October 18, 2005

Recently, Emami launched a fairness cream for men called “Fair & Handsome” in some southern states. Fairness cream for men? Sounds somewhat shocking to a typical Indian. Even Shobha De, in one of her regular columns in “The Week”, discussed it with her usual enthusiasm and chutzpah. And then today I just saw another piece on “Fair & Handsome” in a “Business World” column called “Double take by emcee”. But for me it’s not a new idea. It’s at least 2 years old idea, if not more.

One fine Sunday in June’05, my dear friend, Mukul Singh, working in Chennai sent an SMS in morning. “Hero, Emami launched fairness cream for men in Chennai. Big advertisement in today’s newspaper”. So what’s the big deal, I thought. May be sort of acknowledgement for an original creator of an idea that he was 3 years ahead of time.

Way back in January 2003, this idea cropped up in my mind. I was doing my MBA from IMT, Ghaziabad then and was in 3rd trimester. I alongwith my then batchmate, Mahendra Kumar Baid alias “Baddy”, made a business plan out of this idea and presented it in the business plan contest during the annual inter B-school fest of IMT Ghaziabad called “Passion”. The judge was Mr. M J Masilamani, ex-CEO of Timex. Finally, the idea was good enough for a 3rd prize. Not a bad start!

So what prompts me now to write on a fairness cream for men? Humm…nostalgia perhaps. Or may be it’s the instinctive urge of a creator to write about one’s creation on seeing that the whole world is waking up to his idea. Truly speaking I am feeling like a surrogate father. The idea sparked in my head and Emami brought it to the world.

But I am a disgruntled father. Oh no, it’s not because I am not directly involved with the upbringing of my idea. Anyway, I was a poor man without enough money to feed an idea in the real world. So no regrets that Emami is the one who brought my son to this world. My cause of concern, as any concerned father would have, is that my son is not being brought up the way I would have liked. But what can a poor dad do when the mother is so super rich. Except of course tell the whole world how his son should have been brought up and how the mother is spoiling his son.

Here are my grievances:

1. What a rubbish name for my son? Fair & Handsome. Sounds like the name of the snobbish boy friend of “Fair & Lovely”. How can “fair” and “handsome” be simultaneously associated with men? It’s blasphemy. Men are known among women because of their TDH factor and not because of their fairness factor. What a cruel joke on men to openly say that they aspire to be fair & handsome? It’s another matter that deep down Indian men crave to be fair in order to be handsome because of the psychological conditioning since childhood that fair is beautiful. But feeling something deep down and expressing something openly are two extremes of the life of an Indian male. It is one thing to surreptitiously pamper one’s face with “Fair & Lovely” of one’s wife or sister or mother and it is a completely different thing to openly say, “Gee, I pampered my face with Fair & Lovely”.

2. Fairness cream. Doesn’t it sound feminine? It’s like dressing a baby boy in frocks with laces and flowers. Oh! How mercilessly Emami is trying to project my son as a girl child to reap some quick money (Isn’t the same thing that father of a boy child artist, who is being projected as a girl on screen by her mother, recently ranted?).

When “Fair & Handsome” was still unborn, I thought I would name him “ADONIS”. I thought I would give him the surname “Gel” instead of “cream” because “Gel” sounds masculine. And I never ever dared to dream dressing up my son with something called “fairness”. I thought, ADONIS, my son, will be known in the world as “grooming for the modern men”. And in the labyrinth of “grooming for the modern men” will be subtly hidden message of “fairness as one of the benefits” to politely reminder the subconscious part of the male brain that “it can also make you fairer without letting the whole world know about it”.

I thought ADONIS Gel would be a grooming gel combined with triple sunscreen, after-shave properties, a strong masculine fragrance which lasts for hours, and fairness. I never intended to narrow the positioning of ADONIS by positioning it as a fairness gel. My roadmap for my son, ADONIS, was to position it on masculine feelings and experiences. There were strategic and tactical considerations for this. Focusing more on fairness might have been counter productive as males would have always been apprehensive to openly showing their inclination towards fairness for self. After all, men will remain men. As such, my idea was to focus more on good looks and smart grooming with the use of ADONIS. Fairness was intended to get a subtle touch in marketing and advertising messages.

Moreover, at a later stage I intended to launch other male-specific grooming products by extending the ADONIS brand (i.e. getting some kid brothers for ADONIS). Hence, it was of utmost importance that positioning of ADONIS should not have been limited to a specific benefit. I intended to project ADONIS as an innovative grooming solution for men. My idea of ADONIS Gel was to position it as a gel for caring and pampering a man’s face even though through media communication, I intended to subtly highlight benefits like fairness enhancement, after-shave properties, strong masculine fragrance etc. But ultimately the direct focus of career planning of ADONIS was “Grooming for the Modern Man”.

Oh! Emami, I will never ever forgive you for spoiling the life and career of my beloved son, ADONIS, now “Fair & Handsome”.


  1. JK // October 26, 2008 at 10:47 AM  

    I am late to see this . A good one. Also a lot of your other writings. Thx.