The case of vanishing brands

Changing economies, tech, tastes can be a struggle for firms

"With the emergence of online stores such as Grofers and Dunzo, the competition has only added to the existing struggles faced by traditional retailers”
"With the emergence of online stores such as Grofers and Dunzo, the competition has only added to the existing struggles faced by traditional retailers”

The process to bid farewell to Vistara, Tata group’s full-service carrier, has begun, with the brand set to merge with the older and larger Air India. When the process is complete, another name will be added to the long list of brands that vanished overnight. Among them are recent labels such as Big Bazaar and time-worn ones like Forhan’s — brands that disappeared for a myriad of reasons.

This happened primarily due to three broad reasons — they were either acquired or merged with another, they died because of their inability to compete in an ever-evolving marketplace, or the life cycle of their product category ended and they were unable to latch on to the next big thing.

Shop and drop

Perhaps one of the most well-known brands that suddenly disappeared after being taken over was Big Bazaar, a retail chain frequented by the Indian middle class. Over 200 stores were shut down in February last year after owner Future Retail missed out on lease payments to Reliance Retail. A substantial number of them were swiftly rebranded to “Smart Bazaar” and have been operating under the name ever since.

“The retail industry is notorious for encountering various business challenges such as cash flow and supply-chain issues, making it a difficult industry to thrive in, especially in a highly competitive market. With the emergence of online stores such as Grofers and Dunzo, the competition has only added to the existing struggles faced by traditional retailers,” said Rajni Daswani, director, digital marketing, SoCheers.

Another brand that bit the dust after an acquisition was Gold Spot. The orange drink with the popular slogan, “The Zing Thing”, was created by Parle Bisleri in 1977 after the exit of Coca-Cola to quench the thirst of several who still craved soft drinks. Gold Spot was later sold to Coca-Cola after the company re-entered the Indian market in 1993. However, the drink was withdrawn from the market to make space for the company’s other orange drink, Fanta.

Next consider Captain Cook, a salt and wheat flour brand created by DCW Ltd. Named after 18th-century British explorer James Cook, its iconic advertisement seemingly challenged Tata Group’s “Manpasand Namak” on national television, highlighting its own “free-flowing” qualities. Later, the brand was sold to Hindustan Unilever (HUL), which focused on building its own brand Annapurna. From 2012, it was well-nigh impossible to spot Captain Cook in any market.

Recently, the two brands were sold to Singapore-based Uma Global Foods for Rs. 60.4 crore and they are expected to make a comeback sooner than later.

Then there was US-based Compaq, which had a short life (1982-2002) but was a hugely popular computer company and a leading supplier of PCs throughout the 1990s. As part of HP, it lost relevance and was discontinued. However, recently, the company has entered into a licensing deal with an Indian manufacturer and is selling smart TVs under its brand name.

Says Samit Sinha, founder & managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, “When HP acquired Compaq, it must have done so to expand its market share. But it would have realised that it will be difficult for the company to market two brands in the same space.”

Adapt or fail

There are a host of other brands that fell by the wayside because they failed to adapt, face competition, function smoothly, or innovate.
One of India’s oldest toothpaste brands, Forhan’s, known for its “non-foaming” formula that was “created by a dentist”, falls into this category. At some point, parent company Geoffrey Manners merged with pharma major Wyeth, which decided to sell it off since the brand wasn’t part of its core plans. It changed a few hands and eventually landed up with electronic products maker Anchor Group in 2007. Anchor re-launched the brand under its FMCG arm, but later decided to shift focus on in-house brands Anchor toothpaste and Dyna soap, rather than invest in Forhan’s.

Meanwhile, Hyderabad Allwyn, immensely popular during the 1970s and 80s, all but disappeared since then. Owned by the Andhra Pradesh government, the refrigerator division was privatised in 1994 and sold to Voltas, which in turn sold it to Electrolux in 2002. The brand was completely discontinued thereafter, and other divisions had already been liquidated by then. “Allwyn was once a leader in the fridge category with 85% market share.

However, such brands ceased to exist as they couldn’t adapt to the changing times,” said Karthik Srinivasan, an independent communications consultant.

A classic example of a brand being unable to continue when its category dies is that of Music World, the music CD and home video retailer. With the rise of the internet as well as piracy, people started losing interest in its products. The combination sounded the death knell for CD shops as revenues dipped and eventually, owner RP-Sanjeev Goenka Group shut all 40 stores, spread across 50,000 sq ft, across the country in July 2013.

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First published on: 24-03-2023 at 10:08 IST