Brand Saga: Ghadi Detergent, emergence of a ‘mass brand’ from the bylanes of UP

Sneha Yadav
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Ghadi detergent advertising journey

Facing giants like Surf, Wheel and Nirma, the ‘clock’ stayed far from ceding. We write about the Ghadi Detergent advertising journey this week, which is as vigorous as the brand’s willpower to rise up to the challenges.

Lore has it that the founders of Ghadi detergent were inspired by the tremendous success of Nirma who within a short span became a market leader taking over giants like HUL’s Surf.  Amidst no hullabaloo was born Ghadi Detergent with a vision to not compete but build an identity of its own in the already chaotic market. We take a look at the Ghadi detergent advertising journey to relive the brand’s passion.   

‘Ghadi’ emerges from the bylanes of Kanpur

Although globally the development of detergents took place in 1930 during World War II, in India the industry was established only in 1957. It was when the Bombay-based Swastik Oil Mills started manufacturing synthetic detergents. In 1959, subsidiary Hindustan Unilever launched Surf Excel on the desi land and a decade later the industry witnessed the rollout of Nirma.

The competition was cut-throat but eventually, Nirma succeeded in dethroning Surf to become the top player in the category. Seeing the zeal of a detergent brand making it to the top, Muralidhar and Bimal Kumar Gyanchandani decided to launched Ghadi detergent in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur in  1987. A year later they incorporated Shri Mahadeo Soap Industries Pvt. Ltd. under which they started manufacturing the product. During the time, Nirma was at its peak with a share value of around 30%.

Shri Mahadeo Soap Industries Pvt. changed its name to Rohit Surfactants Private Limited (RSPL) in June 2005.

HU introduced yet another player, Wheel, to overtake Nirma’s popularity while Ghadi was still busy setting its base to become a mass brand and expand its portfolio. The efforst were paid off when the brand rose up to the top position in the detergent market in 2012.

Ghadi Detergent Advertising Journey

Ghadi (or Ghari meaning ‘clock’) born in the bylanes of Kanpur wasn’t well equipped with finances for national campaigns and full-fledged marketing activities. Hence adopting a regional approach, Ghadi initially started capturing eyeballs in the cities of Uttar Pradesh targeting the lower to middle class population and calibrating the demand chain majorly in the small towns.

Holding the very nerve of the Indian market with affordable pricing, penetrating the desi household in the nukkads and naakas, the helmers of Ghadi detergent slowly pushed the visibility limits in adjoining markets of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab. When the competition rooted for all things premium, Ghadi stayed upright to its roots and concentrated on delivering quality within an accessible-for-all price range.

It mainly utilised outdoor advertising techniques like exhibitions, bill boards, posters, and roadside exhibitions to gain visibility in the rural and semi-urban markets.

Later was coined the brand’s evergreen tagline - ‘Pehle Istemaal Kare, Fir Vishwas, Kare’ which put forth the company’s core message to the consumers where it harped onto building a relationship of ‘trust’ among its consumers.

Selling the ‘Maha Shaktishali’ Ghadi Detergent

The mainstream TV advertising for Ghadi only paced in the later years when the company identified the need to market itself to the whole nation while it had already captured loyal consumers in the northern states. The urban markets were ruled by Nirma, Surf, and Wheel where Ghadi looked at building a niche with its hyper-local approach by investing in print and TV.

Recently launched new ghadi with advertising......... @canopy...

Posted by Ghadi Detergent Is Best on Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lacking huge sums to get on board any celebrity endorser in the early times, Ghadi relied primarily on out-of-home and on-field events to spread the word about its detergent and bar cake. In the summer of 2008, the ‘Ghari Detergent Express’ campaign ran between Lucknow and Guwahati for a period of two months with an insight that “The train is the medium that the masses interact with”.


Sensing the positive response to the train experimentation, Ghadi went ahead to advertise further in Pushkar Express running between Lucknow and Mumbai. Brand advertisements were installed over crossings between West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, inside the compartments of Swarna Jayanti Express (From Trivandrum to Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi) covering four states in South India, thereby expanding downwards.

In the TVCs, the brand and its creative partner Primetime Communications kept a clear and simple messaging where it positioned Ghadi as the ultimate choice for detergents that delivered quality with affordability and a ‘Brand for all’.

The choice of detergent was merely dependent on the foam hat it produced and the communication was targeted at housewives who were considered the end-consumers and decision-makers when it came to buying homecare personal items for the family.

However, Ghadi tried changing the narrative when it equally focussed on the office-goer husband who liked to wear shiny and stain-free clothes and the wife who ensured that along with her family she too deserved to shine bright with ‘Ghadi’.

Targeting customers down the bottom line and an effective price tag enabled Ghadi to become a household name; in 2012 it eliminated HUL’s Wheel to become the top detergent player.

It is reported that the company spent around 2% of spends on marketing and promotional activities and the communication mainly centered around the tagline ‘Pehle istemal karein fir vishwaas karein’ which encouraged trial and prompts repeat purchase. . In 2013, while Hindustan Unilever (Surf, Rin and Wheel) led the pack with a 37 percent share, Rohit Surfactants (Ghari), reportedly, got the second spot at 17%.

During the years when Wheel was being endorsed by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan and Rin by Kajol, Ghadi catered to the common man with common faces. The word of mouth and exchange of credible messages saw Ghadi winning small battles over other brands.

In 2015 when PM Narendra Modi announced the ‘Swacch Bharat Mission’, a cluster of brands leveraged the campaign’s popularity to churn out communication integrating their respective products while also launching social awareness initiatives.

One of the early adopters was Ghadi Detergent which released two TVCs at the time targeting the Hindi speaking base in northern regions and the other in Bengali with an aim to grab a significant market share in West Bengal.  The commercials showcased people realizing that every road, vehicle, and place they visit comprises what we call ‘India’ and that Ghadi detergent supported the mission putting in earnest efforts to make India clean.

The brands’ communication was primarily triggered by the bases of it’s ‘Koshish’ and ‘Sankalp’ to bring about a change to stand tall amidst the clutter. Further for festivals like Holi, Eid, and Diwali the brand launched a new proposition of #SaareMaelDhoDaalo in 2017.

Taking the storytelling route and harping on the long format ad trends, joined hands with ADK Fortune, the brand launched a campaign that urged people to play ‘clean’ Holi and explored the misuse of ‘bura na maano Holi hai’ proverb by miscreants to harass women.

Also Read: #BrandSaga: Surf Excel: The brand that celebrated stains

Continuing with the idea of standing for cleansing beyond clothes, the brand’s EID TVC tackled another kind of ‘mael’ or ‘ills’ in our minds. The insight that the brand tapped was that due to small misunderstandings we lose out on certain people who might be dear to us. Ghadi urged people to make a new beginning by erasing the past and summoning the courage to just apologize and move on. It does not take much to say a ‘sorry’.

The Diwali campaign moved on to tackle the ill of ‘stereotypes’ conceptualised by ADK Fortune. It works on the basic human insight that we as people tend to box strangers we meet, according to the preconceived stereotypes that exist in our minds. At this time, Ghadi clocked a 22% share of the detergent market leaving behind Wheel, Sunlight, and Nirma.

In 2018 the brand donned a new packaging adding a dash of vibrant colours and rolled out a TVC encouraging consumers to keep the trust alive as the brand upgraded itself to deliver even better quality and product effectiveness.

Further in 2019, taking a giant leap, the brand roped in megastar Amitabh Bachchan to lure fresh consumers and maintain brand recall among the existing ones.

After launching a TVC starring the Sr.Bachchan with a kid promoting the detergent as the washing-machine specialist, TV actress Divyanka Tripathi was roped in alongside the veteran actor to get  a tour of how ‘Ghadi- India’s no.1 detergent brand’ strives to get better everyday while keeping the age-old tagline intact.

When the pandemic hit the nation in 2020, like several other brands, Ghadi too rolled out campaigns supporting the local vendors and shopkeepers with an objective to keeping the spirits high in the testing times.

Later, in December 2020 the brand unveiled #BachaavMeinHiSamajhdaariHai campaign to encourage health and safety amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The awareness initiative included a mask that was added to the logo on the packaging, reminding consumers about the importance of wearing a face mask and being responsible and committed towards public safety.


With a belief that the Indian consumers are one of the most discerning buyers in the world and what they expect is performance but at prices that give value for money, Ghadi detergent built its communication blueprint in a way to grab the pulse of the nation and play it around ‘trust’ and ‘quality with affordability.

The Digital Play

One of the common pegs that one could notice while skimming through Ghadi detergent’s social media profiles is the brand’s love for the Hindi language for its communication on new-age platforms like Twitter and Instagram.

However, on Facebook and YouTube, it follows the usual English narrative for campaign announcements. Ghadi Detergent, though, not aggressive on the digital front has its share of activations and posts on the platforms. The brand is actively seen sharing the stories of real heroes as a part of their #BachavMeinHiSamjhdaariHai campaign with a mix of Hind and English copies.

हर घड़ी समझदारी को आगे बढ़ाते हैं, मास्क लगा कर सब को बचाव का रास्ता दिखाते हैं। भारत के इस #ZimmedaarNagrik को घड़ी डिटर्जेंट करता है नमन।

#BachavMeinHiSamajhdaariHai #GhadiDetergent

Posted by Ghadi Detergent on Monday, January 18, 2021

ईमानदारी से मास्क लगाए रखने की इन्होंने भी ठानी है , बचाव में ही है समझदारी है, ये बात सब तक पहुँचानी है।

भारत के इस #ZimmedaarNagrik को घड़ी डिटर्जेंट करता है नमन।

#BachavMeinHiSamajhdaariHai #GhadiDetergent

Posted by Ghadi Detergent on Monday, January 18, 2021

The content hooks consist of campaign launches, seasonal and occasional greetings, COVID focused templates. The company had rolled out varied creatives for the #SaareMaelDhoDaalo campaign proposition, each signifying the need to follow a civil behaviour.

With Ghadi, RSPL Limited claims to have attempted to prove that you can be innovative without splurging. And we couldn’t agree more.

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