The new face of Air India (UPDATE)

There’s something awkward about Air India trying to be hip, sort of like the uncle with the hennaed hair who knows all of the hottest club dance moves. The last time I flew Air India, I was on a 30 year old used Korean plane with an Italian flight crew and Indian flight attendants. Homey, yes. Fashionable and cutting-edge? Hardly.

So when I saw the images from Air India’s award-winning new campaign, I was a bit taken aback. I was used to the fusty maharaja, retro in a very unhip way, a character that was probably dated from its very inception. What was I to make of this mixed race family, desi female sitting openly in her white husband’s lap? (There’s another shot with a desi man, a white woman and a hadesi child)

The Maharaja was from an era of arranged marriages, when nobody spoke of dating, let alone across the colour line. I’ll bet he never looked once at a non-desi air hostess, no matter how flirtatious.

The new Air India, on the other hand, simply says “look, we’re just happy that you’re married and that you’ve given us a gorgeous grandkid! Now please visit more often.” (Yes, the campaign was created in India) It’s not really stylish, but it is most definitely contemporary. Maybe AI isn’t so dated after all. Now if only they could do something about their service, I’d really sit up and take notice.

UPDATE A few comments (thanks El Nino and Rishi ) have argued that these ads were designed just to win awards and haven’t (and wont) actually be used. People also pointed out that the idea is a straight lift from an earlier (proposed?) Air France campaign.

130 thoughts on “The new face of Air India (UPDATE)

  1. “razib on July 10, 2009 09:04 PM · Direct link grains and vegetables are loaded with vitamins.

    vitamin D is found in marine organisms and animals with a lot of sun exposure. or skin exposure. in any case, i’m not going to argue with you. a lot of your assertions are not even wrong.

    101 · razib on July 10, 2009 09:16 PM · Direct link and to be clear, i have a low confidence in the vit D theory personally. but your critiques exhibit no awareness of basic evolutionary genetic parameters as a function of time, else you wouldn’t offer some of the examples you’re offering. see population genetic notes, especially the genetics of natural selection.”

    well, I did read portions of the Origin of Species on my own time. I have just enough “awareness of basic evolutionary genetic parameters as a function of time” to know you’d call me on the perceived lack.

    Still, as you have noticed, I am not a scientist and will leave the debates and theories to them. Glad you are not convinced about the vitamin theory because I just know that dog don’t hunt. I will read those links which do not involve advanced mathematical equations. Thank you for your patience.

  2. Vitamin D is produced within the human body and we activate that when we expose ourselves to the sun. Get out in the sun for a short time every day without sunscreen and you are good to go.

    For vegetarians, marinephytoplanktons are an awesome source of many vital nutrients, highly concentrated, that all humans need for optimal health. I recommend frozen marine phyto planktons, as they would be the second freshest. First is diving under and picking a bunch yourself and eating it right then and there. But who does that?

  3. Comment 71 — terrific points, thanks! Loved the insight about where the Maharaja came from. It’s so true — the Maharaja, like the Amul butter campaigns, was a smart, snarky advertising icon rather than a throwback to the princely era.

    (Also, regarding Air India: compares very favorably with American Airlines.Way better food, for instance.)

  4. Vitamin D is produced within the human body and we activate that when we expose ourselves to the sun. Get out in the sun for a short time every day without sunscreen and you are good to go.

    Getting out for a shirt time every day isn’t going to cut it for even light skinned folks and people with a darker skin tone is at a much higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. So please try not to spread old ideas that are proven to be wrong now.

  5. Getting out for a shirt time every day isn’t going to cut it for even light skinned folks and people with a darker skin tone is at a much higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. So please try not to spread old ideas that are proven to be wrong now.

    OK, then eat marine phyto planktons. I also included that in my comment.

    I’m in the sun daily and eating my MPPs and vitamin D levels are perfect.

  6. I hate these ads. I am recovering from being sexually harassed and these ads almost exacerbate my trauma. I would not feel so bad if the ads were more mixed in terms of which race was the male. Meaning an Indian guy with Padma Lakshmi. Or an Indian guy with Frieda Pinto. I am still recovering from what I went through.

    Pankaj

  7. Air India is a joke. Indians everywhere in the world worship white skin, including yours truly ;) .

    White is always right; brown is always down.

    I believe I have the mind of a Tamil in a light skinned warrior body. Best of both worlds. I’m so light skinned I could replace the white gentleman in the photo.

  8. I am recovering from being sexually harassed and these ads almost exacerbate my trauma.

    I hear ya! Tell me about it…..

  9. I think the fear of sunning is misplaced. New research overwhelmingly shows us that Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but an essential hormone that controls our immune system. Vitamin D is the strongest cancer fighting agent the body has. Vitamin D also improves mood and fights insulin insensitivity, which can lead to obesity. The whole reason people became white in the first place was to allow their skin to soak up more Vitamin D in the less sunny northern environments they settled. The darker your skin, the more sun you need to get your Vitamin D. Studies show that almost half of the people living in Hawaii and Saudi Arabia are deficient in vitamin D. Flu virus spreads in the darker months, when our cumulative Vitamin D is lowest- this is also the time when seasonal depression hits. MS and autism are most common in areas with little sunlight, farthest from the equator. Melanoma is only slightly correlated with sun exposure, and is the least dangerous cancer. Even people with melanoma can benefit from moderate amounts of Vitamin D. For those concerned with bone health, remember that without vitamin D calcium is useless. Vitamin D also fights allergies. I see people who would go insane if a shaft of light should alight on their young child’s skin. I think a case could be made that the entire sun phobia has been created by the companies that sell sunscreen, which is loaded with cancer causing agents. You couldn’t pay me to use that junk. I live in Chicago and tan during the winter, and it is a great mood booster as well. It’s only common sense that our ancestors spent most of their time outdoors for hundreds of thousands of years, in fresh air and sun, not sitting inside playing video games in a dark room. Go out and get some sun, but don’t burn.

  10. This is hilarious-are we sure this isn’t a rejected Benetton ad? My white fiancee and I were enjoying looking at these photos. I must echo a previous reader’s comment that its refreshing that the Desi characters used in these ads are very very dark skinned. Maybe my brother and I should rethink that bet we made with our parents 15 years ago about never flying to India on Air India ever again (although I will certainly miss the maharajah!)

  11. Wow, a lot of you seem so educated and open minded, yet the discussion for this blog is revolved around the whole light skin vs dark skin. Seriously? Just be glad that little baby HAS skin. She doesn’t look “half Indian” either, Indian people’s looks vary from very light to very dark, so it’s very difficult to identify a mixed Indian with a full one.

    And as for MJ’s kids, those aren’t his, he had a sperm donor.

  12. “Wow, a lot of you seem so educated and open minded, yet the discussion for this blog is revolved around the whole light skin vs dark skin.”

    since when is a scientific discussion of the genetic expression of a certain trait bad? I don’t think anyone was trying to insinuate one was better than the other… it was more wondering how something works… i.e. how a certain trait is passed on.

  13. LinZi–It doesn’t matter. The fact that the baby’s skin color was even brought up (in a discussion for a blog that is written to describe changes that Air India has made, might I remind you) still shows the somewhat backwards thinking of many “modern” Indian-Americans today.

    Why else would they want to know how light skin is passed on? You think there aren’t any Indian women lurking around here taking notes on how to get their babies to have lighter skin?

  14. “LinZi–It doesn’t matter. The fact that the baby’s skin color was even brought up (in a discussion for a blog that is written to describe changes that Air India has made, might I remind you) still shows the somewhat backwards thinking of many “modern” Indian-Americans today.”

    Jenna– I brought it up. And I’m not an Indian.

  15. Okay, LinZi, perhaps your Indian boyfriend’s mentality has gotten to you and now all you look at is people’s skin or maybe it was always this way. Maybe your Indian boyfriend and you are planning to have a kid, but if it looked full Indian you would change your mind, I don’t know, there are only so many reasons I can come up with. May I ask why you brought it up? The subject seems completely irrelevant.

    And you may have brought it up, but no one is forcing anyone to respond and keep discussing such an inane topic, they choose to.

  16. Indians are not the only one who prize “light skin”. I have found this all the brown cultures that I have been exposed to. For whites they like a “healthy tan”.

    I think its about achieving some sort of golden hue between dark cocao and snow white/shell pink.

  17. Jenna: “Okay, LinZi, perhaps your Indian boyfriend’s mentality has gotten to you and now all you look at is people’s skin or maybe it was always this way. Maybe your Indian boyfriend and you are planning to have a kid, but if it looked full Indian you would change your mind, I don’t know, there are only so many reasons I can come up with. May I ask why you brought it up? The subject seems completely irrelevant.

    And you may have brought it up, but no one is forcing anyone to respond and keep discussing such an inane topic, they choose to. “

    Well, first why don’t you try to read what I wrote without any of your previous assumptions. if you actually read any of my comments you will realize that I never once said anything about wanting lighter skinned children, or how to get a lighter skinned child.

    My Indian boyfriend also is not the kind of person who bases beauty on skin color… Maybe you ought to throw your assumptions about the “backwards” Indians out.

    Why did I bring it up? Well basically I was looking at those families with the beautiful parents (Both of them!) and babies, and thinking “hmm I wonder what our kids would look like?” I don’t mean this is a “oh good they better look ______” way but rather a sense of curiosity, the same way someone might wonder what if their child will inherit their mom or dad’s nose, eyes etc. This was NEVER out of a sense of preference for white skin.. in fact, I was a bit disappointed to think my children might end up closer to my skin tone (base don scientific evidence) rather than having beautiful brown skin. I haven’t had very many opportunities to see other children who have an Indian parent and an American white parent, so I was happy to see these families depicted (though, of course, we don’t know if they are actually related or just random people posing).

    I also brought this up because I have noticed that in America people always assume they a child of a mixed race couple will always look more like the race that’s not white, whatever that is. People act like ‘whiteness’ is some sort of blank slate that will just absorb traits or something. This connected with MJ because people look at his kids and assume it is impossible for an African American to have such ‘white’ looking kids… I thought this was incorrect, and then we began discussing genetics to understand how traits as passed on, and what is possible or not…

    Jenna– I think it’s pretty obvious that you have some stereotypes about what Indian people think, and maybe you should address this… Talking about skin tone doesn’t necessarily mean that people are favoring one over the other. Why can’t people just be genuinely curious about ‘the way genetic traits are passed down” in a scientific way? You don’t find it interesting… or do you think the only way not to be racist is to be “color blind”. Maybe you feel scared and uncomfortable with the topic of skin color in the first place. I don’t think talking about skin color is something racist, unless you have a biased towards a certain color.

  18. Indians are not the only one who prize “light skin”. I have found this all the brown cultures that I have been exposed to

    Well, perhaps they’re just being polite while your exposing yourself.

  19. I never once said anything about wanting lighter skinned children

    You don’t have to, but I’ll believe you.

    thinking “hmm I wonder what our kids would look like?”

    Well you might not have a preference (since you say so), but it’s still irrelevant and terribly shallow. If you’re gonna have kids, fine, but wondering (or even worrying) about what they will look just seems awful, don’t worry you aren’t the only one, lots of people do it, quite sad actually. Maybe you are just innocently wondering, but I find it a bit strange you have to do that (taking time to type it out) on the internet, on a comment thread for a blog that is about Air India’s improvements. You do realize there are scientific blogs and forums where you can post such inquiries about “the way genetic traits are passed down”. By the way, there are more genetic traits than just skin color, you know, but I don’t see you talking about them.

    People act like ‘whiteness’ is some sort of blank slate that will just absorb traits or something. This connected with MJ because people look at his kids and assume it is impossible for an African American to have such ‘white’ looking kids..

    Excuse me if I sound insulting, but did you pass biology? Lemme give you a quick “here’s what I remember from 9th, I don’t have a great memory, so my “facts” may be disputed” lesson. African American and Mongoloid genes are dominant over Caucasiod genes, leaving many mixed race kids to look less “white”. The same cannot be said for Indian people because we are a combination of all three “races” (I put that in quotes because I question the race theory) where Indian/white kids will look completely random-from fully Indian to fully white-mmaybe both, but again I repeat, Indian people’s features varies so it’s difficult to tell.

    As for MJ, he had a sperm donor, he isn’t the biological father of those kids which explains why those kids look fully “white”

    I think it’s pretty obvious that you have some stereotypes about what Indian people think

    Hm. Not really, I don’t. I’m Indian myself (yes, my real name is Jenna). My entire family is Indian so I’m pretty sure I have an idea of what their mindset is like. I despise the Indian people who are stuck on the “light skin is better” thing. And guess what? There are a lot of those, some are good at hiding it and some don’t even bother to because they see nothing wrong with it. I know there are some that don’t care about skin, but they’re indeed a minority.

    Well, first why don’t you try to read what I wrote without any of your previous assumptions. if you actually read any of my comments you will realize that I never once said anything about wanting lighter skinned children, or how to get a lighter skinned child

    Nah, I don’t really want to. Sorry. I’d like to but I don’t have all the time in the world, still I’ll take your word for it.

  20. Jenna=PG?

    In any event, you seem to be stuck in stereotype land. May be you should listen/ read what others have to say. Oh wait, you won’t. You’d rather spew some racist remarks and regurgitate some stereotypes about Indians. sigh…

  21. Jenna… if you care so little, why did you bring up in the first place?

    I think it’s really sad that you can’t see past whatever narrow minded view points you so firmly believe in.

    Anyways, I don’t know why I am bothering, but let me delve into this again:

    “Well you might not have a preference (since you say so), but it’s still irrelevant and terribly shallow. If you’re gonna have kids, fine, but wondering (or even worrying) about what they will look just seems awful, don’t worry you aren’t the only one, lots of people do it, quite sad actually.”

    Right. There is a difference between imagining what your kids would look like and ascribing certain traits as good or bad. Wondering and worrying are too different things entirely. Wondering is all “ahhh my kids would be so cute, I want to imagine them in their various possible cutenesses” worrying is more like “oh my good, I hope my kid doesn’t my weird nose.” In case it’s not clear yet to you, I am pretty sure most people in this world wonder what their kids will look like. Why? Because it’s fun to imagine the future. If you see wondering about things as bad well then I guess you must have a really warped view of imagination.

    And I don’t really care if you are Indian or not. You can’t possible allow your family & friends viewpoints to stereotype EVERY person from India. I mean, please, I’m sure you know that regardless of nationality/ancestor, people’s beliefs vary greatly. Just because people in your family use a vat of fair and lovely each month doesn’t mean my boyfriend gives a crap about skin color.

    Lastly, your random talk about “race” genes being dominant. I mean, I know it must been along time since 9th grade bio for you, but really… first of all what “African American and Mongoloid genes” are you even talking about? If you actually study some genetics, you will find that “race” is socially constructed!! So how can someone have “African American and Mongoloid genes” in the first place? And by the way…. the terms you use are rather outdated and offensive:

    “The concept originated with a now disputed typological method of racial classification,[41][42]. All the -oid racial terms (e.g. Mongoloid, Caucasoid, Negroid, etc.) are now often controversial in both technical and non-technical contexts and may sometimes give offense no matter how they are used.[43] This is especially true of “Mongoloid” because it has also been used as a synonym for persons with Down Syndrome, and in English as a generic insult meaning “idiot”.[44] A shortened version of the term, “mongo”, is also used in the United Kingdom, mainly Scotland. Contrary to popular beliefs, Mongoloid refers to diverse ethnical groups, and not of a homogeneous group.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongoloid_race#Criticism)

    And if you are referring to specific genes, such as eye color, eye shape, skin tone, hair color, nose shape, height, etc etc all of these are different. For example, eye color is pretty simple. Brown eyes are dominate over blue. (I don’t know about green/hazel). Skin tone, on the other hand is influenced by many more genes. But I guess this is over your head. Or maybe you just don’t really want to imagine, wonder, or understand anything new.

  22. this chugging milk thing isn’t working either, btw. i’m stil as dark as i always was and now a i’m 3 lbs heavier, in case anyone’s taking notes.

  23. Wow, a lot of you seem so educated and open minded

    well, that’ll teach ya to stop stereotyping

  24. No, American Mallu, I’m not Jenna.

    Y’all are slippin’.

    You accuse me of being behind comments that don’t sound like me in any way, shape, form nor vibe.

    What’s up widdat?

  25. Lastly, your random talk about “race” genes being dominant. I mean, I know it must been along time since 9th grade bio for you, but really… first of all what “African American and Mongoloid genes” are you even talking about? If you actually study some genetics, you will find that “race” is socially constructed!! So how can someone have “African American and Mongoloid genes” in the first place? And by the way…. the terms you use are rather outdated and offensive:…………..Contrary to popular beliefs, Mongoloid refers to diverse ethnical groups, and not of a homogeneous group.”

    I’m not well read regarding genes. When the term “genetic markers” are referred to, what does it mean? Also, “ethnicity” or “ethnic group” – aren’t those just terms for “race”?

    Explain to me, in a nutshell, the connection between genes and ethnic group, if any.

  26. You’d rather spew some racist remarks and regurgitate some stereotypes about Indians

    Hey don’t get mad at me just because there ARE Indian people who don’t like their (or others) skin color. I said I won’t read every little comment just because I don’t have the time, if I did, I would love to read them all to the last itty bitty detail. And if you understood what I said in my last comment, you’d understand that I stated there are some Indian people who DON’T give a rat’s ass about skin color, the same goes for you LinZi, I never once said ‘EVERY Indian person hates dark skin”. Try rereading things and comprehending them before you accuse someone of being narrow minded. There is a program called “Hooked On Phonics” it will very much help you do so.

    Jenna… if you care so little, why did you bring up in the first place?

    What? Again, honey, Hooked On Phonics…

    I am pretty sure most people in this world wonder what their kids will look like. Why? Because it’s fun to imagine the future

    Sure it is. wondering what your kids will look like? That’s fine. Caring what they would like is what irks me. That seems to me what your doing. You CARE so much about what your kids look like, you go on the internet and actually go so deep into CARING that you look to genetics to “see” what they’ll look like. How hard is it to figure out what your kid’s gonna look like? Chances are, your kid’s gonna have two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and ears, if they didn’t, well I’d still hope you’d love them as much.

    So how can someone have “African American and Mongoloid genes” in the first place?

    Because they are mixed..? I’m not sure what you are asking, I don’t think you do either…

    you will find that “race” is socially constructed

    Which is exactly why I said in my last comment that I questioned the three race theory. You wouldn’t know that because you don’t seem to want to understand what I’m saying.

    . the terms you use are rather outdated and offensive

    Well I had no idea and I apologize for that.

    Or maybe you just don’t really want to imagine, wonder, or understand anything new.

    Where did you even get this? A freaking Disney movie? I’m not even trying to be funny. Where did you get this?