• From Gurgaon to Gurugram: Here’s why corporate citizens are resisting the name change

    Take a city called Gurugram. Consider that its high end residential hubs are called Wellington, Oakwood, Carlton, Bel Aire, Labarnum, Beverly Park, Hamilton Court. And that it hosts swanky office complexes of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, Google, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, SAP, Qualcomm and many other MNCs.

    Is there a branding dissonance here? Will Gurgaon lose something upon being renamed? Yes, say many company heads, companies and residents of high-end properties.

    This strong argument from Saurabh Srivastava, co-founder, Indian Angel Network, is representative of corporate high flyers’ response to Gurugram: “To put it mildly, it’s a silly idea and does not add any value… Whoever you are attempting to impress with this change will certainly not think of you as smarter people. Any impact it will have on business or anything will be negative.” Aditya Ghosh, president, IndiGo, was as strong in his critique: “It’s a pea-brained idea. It kills the brand that has got built around the world.”

    Srivastava’s point that Gurgaon as a brand had its own unique identity is echoed by MakeMyTrip’s boss Deep Kalra, who also flagged unnecessary cost as a negative: “This is not a good idea, since it will cause unnecessary confusion for all for years to come…It’s a total waste of government and corporate money, which I am sure will run into hundreds of crores over time. All documentation, signages on roads, metros, listings, websites etc will need to change. Gurgaon has been established as a hub for corporates, both international and Indian; makes little sense to try and change the name…” Adman, television talking head and columnist Suhel Seth called the renaming an “epic mistake”. “There should be logic to this. Just to invoke Hinduism…they can’t change names like that,” he said.

    PepsiCo India CEO D Shivakumar was one of the dissenters, arguing the “government decision to rename” will not make any difference as the city will thrive thanks to its “ecosystem of companies and a large talent pool”.

    “I do not think it makes any difference to business or industry,” RC Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki, said, arguing the renaming is irrelevant.

    But a senior executive of a leading American MNC said Gurugram will have even less “meaning” for Western corporate heavyweights than Gurgaon. “Our HQ people found it hard to relate to Gurgaon… Gurugram will defeat them.”

    Radhika Aggarwal, Chief Business Officer, Shopclues, said she found “no point in the name change” and that renaming will “add confusion”.

    Many senior corporate executives, for whom Gurgaon is a place of both work and residence, termed the renaming to Gurugram as “disastrous”. Their argument was that over the years Gurgaon had acquired a global and high-end cache despite being a “vernacular” name and that Gurugram will simply not have that brand sheen.

    Rajiv Talwar, CEO of Gurgaon-headquartered DLF, the real estate firm deeply involved with Gurgaon’s urban transformation, agrees with the loss of brand value argument, but in a different way: “Brands are in-built in our mind….who calls Connaught Place (a Delhi shopping hub) Rajiv Chowk…Most people don’t call Bangalore Bengaluru…”

    Talwar, however, reckons Gurugram’s many corporate and high-end residential complexes, places that gave Gurgaon its cache, will mitigate the impact of renaming. Another major real estate firm, which did not want to be identified, said there will be “some explaining to do to foreign investors” about Gurugram but Gurgaon’s attractions may not dim.

    Most real estate players said the subbranding of luxury apartment of complexes – the Carltons, Okawoods, Labarnums etc – will keep the impact of Gurugram at the minimum. Globalisation-friendly branding for high-priced properties will operate in their own space, distinct from the messaging from Gurugram – that’s the argument and hope of big property developers.

    Abraham Koshy, professor, marketing, IIM-Ahmedabad, said Gurugram will take a long time to take hold as a new name in the minds of people. But, interestingly, he also said the new name can become a plus: “It is the village of teachers. With its credentials, it’s like saying we are the teachers to the world. If carefully utilised, it can be a big plus.”

    But here’s something Haryana’s BJP Chief Minister, Manohar Lal, may want to consider. Some astrologers reckon ‘Gurugram’ is unpropitious. Bejan Daruwalla, one of India’s best-known astrologers, said the name change is “wrong”.

    “The earlier name had Jupiter on its side and this one does not. Jupiter is the planet that brings good luck, prosperity and wealth. The new name also has stagnation planets, Rahu and Ketu, on its side. There is no positive vibe one gets from the new name,” Daruwalla said.

    Perhaps the CM can draw comfort from Bhavesh N Patni, head astrologer for GaneshaSpeaks. com, who says in numerological terms, Gurugram’s “soul number” is 7, and that means there’ll be “a rise in spirituality among its dwellers”. 

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