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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
A.Sandeep Editor’s Desk

The new logo that Indian Railways is planning to bring will mark an end of an era in Indian Railways. However, the monopoly that India’s largest transporter enjoys has really left many experts with a question – Is there a need for a new logo in Indian Railways?
Take this seat-of-the-pants brand quiz. Which event has the hallmark brand of five intertwined circles? Which company is represented by a half-bitten apple? If you were to see ‘__Inside’, what name would be the first to hit across your minds? Or if you came across ‘__with a hole’, which mint-product would you remember? Brand names have been key to ensuring that products have gotten converted from simple physical entities into billion dollar spawning businesses. Developing unique brand identities and logos have been key to competitive leadership and market superiority – the reason why customers, say, might choose a Louis Vuitton instead of a Louis Philippe. Now consider this – here is a logo that’s circular in shape with the front shot of a steam engine well-equipped with the signature cow-catcher bovine guard as the centre-piece and the national emblem at the front that aims to convey a sense of national comfort. Obviously, Indian Railways, one of the largest behemoths amongst the government-run units didn’t suffer too many pangs of creativity while creating its original logo, one guesses. Now, give yourself one final test. When was the last time you bought an Indian Railways ticket purely because you were impressed by the brand identity and its logo? We know the answer – never!

Not that anybody was too impressed with the logo of Indian Railways earlier, but suddenly, the Railways has decided that it’s time they changed their logo! A nationally released advertisement invited the public by asking them to participate in the competition (of creating a new logo). The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it advertisement (you don’t remember seeing it, right?) also exhorted the participants with a cash prize of Rs. 5 lakhs for the winning entry. But does it really make sense for the Railways to go for a logo change, when customers make no differential about the Railways based on the brand logo (but more by the price, reach and the quality of services offered). Shouldn’t Indian Railways then be working more towards making their strategic processes more efficient than towards branding, especially in a monopoly-like situation where there’s possible no competitor?

An Indian Railways source shares with 4Ps B&M, “Railways is going for a logo change because of the competition that it is facing from the low-cost airlines. However, having said that, the kind of connectivity that Railways has vis-à-vis Indian roads is still immaculate.” Jehangir S. Pocha, Co-founder INX News, confirms the viewpoint to 4Ps B&M, “A logo change definitely conveys a very strong change that often an organization might require to convey.”

Currently, one can easily spot the 16 stars within the current Indian Railways logo that represent Railway’s administrative zones in the country. As the largest transporter of the country, the Railways initially started with six zones in 1950 and expanded progressively to 16 in 1996. Not many Railways employees that 4Ps B&M touched base with could provide clarity on the current logo’s history, fewer still could recall when the logo was introduced. The Delhi Railway Museum apparently believes that the Indian Railways logo was created somewhere in the 1952-53 period. But still, would it matter if the logo changed? Would there be more people who’ll start signing up for Indian Railways once the new logo is in place?

“The [current] logo of the Railways is what people connect to very strongly with and there is no business sense in changing the logo as it will leave a task of establishing it once again in the hands of the railway officials,” explained Jagdeep Kapoor, CMD Samsika Marketing Consultants, who mentions that it would perhaps be better if the Railways were to invest in making the current logo more visible to consumers. Says Prasoon Majumdar, President, Global Strategy and Investment Consulting (GSIC), “To say that a logo change is not required simply because the past logo did not work, is not the right approach. In fact, it builds a stronger case that perhaps a new logo would work better. But yes, given that the Railways earns most of its revenues and profits from the freight forwarding sector rather than the civilian travel sector – which is close to loss making – a logo change would be useless unless targeted at the profit target market – here the commercial sector. And there is a big case that if the intent is making money, then much more could be made by reengineering processes than by logo changes.”

Now what would be the Railways’ next move? A brand celebrity? We’ll discuss that too...

Pawan Chabra           
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