From Nokia to Nintendo, check out iconic brands that had surprising origins

Mahindra & Mahindra itself started as a steel trading firm in 1945, shortly before it became a carmaker that now offers services in IT and finance as well.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Sunday, September 18, 2022, 05:20 PM IST
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Anand Mahindra |

Success stories are powered by innovative ideas, but they are sustained through constant reinvention and improvisation in line with changing market conditions. For instance India’s IT giant Wipro was inherited by Azim Premji as an oil business, while popular soft drink 7Up originally used to be an antidepressant. Not just these, a large number of popular brands and conglomerates started off selling something entirely different from what they are now known for.

Among them Mahindra & Mahindra started off as a steep trading firm Mahindra & Muhammad in 1945, before entering into automotives, and now operates in nine sectors including IT and finance. Known for his tweets, the group’s chairman Anand Mahindra recently shared a list of brands whose first products were surprisingly different from their current offerings.

Surprising transitions

It mentions Nokia’s origins in 1865 as a Finnish toilet paper firm, and also reveals that Sony sold electronic rice cookers before evolving into the firm behind PlayStation. Samsung was known for dried fish, Lego for wooden ducks and Colgate sold candles before becoming synonymous with toothpaste in India. Carmaker Toyota manufactured looms, Tiffany went from stationery to luxury jewelry, while home decor seller IKEA started with pens.

The list also included Nintendo that went from playing cards to gaming consoles and handheld games, so this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

More in store

Apart from those mentioned on the list, another South Korean electronics giant LG has its origins as a chemical firm which started selling cosmetics and personal hygiene products, before it became known for refrigerators, washing machines and phones.

The iconic American clothing brand Gap was actually a record store that also sold jeans, before paying more attention to their side hustle to avoid closing down.

Before Xerox became the default name for copier machines, it was known as Haloid, which sold photography paper. The brand reinvented itself in 1961 after developing machines that used xerography technology for copying.

Adapting to changing conditions

Mahindra’s tweet also comes after a pandemic, which saw major brands from General Motors and Ford to Bacardi and L’Oreal, adapting to the crisis to manufacture masks, ventilators and sanitisers. India’s most iconic brands such as bottled water seller Bisleri and conglomerate Godrej also entered the hand sanitiser market during this time.

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