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Gandhi used to sell 11-lakh pen
NDTV Correspondent, Wednesday September 30, 2009, Mumbai

Just in time for Gandhi Jayanti, the Mahatma is being projected as a poster boy for an international brand. Gandhiji's picture is engraved on a luxury pen that costs Rs 11-lakh.  His image on hoardings conveying the message that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Inspired by his 241 Mile Dandi March, the collection has only 241 pieces available worldwide.

"We were launching our limited edition pen and we thought who better than Gandhiji as a global icon to communicate to the world the values of our company," says Lutz Bethge, CEO, Montblanc.

So what if Gandhi hardly ever lived in luxury, shunned wastage and excesses and used cheap pencils. Till the time they became stubs he could hold no more? 

The irony would be sidelined by his great grandson, who was present at the launch of the brand to accept a Rs 72-lakh donation to the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation.

In 2007, the use of brand Gandhi on a British credit card triggered protests not just in India, but also in South Africa. But today, Rs a 72-lakh donation to a Kolhapur charitable trust has encouraged the Mahatma's great grandson Tushar Gandhi to associate with the brand.

"This is not a brand of guns or alcohol. It's a pen which Gandhiji always associated with, it was his greatest tool. Also the donation is for an Indian trust, which is for the good of the society," says Tushar Gandhi.

From 'Apple' in America to 'Telecom Italia' in Europe, Gandhiji has been used as a global ambassador for various international names. There are commercials that have gone ahead and grabbed prestigious awards.

Commenting on the use of Gandhi as a brand ambassador, Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Creative Director, O&M says, ''Every time you go abroad and say you are an Indian, Gandhiji is someone people immediately associate with. And that clearly shows his brand value and impact of his ideas on the world.''
 
Why are multi-million dollar conglomerates fascinated with the image of a man once called the Naked Fakir?

For an answer, one may turn to Salman Rushdie as he writes about Richard Attenborough's film on the Mahatma. He says: ''It is as if Gandhi, years after his death, has found in Attenborough the last in his series of billionaire patrons, his last Birla. And rich men, like emperors, have always had a weakness for tame holy men, for saints.'' 

Being made the brand ambassador of a luxurious brand is far away from the high priest of khadi, who stood for simple living, high thinking.