Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, ‘The King of Spices’, is no more

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on December 03, 2020 Published on December 03, 2020

File photo of MDH Founder Mahashay Dharampal Gulati   -  The Hindu

The ‘brand grandad’ used his own persona to sell the MDH story

Universally known as the “King of Spices”, MDH founder ‘Mahashay’ Dharampal Gulati passed away on Thursday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 97. The Indian entrepreneur not only built the packaged spices business from scratch post-Partition, but also grew MDH into a brand name that became synonymous with trust.

He himself appeared in the MDH advertisements as the cheerful “Dadaji”, a familiar face sporting the signature red turban, white moustache and pearl necklace on the brand’s packaging and ads with the catchy tagline, “Asli Masala Sach Sach...MDH… MDH”.

“He understood the importance of the ‘founder’s story’ as a tool to brand building and used his persona, background and image to build his brand,” said Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and veteran marketer. “A founder’s story is the story of the origins of the brand, telling the tale of the originator of the brand and his journey in bringing it to life in the product and helping in engaging with consumers and partners. He used this technique long before Richard Branson and Elon Musk made it popular,” said Mathias.

Also read: Indian Institute of Spices Research inks several pacts to share agri technologies

Humble beginnings

Born on March 27, 1923 in Sialkot (Pakistan), the MDH owner began his entrepreneurial journey from a humble shop in Karol Bagh in New Delhi, under the banner of Mahashian Di Hatti of Sialkot — known as “Deggi Mirch Wale”.

While his father founded the spices business in Pakistan in undivided India, the school dropout son persevered to establish a business empire that today boasts of several state-of-the art plants and offers a range of 62 products available in over 150 packages.

According to data sourced from business intelligence Tofler, revenues of the company were pegged at about ₹1,100 crore in FY18. Reports peg the current revenues in the range of ₹1,500-2,000 crore.

The brand is also exported to many countries including the US, Canada, the UK, South-East Asia, West Asia and parts of Europe. Gulati was conferred with the Padma Bhushan last year.

“Dharampal Gulati’s passing represents the passing of an era. In many ways, he invented brand ambassadorship. And that too in a common commodity category of masalas. He became the face to recognise amidst a sea of masala offerings. I would call him the ‘brand grandad’ of them all!,” quipped brand strategy specialist Harish Bijoor.

Inspiration for many

Baba Ramdev, in his condolence message on Twitter, said that besides establishing a successful Swadeshi brand, the MDH CEO will also be a source of inspiration for his philanthropic work in the field of education and healthcare.

PepsiCo India in a post on Instagram thanked him for spicing up “our lives” and said “You will live forever in our kitchens and our hearts.”

Badshah Masala in a post said: “With complete & utmost respect, we mourn the loss of the eminent personality in the Masala Industry, the owner of MDH Masala, Mahashay Dharampal Gulati.”

From President Ram Nath Kovind to Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, many took to Twitter to pay condolences to the family.

Union Home Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, tweeted, “The passing of Mahashay Dharampal Gulati Ji, the grand old man of Indian entrepreneurship is a sad day for the country. He added spice to our lives & was a part of every Indian household. I offer my heartfelt condolence to his family & admirers. Om Shanti.”



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Published on December 03, 2020
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