A Radio Brand: Binaca

Binaca got changed to Cibaca, but still lost.

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When India attained independence, there were six radio stations in India, at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Tiruchirapalli and Lucknow. AIR then had a coverage of just 2.5 % of the area and 11% of the population. All India Radio has made it one of the largest media organisations in the world, and also made some iconic brands.

Fluoridated Toothpaste

Fluoridated toothpaste came about as the result of a discovery made in Naples, Italy in 1802, when local dentists noticed yellowish-brown spots on their patient’s teeth - but no cavities. Subsequent examination revealed that high levels of fluoride in the water caused the spots and prevented tooth decay. Fluoride research had its beginnings in 1901, when a young dental school graduate named Frederick McKay left the East Coast to open a dental practice in Colorado. Crest, the toothpaste with fluoride in it hit stores by mid 1950s.

In India

As a Popular ‘light green coloured’ oral hygiene brand Binaca was launched in India in early 1950s by Ciba-Geigy. By the 1970s, it was among India’s favourite toothpaste – others in the market were foreigner brands like Colgate, Forhans and Macleans, and domestic players are Promise (Balsara hygiene) and Prudent (Parle).

The Binaca Geetmala

In the 1950s, commercial advertising on radio began with Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Radio Goa. Post the ban on the Filmi music on All India Radio, Radio Ceylon was the Radio channel for all the Hindi music lovers. In the 1970s, they would tune in every week to listen to Binaca Geetmala, a popular countdown show of Hindi film songs. Sponsored by popular toothpaste brand Binaca, this weekly show was hosted by the legendary Ameen Sayani on Radio Ceylon. People would avidly wait to hear their favourite film songs on their Murphy Mini-Boy radios.

The weekly countdown programme of top songs from Hindi cinema ran between 1952 and 1988, making Ameen Sayani, the presenter of the show, independent India’s most popular radio jockey, and Binaca gain huge market reach. Infact, due to this radio program, Binaca as a brand was popular among Pakistani consumers even before the brand hit the local market.

Neerja Bhanot, who died while saving passengers on Pan Am Flight 73 was at time their brand ambassador, as well as for Forhans.

Brand changed hands many times.

By late 1980s, the consumer products division of CIBA-Geigy of Switzerland, to the English firm Reckitt and Colman (now RB). Airwick, a Ciba-Geigy company, owned this brand. It went into RB when Airwick was acquired by RB. But, India and Pakistan were left out of the deal however, thus creating an anomalous situation: while the local incarnation of CIBA could continue making the same products, it could not use the original brand name. So, Hindustan CIBA-Geigy decided to rename it as Cibaca. Binaca was then sold to Dabur in 1966 by Reckitt Benckiser. Later Cibaca was sold to Colgate.

Dr. Fresh owns the brand right for the breath spray, and market it as “Binaca – A Blast That Lasts”.

Today, Binaca is just part of fond childhood memories.