How India’s Largest Paint Company Was Born During The Quit India Movement

RK Laxman, Gattu
RK Laxman, GattuThe Hindu, Qwizzeria

The Quit India movment also known as the August Kranti movement was led by Mahatma Gandhi in the August of 1942, demanding to end the British rule in India. The movement was started in a speech in Bombay where Mahatma Gandhi asked Indians to 'Do or Die'. The Congress launched a protest asking the British to withdraw from India, however the British imprisoned most of the Congress leadership within a day of the speech in a effort to suppress the movement.

During the time the British also imposed a short ban on importing paints. As a result the country was left with very limited options — it was either Shalimar Paints or expensive foreign brands. It was then, that four friends from Mumbai — Champaklal Choksey, Chimanlal Choksi, Suryakant Dani, and Arvind Vakil decided to enter a less explored territory and translate their ambitions into reality with ‘Asian Oil and Paint Company Private Limited’. 

Because paint was an untapped market in India the company saw an opportunity to establish itself and in order to distribute the paint as quickly as possible, they sold paint in tiny packets as opposed to giant tins. By 1945 the company had already developed ties with local suppliers and clocked a revenue of 3.5 lakhs with just five colour choices — black, white, red, blue and yellow.

This was also credited to their ad campaign with the iconic line, 'har ghar kuch kehta hai' (every house tells a story). Asian Paints believed that they'd succeed by reaching as many customers as possible without focusing on a particular target demographic.

In 1954, the brand decided to expand so it initiated a marketing campaign that would reflect its philosophy. This strategy was also a way to ensure the existing customers remained loyal. And thus was born the notorious kid with a paint bucket and brush in his hand, Gattu (a common nickname in North India) created by the legendary illustrator, RK Laxman.

Gattu ads - Asian Paints
Gattu ads - Asian PaintsSocial Samosa, Brand Equity

As the story goes, Asian Paints launched a contest inviting people to name the figure RK Laxman had created and the winner would get ₹ 500. This was truly a masterstroke that served the dual purpose of igniting curiosity in people’s minds about this mysterious character and letting them know that it was the creation of their revered cartoonist. Coincidently, of the 47,000 entries, two people from Bombay sent ‘Gattu’ (a paint mascot), that has now become a nostalgic figure for the kids growing up between the 50s and 80s. 'Gattu' caught the public’s imagination and the company's sales went up 10-fold over the next four years.

Since then, Asian Paints has become India's largest and Asia's second largest paints corporation. In 2004, the brand made it to the list of Forbes Best Under a Billion companies in the world and was even conferred With ‘Sword of Honour’ By the British Safety Council. One of the only few companies that began before independence, Asian Paints has since managed to stay relevant to this day.

It has done so by staying ahead of time by staying ahead of the curve and anticipating future trends. The company not just created its first-ever TV advertisement in 1984, it launched call centre operations and a website as early as 1998-99. It has also kept up with social media, and has millions of followers over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube combined. 

Asian Paints through its relationship with the Indian people and its origin at a difficult, oppressive time symbolizing self-independence, creativity and excellent entrepreneurship has become a part of the country's culture and history.

Related Stories

No stories found.