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Some Random Podcast - 1 - Companies that went bust - Transcript

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This is the transcript for the first episode of Some Random Podcast.
The episode is unemphatically titled - Companies that went bust.
The page for Some Random Podcast can be found here.

My guest for this episode is Raghavendra.

The podcast can be played below.

Hope you enjoy listening to it, do share any feedback that you have, through comments on Soundcloud or give us a shout on Twitter.


This is taken directly from Youtube captions and slightly edited, should be easy to read with the podcast itself.

Sainath : Hello and welcome to some random podcast
this is the first episode and my name is

Sainath. Today I have with me Raghavendra
who has flown in from Singapore to

Chennai to do this podcast. Obviously. No
I’m kidding we had time on our hands and

we both interests in the startup so
that’s what started people do these days

so we’re decided to put a podcast out there.
Raghav : Hey Sainath, thanks thanks for having me over.

look forward to this conversation
I mean it’s just that we have these

conversations more often than not but this time we decided to record it I guess.

Sainath : I think that’s that’s what we decided to do
we anyway talk about this we decided

”Hey let’s record one of these
things and put it out there”

For whatever it’s worth. So. It’s probably
worth nothing. But so the theme for today

is companies or products that went bust
unexpectedly. Is that a good way to

summarize the theme for today?
Raghav : Sure sure.
Sainath : Right so this does have an Indian

theme to it and one of the ways in which
I’d I anyway pick the companies that I

wanted to pick was I went back and I
looked at some of the stuff I had in my

house and things like that and I was
trying to find out which of these

products are still out there you know
and we’ll be talking about a couple of

those today I hope and do you have any
thoughts on you know the idea of the

theme itself

Raghav : I think it’s very interesting. These are companies we’ve seen as you
mentioned, watched, grown up in some

sense and suddenly today they’re not relevant/don’t exist.
Sainath : Exactly right and

it’s one of the underlying themes to this I
think even to this theme so it’s like a

meta theme on some level but you know
when when you’re in the world of

startups you see like people raising
crazy money and you know everyone thinks

”Wow they’re a success” but then you see
like a crazy successful company you know

go bust
and sometimes you don’t even

realise it which happened with one of
these companies when we found out about

them going bust like last year and I
didn’t even know they were out but I own

a lot of their products
it’s it’s one of those weird things so

don’t really know how to categorize what
you can learn from this but let’s let’s

get into it. So the idea of this is not make it too

structured this is gonna have a bunch of
conversations. I’m guessing you’re

okay with that?
Raghav :Yeah, perfect.
Sainath: So the first company that you know I

wanted to talk about is Subhiksha.
You remember Subhiksha? the retail chain

Raghav: Ofcourse with food world you’d have Subhiksha

they were there everywhere, practically everywhere.
Sainath: I even remember

somewhere like near about three
kilometers from my house there used to

be two Subhiksha on the same Road.
Literally 500 meters from each

other they used to be Subhiksha’s, now,
they’re operated by different retail chains

but that was like a thing
growing up Subhiksha’s was everywhere

and they were everywhere
all of a sudden you know

for a while they weren’t there and then
suddenly whoops you know

So I spent some time
looking into this right and turns out

that is exactly what happened so in
September 2006 Subhiksha had 150 outlets

Wow okay but you’re saying about that
September 2008 they have thousand six

hundred and fifty outlets. 10x in 2 years so that that’s

how is much they scaled and they scaled from South India to everywhere and there

one of the few like proper South Indian
brands that went across India

right so it’s crazy and one of the
interesting things I found about Subhiksha

while looking into it is these guys
raised only 32 crore in equity

Can you imagine they had 1600 retail outlets with just 32 crore in equity

Raghav: 4 and a half million dollars
Sainath : Wow crazy math Raghav. four and

a half million right so it’s that’s all
they had and I can’t even imagine like

startups raising 4.5 million
Raghav: for a series a right
Sainath: exactly right so you know maybe

there are learnings from that that have
been applied since then you know most

companies so the reason they could
expand so much is because they raised the

rest of it in debt right so they had
like seven

hundred eight hundred crore in debt
right so can you do the math on that one
Raghav: It’s a 120 million
Sainath: in debt
that’s how much debt they had on their

books this is secured unsecured whatever right all the debt they had on their books
they had only 32 crore in equity which

is I guess indicative of some of the
learnings that people have we see a lot

of you know ecommerce or omni commerce
chains that are now setting up a lot of

shops and all that
most of them don’t go out after debt anymore you

know this is one of those learnings like
it’s having possibly these people on

your books maybe helps people
Raghav: or weighs you down right

Sainath: it’s a crazy story and the

interesting thing about Subhiksha they
had money from Azim Premji

Azim Premji owned 10% of a company I was
surprised to learn that right he doesn’t

invest in startups much. Does he invest at all?
Raghav: I mean he does but not to the extent yeah

Sainath: so maybe this is one of those
things where you get burned by growing too

quickly in some way.
Raghav: I remember they also put out a mobile

Sainath: yeah, Subhiksha mobiles

so it’s one of those cases where you
know two years they grow 10x from 150

to 1600 retail outlets they grow from two
states or three states to like 15 16

states. crazy story and then

literally overnight they have to shut
everything down right okay not literally

but yes so they they they try to wind
they try to do a merger with some other

company I’m forgetting the name of the
company this was back in February 2008

In February 2008 there was a merger
on the cards and they were trying to you

know fold the company into the other
company and all that but the court

intervened and said you gotta shut this
thing down.
Raghav: they didn’t even manage to

sell it to?
Sainath: nothing they had to repay as
much debt as they could wind down the

Raghav: just bad operation management?
Sainath: Bad operation management, bad financial

management right it’s it’s hard to get
enough data about exactly what happened

but from some of the things I could read
about it the owner basically said you

know in fact of the learnings the owner
actually put out in one of things I read was

we should probably raised more equity he was
looking for I think a 300 crore equity

infusion at that point or 300 crore cash
infusion at that point you know and I’m

guessing that was in equity and probably one of the

learnings that he had was you know to
raise more equity at that point itself

and unfortunately that didn’t happen so and so
Feb 2008 merger on the cards Court

they wind down operations by May 2008

three months thousand six hundred stores
gone right and at that point these guys

had so from you know remember the 2006-2008
retail outlets numbers here is something for you

2006 they had 330 crore in turnover 2008 they had 2305 crore in turnover

this is these are numbers that you hear
about these days with regards to

companies scaling and you know dying out
and all that this is one of those crazy

stories that nobody
even discusses Subhiksha anymore and I was

trying to find out why that’s the case
one of the reasons turns out is the

owner actually got arrested earlier this
earlier last year sometime last year in

a chit fund scam so that was the only
time apparently Subhiksha has been

talked about in the past few years but
it’s one of those crazy companies that

you know you grew up with kind of it
just went away

you never heard why it went away then 10
years later because the owner comes back

and says you know you were in the chip
scam and you’re going to jail right

so it’s it’s one of those sad stories. do
you have any memories of, I remember

Subhiksha ads Aamir Khan I think was in one of those ads

I think there were some weird ads they used to have. Used to really catch the eye

I don’t recollect exactly what the
ads used to have but I used to like their ads

back in my school days. fun company
Raghav : it’s
it’s it’s so sad to see that you know

you could be so and you can grow so big and you can still fall.
Sainath : In 2 years

scale so amazingly
well maybe probably not well clearly but

scale to that level and then watch
everything go away in a snap. Madras high

court was basically Thanos. it’s crazy
Raghav : speaking about

you know companies are that large to fail
One of the interesting ones that

I came across but we
spoke about was MoserBaer, you remember that company?

the CDs, the DVDs everywhere, everywhere
Sainath : As I mentioned in the intro, one of the things I was doing

was going through my house to figure out
what products I have and I had like a

whole bunch of Moser Baer CDs where I have
like movies burnt on to it oops I

shouldn’t say will not record or
anything but you know I have so much

stuff burnt on to it and I didn’t even know
what that company was doing anymore

Raghav: So, this company unfortunately they they
actually shut down last year

so this is a one of those
crazy stories starts off very slow

start way back in 1983

Sainath : Damn
Raghav : 1983 they started with the disks, and in 1990s, they slowly

start venturing into CDs and
that’s when they start hitting the road

hard and that’s when they start innovating really well and in 1999 they start making

the CD drives and from 1999 to
2003 they had this wonderful amazing

growth period where their growth is just
60 80 percent year on year right they

figure out this way to apply or make DVDs , manufacture DVDs in a very very low cost way

they were actually one of the
in 2003 they were actually one of the

largest exporters of hardware from India
Sainath :They were exporting

CDs from India?
Raghav: yeah and they were they were they were

making money hand over fist and you know
just just like that rate the Thanos

moment there was not the high court but
the Thanos moment there was you know the

price of these disks it began to fall you had these Taiwanese

manufacturers you had you had Chinese
manufacturers coming to the game and I

think somewhere along the way the
management that’s the father-son duo

that ran the company
Sainath :Sorry, if I remember correctly, MoserBaer disks used to be like 35

bucks or 40 bucks, or 40 rupees. that’s what
it used to be
Raghav: so 35-40 is actually the

price point that they reached almost in
2006. with the movie in it you can

have like a movie that came a couple of
months ago
Sainath : Yeah that’d be like 120 - 150

Raghav: they had this
whole thing where you get your piracy

CD for 40-50 bucks and they would sell the same

just that you would have to wait for a
couple of months I thought that was

a you know I mean something we used to
enjoy as a family I still remember some of the most

popular movies we watched through the
MoserBaer CD.
Sainath : I remember

taking a bunch of MoserBaer CDs going
to a friend’s place, getting a bunch

of things from his place burnt onto
the thing. we’d go play

cricket while things got burnt because
computer were so slow back then. I think he

when I was in eighth or something went
to Burma bazaar

and all the CDs being sold there were
MoserBaer CDs and you’d buy like

collections of movies for 60 bucks right
you know in it was like, that was a

Raghav: That was the thing to do, the thing
that I find most interesting though is

even even as someone fairly young you’d
start to notice that slowly over a

period of time when you bought one of
their movies like they got it the

business of selling these movies
Sainath :Were they in music as well?
Raghav :They

were in music. so when you
bought the content you would have ads

they did I mean just sheer volume of
their distribution they didn’t segue

into that as a stream of revenue much
yeah I guess is fine yeah but they used to

advertise their own products though and you
could see that they were getting into

flash drives which is which is logical
but, they were

also getting into mp3 players, headphones, earphones
Sainath : So, they were becoming a entertainment company
Raghav :Right, they were becoming an entertainment company

making LCD monitors, they were making you know those
things where you get your thumb drive and it would read the drive

and play the photos like a digital
photo frame
Sainath :we have one

defunct thing at home which my mom keeps
asking me to get back to life but I haven’t

Raghav :I don’t think you should invest time into that, but, they started getting into a
whole bunch of products so if you

actually dive deeper you start to realize
that the fact that the costs of

manufacturing the discs themselves were
falling and they were falling across the

globe suddenly probably put the
management onto a
Sainath : they have to

shift to expand to other verticals
Raghav : Yeah, “what do we do” that’s where you I mean I

don’t know it’s very very easy for us to
sit and talk only they probably

know what they went through, but,

just to make that decision as to what
direction the company should take I

mean we do still have storage companies
today right, you have the SanDisks,

you have western digital, you have the multi billion dollar

wait, SanDisk is owned by Western Digital
Sainath : Transcend, is what you were trying to say

Raghav : so they’re all there, Players are still there, so, what is it that they were

going for so, very interestingly they
branched into making solar cells
Sainath : what? when did they branch into solar cells?
word there because when the difference

Raghav: in 2007/2008 they started branching into solar cells because

because the technology used to apply the
film on the disks is the

same almost same technology that they
use to apply on the solar cell so they

that’s what they felt was their
cold occupancy and that’s what they

decided to branch in
turns out they obviously had a ton of

capital just like the previous Subhiksha example that we had
Sainath : Who did they raise from?

Raghav : Whole bunch of banks they put out some bonds I’m not exactly sure I think

put out some bonds they also raised
from some banks and they raised a lot of

Sainath : did they raise private equity
funding or things like that? I Imagine they would

Raghav : I’m not sure actually on that
Sainath : I mean if it’s in storage and tech and

all of that back then was when everyone
was like “oh India’s the place to put a

lot of money in”
Raghav : “let’s do India”
Sainath : it’s still the
case hopefully it remains in the future as well

but that was when people were getting into it
so I imagine there was like a private equity

investment as well
Raghav : so they they also had a ton of debt

just to get this venture up and
running and then 2008 happened

interesting the coating
that they would apply for solar cells

themselves the coating itself was in
limited supply so they secured,

the credit to them they managed to
secure suppliers for that who could

supply you know consistently they also
managed to secure around I think 100

million euros worth of orders from Europe
100 Million euros 100 million dollars

not not sure
Sainath :We’ll use them interchangeably, we’re not

doing forex trading now
Raghav : so they
managed to get that amount of funding so

they managed to put things in place
it’s just that 2008 happened then people

didn’t want it anymore, people didn’t want to supply
Sainath :They had no money, let’s
leave it there
Raghav: so I think just made

them take a beating and then you know how
there’s this famous Sam Altman quote it

says you you know companies don’t
die you just, they don’t die overnight

they die but it’s gradual, so gradually, over
a period of time towards 2018 there were

no workers coming to any of their manufacturing plants, the cd

business was completely dead such a
giant such a household name

I mean I don’t even know where
to attribute this to I mean in that 2003 to

2006 period perhaps which you could be
the most crucial what do you do you have

cash in the bank, you know that
Sainath : you’re basically the market leader

Raghav : and you can see that this is this is going
to fall what do you do I mean that’s

that’s I guess that’s where
Sainath : very interesting man I mean I

mean that’s a benefit of hindsight and
looking back solar cells makes no sense

you know hindsight entertainment? really
You’re going into LCDs, but, if it had worked out we’d be

here saying “wow MoserBaer is the greatest LCD company in the world”

so you can’t critique too much
Raghav : No critiquing, I’m just
Sainath :Just observations

so it’s one of those things yes
looking back I mean I’m not the founder

of the company or anything but looking
back at what those guys did yes you

could say maybe should not go into solar
cells but if it had worked out again I’d be

saying MoserBoard is the greatest, oh the founder
is like Elon Musk, so, it’s

one of those things ah that’s a tough, it’s
a tough story because I used to love

MoserBaer as a brand because one of those

proper hardware product companies
in India that everybody knew about

it’s one of those sad cases Ithink , I was

shocked to find out they shut down, when did they shut down? last year?
Raghav : 2018

Sainath : they were around for, so they had a life
of 1983, do the math no 1983 to 2018, 35

that’s still a decent you know run

for the company
Raghav : that’s a very decent run
Sainath : and founders didn’t have like unlike

Subhiksha, founder nothing happened to

Raghav : no they’re fine, I think the son is starting on his own again
Sainath : best of luck to him
Raghav :Wish him the best, power to him

Sainath: Hope he builds a solid brand
Raghav : would you know any examples where you know they have

this amazing run then they have this
terrible dip and then they managed to

come back I mean, that’s something I’m not able to think of at this point
Sainath : so, yeah, you remember that,
we used to watch those TechCrunch

videos and all right, there was that guy that

Iranian guy I think Hosein Rahman what
is it was a company,
yeah yeah yeah

that wearable stuff, JawBone up and Jambox, Jawbox or Jambox, I’m forgetting which,

that company I think I don’t know if
they came back but I think I read


last week or last month that

I think there’s a

spinoff company called Jawbone health hub

I think it’s still call, they retained the brand Jawbone, I don’t

know what’s the deal there, I don’t know if it’s a spinoff, I don’t know if it’s a separate company

but I saw that that guy is still the founder of that firm and they raised like 80 mil or

something. I don’t know if that’s a comeback

I don’t know if that’s part of Jawbone. But, you remember Jawbone right?

They raised nearly a billion dollars

right there with Fitbit,

Techcrunch disrupt 2015, I think, were the videos we used to sit and watch

that guy was on the panel discussing you,

Oh wearable is everything, this is the deal, this is everything

I think that interview was between Michael Seibel

and Hosein Rahman, I’m not sure

I don’t know if i’m recollecting that correctly

he was there on the YCombinator panel

how to start a startup.
That was a crazy story

They raised like a billion

This is another example, of, yes

Subhiksha, debt was the problem, MoserBaer was

maybe bad strategy decisions

who knows

But, also debt

But, Jawbone, they raised nearly a billion

in equity from like the real big deals

I think a16z was an investor

I think Khosla was an investor

I think Sequoia was another investor

They had everybody

Everybody who you want on your

captable, was on your captable

They had crazy money and

they went through so many rounds of funding, I think the first time I noticed Jawbone

was when I looking up, you remembed I had that

weird phone, pen idea? or

wearable pen or something like that

bluetooth pen, where as soon as

you write, it will convert it to pdf and all of that. when I was

wearables was when I first came across Jawbone

So I was looking up Jawbone then and I knew

wearable something was there

2015 rolls around, I see that they’ve raised 600

million dollars, I think

Somewhere around 600-700 mil, they raised crazy money

back then, and they’re one of those companies

that was founded really long ago

they were originally a dot com company

they were called something-com

they weren’t Jawbone originally. Jawbone

happened, 2008

What were they doing before? Do you know?

They were originally, so,

Jawbone’s original, they had wearable fitness devices

and all that in the later days, the up line

but originally

they were a music

headset company, so they had earphones, they had bluetooth

headsets, they had a bluetooth speaker

the bluetooth speaker was called Jambox and

I’ve always felt

that the jambox design

I used love jawbones designs. Jambox design to me

is like, so similar to what you see in

Xiaomi bluetooth speaker designs today,

I don’t even know if they took

the jambox and just rebranded it or something

do you mean the criss-cross design? the square criss cross

bluetooth speaker

it’s almost exactly that thing

when I saw it on flipkart, I was like, Oh I’ve seen this before

oh my god, is that not jawbone

So, its one of those weird companies and

So, they were a dot company, they were originally just

I think just Music or

Communications, something like that

They were originally just a communications company, they had

If i’m not wrong, they were doing something with the US Army

or something to help soldiers communicate better in

war scenarios, they were developing earphones

for them or something like that, so, they were doing crazy stuff

proper crazy tech company but,

its one of those things, I don’t know if you can call that a comeback


sort, absolute misery

but, you know, its

maybe its worth talking about it like this.

you know the founders failed after raising

nearly a billion at crazy valuations

their product line

was shut down, they had to auction off the stuff

or basically ran out of inventory, something like that

but, investors are still willing to back that guy
Raghav : That’s awesome

I think thats the way to look at it , one of the things

people tend to do, and I can’t say that I don’t do this, so,

I shouldn’t say people, everyone does, is

when a company fails, to blame

the founder as well, yes, you have to blame the founder, but,

the founder isn’t shut down as a person

Yes, he or she may have

made bad decisions, yes they may have

taken some wrong stratagies, things like that, but,

I think its important to recognise that only if

enough people are willing to fail can somebody else succeed

that’s true, if we,

start putting down people failing

starting up and failing and things like that, nobody will

start up, end result is no innovation

at the end of this, we have, I don’t know what jawbone health hub does

really well, I didn’t read the

announcement well enough, I just know that its there

fair enough, the name is there, the guy is there

the founder is there and he’s raised like 80 million or something

that’s good for him and people are still willing to

trust him and I used to really like listening to the guy

talk about wearables are amazing, all of that

amazing, fun, iranian guy

I think there was another founder as well but I’m not sure who the other guy was

I thought it was a sole founder company, but, I remember

looking up a long time ago, there was another guy, I forget his name, but,

again, I think the way to look at it is,

Yes, the company through, crazy ups

when everyone was looking for them, everybody wanted

these guys on their panel, jawbone

was representative of wearable tech, music and headphones

all of that, then, swoosh, they’re dead

and I don’t know, 3 years later, 2 years later, I don’t know, I don’t remember when they shut down. Do you remember when they shut down?

Not sure, 2017 maybe?

Yeah, sometime around 2017

I would imagine sometime around 2017, they shut down and then

2 years later I guess

the guy is back, people are still willing to back him

I think thats one way to look at it, I think that’s the only

I don’t know if that’s the only positive spin, but, that’s one positive spin you can put on it

and more power to him, it’s fantastic to

see someone like that coming back

It’s one of those weird cases

Do you want to stick with US firms, or global firms

Do you want to switch back to India, do you have something

you wanted to discuss

I mean, anything is fine.
Do you have anything else in mind?

about jawbone?
jawbone, not specifically

its one of those good examples, where, you know,

person still at it, still trying

trying to make it happen

absolutely, so, we’ve talked about

crazy, large high level blow ups, Subhiksha

Some of these firms you might not have heard of

but, for me these are like

really big firms, and

them shutting down is shocking

do you want to switch gears? talk about smaller scale

bust ups that happened and failures that happened?

Sure, one that comes

to mind is

there is this

FMCG company right

FMCG for people who don’t know FMCG
Fast moving consumer goods

So, it’s called

Luv it, the chocolates actually still around
Luv it?

Luv it - L u v i t

It launched in 2016

So a recent story then, recent story, very recent story

It’s actually by a company called GCPPL

Global consumer product private limited
Ok, too many acronyms

So, the company does a bunch of things

they do this DND(not D&D) mosquito repellant coil

D&D as in dungeons and dragons?

Do not disturb,
Oh, do not disturb, sorry, we were discussing board games before this

So, I’m stuck with that

Okay, and they have like this whole

bunch of fruit juice products and things like that

luv it, the reason it caught my eye so much

is because it launched with such

great fanfare, in the sense, they had

promising actor, Siddharth , he was the brand ambassador

The posters were all over, on the bus stand and everything

they were all over, the posters were all over

they had these nice colors, nice design

very very promising launch, if an indian

chocolate brand, had to get a

shot at distribution, that would be it


because everyone noticed it, everyone knew it, everyone wanted to try it

where is it based? Bangalore I think

Kalasipalaya is where I saw they had their office

But I don’t where it started actually

Our man did his research

The thing is, like I said

if you had to

have a shot at distribution, this would be it, but, then

I’m a chocolate enthusiast

I love chocolates
The wrong kind of chocolates

You need to like dark chocolate raghav

Milk and white is the way to do it

The problem I had is,

I tried a couple of their

4-5 of their SKUs

and the problem that I had is

they were just

Luvits version of what’s already there

it was luvits 5 star, it was luvits munch

there wasn’t differentiation per se, they were in the same category, there was no differentiation

Okay, right.

I didn’t know if someone

ever happens to listen, but, as a consumer

that’s exactly what I felt and I bought the product

literally because of the packaging, that itself is a big win

I bought it because Igot the brand right, you love chocolates

Yes, I luv it. Let me buy this right, but, then, when I tasted

One, two, three, four of them, five of them

it was kind of a let down

and the

reason, I’m probably making this a bigger deal than

it is, but, I don’t know if you remember

This company Harnik, you remember harnik?

If I tell you their products, you’ll recognise

You remember those sweet cigarettes

Phantom sweets

loud noises

do you remember those heart chocolates?

yeah, the candy which would be shaped

like a heart

That’s by harnik, so,

Those sweet cigarettes are a throwback

So, that was

very Indian

It was very original, clearly parents were not too

happy with it, but, we still wanted it

as kids.
Like clint eastwood in school uniform


I thought that was very original

Just my personal take on it is

As a brand, Luv it, which had the potential

to get that kind of distribution, that kind of attention

if the originality was there, I mean, there’s

so many thing you could’ve, its easy for me to sit here and talk

but, then, Indian flavors,

throwbacks, kind of like what Paperboat

has been doing over the past few years
They just went for

They sell Nostalgia in that bottle

I don’t even know if they had to go for Nostalgia

Aam panna, aam ras

Solid products,Kala khatta

I don’t even know if

that’s the path they had to take, but, if they were just original

or if they could give me an Indian version of Twix or snickers

With like a spin on it

that would’ve been a little more exciting, I guess that’s why

we still love the lays masala munch and the kurkure

every world cup they throw the same lays with a different packaging

and we all eat it up. Do you remember world cup 2003?

Pepsi did pepsi blue

It’s one of those things that you remember

They did blue because of team India

It’s one of those very random spins

It was around for like 30 days or something

I would buy one everyday almost

Blue color liquid - wow

You don’t need to make it Indianized, you just have to

cater to the audience on some level

if you’re a consumer focused company

that’s one way to do it, absolutely

So, their products essentially were in the same category

and their flavors weren’t too different

They were not different

I would love to , have you tasted

Masala chocolate, I had masala chocolate

I would luv it if somebody made masala chocolate

chocolate with spices in it

That’s pretty Indian when you think about it

Imagine if people came out with

spiced chocolate brand , I would love it

I love the imli chocolates, you remember the ones they used to give on jet airways?

Take it out of that small packet and there would be 2 of them, but,

they help you with digestion

I’m not talking about the Hajmola , I’m talking about the Imli chocolate,

which is like sugar

That’s something that I really cherish

Anyway, it’s one of those things,

Brand is called Luv it is it

They’re still around and they were launched in 2016

3 year old company so they can always make a comeback

I had no idea, I think I recognise the product

now, but, I’ve actually never tasted it

I think you might have brought luv it home when

were in Bangalore

Because I don’t think I went out and,
Raghav joke : Clearly you didn’t Luv it enough

Let’s move on

Jokes by Raghavendra Ramesh, we can have 10 minutes of this

Lets, what kind of

company do you want to move on to? Do you want to stay in this

FMCG kind of products or do you want to move to Tech

I have something

that came to my mind when we were talking about FMCG stuff

So, yes, we talked about something recent now

But, do you recognise this brand called Dalda

The vanaspati brand

You remember Dalda dabba

Everybody in India knows Dalda dabba

The vanaspati brand

such an old brand, so, I looked at

dalda, prior to this
Raghav : Wow, why

because we were doing this podcast Raghav, why do you think /s

I don’t randomly go around looking for Dalda dabba

So, Dalda

There’s so much history to dalda, I was blown away that

all this is there, so, Dalda came to

India in 1937, right

So, there was a dutch company called Dada

D a d a

The product was called Dada - d a d a or Dhadha in India

and Hindustan Vanaspati limited

I think, I didn’t note that down

or hindustan vanaspati company, something like that

they wanted to bring that product here

so, at that point, hindustan vanaspati

limited hd actually been acquired by lever brothers

this was lever brothers before

it become Unilever

So, here’s an origin story of Unilever

Did you know Unilever was not its original name?

So, Lever brothers, they were originally called, I found all this out while looking this up

Lever brothers, I think, sometime

around 1950’s or 40s, I forget the dates

but, they merger with some

dutch company called

Margarine(?) , I want to say

Margarine Unie(?)


their merger was basically

Unie and Lever put together, which became Unilever

At that point, in India

It was still lever brothers, it wasn’t Unilever, it wasn’t

even Hindustan Unilever , it was Lever brothers

They had already acquired Hindustan Vanaspati company to

expand into India and they brought this dutch

vanaspati oil product, so, vanaspati oil is

incredibly unhealthy for you

vanasapati , don’t go there

For 60 years, we were all

Most people in Rural India were having Vanaspati oil

So, I think 50%

of Vanaspati oil is essentially

Trans Fats, which is very bad for you

That’s all I know, I don’t know enough about Trans Fats to speak about it

Nor am I going to give anyone health tips but,

So, it’s essentially unhealthy

For the longest time, from 1937 to mid 90’s maybe

Dalda dabbas were the thing, so when Lever brothers

Brought Dada to India , they added an L

So, Dalda somehow sounds, a little more Indian

Dada is

India, but, it’s not the kind of Indian brand you want to buy oils from

But, Dalda still sounds like something you want to buy oil from

Raghav ( speculative ) : Dal - da
So, again if you want to do like a 10 minute standup, we’ll do a separate session

Dalda was , they added an L, I’m guessing that

might have been, Lever Brothers L inserted in the middle

of Da and Da, I don’t even know the story behind why they added the L

But, their best marketing campaign

imagine in a marketing campaign in 1939

For dalda vanaspati oil. So, they hired

Lintas, which is now Lowe Lintas and all that

So, Lintas back in 1939

created a : film ad

in 1939?

a film ad, what they would do

was they would put that onto like a Van

that was shaped like the Dalda dabba made out of tin

That super original for 1939

They did visual, film based

Storytelling in 1939 dude

They didn’t have theatres in India I think back then, this was a film ad

In 1939, it was the second film ad in India apparently

It wasn’t even the first, the first was by Chevrolet before that

Outstanding, blown away that, that could happen.

but, 1939

British India, not even India, they get these

Vans that are shaped like circular tins, like Dalda dabbas of yesteryears

and they basically played the film out in those tins

They had sampling centres

and tutorial centres on how to use Vanaspati

oil and how does it compare to oil

things like that, they were basically educating a market

back then, and

this is one of those, multimedia

360 degree campaigns that people talk about today

but, done when,

done right, done back then and they used to, the vans were meant for

rural india, so they used to just roll in to

villages with these vans

and talk to the people about it, so, this is crazy

storytelling from years and years ago, maybe stuff to learn from that

because, right now

we have most of the Indian internet users are

rural today, most of them are

vernacular, most of them don’t know enough, maybe

there is stuff to pick out from these brands

and apply it to today, but,

Dalda is like synonymous

Dalda is like synonymous with vanaspati

Absolutely, you can’t even think anything but, Vanaspati

and it’s crazy, so

1937 is when they got into India

1950s or 60s they had

some government related problem, where the government was saying

Oh, you guys are unhealthy for us

But then, it just went away, I’m guessing there was some

palm greasing happening there, I can’t really infer

from anything, because nothing gets published about this stuff anyway

but, they somehow got around that stuff, 1980s

is when they started having problems, because

Fortune, what is fortune to you

Refined sunflower oil, so, those people started coming into the market

and they were doing refined sunflower oil, you know, refined oils

which is very different from Vanaspati oil

Refined oil is still fundamentally better, Vanaspati oil in India was made

from palm oil, so, 1937, they had a

manufacturing plant in India, to manufacture Vanaspati oil

So, they were all set

So, 50 years they

were ruling it, they had

crazy market share, all of that, and then refined

oils came in, and precisely what you said earlier

Vanaspa/ Dalda tried rebranding

into refined oils and things like that

sometime in the mid 2000’s because they had

crazy market share in Vanaspati, but, Vanaspati was

a tiny percent of the market at that point, so, they were a big fish in a little pond

So, they tried to get out of it


Problem was , exactly what you said, everyone associated Dalda

with Vanaspati, so, when Dalda said

they were doing refined, they had to re-educate the market

that already associated them with Vanaspati oil

I don’t think anyone knew any other Vanaspati oil brand other than Dalda

I don’t even know any other Vanaspati oil brand, I know only Dalda, even now I can’t

associate Dalda with refined oil


remember I told you Lever brothers brought them to India, from this dutch company

and all of that, so, 2003

Hindustan Unilever, at this point Lever brothers

has gone through some transformations, Lever brothers merged with

dutch company, became Unilever, Unilever in India is now called

Hindustan Unilever limited, they’ve now acquired basically every

other company out there

In 2003, they decide to sell

Dalda for 100 crore

100 crore, that’s it

Do you math again, 16 million?

For 16 million, they sold Dalda

One of the most Iconic brands

to some private equity firm,

I think its called Bunge limited or Bung-e limited or something

Seriously, that’s it, 16 million, that how much Dalda

was worth in 2003, and that firm

has been trying to

keep dalda running and all of that

But, its not gone anywhere clearly

So, its one of those companies that you just associate as a brand

Massive brand and this is what it comes to

5 years of trying to get into

refined oils whatever, company is now

sold by its parent company to another firm, its one of those sad cases I think

I dont know if its sad, probably not very sad because

they were selling that was very unhealthy anyway, so, maybe

sad for them, yes, very sad for them

but, glad nobody is using vanaspati anymore

But, its one of those brands that, crazy success story and then, swoosh

went away, its one of those firms

I’m forgetting the name of

that movie, but, there was some tamil movie dialogue that went

”poda dalda dabba” or something, or was it some S ve shekar

drama or something, I think it was one of those

but, thats how popular it was

it was usable as an insult, it was usable

as everything, everyone knew dalda dabba

crazy what happened to them, but, again

like I said, they did a 360 degree

marketing campaign in 1939

1939 to 2019 is 80 years?

80 years ago

a 360 degree film ad

crazy story right there

really lovely story, just the fact that

if they had disrupted themselves, sometime, maybe 1960s 1970s

”We’ve found a healthier way”

I dont know

We’ll never know

Do we have time for more companies?

Maybe one more?

Okay, I’ll talk about a company that, do you have a company you want to talk about?

No, go ahead.
So, there’s one company that I actually wanted to cover

earlier, but, I thought the others were more interesting

as stories, but, do you know a website called


The search company? Yes

It’s a search company formed,

formed before Google, and Altavista

and all of those, but, probably not before Yahoo, but,

yes, way back then

AskJeeves was the first search engine I used

and interestingly, AskJeeves product was differentiated

as a search product, the

What does FAQ mean to you?

Frequently Asked Questions, so, they had an FAQ for the web

That was how the website was,

So, you’d go type something out and they’d give you the FAQ most similar to it

For which, there was already a good set of answers

curated answers, things like that

it was like a very interesting product

The reason they did that was because it was Jeeves

So, No idea what jeeves is

Okay, so, Jeeves is a character from P.G.Wodehouse

series of books , so,

Jeeves is the butler so what

does a butler do, gets you things and helps

you find and all of that, so, the product

sort of resonated with the brand itself

actually the wodehouse jeeves

aren’t the same technically because

they had nothing to do with each other, but, they still used the word jeeves

because everybody knew jeeves and it was a butler as well

it was basically the same thing, but, they never gave any royalty

or anything to them, although there was some settlement

back in 2000 or something, so AskJeeves was one

of those pre-eminenet

search firms and

have you heard of the Macys thanksgiving day parade in US

so, every

thanksgiving , they have some crazy parade

on some manhattan road, I’ve never been to new york, so, I’m

saying stuff that I don’t know enough but, some manhattan road

were Macy’s the supermarket chain was

It was sponsored by Macy’s I guess

there’s like one crazy parade showcasing different cultures

and different things, Jeeves

used to be in the Thanksgiving day parade from 2000 to 2004

as a mascot, it was like a web

product, in a proper cultural symbol of

that’s how significant it was

so, it was clearly one of those

well known firms, and, they

IPO sometime in 1998 or 2000

so, they went IPO during the dot com

perfect timing

so, they priced at $14 a share

they ended at

their IPO ended at $190 a share

just their IPO, so, they were raking it in

everyone loved it, but, you also have to think

it is the dot com boom, so, there’s stuff happened there, you can’t really explain

but, 1999

early days of web, not early days, 8

years of web, but, people were still getting on the web, they had a million searches a day

1999, that’s super significant

very impressive, 20 years ago, million searches a day

I don’t know how many websites had that kind of traffic

AskJeeves was most popular because of its toolbar, so, you remember

those annoying toolbars?

Everyone introductory, we all

used to use Windows first, guessing

So, your introductory browser was Internet Explorer

and whenever you went to a site, somewhere along the line, something will ask

Do you want to install this toolbar?

So, Askjeeves was one of those firms

Now I get it

I see what you’re saying.
So, they AskJeeves toolbar

was in almost Internet Explorer browser

As soon as I say toolbar, everyone will get it, because

everyone has seen it, nobody has used it, but, everyone has seen it

So, that’s how they became really popular

Toolbars became annoying to people, because they weren’t

space people wanted ads to occupy, you wanted to do stuff with it

and, so

Macy’s thanksgiving day parade, 2000

to 2004, super popular,

became popular with toolbars and everything

2001, they had a $425 million loss

at their crazy popularity, so, this is

after the dotcom bust, so, boom

go from $14 to $190, bust

$425 million loss, suddenly people are asking

questions, all of this, 2002

from $190 offering at IPO,

they’re at $0.86 a share

86 cents

and they’ve just been cut down

I don’t even know if anyone could’ve seen it coming

I guess you could’ve with hindisght now, yes

Google was amazing, they had amazing product and everything, but,

So, Yahoo was there,

Excite, I still know somebody with an excite email id

I know one person who has an

email id, so,

its like so weird, so this guy was one of the old

users of the internet but,

crazy stuff right, so,

they, in 2005,

they were sold, I’m forgetting to whom

for $1.85 billion

even after all that
they were sold for $1.85 billion
and then that firm

dropped Jeeves from its name, rebranded it to


in 2010,

they stopped doing search.

stopped doing search?

So, they went from 1995 or I’m forgetting when they were founded

95-97 sometime they were founded , they went from being

a search firm that got featured in Macy’s thanksgiving day parade

and things like that to, not doing search

in 2010

To me, its one of those

yes, there are more famous internet stories

there’s stuff like, which anybody in the us

will tell you about if you ask them and all of those things

Yes, all of that was there, but, they didn’t show enough promise, for it to warrant

that much, was, they had

a mascot,

a product catering to the mascot, it had a personality

they even had merchandise and things planned

So, they had a jeeves merchandise line and things like that

and that company to not

do search from 2010, was very

interesting, so, I googled . Wow, I googled

askjeeves and one of the websites, so,

there’s which has search actually, so, they stopped doing search

its no longer a business vertical of the firm, so they still have search

but, one of the websites you get is which is a google custom search website. I think that’s just really really sad.

You type into that search bar and it redirects to google custom

search and you know its crazy

yes, but,

I dont know what can be learned

They had a good product

They had interesting branding, they had all of that

Tech maybe, this is one of those cases where

Superior technology actually wins

We keep hearing superior technology, superior product, all of those, but, it doesn’t happen often enough. Google is always the example everybody gives

this is one of those cases where you beat
outright the competition, exactly

I wonder what is doing now though

I actually don’t know enough, they have some things under it

They have, maybe they do news or something

But, there’s not enough in it,

It’s not shut down, because its been acquired


Askjeeves is gone, its one of those

Random companies that nobody will ever talk about maybe

but, it was one of those pre-eminent internet firms

that unfortunately didn’t make it.

since you have a VC background

this is like preaching to the choir, but,

goes back to saying, when you have that

kind of distribution, and you stop sort of adding

value to your users

its just a matter of time before things

its also probably like going

away from your product focus, going to merchandise

going into macys thanksgiving day parade, going into all of those

things, like the MoserBaer LCD

and also, maybe on one level

Askjeeves was a learning, you can’t make

a consumer friendly brand

on the internet

you know what I’m saying, you can’t do pokemon on the internet

Pokemon couldn’t have been an internet company

Askjeeves tried to make it a

mascot, can you think of any,

startup or company or whatever out there, that

has a mascot
Android, I would think


Google has a place where you can go take pictures with

the android mascot, that’s in Google dude, who will go there?
You and I will go there, it’s not a consumer
I’m not able to think of examples right now, but, I’m sure

like the, you remember that

e sticky pin thing that microsoft

Yeah, clippy, yeah, but,

they didn’t make a mascot out of it
It doesn’t resonate with, that’s not the brand, clippy is there, but, it was in Microsoft Word
Words’ Icon couldn’t have been a mascot

Does that happen though?Just curios

I’m trying to think actually, nothing comes to the top of my head

Cloud maybe?
Cloud is too generic

I’m just not able to think of something

Maybe if anybody listens to this, if you

think of something, give us a shoutout, happy to listen to that

Is there any other company you wanted to discuss?

I think we should call it.

Surprising, we were hoping to do 30 minutes of this, but,

We’ve almost done an hour, so, good job

but, thank you for listening to this.
if you’ve come this far, then thank you
even if you didn’t come this far, then, we’ll send our thank yous to the universe for atleast trying to listen to this

Thanks to Raghav for doing this as well
Thank you Sainath

One of the things I wanted to close this with,
The reason I wanted to start with companies dying

One of my favorite books is this book called Seven Habits of Highly Effective people by Stephen R Covey, I don’t know if you’ve read it

I’ve recommended it to you enough times, but, you haven’t read it

The first chapter in the book,

is Begin with the end in mind

So, that’s one of those principles that I try to

out into practice in my life in general

and I thought i’d put it into practice with this podcast as well

So, we’re beginning with companies that ended

in mind and, its one of

everybody will talk about those successful

crazy stories, but, there are always those brands that you love that

you wish were still around

Its always worth talking about them as well, its only because those brands were there that

you learn so much, everyone learns, you can

have success stories only because people fail often enough

just wanted to ended that sort of sombre note maybe

Thank you for listening to us
This is Sainath signing off
Thanks, thanks so much for having me over
Bye, thank you.