And the award goes to…

03 Dec,2020


By Avik Chattopadhyay


Seems that the vaccine is playing spoilsport taking so much time to be readied and launched in India. Otherwise our world would have been so much safer by now. Damn pharma!!


Over the last nine months, we have seen both product transformations and new product introductions that profess to either “boost immunity” or “kill 99% of the virus” or do both!



Old brands have got resurrected in the process. Existing brands have gone into product extensions and new ‘verticals’. Thank the virus for all this feverish surge of innovation and quick-thinking. Advertising has also seen an upswing to promote all these wonderful solutions to beating the virus. Some brands have also taken the role of “public service” promoting hygiene rather than merely their own products.



As this [calendar] year draws to a close, award functions have also started. I was waiting for one that would recognise these heroes. Why not? As long as they happen virtually, they are most welcome. Even the Nobels are going to be offsite and online this year.



As no one has come forward, I have created my own ‘Indian Covid-19 Fighter of the Year’ Awards.



Who qualifies for this? Not the doctor, the nurse, the healthcare worker, the vaccine volunteer or the ventilator, for they are merely ‘saving lives’ and nothing more. Boring jobs. No drama. Routine stuff. The ones who qualify are these amazing new products and solutions that boost immunity or kill 99% of the virus or do both. Highly exciting stuff, out-of-the-box thinking and disruptive. There were many that vied for a place on my list of “top 15 finalists”, across categories and segments.



How did I arrive at the results? By studying their claims and clamour for attention through their communication across all media. Also, a quick dipstick with a few friends, and I was done with the ranking. While a few rankings had divided opinion, there were a few that drew unanimous agreement.



So here are the 15 finalists in ascending order. They have been assigned to four clusters based on their ranking up the order. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the “Indian Covid 19 Fighter of the Year Awards”…



Cluster #1 – The also-ran – the ones who gave a good fight but lost out in the eliminators


15. Social distancing – started off quite well but lost steam as many took to distancing from other faiths, castes, and beliefs; clans got together stronger than before counterproductive to reasons of hygiene.


14. Sanitiser – now as ubiquitous as salt and sugar in a household, this comes in all colours, fragrances, and concoctions; squeezees, spouts, atomisers, splash-ons; it is now India’s second most favourite cottage industry.


13. Mask – this is the first one and who would have ever imagined that an item restricted to the hospital or a Japanese tourist would now become a fashion statement; this is haute couture now in various forms from the Madhubani cotton to one in gold encrusted with diamonds; only the Dilliwalas have been early adopters given their bi-annual tryst with air pollution.


12. Face shield – usually comes in combination with the mask and had hoped for larger adoption but that did not happen; a nation that does not even wear helmets cannot be expected to wear a silly visor looking straight out of Star Wars; also does not have the potential of being a fashion accessory like the mask, so loses out.


11. Soap – every soap worth its bubble now kills not only germs but also the virus…only that we do not know which exact one; pedestrian beauty soaps that only gave you supple and glowing skin are now your knight in shining armour too; but they kill only 99% of viruses leaving that one little black squiggle on the television screen staring at you, hence does not make the last six.


10. Spray – take an aerosol can, fill it with ethanol, add some perfume and voila, you have a magic spray that kills the virus not only on surfaces but also in the air; if one were to believe some pieces of advertising, the virus behaves like those mosquitoes who hide behind curtains and sofas when confronted by the home maker and her aerosol can; definitely good business to be in as a paint brand has also thrown its own spray into the fray.


9. Ordered Food – fright, anxiety, work-from-home and spending too much time with your spouse…all conditions for bingeing on food ordered online; a good counter to people learning culinary skills online, the service providers have had a field day, happy with the fact that crores have ordered so why should you be left out!


8. UV Steriliser – that was not a microwave?! Case closed.


7. Paint – if you are going to work from home, cook at home, fight at home, rear children at home and binge on OTT webseries from home, you home better be the safest ever, so, move aside sprays and sterilizers, here comes the paint that is the scourge of viruses. And it also smells good, so no more stepping onto your balcony for the morning ‘pranayama’. Just breathe in more of this wonder paint and you are taken care of.



Cluster #2 – The winners – they nailed it and typically should have been gold, silver, and bronze but when you read further you realise why these ranks…


6. Masala – 10,000 years ago when we were building our first city underwater, the first virus clashed with the first cumin seed leading to the ‘masala wars’; the home remedies came to the fore and our grandmothers nodded their heads in approval or smiled from garlanded frames; brands started rolling out “immunity boosting kits” containing a collection of various condiments that would put western pharma to shame – turmeric, garlic, cumin, coriander and ginger became the Panch Pandavas in our fight against the Corona Kauravas; definitely good for a bit of chest thumping but it’s just that we are going through the third wave of the pandemic!


5. Ceiling fan – I could not believe this when I first saw this piece of advertising but one company has actually built a fan with a special coating that repels the virus; now all our problems are more or less solved with the fan and paint combination; why could this incredible piece of innovation not have happened before the virus hit the ceiling is anybody’s wonder!


4. Namaste – if nothing else works then this definitely will; no more handshakes or hugs…just the age old “namaste” will be the answer; historical references to this posture go back to the Indus Valley Civilisation and while its purpose is surely noble, whether it keeps the virus away is worth a deep thought.




Cluster #3 – Respondents’ choice – the final three ranks were additions were made during the dipstick; obviously beyond my ability to have even thought them up but then we are a democracy and people’s voice is what finally counts…


3. Gamchcha – the rural towel has become a status symbol now as people in the corridors of power swear by its powers to keep the virus away; in various patterns, though always in cotton, it has symbolically built a bridge between the migrant worker and the minister for the ‘gamchcha’ is the latter’s way of demonstrating solidarity with the former. Surely a touching moment for the nation.


2. Go-mutra – this was a special one; two drops of this magical potion can do wonders to your health, be it as a drink or as a floor cleaner!




Cluster #4 – Legend – this requires no explanation


1. Beard – it is THE beard, not just any beard; THE beard will ward off all evil just like it drove away the virus within 21 days of its landing on our shores; the ignorant spread useless canard about lack of hospital beds, loss of jobs and shuttered businesses for they do not realise that the more THE beard grows the weaker the virus becomes. This is what legends are made of.


And that brings me to the end of the award function.

Hope you enjoyed it. If you did, obviously you are having more fun in life than allocated to you. If you did not, it is expected as this year has taken its toll on our sense of humour. Hope it finally gets over and we crawl into a new one…



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