Artefacts from the Godrej Archives

WhatPackaging? collates glimpses of the company's history

09 Apr 2021 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Located in Mumbai, Godrej Archives is the Godrej Group’s business archive. The Archives collects, preserves and manages records covering 123 years of the company’s history. The idea was mooted in 1997, the group’s centenary year, by Sohrab Godrej, former chairman of the Godrej Group, who had over the years, taken up the task of collecting relevant documents and photographs.

Since then, the Godrej Archives has been recording the history of Godrej — its products, plants and people — and making it available for research. The Archives helps the organisation identify records that are of historical value.

The Godrej Archives works in collaboration with preservation and conservation experts in the country to conserve records using state-of-the-art standards and practices. The following are the select artefacts from Godrej Archives — glimpses of a history of a company and a country.


1897-1900: Anchor Brand Locks
Ardeshir Godrej, founder of the Godrej Group was a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who tried his hand at several businesses before zeroing in on the manufacturing of locks. It is said that he simply read in the newspaper one day about burglaries being on the rise in Bombay (now Mumbai) and that’s when he thought of making good quality locks — a product that was a common Indian’s need.

Ardeshir was no doubt influenced by the spirit of Swadeshi — serving one’s country by making indigenously manufactured goods — that was the far cry of the Indian National Movement then.

1901-1910: Springless Lock
Godrej received its first patent for springless locks from the King of England in 1908. This springless locks technology was a major manufacturing breakthrough as it made Godrej locks more durable and reliable. After this, there was no looking back as Godrej brought out a wide range of locks and other security equipment to secure homes, offices and other premises in every way possible, making Godrej a trusted Indian brand.

1911-1920: Chavi Bar - with vegetable oil
Godrej Chavi Bar soap was launched in 1918 amid fierce competition from the popularly imported European brands. The launch of this called for an effective marketing campaign. Relying heavily on the message of Swadeshi, Godrej stressed on Indian soaps made using vegetable oil as opposed to the rival soaps, which were made using animal fats. Ardeshir Godrej distributed pamphlets in Gujarati titled Vacho ane Seekho (read and learn) explaining the process of making soap using vegetable oil.

This was a bold step as revealing the very process might have endangered his own business. Nonetheless, he went for it. Godrej set off on an aggressive campaign against its rival soap makers suggesting the harmful effects of animal fat used in soaps. Ardeshir, in one of the advertisements, warns against soaps made from ‘dead rats, cats, dogs, cows and from human excreta’ and also conveys it through powerful visuals. Here is another advertisement featuring Tagore from the 1930s.

1921-1930: Godrej No. 1
Did you know that there was a Godrej No.3 soap and a No.2 even before Godrej No.1 was launched? When these soaps (No.3 and No.2) were introduced, research for improvement was being undertaken. The result was the introduction of Godrej ‘No.1’ soap, which had a lingering rose perfume and proved to be better than its predecessors in more ways than one. Ardeshir was once asked why he introduced the No.2 soap first before the No.1, he cheekily replied: “If people find No.2 so good, they’ll believe No.1 to be even better!” Even today, Godrej No.1 is preferred by over 380-mil- lion consumers, making it the third-largest soap brand in India. (Courtesy: Godrej Archives)

1961-1970: Forklift
Godrej was the first Indian company to venture into the manufacturing of forklift trucks in 1961 and these indigenously- made forklift trucks were made available in the market by 1963.

1951-1960: Cinthol
The name Cinthol was coined by fusing the word ‘synth’etic with phen‘ol’. Synth was later changed to Cinth by Burjor P Godrej to give it a warmer and palpable feel. The name Cinthol was also felt to be far more marketable than ‘Synthol’, which is resonated in the fact that Cinthol is a household name today. Bureau of Indian Standards declares Cinthol Original as a Grade 1 soap, having a total fatty matter (TFM) of 79 while others hover around 70. The 66-year-old soap has remained almost unchanged throughout the years — from the original scent to colour, design as also the distinctive red paper packaging. The only significant change was the replacement of the germicide G-11 with TCC, another compound most effective in killing bacteria while being exceptionally gentle on the skin. (Courtesy: Godrej Archives)

1951-1960: Nav-Tal
Since its introduction in 1954, Nav-tal became the most popular brand among Godrej locks and even today it symbolises security for most Indian homes. So popular were these locks that it gave rise to a parallel spurious industry, which flooded the market with inferior imitations. But the original could not be matched. There was also a square Nav-Tal before a round one that was launched in 1958.

1951-1960: First All-Indian Typewriter
Typewriter Launched in 1955, Model M-9, the first all-Indian typewriter had almost 1,800 component pieces, out of which only the types, keytops, rubber plates and one spring of the value of Rs 30 in all were imported, making it truly an all-Indian product. Make in India may be a modern slogan, but Godrej had coined a similar one — ‘India can make it’ — long back in 1955 when it launched the all-Indian typewriter, which was symbolic of the changing dynamics of India’s manufacturing capabilities.

1971-1980: Liquid Hair Dye
Godrej Liquid Hair Dye launched in 1974 was India’s first hair colouring brand. After extensive research, a unique hair dyeing in powder form was launched in 1981 and was made popular with the ‘kaato, gholo, lagaalo’ (cut, dissolve, apply) slogan.

1981-1990: Crowning Glory soap
Crowning Glory was a combination soap based on alpha olefin sulphonate (AOS) technology which was eco-friendly and effective in hard water areas. Dr Burjor Godrej and the R & D team at Godrej Soaps invented the process of making alpha olefin sulphonates (AOS) from natural fatty acids, a technique that was patented in many countries later. AOS was less harsh, more economical and soon replaced the Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) used in detergents. This soap was specifically advertised as ‘the only beauty soap plus conditioner for soft, shining, manageable hair’ and ‘Beauty Soap for silky hair and complexion care’ and the famed Dimple Kapadia, who has fabulous hair even now, was one of the models chosen for the advertising campaign.

1981-1990: Ezee liquid detergent
The Godrej Ezee brand was launched in 1983 with a single focus on taking care of winter wear and other delicate clothes. Even the most premium detergent powders contain rough soda particles that do not go well with winter wear and other delicate fabrics. Ezee liquid detergent has a no soda, pH neutral formula that gently cleanses from within, while preventing loss of natural protein in the fabric, thus pre- venting damage of fabric as well as colour loss.

1981-1990: Shikakai soap
Though the modern skin-tone colour packaging of the soap is popular, Shikakai was once available in a bold red and green wrapper — an early version after it was launched in 1988. It shows a lady with thick, luscious black hair on the cover and has been almost a trademark design since its launch. Bollywood actress Amrita Singh was one of the models who advertised the Shikakai soap.

2011-2020: Godrej Fast Card
With rising instances of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria across India, Godrej© s Good Knight Fast Card is an ultra-smart and highly relevant solution. It is India's first paper-based mosquito repellant, which is accessible and affordable by all, available at a price of Re 1. Fast Card starts working within a mere three minutes and lasts all four hours. All you need to do is fold it, light it up and place it where you want instant action.


1931-1940: Home Saving Safe
The compact Home Savings Safe, introduced by Godrej in the 1930s, was sized like a small piggy bank and was perfect for some small savings that would go a long way. It boasted of an impeccably scratch-less and permanent finish, courtesy of the best cellulose automobile enamel that could withstand the corrosion caused by the country© s tropical climate.

1951-1960: Ballot Box
Godrej & Boyce supplied a mind-boggling 12.83 lakh steel ballot boxes for the first General Elections of India in 1952, by manufacturing around 15,000 ballot boxes a day on an average in less than four months without affecting normal production. These ballot boxes had several patented inventions and were produced at Rs 5 per box for the 1952 and 1957 elections. The final design and construction of the ballot boxes was the result of deliberations over 50 specimens blue-printed and produced by Godrej.

With external locks proving expensive, Nathalal Panchal, a workman at Godrej, devised a unique locking system that could only be opened by breaking a pre-impressed insignia and manipulating the locking lever through the aperture covered by the insignia. Thus, ballot papers could not be tampered without breaking the seal. The box could not be opened at its hinges and no paper, however thin, could be forced into it. The steel boxes were rot and vermin proof and could be reused. The ballot boxes were transported to remote corners of 23 states in India, from the Vikhroli railway station through commercial and passenger train wagons, earning them the sobriquet ‘election specials’.

1931-1940: Shaving Stick
In 2018, Godrej Archives received this little vintage tin from the 1950s containing Godrej Shaving Stick from a customer. Godrej Chavi brand logo and names of the other products of Godrej Soaps such as soaps, hair oil, eau de cologne can be seen on the tin. Launched around 1932, this product continues to serve Indian markets in its different avatars.

2001-2010: Chotukool
Travelling far and wide in the hinterland of India, talking to villagers, housewives, grocers and small provision store owners about how exactly a refrigerator matter to them, led to the genesis of the Godrej Chotukool. This mobile food and beverage cooler was powered by solid state thermoelectric technology with a 12V DC battery rather than the familiar compressor, to combat the irregular electric supply in rural and semi-urban areas.

The lid on the top containing the battery, prevented cold air loss and ensured easy servicing. Most importantly, it reduced food spoilage, the frequent trips to grocery markets and thus eased the lives of the women folk and the entire family in general. For advertising and delivering the product to the remotest doorstep, Godrej partnered with self-help groups, NGOs at the grassroots level and even the India Post, which enhanced the trust value. The ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan recognised the Godrej Chotukool as a terrific innovation that broke barriers and conventions and made a difference in the lives of many.

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