If you want to experience India you will have to taste our country. The first thing any non-Indian or even Indians should taste is Chyawanprash, according to Vir Das. For Non-Indians Vir puts it simply “peanut butter if you hate your children.” Probably one of the best Indian standup comedians with a spine launched another Netflix Original masterpiece “Vir Das for India” in the month of January. (And what a shame I watched it over the weekend)
But do you actually know what Chywanprash is and what is there in the dark paste? If you are from a middle-class family hustling in a small town then at some point in your life your parents must have forced you to have this dark looking paste in your throat. Especially during the winters every night we were given a spoon full of the dark paste that looked like shit. The appearance was so dark that a dark skin guy like me was also scared to have it. The only respite would be the silver foil when you opened it for the first time. Giving you some hope that there is some light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Asking questions has been my birthright. The credit for this talent not only goes to my mother but to the land of revolution and macher jhol (fish curry) - my first love Kolkata (Kharagpur is my birthplace and Haldia is where I grew up being a horrible student and an angry young man of Xavier’s). Did the Bengalis get offended by Vir’s show? He didn’t even leave Mother Teresa 😉 Don’t worry the South Indians were also not spared just like the North Indians.
Do you know what it is made of? Even Google was confused when Vir searched for the ingredients of Chyawanprash.
The next two things that you should taste when you come to India is - Old Monk Rum and Parle G biscuit. For Non-Indians Vir described Old Monk rum as diplomacy in a bottle. Launched in 1954 is a dark rum with a distinct vanilla flavour and over the years the rum has purely survived on word of mouth and loyalty of customers.
My first interaction with Old Monk happened when I was in class 12th. On the day of Saraswati Puja, I got permission from my parents that I can stay at a friend’s place. My dad obviously knew what I was up to. 5 friends, one 500ml Old Monk, lots of munchies and night about girlfriends, breakups and Bollywood music. The first time it touched my heart, the drama started after two rounds and by the fourth round, I was vomiting. My friends had to clean the mess.
Over the years, rum became a constant partner. It has connecting and endless memories. Last year when I finally decided to quit drinking I ended with my favourite Old Monk.
The one hour show also talks about the greatest biscuit in the world - The Parle-G. Non-Indians, sorry it isn’t your cookies. “A cookie is an overweight biscuit with low self-esteem.” But Parle-G is the greatest biscuit in the world with tea.
The love for Parle-G began when I left home after the 12th. I was deported to Vadodara to do my graduation. Surprisingly I had secured good marks in 12th, my parents thought I would flunk even Kolkatta Xaviers was happy to take me. But my mother feared that I would become a Marxist so she deported me to the land of Bapu - a banned land for liquor which would treat a non-vegetarian an outcast.
From graduation to post-graduation - Parle-G with tea became breakfast, lunch, snacks and sometimes even dinner. Basically, Parle-G was my soul mate for Rs.5 and a hot cup of tea laced with all the sweetness for another Rs.5. But eating Parle-G needs skills, almost 80% of the biscuit is in the tea glass and you just drink it with your last sip. “Parle-G is not a biscuit. It is a test of your own timing and reflexes.”
How can Parle-G miss on such a special mention? Brands die for organic and earned mentions. The greatest biscuit sent a box to Vir so that he can dip them in his tea and enjoy. The brand also delivered a special note. “Hopefully you have learned to keep the cup closer.”
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Then came Dabur, one of the old guards of the Rs. 260 crore Chyawanprash market. To begin with the brand on Twitter tagged Vir while informing him with a full list of ingredients.
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I wasn’t aware that the brand has chocolate and mix fruit flavors. Do the new variants taste good? Vir didn’t share anything about the taste even though he was sent a complete set of Dabur Chyawanprash. With Coronavirus flexing muscles in India, I suppose the 10 jars of Dabur Chyawanprash must be helping Vir and his family.
Old Monk took some time but made sure it sent a complete range to Vir. Damn! Old Monk has such a wide variety. Vir posted it on social media and I am sure he had a lovely weekend. But the note could have been more personal and informal(slightly).
Now someone is requesting Akbar “The Great” or Akbar “The Literal” to send a Buland Darwaza. (Trust me the real comedy happens in the comments, Indians have unearthed talent).
This isn’t a new trend. Once the organic reach started dying for brands on social media, brands started looking for earned media or mentions. This started the madness behind influencers by brands. Some were genuinely plugging a brand in their content or having some barter deal and some were doing it for the money. The industry thought the consumer is dumb but they were soon corrected and we have reached a stage where influencers are losing their trust.
“Most global internet users lack confidence in what they see and read online, with only 8% believing that the bulk of the information is shared.” Drum reported these facts last year. Media agency UM tracked more than 56,000 active internet users across 81 countries for its 10th ‘Wave’ study, evaluating trust in social media.
The trust deficit has been visible with the Indian consumer, reported Quartz India.
“Almost 40% of Indian Instagram influencers use third-party apps to inflate their numbers and get noticed by brands”, said Salman Moin, co-founder of digital marketing firm Social Booth.
Also, almost all active users on social media have at least 8% bot followers, mostly unknowingly, according to Pranay Swarup, CEO of influencer marketing agency Chtrbox. And for people who buy followers, this can range from 20-70% of their total following, he added.
After a while, I have seen such an activity and it is completely organic (my assumption) so it was good to see brands making sure that they encash the moment. Parle G was cute but Dabur planned it well. Vir mentioned Chyawanprash unlike for others it was a direct brand reference. Dabur was the only brand to latch the moment, planned it well and made it count. The PR push was smart.
“If any consumer pops a genuine query, we owe him an answer for the same. Organic mentions in the OTT space are welcome as long as they are with a context. OTT space helps the brands stay connected and relevant with the new age digital audience,” Kapil Ohri, head of digital marketing at Dabur India said to AFAQS.
Also, Supandi with a cute note and goodies got in touch with Vir. The clock is ticking Fair and Lovely. Or just make a biopic of Radhika Apte, casting someone else.
Go watch the Netflix Special. For some(idiots like me) it was a long night.