the lean years of an import ban on instruments, Furtados is reaping the benefits of a national boom

By Vivek Menezes

String theory: Violins for sale.

By the 16th century, there were innumerable skilled native users of these instruments accompanying the church choirs of the Portuguese possessions arrayed on the west coast—from Goa to Bassein (now Vasai) to Diu. (Read more)

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1875 Dwarkin & Son | Sound-clouding centuries

In 1884, in a by-lane of Calcutta, the harmonium, as Indian classical music knows it today, was invented. The sowers of ‘sur’ struggle to keep in tune

By Shamik Bag

Rhythm central: Maestro V. Balsara plays a Dwarkin Paddle harmonium

The name Dwarkin resulted from a pairing of the names of Dwarkanath Ghose, Dwarkin’s founder, and the foreign firm Thomas Dawkins, from which Dwarkanath imported musical instruments in the early days. It was so named by Upendrakishore Ray, who was, among other things, a composer and writer. He felt an Anglicized name would work better considering the Indian craving for all things foreign. (Read more)

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1900s Monginis | Sweet endings

Even though it has changed hands over the last 100-odd years, for many generations, every treat was a wait for their black forest cake

By Arun Janardhan

Fresh from the oven: Zoher (front) and Qusai Khorakiwala at their production facility in Andheri. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The father and son duo of Zoher H. Khorakiwala and Qusai Z. Khorakiwala stand amid the sugary treats, equally unaffected. They, like the workers at Monginis Foods Pvt. Ltd’s production unit in Andheri, Mumbai, have been there, seen that. Many times, practically every day; these are merely products of their enterprise, not desirable commodities that would have others salivating. (Read more)

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1905 Nilgiri’s | Beyond bread and butter

How is a customer affected when a four-generation-old family business is sold to a professional investor?

By Priya Ramani

Growth story: By the 1970s, Nilgiri’s had bought out its neighbour The Old Bull and Bush bar

The shiny green and white store is bursting at the seams with some 7,000 types of groceries that span everything from old Nilgiri’s favourites such as 15 types of rice and the signature Rich Plum Cake to the just launched Ready-To-Eat Nilgiri’s Porridge and cold-pressed Gingelly Oil. Rajani’s already been told he needs to offer at least 1,000 more items at his store. An average Nilgiri’s store stocks nearly double the items you would find in a competing supermarket chain so shoppers often get a sense that the store is overcrowded. The South Indian brand, with annual store sales of 600 crore, sells nearly 1,000 items through its private label; many are priced at par with national brands. (Read more)

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1907 Rooh Afza | Lal salaam

The summer chilleris now trying to stay relevant for all seasons

By Mayank Austen Soofi

Bottled joy: One of Rooh Afza’s bottling plants in Manesar, Haryana. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Rooh Afza, the scarlet-hued refresher, was founded by a drug maker called Abdul Majeed in Old Delhi in 1907. This classic summer sharbat has survived Partition, the licence raj, economic reforms, carbonated drinks and tetra-pack juices. An old newspaper ad for this drink says, “When the motor car was on its way in and the horse buggy on its way out, Sharbat Rooh Afza was there." (Read more)

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1907 Vadilal | Freeze-frame

They began when ice cream wasn’t even an industry and are still around the top of the cone

By Maulik Pathak

Varied scoops: Devanshu (left) and Rajesh Gandhi of Vadilal Industries. Photo: Jaydip Bhatt/Mint

From selling sodas in 1907, the Gandhis have travelled four generations with their brand Vadilal, to their new corporate office in Navrangpura, less than 5km from their first outlet. (Read more)

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1910s Indian Art Studio | 20/20 vision

Before Mumbaikars went digital and trigger-happy, they made a beeline to this Kalbadevi institution for the family portrait

Photo finish: (from left) Sanjay, Rajesh and Anil Chaddha. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Over the near-century of its existence, the Indian Art Studio in south Mumbai has accumulated generations of studio bric-a-brac. In their underground studio, couples can get their photographs taken in the same antique love seat in which their parents had honeymoon portraits shot. Graduates can lean on the same elaborately carved stands, holding the darkly polished wooden books that their grandmothers clutched upon leaving college. (Read more)

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1916 Kalimark | South-side soda

Conglomerates with bigger muscle have come and gone repeatedly. Kalimark bubbles on

Achance visit to a petty shop in affluent Besant Nagar, Chennai, brought 30-year-old Deepak Chander a portion of unexpected joy recently. While waiting for his change, he spotted a bottle of Kalimark Bovonto at the store. The tangy, grape-flavoured, light soda drink has remained this foodie and poker enthusiast’s favourite since he first tasted it as a boy.

Fizz factor: Bottles of the soda.

Children who grew up in Tamil Nadu could not have escaped seeing an advertisement for Kalimark Bovonto, popular amid a range of cool drinks brought out by Kali Aerated Water Works. (Read more)

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1920 Duckback | Swim or sink

To generations, a Duckback raincoat or school bag defined the back-to-school ethos. Now, a pool of loyalists is keeping the firm from going under

By Shamik Bag

Raincheck: an exclusive Duckback showroom in Kolkata. Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

French chalk? Even Nilufer Bose-Archment, a senior official of the company, looks perplexed, her raised eyebrows and upturned lips professing a certain helplessness about such things. (Read more)

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1921 Frontier Biscuit Factory | Tricks of the treat

A small west Pakistan shop became a chain of bakeries in North India in the post-independence years. their handmade, eggless bakes remain popular to date

By Seema Chowdhry

Milestones: the opening of the Model Town store in Delhi.

From 10-15kg of handmade, eggless biscuits made daily until the early 1950s, to 7,500kg per day in 2012, Frontier Biscuit Factory Pvt. Ltd has come a long way. Today the company supplies sweet and salted biscuits, rusks, khatai and cakes across Delhi, Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. (Read more)

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1921 Pen Workers | Red hot seats

The seats that movie goers have occupied for decades have evolved from wood to comfortable cushioned innovations. Thank these workers

By Nandini Ramnath

Comfort zone: Pen Workers’ Anmol Kashmiri at his office. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The Hypnos-beckoning recliners at the Ebony Lounge at the Big Metro multiplex in south Mumbai were made at a Pen Workers factory. So were the plush seats at the newly opened S2 multiplex, run by the Sathyam Cinemas chain, in the Chennai suburb Perambur. It’s easier to name single-screen theatres and multiplexes in the country that the leading seat manufacturer has not worked with rather than draw up a list of its clients. Pen Workers seats are in Dhulia and Dar es Salaam, as well as at private theatres in the homes of Hindi movie actors Shah Rukh Khan and Sunny Deol. (Read more)

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1931 Camlin | Colouring the map

Camlin’s ink, paints and pencils, first made as ‘swadeshi’ products in British India, have told the story of a nation in flux

By Supriya Nair

Drawing board: Dilip Dandekar, chairman and managing director, Kokuyo Camlin. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

D.P. Dandekar, sitting in an Irani café with a friend, drinking tea, found his eye drawn to an advertisement for Camel cigarettes. In his book Oontavarchaa Pravaas (Travels With the Camel), he explains the idea that sprang from this sight. A camel, storing essential nourishment in its hump, can run for miles across the desert. What was the ideal fountain pen but a camel? (Read more)

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1931 Sanspareils Greenlands | A historic innings

SG’s story is not just deeply connected to India’s cricketing history, but also to independence and partition

By Rudraneil Sengupta

It’s 1974. The West Indies cricket team is touring India. They are a team on the brink of creating history. Clive Lloyd has just taken over the captaincy, and the side is bristling with talent. Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran and Andy Roberts are in the squad.

SG’s new production unit in Meerut. Priyanka Parashar/Mint

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1935 Bombay Tailoring Shop | A common thread

This family-owned shop has been stitching uniforms and civvies for the armed forces for 77 years. Today, they remain confident of surviving the assault of ready-mades

By Arun Janardhan

Stitch in time: Jagdish Loya (standing, right) and Purshottam Das (in the light blue shirt) at their workshop behind the Bombay Tailoring Shop in Mhow, near Indore. Shankar Mourya/Mint

The fight on hand for the Loyas was one of deadline. Since the country and the army were unprepared for the sudden act of aggression from China, the family-owned Bombay Tailoring Shop was inundated with orders for army uniforms. Jagdish plunged into the business. (Read more)

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1937 Mysore Paints and Varnish | The ink of democracy

The Mysore Paints Factory, maker of voters’ ink, is today the sole supplier to young, new democracies worldwide

By Pavitra Jayaraman

All in the blend: worker mixes a batch of 2K Polyurethane paint used to paint buses. Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

The Mysore factory, like many establishments from pre-independence times set up by the then royal family of Mysore, is a combination of new and old. Two structures were built at the time of the inauguration in 1937 and buildings were added as the company grew. Located in a quiet corner of Mysore city, 1km after you get off the Bangalore-Mysore highway, every Mysorean seems to know where it is. Ask for MPVL. “The lac factory?" they correct you, (Read more)

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Old man and the sea

Fofindi built the model of James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’, and his ship models travel far and wide

By Maulik Pathak

Shivji Bhuda Fofindi with one of his models

His payment for being a crew member was in kind—food and clothes. On the way to Africa, the seafarers would halt at the island of Socotra, where they prayed for safe passage at the temple of Sukotar Mata, the reigning deity of the place.

As part of the ritual, the voyagers would offer a token cargo of rice and grain in a small model ship to the deity. (Read more)

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Stock some tea?

J. Thomas, the oldest tea auctioneers in the country, have been pioneers in ESOPs

By Aniek Paul

“Produce brokers"—or so they were called—such as J. Thomas and Co., A.W. Figgis and Co., Creswell and Co. and Carritt Moran and Co.—all founded as British partnerships in the latter half of the 19th century—turned themselves into private limited companies in 1947-48 within months of India’s severing ties with the British crown. (Read more)

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