This summer, Tata Motors, India’s biggest truck manufacturer, launched a condom named Dipper, aimed at promoting safe sex among truck drivers who are in the HIV high-risk group.
While the success of Dipper, for which Tata has joined hands with TCI Foundation and the Transport Corporation of India, remains to be seen, there is an interesting story behind the name of the condom brand.
In 2005, while devising a strategy to check the spiralling HIV patient headcount, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) decided that unless two main high-risk groups — truck drivers and commercial sex workers — were made aware of the risk of unprotected sex and and accepted the idea of using condoms, the problem would never be contained.
“NACO was already providing condoms free of cost — remember Nirodh? — to the public. But we thought that for these two classes, we should come out with special brands. During one of the meetings to discuss the names, I suggested that for truck drivers, the name Dipper could be very good. The reason was that behind every commercial road transport vehicle, you can see the phrase ‘Use Dipper at Night’ which is basically a request for dimmed headlights,” former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, the then head of NACO, recalled.
“We thought we will have the benefit of free publicity on four million trucks. Our concern was to educate drivers… just like using the light dipper at night is important for safe driving, using Dipper the condom is important to keep them and their wives safe from the dreaded ailment,” Quraishi said. “We thought the sense of ownership and pride among the truck drivers will ensure maximum compliance.”
And the catch-line to promote the new condom? “Day or night, this Dipper is right.” And in Hindi it was, “Din ho ya raat, dipper rahe saath”. Apart from Dipper, the agency also came up with the names “Horn Please” and “Ok Tata”, for the same reason as both of these are also painted behind almost every truck that one sees on Indian roads.
The condom that was meant for distribution among sex workers was christened “Woh”, inspired from the Bollywood hit Pati, Patni aur Woh on an extramarital affair. In this case, ‘Woh’ was not a villain but a friend that would keep them safe from the HIV virus.
“Another reason for this was to take care of the embarrassment most men go through while asking for a condom at the chemist shop. I though we could name it ‘Woh’,” Quraishi said.
NACO negotiated with Life Insurance Corporation and National Highways Authority of India to fund the campaign. Soon, the government-owned Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL) started manufacturing the new brands of condoms.
But these brands soon got into trouble. As soon as word spread, a private sector manufacturer immediately applied to the registrar of brands and patents for these brands. “And then he followed it up a with a legal notice to NACO and me, seeking damages. We asked HLL to negotiate with him to withdraw the notice but he wanted money to let go of his claim on the brand names. We had to stop since we didn’t wish to pay anything,” Quraishi said.
Commenting on Dipper being launched by Tata Motors, Quraishi said, “I am so glad that Tata Motors has done a smart thing by naming the condom Dipper. I hope they succeed where we failed because of legal troubles created by an unscrupulous manufacturer.”