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How Asian Paints was born when imports were banned by the British

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There’s a colorful story behind leading paints company, Asian Paints. Many Indian families use the company’s paints to color their homes for Diwali.

But, did you know that Asian Paints was born 78 years ago when the British put a ban on importing paints.

When millions of Indians were writing a heroic chapter in India’s freedom struggle through civil disobedience in 1942, four friends in Bombay (now Mumbai) were establishing a paints manufacturing firm in a tiny garage.

The concept arose after the British imposed a short restriction on importing paints, leaving the country with few options: Shalimar Paints or pricey foreign brands.

As a result, Champaklal Choksey, Chimanlal Choksi, Arvind Vakil, and Suryakant Dani decided to venture into uncharted area and turn their dreams into reality through ‘Asian Oil and Paint Company Private Limited.’

The company holds a 53% market share in India and is Asia’s third-largest paint company.

It is known as Asian Paints and is present in 16 countries worldwide.

The catchphrase ‘Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Kehta Hai’ (which has a strong nostalgic appeal) reiterates their philosophy of providing thousands of colour shades, themes, textures, and patterns to its entire customer base, which includes middle-class households, corporates, and even non-governmental organisations.

There is paint for any budget, and the website will even recommend a paint based on the user’s budget.

There is an unspoken rule that many prospective entrepreneurs and startups strive to follow: make inroads into every potential market with their product or service.

Many old-school businesses also believe that a product’s success is defined when there is no definite target audience and it caters to any type of individual.

This tactic contributed significantly to Asian Paints’ tremendous popularity three years later, in 1945. To simplify and speed up the distribution process across the country, the company produced miniature paint packets rather than the huge tins that year. It had agreements with minor distributors in every nook and cranny.

Some might describe the outcome as “passing with flying colours,” since the desi company made Rs 3.5 lakh in revenue in the same year with only five colour options – black, white, red, blue, and yellow. This method enabled them to maintain a steady pace, and by 1952, Asian Paints’ annual turnover was Rs 23 crore, a number considered enormous at the time.

In 1954, the paint leader decided to go all in and launch a marketing campaign that reflected their attitude. This method was also intended to keep existing consumers loyal.

And thus was born Gattu, the infamous boy with a paint bucket and brush in his hand, drawn by great cartoonist RK Laxman.

Gattu became the face of a low-cost Tractor Distemper, generating a big audience among middle-class families. The phrase “Don’t lose your temper, use Tractor Distemper” changed people’s minds about not having to wait for the peel to fall off.

The idea worked yet again, and sales climbed tenfold over the next four years. Because of their rapid expansion, they were able to establish their first plant in Bhandup.

Between 1957 and 1966, Asian Paints attempted to establish a more professional image by acquiring large clients such as the British firm Balmer Lawrie.

However, the company reached a watershed moment in 1967, when it emerged as India’s biggest paints manufacturer, ahead of any international competition, and a decade later, they formed their first venture in Fiji. Since then, there has been no turning back.

Asian Paints has always been ahead of the curve by anticipating future trends. The company not just created its first-ever TV advertisement in 1984, it also launched call centre operations and a website as early as 1998-99.

One of the main reasons for the company’s exponential growth is its ability to maintain quality while adapting to current industry trends and advancements.

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