Home Grown Brands In The Pre-Independence Era

Much before the word ‘startup’ became a buzzword, India’s entrepreneurial journey took birth during the pre-independence era that are now today's iconic brands.

Much before India rode on the start-up bandwagon, the seeds of entrepreneurship began mushrooming during the reign of the British Raj. It was the Swadeshi movement back then when Mahatma Gandhi urged Indians to wear khadi fabric and make salt as it could weaken the British hold on India. Buying and selling British goods would only mean giving more monetary control and power to the Englishmen. In defiance of British rule, freedom fighters burnt heaps of British goods at the crossroads. Burdened under high taxes, and high prices of consumer products, Indian brands such as Amul, Mysore Sandal Soap, Boroline, Asian Paints, Keventers, Parle G and S Chand group emerged during the pre-independence era that rose to become timeless and iconic. There are many more such Indian brands. The Indian brands sought to bring economic freedom by reviving domestic products and manufacturing processes.

As India celebrates its 75th Independence Day, let us have a look at how such Indian brands have become a household name. 

Swadeshi brands 

The majority of the brands that took birth during the pre-independence era, were competing with British goods as a part of the Swadeshi movement. The brands latching on the patriotic sentiment developed consumer products that focussed on affordability and revived the old Indian remedies that were on the verge of extinction. One such brand is Dabur. Dr. S.K. Burman, founder of the Dabur brand, infused Ayurveda in its products. Allopathic medicines the British made were expensive. He developed small tablets that helped in digestion and began selling chyawanprash to boost the immunity of children. Those small tablets of digestion are today’s Hajmola. 

Brands that are every generation’s favourite

In today’s era of Starbucks and Café Coffee Day, yet at a roadside tea stall, we would ask for a pack of ParleG biscuits. Biscuit – a sweet British snack people had mostly with tea was expensive for the Indian masses. In 1939, the Chauhan Brothers, deeply rooted in Swadeshi, felt it was their responsibility to sell affordable glucose biscuits to Indians after leaving their textile business since it included transactions with Europe. Today as well, in local train stations or crowded bus stops you will find people munching on a Rs 5 pack of ParleG happily. ParleG became the first Indian FMCG brand to cross the Rs 5000 crore mark.


Indian brands such as Amul, Mysore Sandal Soap, Boroline, Asian Paints, Keventers, Parle G and S Chand group emerged during the pre-independence era that rose to become timeless and iconic.

 Timeless brands that withstood the test of time as well

Be it chapped lips, shaving blade cuts, dry skin, rashes, or any skin problems, we have our saviour Boroline. It is rare to find any dressing table of a Bengali household without that green tube. Started in 1929, by Gour Mohan Dutta the antiseptic dark green tube of boric acid, zinc oxide, paraffin, perfume, and essential oils was a tight slap to the British. The multiple uses of this antiseptic cream garnered immense popularity among Bengali women that also portrayed a strong protest against the British’s economic exploitation. Boroline has witnessed turbulent times and has exited through various phases. Amid the cut-throat competition of fancy cosmetic brands, the brand Boroline still stands relevant.

Iconic Indian brands

It is rare for any school student to say that he has never studied from an S Chand book. To reduce the penetration of foreign books in the market, in 1939 Shyam Lal Gupta began a publishing house to publish books written by Indian authors that are affordable. Similarly, brands like Mysore Sandal soap and Asian Paints began their expansion in India as exports were hampered due to World War II. The unique fragrance of Mysore Sandal Soap still is a favourite among Indians. Asian Paints, over time, has risen to become one of the paint giants of Asia. 

Why have they been able to survive? 

The Indian brands’ birth during the pre-independence times were associated with India’s freedom struggle. The brands instilled a sense of patriotism amongst the Indian masses that continued for generations to date. The pricing of these products has not undergone a steep rise. The product quality was maintained which bolstered the trust among Indians and earned its loyal customer base. 

Learnings from the Pre-Independence Indian brands

  • For a decade, ParleG biscuits did not change the prices of biscuits even though prices of wheat, milk, and sugar increased. It adhered to its promise of selling affordable biscuits to the masses. 
  • Indian brands from the pre-independence era exemplify not just nostalgia, but also longevity and consistency.
  • From the marketing side, the brands used two appeals, patriotism and family-oriented products. At a time when the purchasing capacity of Indians was low, Indian families preferred products that could be used by the entire family. 
Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.



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