LIFE

Reinventing the village brands

Aranmula Kannadi

Aranmula Kannadi  

Brands, they say, never die. They are re-born. So are all those sombre village brands of Kerala finally being given another lease of life?

Due to an effort by the State Poverty Eradication Mission Kudumbashree, products ranging from Ramassery idli to Paravur rope may not only find a spot in the hearts of those who admire brands as personalities but also spot a niche in the commercial market.

From north to south, Kerala villages have, over several generations, sprouted distinct products. Marayur `sarkkara' (jaggery from Marayur), `Puliyilakkara Pudava' from Chennamangalam, the Aranmula Kannadi (mirrors from Aranmula) are just a few of them.

They have gained worldwide recognition for their quality and the tradition they represent. They have travelled distant lands as cultural ambassadors carrying with them the sounds, the smells and colours of the State.

Back home, they are thought of in spasms of public memory and find mentions largely in tourist brochures.

The situation can well change with Kudumbashree trying to marry the reach of its neighbourhood groups to the recognizability of these indigenous brands.

In fact, the latest issue of the Kudumbashree, the mouthpiece of the programme, advocates the right use of the strength of these brands.

Introducing the Kudumbashree endeavour to use the strengths of these brands for opening micro enterprises, the executive director of the programme, T. K. Jose, recognises that even before any mass medium arrived on the scene, `Ambalappuzha Paalpayasam' was known all over Kerala.

Ramassery idli

Ramassery idli  

What he drives at is the old market logic that quality and cost-effectiveness can drive any product even without all the media hype that accompany modern-day brand building.

The culinary delight from Ambalappuzha is in the distinguished company of other all-time hits like halwa from Kozhikode, Ernakulam's earthenware, Kuthambully sari, Payyannur pattu, Vadakara nurukku and Beypore pathemaari. Then there is the pocket wonder we call the Vechoor cow and teak from Nilambur, which has acquired world renown.

And, if we want to know how these brands climbed the popularity charts, Chendamangalam `pudava' is a typical example. It has a tradition of about 100 years, is quintessentially Malayali and emerged on the scene as clothing for the Kochi royalty.

The royalty is gone but the Chendamangalam product's regal qualities endure as even today about 5,000 families in the area depend on it for their livelihood.

While the State has this distinction of having a large number of indigenous brands, it has the burden of putting them to the right use. The world over, these local strengths have been used to prop up tourism industry and Kerala can well promote its own brands.

The list provided in what is a collector's issue of `Kudumbashree' is by no means exhaustive. The Editor of the issue and mission coordinator, M. K. Sasheendran, admits that the list will be expanded in the future. For the time being, however, it is a pointer in the right direction both for the entrepreneurs and these evergreen brands.

By Martin K A

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