Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Indelible (not quite) ink: Maharajah brand

The ink comes from the factory that the Mysore Maharajah had built and goes onto the voting finger around the world. Only one little company knows the secret recipe for indebility (unfortunately not fool-proof, yet). An Indian technology success story (until China figures out how to make it) which in addition to earning foreign exchange also contributes to  the Indian democracy brand.
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Each bottle contains 10 ml of indelible ink. “The contents of the bottle or the chemical formula used in its manufacture is a State secret. Otherwise, people will start making efforts to wipe the ink away and subvert the democratic process,’’ says Hara Kumar, managing director, marketing, of the company.

Five years ago, the unit dispatched 1.9 million bottles to the EC. In 2014, the demand is up by almost 20 per cent. “Around 70 per cent of the total order has already been transported to various state capitals while the rest is being manufactured using a single shift,” says Kumar.


In the last financial year, the company’s turnover was Rs 18.92 crore with a net profit of Rs 2.29 crore; 50-70 per cent of its total sales can be attributed to indelible ink. Moreover, the company earns foreign exchange too. It exports indelible ink to 28 countries in Asia and Africa, including Turkey, Bhutan, Malaysia, Nepal, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Papua New- Guinea and Canada. It also supplies voters’ ink to the United Nations.


This company was started by the Mysore Royal family in 1937 and was once called Mysore Lac and Paint Works Ltd. At the time, the company also made special paints for application on war tanks. It was in 1962 that the company was granted an exclusive licence to manufacture and supply indelible ink to the EC by the National Research Development Corporation, Delhi.


“Indelible ink was used for the first time in the 1962 election.


Kumar says that over the years, the company has changed the composition of the ink to address complaints that it can be easily rubbed off. “Technically, once applied it will stay bright for more than ten days and start fading only afterward. There is no chance that a person can rub it off immediately and go to another booth to cast a second vote,’’ he says.


Regardless of what Kumar or the teacher say, booth-level political workers admit that the ink can indeed be erased. Assorted cleaning agents may be used for the job: anything from toothpaste, hand sanitisers, nail polish removers to dish washing liquids and alcohol. And if those don’t work all that well, there are several YouTube videos that demonstrate how to unmark your finger.
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regards