Godrej Archives


Our Brand Heritage
"Godrej in every home and workplace", proclaims our ambitious Vision Statement! Few of us though are aware that this statement harks back to the year of the First World War, 1914, when a newspaper advertisement in Gujarati announced, "Darek Gharma tijori"- "A safe in every home" Since then, almost a century, 'Godrej' has endeavoured to influence the lifestyle of Indian consumers.

Ad.1: Darek Gharma Tijori ‘A safe in every home’ - 1914

Marketing guru, Philip Kotler has remarked that ‘even… a good product… cannot be sold unless and until you have an efficient marketing strategy’. Advertising emerged as the most powerful tool of marketing in the twentieth century so much so that as early as 1915, ‘Printer’s Ink’ remarked, “When the historian of the Twentieth Century shall have finished his narrative, and comes to searching for the subtitle which shall best express the spirit of the period, we think it not at all unlikely that he may select “The Age of Advertising” for the purpose.”

Endorsing the spirit of the twentieth century, long before Kotler appeared on the scene, Ardeshir Godrej, put an emphasis on advertising his products from the very beginning. This practice, eventually led to the creation of brand ‘Godrej’ which has become a symbol of trust amongst millions of Indian consumers.

In this issue of Change, we intend to re-create the Godrej history through the lens of our advertisements of the early twentieth century. The first advertisements in the print media in India appeared in James Hickey’s Bengal Gazette - India’s first newspaper, in the year 1779. These early advertisements were similar to today’s classified ads and they filled the pages of the newspaper and promoted a variety of goods. They were simple messages- only copy without illustrations. The early ‘Godrej’ advertisements naturally followed the same pattern.

Ad.2: Advertisement from ‘The Bombay Chronicle’, July 2, 1913

But these early advertisements, more than merely advertising products, convey stories about the company and its customers as well. In any case, advertisements are not just about the products they wish to sell, but they are, in the words of Communications Theorist, Marshall McLuhan, “the richest and most faithful reflections any society ever made of its whole range of activities.” Advertisements communicate not only the features of the product but also the values that the manufacturing company believes in; they reflect the social and economic patterns of the society within which they operate. As a matter of fact, today, historians often use them as supplementary sources of history.


Remembering Lalbaug of the 70s

“The Accounts Department was on the ground floor at Lalbaug. On the right side of the office building was the canteen shed and the ‘Non-veg Staff Lunch’ was served on the first floor for Rs. 1.50p. A Pan Shop and Chanawalla outside the canteen used to accept our canteen coupons! Opposite the office building was the Consumer Society shed, which used to sell biscuits for Rs. 1 per packet.

“There used to be a small dispensary on the left of the ground floor. Mr. Pandit used to give medicines for minor ailments. We used to call him Dr. Pandit jokingly,” remembers Mr. F H Magra (Accounts). He also shares one amazing incidence showing love and loyalty of the employees towards the Company and the Godrej family, a whole generation back. He recounts: “One day a workman came to me with a cheque for his gratuity signed by Seth Pirojsha, which was issued two years ago. On enquiring why he had not deposited the cheque, he replied: How could I deposit a cheque signed by Seth Pirojsha!”

Thank you Mr. F H Magra for sharing with us such a wonderful anecdote!!!

We bring you a Godrej ad from 1913 (See Ad. 2). That year Sir Phirozshah Mehta launched an Indian independent newspaper called “The Bombay Chronicle”. This paper, as Mr. B K Karanjia observes in Vijitatma, came as a blessing to Ardeshir Godrej, who had to suffer the humiliation of having his advertisements ‘edited’ by the British owners of The Times of India. The Bombay Chronicle, infused with the spirit of swadeshi, proved to be the right forum for advertising swadeshi products. This advertisement of 1913, probably the first advertisement in The Bombay Chronicle, now has a priceless archival value, bearing witness to the kind of Indian effort that a company like Godrej symbolised. Moreover, it tells us about the employment opportunities the company provided for Indians (employing 500 men) and about its products (372 safes supplied to Indian Postal Department after severe fire test). Little wonder then, that this should make news, because it was unusual for the Imperial Authority such as the Indian Postal Department, to go for Indian brands like ‘Godrej’.

Ad.3: ‘Vacho ane Seekho’, Read and Learn how to make soap, 1918. Phamplet distributed by Ardeshir Godrej.

Besides, this advertisement has much deeper significance. ‘Godrej’ was emerging as a trust worthy brand during this period, for even the Queen (wife of King George V) used a Godrej safe during her visit to India in 1911. That apart, the Mint, Currency Office, Public Works Office, Improvement Trust, High Court, Secretariat, Port Trust, General Post Office, Railways, Jewellers, Banks and other leading commercial firms in Bombay all used safes manufactured by Godrej.

In the year 1918, the launch of a soap using vegetable oil, obviously called for an effective marketing campaign. At this time all foreign manufacturers of soaps were using animal fats. Ardeshir’s experiment, using vegetable oils in soap making, was an innovative and daring step. This unique product, therefore, needed innovative marketing. In the year 1918, Ardeshir distributed pamphlets in Gujarati titled ‘Vacho ane Seekho’ (Read and learn) explaining how to make soap using vegetable oil, thus winning over the confidence of customers. This was a bold step, considering that revealing the process might have endangered his business, but he took this step nonetheless. (See Ad. 3 & 4)

Ad.4: ‘Vacho ane Seekho’, Read and Learn how to make soap, 1918. Phamplet distributed by Ardeshir Godrej.

A few pages back in history and you will come across the famous Schlitz Beer Story. Claude Hopkins (1866-1932), a marketing specialist of his time, was called to help Schlitz beer to increase its market share. At this time each beer manufacturer claimed to manufacture ‘pure beer’. Claude was shown the beer making process at the Schlitz manufacturing plant. He was fascinated to witness, for the first time, the amount of work involved in these processes for ensuring quality standards. There was nothing unique about Schlitz process, as every beer manufacturer essentially made beer in the same way but Claude created an advertising campaign explaining the process of making a pure beer. The advertisement, “Perfection of 50 years”, appeared in the year 1898. By being first to explain the process, Schiltz claimed a preemptive marketing advantage over its competitors.

Needless to say, the Claude Hopkins campaign won Schlitz new customers. In ‘My Life in Advertising’, he wrote, “Perhaps, countless people can make similar products. But tell the pains you take to excel. Tell factors and features which others deem too commonplace to claim. Your product will come to typify those excellencies. If others claim them afterward, it will only serve to advertise you.”

Ad.5: Advertisement using illustration, 1926.

How interesting that, great men think alike! By explaining to people how to make a pure vegetable soap, Ardeshir endorsed his authority over the product. The only difference between the Schlitz Beer story and Ardeshir’s soap story was that, in Ardeshir’s case, even the product was unique, since he had indeed pioneered the manufacture of soap using vegetable oil.

In the early 1900s, advertisements changed their look from simple messages to ones that also carried illustrations using line drawings and sketches. The earliest ad in our collection of Godrej ads uses the line sketch of a cupboard and dates back to 1926! Soap advertisements of 1930s also show the use of similar illustrations. (See Ad. 5 & 6)


Ad.6: Ad of Chavi Brand Soap in 'Parsi Lustre in India', 1939

Advertising has come a long way since then. It has now become extremely dynamic and more advanced, with the advent of new modes of communication. However, the importance of these early advertisements cannot be overlooked as these are the ones responsible for initiating brand building process that made ‘Godrej’ a trusted household name.

These advertisements truly constitute our brand heritage.

If you find any old advertisements, catalogues, sales and marketing literature don’t throw it away. Just contact us at: vrunda@godrej.com Let us preserve our past by archiving it!

Vrunda Pathare
Godrej Archives