Transforming Sulekha through translational communications

Sulekha – Swadeshi, Swashbuckling Success to Siltation

Sulekha was born in Rajshahi (now in Bangladesh) in the year 1934 – a Swadeshi enterprise to make inks for Gandhiji. The freedom struggle, the sacrifice of the Maitra family to make this dream come true, the struggle of the freedom fighter brothers who took on insurmountable odds to establish the brand, its post-independence success despite crippling economic policies, and finally, the undisputed status as the ink makers of the Nation, is not only well known but is well documented as well.  

Exhume & Enliven

Then there was the inevitable ebb: when Sulekha, for several socio-economic and political reasons, had gone under. It is not as simple as it sounds, for, Sulekha did a Rip Van Winkle for three long decades. This was incidentally the time when first the dot point pen, and then the digital deluge had pushed the fountain pen and ink into oblivion.

Thus, when Sulekha did wake up, it not only had lost its pie – forget about its position of pre-eminence – there was hardly anything left of the market. The Fountain pen and Ink were both, anachronisms!     

The Swadeshi of Sustainability

It was into this Valley of Death, that rode the valiant Sulekha Brigade. And then there was the proverbial last straw – in the pandemic and the forced lockdown that followed. Pollution causing use-and-throw plastic pens? Sulekha’s answer was Sustainability. “Digital overwhelm” sucking a generation into a black hole? Sulekha’s answer was the pleasure of writing with a fountain pen. Finger fatigue, psychosomatic issues, decreasing attention spans, inability to retain knowledge, the need for a healthy, wholesome hobby – Sulekha had the right answers for a population that was on the edge.

The fact that the entire narrative was presented in the packaging of Swadeshi with every product, every ink telling a tale of its own helped the brand establish the “connect” in no time. What was more, Sulekha had its core values that were rooted in Gandhian principles intact. That is why in an increasingly cynical world when Sulekha talked about ethicality, people listened – to the unbeliever, it could show that it was walking the talk. For example, when Sulekha talked about sustainability it could proudly point-out the fact that all the electricity it consumed was self-generated through solar panels. When it talked about plastic pollution, it could buttress its argument with the fact that it was using glass bottles leading to a significantly higher cost outflow to package its products, while most others had embraced plastic. When Sulekha talked about the well-being of our children, it could show how it was going from one school to the other, talking to parents and teachers, teaching the children how to write better, to win.

The products, the packaging, and the pricing too, were such that attracted the attention of the generation next, while a generation that had grown up with Sulekha as a constant companion, flocked back, nostalgic.            

Stitching Words for Phoenix flights

Impossible as it sounds, this entire journey from lockdown to laurels, was undertaken with zero spending on direct advertising. And Content Crankers is proud to have played a pivotal role in crafting the communique both for consumption of traditional and social media. We stitched the words. We designed the images. We chose the platforms. We participated in and moulded the conversations that happened around the brand, in real-time. We provided the content – we egged the community to aggregate and help spread the word. So much so that there is now talk of the Sulekha resurgence story becoming fodder for management school case studies. And now the googly – the Sulekha narrative, woven overwhelmingly condemning the digital damnation of our lives, was spread using the digital media. Yes, the correct words can sleep with the enemy, and still wake up on the right side of the story!

One confession though. All of us here in Content Crankers are sworn fountain pen and ink users who have grown up with Sulekha as a constant companion before the deluge of the dot pens had swept the resistance away. Perhaps that is why we could so easily pick up the cudgels for Sulekha, perhaps it is in the way we are ever ready to fight for a cause that we believe in.

Perhaps your cause will fire our imaginations too? Who knows?

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