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Updated: November 20, 2012 19:17 IST

Bike ad treads Iyer and ire

Lalatendu Mishra
Comment (33)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

This is a story of an ad campaign cast(e) in a different mould going awry.

Put it down to thin skin, the hunger for publicity or our ever-expanding republic of hurt sentiments but Hero Motocorp Ltd, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in India, finds itself defending an advertisement in which it called its popular Splendor bike ‘Iyer’ in Tamil Nadu. A little known organisation from Coimbatore has lodged a complaint with the Commissioner of Police of that city, seeking action against Hero Motocorp, ad agency JWT which devised the campaign, and the newspapers that published the advertisement.

The complaint? ‘Iyer’ is part of the Brahmin caste and the advertisement has “denigrated” the community by using it as a surname for a mere machine, says the Brahmin Youth Federation of India (BYFI), which is seeking action for defamation.

Hero, to drive home the point that it’s best-selling Splendor has become an integral part of the Indian family called the bike ‘Splendor Iyer’ along with the picture of a jovial father-daughter duo named Shivram Iyer and Sowmya Iyer. This was a pan-India campaign, and the bike was given different surnames appealing to local communities. In Mumbai and Karnataka, the bike was called Patil, while in Gujarat it was Patel and in Delhi, Chauhan.

“How can they give the Iyer surname to a machine? It is cheap creativity without responsibility to give the Iyer surname to a machine which is inferior to human beings,” K. Ramasubramanian, national convener, BYFI, said, speaking on the phone from Coimbatore. “Had they given any other surname, it could have created law and order problems in Tamil Nadu. We are silent people, and they are taking us for granted and making fun of us. It is a part of the agenda to show Brahmins in a poor light in the mass media.”

According to a Hero MotoCorp spokesperson: “The recent communication of Splendor in various national and regional dailies showcases the bike as part of happy families across India. We have depicted multiple societal groups in these campaigns with the objective of connecting with the people by using local flavours, e.g. local language and local family names.”

Marketing experts also agreed with Hero’s point of view. “In fact, the company has respected the community. It has to be seen positively. The brand has given respect to the surname by getting associated with it. One should feel proud,” said Mr Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consultants.

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To be honest, i don't know whether having a caste name for a bike is
right or wrong. But ultimately the bike company has got the "targeted
publicity" which was real intention behind this saga. Good luck HERO
HONDA.

from:  John
Posted on: Nov 21, 2012 at 00:42 IST

Just an observation..Caste names were removed from road names in Chennai to eradicate
caste based differences.
Caste system is primarily used in our education system for college admission and for Government jobs to help improve backward classes. It was good for a while, but how effective or valid this is now?
Its nice to see Honda creating a new set of problems. Yes it is a
problem in TN.

Everyone in TN wants the caste based differences for certain things
and not for others. What is the role of castes in our society and
what do people want to do with it. People are not clear on this and
every party wants to profit from this, be it the policy makers or the
private sectors

from:  Govi
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 22:10 IST

The ad does not hurt the sentiments of "Iyers" in anyway. In fact, the
ad has to be seriously questioned for representing Tamil Nadu using
"Iyer" ,the dominant caste.

from:  Saradha.V
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 17:27 IST

Mr. K. Ramasubramanian, convener of the Brahmin Youth Federation of India is the
villain in this Hero story ! Like all villains, this anti-Hero seems to lack a sense of
humour - unlike fortunately, other members of the Iyer tribe like the undersigned. I
will therefore exhort my fellow "kudumi" to see the lighter side of life....

from:  V.Suresh
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 17:07 IST

There was a big hue and cry on Facebook the day the ad appeared. It was from a group who condemned the use of a caste name, instead of common name. The next day iyer was replaced by Kumar in Chennai and was celebrated by the group. Generally Tamils are stereotyped as Iyers in north whether it is right or wrong.

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 17:04 IST

Cant see what all the fuss is about?? BYFI, use your sensitivity to fight inequality, injustice and poverty. May be the idea was to get some media mileage out of this, in which case, well done.

from:  Ram also Iyer
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 16:55 IST

I think BYFI is just over reacting.

from:  Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 16:54 IST

When and Where did we lose our "Sense of Humour",this is a non issue &
deserves no attention

from:  Venkataramanan Ramasethu
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 15:53 IST

No doubt, Indians are so much obsessed with caste and surname; it's time
to move on and show something great in terms of value contribution as an
individual....

Religion and caste can be two edged sword, they can improve humans being
and corrupt their mindset; we need to decide which one is better for
humankind.

from:  Raj
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 14:47 IST

I am a so called brahmin who strongly beleive that one is not a brahmin just by birth but by following and observing the required duties.

I see in no way has the community been denigrated. As pointed out by other comments, this is over reaction. Why are we not sensitive to many things that we ought to and learn to take matters such as this lightly? Sentiments and attitudes such as this are the exact ones lead to an entire city/state/country to come to a stand still for a every day occurance such as death.

from:  Ram
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 14:23 IST

As rightly said above, The ad has given due respect to the Iyer
community by associating with the most trusted and most reliable product
in India. I can not find it derogatory, instead it is even giving much
publicity to the community. Whoever thought this as derogatory and filed
the complaint has not only failed to note the way the name Iyer is used
in the ad but also lost his sense of humor.

from:  Shivakumar Amma
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 14:06 IST

Why do people have such weak and vulnerable sentiments.I don't
think that there is anything which will hurt or deride the Iyer
community. BYFI should know that many Iyers would be using the Hero
Motorcycle and it's a part of their lives. This is a pure case of
making mountain out of a molehill. The BYFI should not invest its
energy into this useless task and rather use it somewhere else
productively.

from:  Manas
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 14:00 IST

@HERO HONDA AND THE PEOPLE WHO COMMENTED BELOW: Naming it on Iyers or
any other community will divide the society .@Iyer friends: There is
nothing to be proud in the name of caste. Carry your own identity as a
individual and not in name of caste or religion. I am not sure whether
HINDU will publish this comment

from:  ANANDA PRAKASH R
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 13:46 IST

Let us not debate whether the particular advertisement of Hero Motocorp Splendor Bike Iyer will upgrade or denigrate the community. Why at all bring religion into advertisement? Is it not a cheap way to advertise a product? If Hero Motocorp really believes in its engineering strength and product quality, they should be using that in their advertisements rather than indulging in cheap publicity.

from:  Raghavendran S
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 13:20 IST

Here intentions of Mr K. Ramasubramanian is not to sue Hero Motocorp
Ltd, but to tell the world that there is something like BYFI and he is
leading it, guarding the needs of Iyers and securing the interest of
Iyers. Analysts call this kind of politics is called as 'Fear Politics'.

from:  Sakeesh
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 12:54 IST

Naming a motorcycle as "Iyer" could be interpreted in different ways. It could be an insult or an attribute. I know in Europe a car was named after "Picasso" and it never raised an eyebrow here,

from:  bcmanyan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 12:33 IST

There used to be a tag line used by Hero Honda for its bikes.. I am
tweaking it a bit.. "Read it, Shut it and Forget it.." That is what the
people taking offense should do. Where is their sense of humour? Are
they still in 1920s? The world has moved on to 2013 (almost) and here we
have people complaining about comparing a bike to their caste (which I
am a part of as well but irrelevant to my point).Grow up MR.K.
Ramasubramanian!!

from:  Shankar
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 12:26 IST

I find nothing wrong in the ad. In my opinion, the BYFI is over-reacting.

from:  Rajeev Iyer
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 12:01 IST

Mr. K. Ramasubramanian might want to change his name to Thackeray and
move to Mumbai, for he might find that there is an opening for him
there. As an Iyer, I sincerely request him not to sully the reputation
we Iyers have painstakingly developed as educated and progressive
Indians with a sense of humor. I actually believe that the Honda
campaign can only raise the profile of Iyers, and not damage it.

from:  V. Sankarnarayanan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 11:12 IST

where does Hero Moto corpo recruit these business partners. thsi guy jagdish kapoor is making it worse by saying that the brahmins shoudl actually be proud that their surname is assoicated with the bike. what nonsense. How can the bikes brand name give respectability or priode to a well accomplished community. such jokers become chairman & MD. this is the quality of management nowadays. sillier than a goose. now some goose asscoaition dont come after me for comparig kapoor with the goose.

from:  syed hassan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 11:09 IST

It is much ado over something trivial. Unfortunately it only proves that we have lost that sense of humour. We have much to learn from the brave Sikhs who in spite of being the butt of jokes in many of the so-called humour, they laugh along. It requires immense courage to laugh at oneself. The Ad campaign is only to reinforce the fact as to how inseparable the motorbike and a practicing Iyer (a Vaadyaar/Saastrigal) has become when he sets out on his various engagements.

from:  Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 10:41 IST

The complainants clearly have lost the plot with regards to the use of
the name.However, I do take umbrage at the first sentence of the the second
paragraph - this is yet another example of editorializing news. I am
not interested in Lalatendu Mishra's opinions about this issue, I am
merely interested in the news being reported and I am happy to make up
my own mind.
Commenting is my (the readers) job, not Lalatendu Mishra's. If I was to be interested in someone's opinion, I will read the readers' comments and/or the articles in the Op-Ed pages. Give me a break and trust my intelligence.

from:  S Vaidyanathan
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 10:33 IST

It is indeed funny and sad that people and organisations have the time,energy and inclination to note that equating a Brahmin sect with a machine is worth punishing but that a company can get away with an ad that says "Don't ask what you can do for your Country,Ask whats for lunch" on a huge banner bang in the middle of the Delhi airport can get away with it happily. No points for guessing what the visitors from other Country must think when they see that.

from:  Nikky
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 09:49 IST

all this looks crazy , in fact hero moto corp should be booked for promoting caste-ism, how can they generalize the entire population of TN with one caste this is just stereotyping, already we have enough problems and the comment that by branding this iyer community with a motorbike these people's value has increased is the craziest of all, let us understand while in north india it is common to refer people as guptaji sharmaji etc in TN it is derogatory, this is just again a total lack of understanding of India's diversity so my appeal to HERO MOTO'S CORP -- we are all proud of you , so dont bring down this great company's image with such careless advt. you will do well even without HONDA !!

from:  vinod
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 09:42 IST

While the ad may not have been intentionally offensive, I question the necessity to give
caste names to the bike. On one hand, we want caste consciousness to disappear while at
the same time they bring up caste wherever possible.
And I do agree with mr. Rama Subramanian that had the bike been named after any other
community it would cause law and order issues.

from:  Swarna
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 08:11 IST

In the 21st century, it is pathetic to see organisations like the Brahmin Youth Federation of India clinging on to the outdated and discredited caste system. Why can't such organisations work towards assimilaton into the mainstream?

from:  Nijesh Makija
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 07:12 IST

Both arguments are absurd. No caste is superior as every one is equal. tagging a caste
name to a product can cut both ways! So sad to see the caste demon is slowly creeping
again into the so called enlightened Tamil Nadu, this time by the means of a blunt and crude
advertisement. Next time in which way, I wonder!

from:  Kris
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 06:30 IST

Nothing wrong in that. Infact, it promotes the sect.

from:  Sankar
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 06:00 IST

If you are working for a media company and did not forsee aproblem in using a caste name to promote a product, then you are out of touch wih reality.

Hopefully the preson who came with such a bright idea soon understand his mistake and appologise to the community.

from:  ram van
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 05:52 IST

I'm an Iyer and I'd buy this bike! I don't see why this is offensive at all... Its not like Hero named a toilet cleaner or, say, a deodorant stick Iyer. Now, if they named their next car Iyengar, then I'd might be a bit jealous!! Relax and enjoy your irrelevancy, BYFI. Also, is that a 'kudumi' sticking out from under the helmet? Very nice!

from:  Siddharth Iyer
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 05:40 IST

In my opinion, this is very creative. We Indians need to grow up. It has happened a
million times now that when we don't agree with something, we try to shut it down
and then when we are the ones to be asked to keep quiet about something, we bring
'freedom of speech' into it. Even if an opinion or statement is insulting, it should be
allowed to be exist. Freedom of speech begins with insulting.

from:  Parminder
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 05:31 IST

This is ridiculous! How could Hero Corp be held for such an ad. It's a clear indication of how narrow minded our people have come to be.

from:  Justin Sam Joseph
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 02:40 IST

Please do not act in a hurry on demation. You should prove by adding Iyer even to a donkey it will brighten up and become a horse.

from:  Mani Iyer
Posted on: Nov 20, 2012 at 02:26 IST
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