The past week was witness to two episodes; they were both unique and either event had a household brand name as its focal point. And both brands will evoke a strong sense of nostalgia. Well, the first is associated with school going years for perhaps some baby boomers. But for their children and beyond, Bata is certainly the brand that was a cornerstone of their grade school years. The company’s Naughty Boy line was particularly well known among younger students and many seniors will vouch for the comfort of their Hush Puppy offering.
There is an actual place called Batanagar near Kolkata
Bata was founded in Zlin, a town in what is now the Czech Republic. It commenced operations as early as 1894, well before both Great Wars and just about when automobiles were first beginning to make an appearance. In fact, in a rather dubious distinction, Bata registered phenomenal growth during the four years that saw World War 1 rage on. Between 1914 and 1918, Bata’s employee strength increased ten-fold. This rapid growth was on account of military orders for shoes.
The company’s founder, Tomas Bata, was blessed with strong business acumen. His shoe empire grew to include a host of other industries that spanned from newspaper publishing to even aircraft building. The company dropped anchor on Indian shores in 1931 and not too long after, manufacturing was set up in what came to be known as Batanagar in West Bengal. It is no surprise then that most reckon Bata as being an Indian brand. It boasts a presence even in small towns and the brand is associated with quality and durability.
Bata now boasts manufacturing facilities across five continents with a presence in 70 countries. It employs an estimated 35,000 people worldwide. The company’s headquarters have since been relocated to Lausanne, Switzerland from Toronto, Canada. In Toronto, the discerning shoe connoisseur can even tour the Bata Shoe Museum. In fact, it is also considered a centre for calceology — the study of footwear.
The news highlight that will definitely make many proud is the fact that Bata recently appointed an Indian as global CEO. Sandeep Kataria was formerly CEO of Bata India and his elevation to the top position comes amid strong growth delivered in the Indian market.
MDH and its catchy jingle
The other brand in the news is one that will evoke memories of culinary delights. Typical to Indian cuisine is the use of spices and MDH was one brand that became a household name on the back of its quality product, as also its catchy jingle.
MDH was founded by Dharampal Gulati. He was born in Sialkot, in modern day Pakistan. The patriarch and his family moved to Delhi following the partition in 1947. When Gulati arrived in Delhi, he had all of INR1500 to his name. Using some INR650, he purchased a tonga – a small horse drawn carriage. The proceeds from tonga rides funded the purchase of a shop, then another and a short while later, a small production unit.
The MDH founder breathed his last yesterday but his legacy will continue to thrive. The company that he built from scratch is now worth an estimated INR1500 crore (or approximately US$200 million). His is a story that will keep inspiring aspiring entrepreneurs.
Both Bata and MDH brands are part of fond memories for entire generations of Indians. Consistent quality and affordability enabled these brands to flourish. The blood and toil that these companies were built on are definitely ones to imbibe key learnings from.