#BrandSaga: Dhara Cooking Oil – The Anokhi Shuruat of a dynamic journey

Amidst all the cooking oil ads, Dhara’s ‘the jalebi kid’ has managed to be in our hearts and minds even after two decades. This week we take a walk through the journey of Dhara Cooking Oil which redefined purity and healthy living for us.

It is not everyday that people sit to reminiscence the good old days and a popular ad from the 90s becomes a ‘hot topic’ for striking conversations, though virtually. The other morning, a few tweeted a ‘meme’ like picture of Rahul Gandhi only to caption it ‘Jalebi ( in the voice of that DHARA oil ad kid)’.

Also there were recent conversations where if asked to name a few ads and commercials of the early days- the ‘jalebi’ ad of Dhara Oils was one of the three most spoken about campaigns by the users who also termed it ‘with us forever’ and we could not agree more.

And here we are, unraveling the #BrandSaga of the cooking oil which went onto become the first branded packaged oil in India, trusted for its purity and quality with the famed tagline ‘Anokhi shudhta anokha asar; Dhara Dhara shudh Dhara’.

The ‘Anokhi’ Shuruat

It all started in 1988 as a battle to curb the sale of loose oil in India when the The Golden Flow operation was launched by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). The government asked NDDB to come out with an oil brand that could be sold at a fixed price at all times, according to a Mid Day report. Since then it has been in the limelight for it’s well-defined and strong brand image often integrating consumer sentiments since the start of it’s advertising journey. Dhara edible oil is currently helmed by Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable (MDFVL).

dcmn_bindu_balakrishnanDhara is a brand that many of us have grown up with. The jingle ‘Dhara Dhara Shudh Dhara’, is imprinted in our memories from the times the ad used to play on Doordarshan, and still brings in that warm fuzzy feeling. Over the years we have seen a shift in how the brand has marketed itself to the Indian families,” shared Bindu Balakrishnan, Country Head, DCMN India.

The then and now viral ‘Jalebi’ ad  

In the early 90s, the country withdrew subsidisation and Dhara edible oil being one of of the subsidised products, witnessed a setback by the move. Consumers were not ready to spend much and to combat the challenge, DDB Mudra Ahmedabad (Then Mudra) weaved a communication that even after 20 years sparks nostalgia in every 90s kid. 

When the sales hit, the agency was on verge of getting fired, revealed Jagdish Acharya , Founder of Cut The Crap (then branch head of Mudra Ahmedabad) to Economic Times.  Dhara, at that time, needed an emotional story or proposition to be weaved
to make people forget its budget background.

Clad in a yellow t-shirt and a blue dungaree, the little ‘Bablu (Parzaan Dastur)  is seen sitting upset on the bench of a railway station when Ramu Kaka enters. The kid reveals to him that he is decided to leave the home as everyone is angry on him. And that’s when Ramu kaka lures Bablu by telling him that his mother is making ‘garma- garam jalebis’ for him. Bablu could not control his excitement and rides back home on Ramu Kaka’s bicycle.  Relishing the ‘jalebis’ cooked in Dhara vegetable Oil. The kid touched many hearts along with the ad ending with ‘Anokhi Shudhta, Anokha Asar’.

Vineet KindraDDB Mudra Group’s association with Dhara goes back to more than thirty years now. The ‘Jalebi’ ad from the ’80s made Dhara a household name and instated its positioning as the leading brand in the Cooking Oil category. Vineet Kindra, Senior Vice President & Business Partner, Business Management, DDB Mudra Group exclaimed, “This ad also introduced Dhara’s iconic jingle, which has stayed with the brand since then, aiding brand recall. Dhara is India’s first edible oil brand and has been one of the most iconic brands in the Indian market. It has stood the test of shifting consumer preferences, new competitors; only to be transformed and come out better. And it continues to grow stronger.”

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Promoting healthy living through advertising

Until now Dhara portrayed a mother, the food and a child in it’s advertisements by communicating how the oil deepens their relationship and the food cooked in it strengthens the bond. Taking a break from mothers, the brand started concentrating on the head of the family – fathers and started revolving their advertising around healthy living – be it Dhara Dhara, Shudh Dhara or ‘My Daddy Strongest’.

Donning a new look

After tweaking it’s advertising strategy a bit, Dhara Oils, in 2009 decided to undergo a makeover and changed it’s logo 20 years post it’s existence in the market. Facing stiff competition from it’s contemporaries like Saffola, Nature Fresh And Fortune, Dhara aimed to stand out in the clutter and donned a refreshing and sharp look.  The refined oil category was growing at a rate of 8-10 percent then and it seemed important for Dhara to rise up with the competition and generate high brand recall through a blend of contemporary look and feel in it’s identity.

From ‘Shudhta’ to ‘India ka Tadka’

After a hiatus of six long years, Dhara made a comeback on our TV screens, this time claiming to be the ‘Tadka of India’.  While the brand till 2000s treasured purity as it’s core proposition, cut to 2012 it was now shifted to responsible consumption which was synonymous with Dhara’s bond with it’s consumers over the years.

While being off screen for a while Dhara focussed on strengthening its distribution networks and launching upgraded variants. Meanwhile the creative team at DDB Mudra Delhi worked on the comeback communication for the brand keeping in mind the heritage and it’s core eths of purity, taste and trust.

The new positioning ‘India ka Tadka’ signified the joy of life and celebration of life with food and tried to capture the significance of food even in the smallest of celebrations. According to media reports, the ad was shot on a budget of Rs 2.5 to 3 crore and produced by Thumbnail Pictures.  This time around the brand was closing nearly Rs 800 crore revenue.

dhara campaigns

Dhara aims to bring  #ZaraSaBadlaav

Last year, in a bid to increase the awareness around daily usage of edible oils, Dhara and it’s long standing creative partner DDB Mudra  rolled out a new campaign #ZaraSaBadlaav promoting healthy living and encourage people to bring in small change for larger benefits of healthy living. The campaign was titled Zara sa badlav banaye life behtar’ and asked to use less oil in every day consumption. Being a oil brand itself, to come up with a rational thought like this involved risk but it was health first for Dhara.

In its most recent campaign, Dhara has evolved its conversation to talk about health to an increasingly progressive consumer base and a culture where gender roles and family structures are changing. “The latest campaign promotes ‘healthy living’ and makes consumers aware of their daily edible oil consumption habits. This campaign speaks about making small changes in life, which in turn bring about larger changes. The agency also used the iconic Dhara jingle in a new avatar,” shared Kindra. 

With the ‘Zara sa Badlav’ ads, Dhara is now trying to change this perception or the social norm, that a woman always cooks while the man just eats. Balakrishnan added, “One of the biggest shifts in its strategy was brought forward by its “Zara sa Badlav” series of ads in 2018. Historically, Dhara always showed the woman cooking with Dhara oil, be it jalebis or pakodas. But In its latest series of ads, we see the father making pakoras, or packing school lunches, while the mom is shown as the one who does the household shopping and is the career woman. The son is shown making rangolis while the daughter is the engineer of the family fixing lights.”

She also asserted that this is a great step forward by the Dhara in positioning itself as a new age brand, in touch with today’s social fabric and its evolving sensibilities. So, kudos Dhara!

Keeping with the ‘Digiverse’

While it won’t be wrong to say that unlike others Dhara has been a bit low key with it’s digital campaigns. Rolling out occasional social media ad launches, Dhara through it’s #ZaraSaBadlaav positioning, focused on ‘Nayi Soch’ as the theme where responsibilities are divided equally in households.

In 2017, being the ‘India ka Tadka’ Dhara also celebrated the joy of togetherness by launching one and a half minute film to communicate the same.

Also through it’s creatives on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the brand continues promoting healthy living with messaging like cutting on technology usage and switching to the living mode.

#ZaraSaBadlaav is all one needs for a healthy living. Switch to the living mode and turn off the technology for a while. Meet the real you.

Posted by Dhara Cooking Oils on Sunday, 3 February 2019

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Life is precious! Why waste it by cribbing? Instead start appreciating and be grateful to witness a beautiful morning every day. Let’s live, enjoy and make good memories every then and now. #ZaraSaBadlaav

Posted by Dhara Cooking Oils on Saturday, 2 February 2019

However the brand has been actively creating topical posts to get the moment marketing right.

Let’s promise to oneself to embrace our achievements, follow our dreams and passions, form an opinion and live, not just survive. #ZaraSaBadlaav

Posted by Dhara Cooking Oils on Friday, 1 February 2019


Summing up the brand journey, Balakrishnan here noted that while their messaging has evolved over the years, the brand has always kept good health and family as the core theme for its advertising. Dhara’s memorable taglines “My Daddy Strongest’, ‘Happy Hearts are Healthy Hearts’ ,‘India ka Tadka’ to its latest “Zara sa Badlav”, have all been received very well by the audiences.