How a lawsuit gave us the iconic Vicco turmeric jingle?

Team Udayavani, Dec 18, 2021, 5:12 PM IST


“Vicco turmeric, Nahi cosmetic, Vicco turmeric ayurvedic cream”

I am sure that you might have not read the above sentence but instead sang the lyrics in your head. Well, who doesn’t remember this iconic jingle of “Vicco turmeric cream”.

A few years ago, the jingle was played everywhere from movie theatres to restaurants. It was one of the most popular advertisements during that time.

But did you know that this iconic jingle wasn’t just to attract customers but was also to take a jibe at the Excise department?

Here’s the story

Vicco is one the country’s oldest beauty product manufacturers; it came much before international beauty brands flooded the market.

The Vishnu Industrial Chemical Company or VICCO was founded in 1952 by K.V Pendharkar. In order to popularize the product, the company did not rely on advertisements; instead they decided to sponsor a TV serial, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi. During that time, sponsorship of programmes was new to Doordarshan.

The jingle “Vicco turmeric Ayurvedic cream, thwacha ki raksha kare antiseptic cream” was played several times in an episode which made Vicco popular among Indian households.

The first Vicco product was Vicco Vajradanti, it was the first Ayurvedic Toothpaste in the world with 20 rare medicinal herbs.

In the late 50s, they launched Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream, a Turmeric skin cream when 90% of the population wasn’t aware of the significance of skincare.

They started their production units in a chawl in Mumbai and later expanded production units in locals like Dombivli, Goa, and Nagpur.

Vicco grows its own raw materials at a 100-acre farm in Butibori, Nagpur. It has factories at Nagpur, Goa and Dombvli. Also, only pure, de-mineralised, zero-bacteria water is used for production.

The products are not tested on animals and Vicco advocates ‘beauty without cruelty’. Vicco Vajradanti toothpaste received the PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) ‘Proggy Award’ 2005 for its ‘vegan’ label.

The iconic ‘jingle’ story

As we all know, Vicco products asserted that their products are ayurvedic medicines and not cosmetics.

In 1978, the Central Excise Department said Vicco were not eligible to be classified as ayurvedic medicines as claimed by the company and instead classified them as cosmetics. But how does it matter?

Excise department levies excise duty on the manufacture of goods within the country. As per the laws, excise duty on cosmetics is higher than that on ayurvedic medicines.

Vicco challenged this claim and filed a suit in the Civil Court. The decision by the civil judge favored Vicco on the 6th of May, 1982, while stating that both the products were ayurvedic. The Excise department denied accepting the decision and took legal actions.

The excise department appealed to the Bombay High Court and in 1988, the court upheld the decision of the civil court.

The Central Excise Department then approached the Supreme Court of India and their petition was dismissed. The tax deparment then asserted that their products are ayurvedic.

However, the debates continued and with the enactment of the new Central Excise Tariff Act 1985, the matter was again raised.

In 1997, the revenue authorities stated that as per the new law, the company’s products fall in the category of cosmetics. However, in 2003, the excise tribunal’s decision favored Vicco group.

But the allegations continued, the Supreme Court then decided to intervene and resolve the matter. In 2007, Supreme Court said that the products of Vicco group are ayurvedic medicines and not cosmetics and they attract nil tax duty.

Amid all the debates, the Vicco group came out with the famous jingle, “Vicco Turmeric nahi cosmetic, Vicco Turmeric ayurvedic cream” in order to strengthen the stance of the group.

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