A salute to Kalnirnay’s 50-year-old journey that began as a small yet revolutionary idea of combining the panchang with the Gregorian calendar
Jayraj Salgaonkar. Pic/Atul Kamble
When we think of household brands, some have become synonymous to a generation and then, there are those like the utility calmanac, Kalnirnay that transcend time and sustain relevance. Today the company is succeeded by Jayraj Salgaonkar and his daughter Shakti Salgaonkar-Yezdani who continues to keep it relevant with intent and innovation that is at the crux of this company. Fifty years ago on December 1, 1972, little did Jayant Salgaonkar and his then 17-year-old son and apprentice, Jayraj realise the mammoth household name their product would become.
“What we have built is a secular product; we inform people. This made us an authentic and dependable brand that our consumers value very much,” recalls Jayraj Salgaonkar from his office in Dadar. The calmanac is a common feature in every household with turning over crores of copies in nine different languages. The panchang is an integral part of Hindu culture and Jayant Salgaonkar was seen as a delusional maverick to invest money and time into an idea like this. “His idea was simple. Before Kalnirnay, the panchang calculated the months in ghakta and pale [ancient medium of calculating time in the panchang] which is very different from the Gregorian system of hours, seconds and minutes. It was decided that we would build a calendar which would combine these different calendars and sell them to the public. Until then, only those who could decipher the panchang understood it; in many ways, we democratised this,” Jayraj says.
Passing the torch
Kalnirnay has been a dynamic company that has set its eyes on innovation right from the beginning. They were one of the first companies to bring in colour scanners and typographers when it was not all that popular. The tech boom in the 1990s saw it at the forefront as they launched their website in 1996. The idea of innovating the brand happened as the company moved into the digital market space as early as 2010 when the App Store was in its nascency.
Shakti joined the company in 2016 after an accomplished career in print and digital media. “I was encouraged to think for myself and my father was more than understanding of my choices. One had to earn one’s place in the company and I felt after making my own mark, it was time to come into the family business,” she quips. A prolific writer, she found that the constant presence of writers and thinkers in their lives helped bring fresh perspective into the ethos of the product and its value to loyal consumers. Kalnirnay has been at the forefront in discussion, including the AIDS epidemic and the benefits of mental health that are often brushed aside by Indian society. It is evident in the family that there’s a sense of accountability to what they have built over the years.
What lies ahead?
The pandemic could not deter their brand as they sought to take care of their workers, providing flexible timings for their employees and never firing anyone who worked on the press floor. “As an open company, we innovated our systems to cater to the people during the pandemic. In Facebook Live events, we showed the restarting of the press; the reaction was encouraging as our consumers were glad to see us,” comments Shakti.
Kalnirnay’s future is in safe hands. The traditional ethos with an innovative heart still burns bright. Jayraj sums it up nicely, “No is never an answer. We welcome obstacles, calamities and problems. It is exciting for us because we know that in combating these calamities there is growth. At the end of the road, in growth there is happiness and that is what we strive for.”