My Favorite Value-for-Money Brands – The Top 10 List

I used to be a real spendthrift during my late 20s and early 30s! High income clubbed with single life abroad was like perfect recipe for personal finance disaster. It was the time when I started falling in love with designer brands that offered little value in life but made myself a self-proclaimed somebody else 🙂 I must confess that I spent a significant part of my life wasting money over those famous brand names that every one of my age group then probably wanted or were envious about.

The craving for designer brands ended once I started my married life when the reality injected some good sense into my head. That’s when I started realizing the value of going for products that offer value and quality for the price you pay. While some of these products may not be exactly cheap, they definitely do offer great value for money in the long run.

Once I started using those value-for-money products, I involuntarily started liking the brands or companies that produced these amazing products. This blog post is about the brands that have added value in my life in the long run.

My top 10 favorite brands

When I talk about a real brand (other than FMCG) that I am in love with for at least 35 years now, I have to start with Panasonic.

1. Panasonic

I first saw a Panasonic (National Panasonic to be precise) stereo tape recorder as a five or six year old child. During those days, a National Panasonic boom box or stereo was one of the most valuable things that a Keralite who returned from ‘the Gelf or Persia’ would bring in. I am talking about the pre-VCR era and post-valve radio period.

national panasonic boombox
National Panasonic Boombox - Picture courtesy:

I attached myself to the Panasonic brand from those robust boombox days itself and started familiarizing with their other products as I grew.

Today, I am a big Panasonic fan and have used at least 8 to 10 of their products to satisfaction over the past several years. There are some categories where a Panasonic is simply the best – e.g. Cordless phones or Rice cooker etc. Among the
Panasonics that we have at home as of today include:

– Our Panasonic plasma TV
– A cordless phone (that I purchased 15 years back and still working)
– Two electric rice cookers
– A mixer grinder (awesome product!)
– An electric shaver
– A super silent hair dryer (latest addition)

panasonic mixer blender rice cooker

Well, the audio systems themselves underwent a lot of changes and hence I don’t know how the Panasonic stereos or boomboxes are doing now. But I definitely love their other products (may be except their recent entry into smartphones)

Philips is another brand I familiarized and started liking at the same time – particularly due to their lighting options, radios etc. However, in my mind, Panasonic still has the highest value for money.

2. Raymond’s Park Avenue

This must be one Indian brand that every working professional in this country must be familiar with and proud of for years now. I doubt if there’s a single middle class executive in India who didn’t own a pair of Raymond’s trousers in his life. In fact, I haven’t seen any cloth item that’s so durable and offers good looks at the same time for the money spent.

Further, I see that most people who went for their first suit or blazer naturally went with a Raymond’s Park Avenue.

(By the way, I do not use a Park Avenue on a regular basis any longer as I have stopped wearing formals. However, I still do have a couple of them in my wardrobe)

3. Titan (formal watches)

Okay, I am not here to talk about Tanishq, Fastrack or other late entrants from the Titan family. But a Titan Quartz formal watch is a high value for money watch and the one I own for the past 18 years still works like a charm whenever the battery is replaced in a timely manner.

If I remember correctly, I had paid something like Rs. 1200/- for this watch (in the picture) way back in 1995 or 96. Of course, I don’t use it as often as I used to do 10 years ago but even with a couple of other watches in my collection, I never forget to wear this little formal Titan once in a while.

titan formal watches

4. Zodiac – formal shirts

Zodiac is another Indian brand that I started liking after I got my first job. In fact, at one point of time, I remember ditching all other shirt brand and going outright for Zodiac when I had to relocate to US for the purpose of my consulting job.

Years down the line, while there are dozens of choices available when it comes to clothing brands, Zodiac still continues to be my favorite. I haven’t bought a formal shirt for a few years now, but when I do it will again be a Zodiac.

Their ZOD! Clubwear is another brand that needs a mention. At one point of time – perhaps 12 years ago – it was probably the only option if you had to pick a party wear for men. I still have a couple of them in my wardrobe that’s not used for quite some time now but is still in a highly usable condition apart from being the perfectly fitting shirt. Well, these shirts are not exactly cheap but serves you well (just like Raymond’s) in terms of fit and finish for a long time not to mention that they continue to equip their shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons even after several years into starting that practice.

5. Reynolds (ball-point pens)

This is no-brainer! Reynolds – among the ball-point pens – is the first one that I liked ever since we got the very first chance to switch over from those leaking fountain pens. By the way, I indeed liked the hero fountain pens as mentioned in an old post but Reynolds offered more freedom and resulted in better looking note books.

Even before Reynolds pens entered the Indian market; it was a popular name in our households – thanks again to the relatives working in the Gulf countries.

I still consider it as a value-for-money brand although the quality seems to have deteriorated a bit ever since their Indian entry in the early 90s.

6. Hitachi

Just like the brand Panasonic, yet another consumer durables brand that I like a lot is Hitachi – particularly due to their Air conditioners (and fridges too). While, one doesn’t go out and buy a Hitachi product on a regular basis, it is peace of mind once you own a 5-star energy rated product from Hitachi. Even better, they are like silent work horses that keep your mind away from regular repair related botheration.

I love Hitachi as a brand!

7. Polaroid – sun glasses

The Polaroids that one could wear even during night driving / riding have been my favorite list for the past 10 or 15 years now. In between, I switched a couple of driving glasses / fashion sun glasses but nothing offered the utility that came with a Polaroid

It is just amazing how those cool looking designer brands come nowhere close to a Polaroid in terms of real use and value for money.

8. Emami as a brand

Probably the only cosmetic item – other than my deos – I have to ever use in my life is the cold cream. And the best value for money cold cream that I have seen so far is the Emami cold cream which is priced almost one-third of typical brands like Ponds.

Emami is yet another Indian brand that’s synonymous to value and culture for the Indians. Their Himani Navaratna oil, Boroplus cream, powder, facewash etc are rightly priced products that understand the Indian audience well.

9. Oral B (dental floss)

Dental floss is something that I can’t live without and ever since I started flossing (at least 15 years now), I have been using the Oral B floss. Why Oral B? Because that’s the thinnest possible floss that I could find in the local market. The other brands like Colgate are much thicker flosses and very plain too while Oral B has a fresh minty flavor to it.

Overall, it helps maintain the dental hygiene at a reasonable price. I like this brand mainly because there are very few options in India when it comes to Dental hygiene products.

10. Pears soap

This is one brand that I have used for at least 90% of my life so far because even my father used the same and I have been seeing it since my birth. During my twenties, I switched to men’s lifestyle bath soap brands like Park Avenue or Aramusk but I knew that I was never going to patronize with such brands.

While the Pears bath soap has degraded a bit in its cut, shape and quality over the years, it’s still a decent Glycerine soap to help with a fresh shower.

[By the way, I just recalled an incident that took place some 32 years ago. My father, in fact, wrote to Hindustan Lever the first time they changed its shape of Pears to make it flattened and thinner. His queries were, then, answered by the customer care department in a personal letter. A couple of years from then, they reinstated the shape but the the beautiful cut was gone forever. Now, it looks like an unfinished product though the soap quality is still good if not the best]

Some more value brands

Well, there are a number of other things that I started liking at various stages of my life.

The super silent Crompton Greaves ceiling fans are one such brand that keeps me happy and amazed from the time I first saw it. We still have one in my house back home and even after 35 years of its heavy usage, it hasn’t failed even once. The regulator was damaged once but never the fan.

Colgate Pax Fresh Tea is an awesome mouthwash product that I found to be very gentle and fresh at the same time. It’s not too expensive either.

Another product I like for its pricing and quality is Himalaya Whitening Herbal toothpaste – it’s not too coarse; it is rightly priced and very effective.

As for the shaving systems, the Gillette Prestobarbara ready shaver at 22 rupees or so is a great bargain and it’s good for a couple of clean shaves.

Washing machines from Siemens are in my quality products list too, but since they are so expensive, I am not mentioning it in the value-for-money list.

The list could go on. But what I have learned in the process is that, beyond the upfront cost involved, there’s something called customer support, long term returns in terms of quality and satisfaction. That’s what make some of these products stand out.

And well, I know that you could disagree with some of my picks so let me know your list of best brands that offer value.

10 Yesteryear Indian Brands that I am emotionally attached to

As I age, I get a feeling that I am becoming more and more nostalgic about the simple life, limited number of options and opportunities that were present, good food, clean environment, closer interactions with people and less of noise and emissions that electronic-mechanical machines cause. The recent trip to my hometown has already made me even more wistful, in fact. However, ‘change’ is must for the humanity to progress and… sigh… I have to live with the present.

As for my childhood to college life, I have so many things to share some of which was mentioned in a recent post on this blog. Today’s post is about some of those great old brands and products that have been part of our lives during the 70s and 80s. Of course, some of them are still being produced and sold but have transformed for good while many of them have been discontinued. Here are the things that I am talking about:

1. Parry’s Green hard candy

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of this but I am sure anybody in their 30s and 40s must have eaten whole lot of them during their childhood. These candies – known as ‘Green Parry’ (‘Paccha pyaari’ in Malayalam) – was among the four or five wrapped candy options that we had at that time apart from those local made ‘uncovered’ ones. I remember, Parry’s competitor Nutrine introducing an imitation of the same several years later.

The Parry’s Confectionery ltd company was taken over by ‘Lotte ’several years back and this particular product has been discontinued since then, I believe.

2. Hero Pens

As far as I am concerned, this is the ONLY Made in China product that I have ever liked in my whole life and it was my first Chinese experience as well. Unlike today’s children, we never got to use the ball point penhero-fountain-pens until the age of 12 (or sixth grade) on account of ‘bad hand writing’ resulting from ball point pens. Most of us started our writing with cheaper ‘Bismi’ or ‘Jubilee’ fountain pens and then progressed to using the Hero Pens (fondly called ‘Heero pena’ In Malayalam. Many of us in fact get to use it only for exams – for some not until the SSLC examination – and it was indeed a super smooth experience to use them. Mostly people used to get these pens as gifts from those who worked in the Gulf countries but later on they were available in shops for Rs.25 or so in stationery shops.

The hero pens were cool due to their smooth quality of writing and the ability to fill ink via a cool press-suction operation. Old time pens had to be filled via direct pouring of the ink and we used to end up having the ink spilled on the floor as well as on our shirts.

As I moved to college, the Hero pen gave way to Pilots, Parkers and Sheaffers but the Hero fountain pen was always my hero!

3. Happy T-shirts

Now, this one is tricky and probably only Malayalis will understand what I am talking about. During those days mostly there would be at least one Keralite from every other household working in the Gulf countries (Generalized as ‘Persia’) and they make a visit once in every four or five years. At that time, everyone in the family – to the n’th relationship level – neighborhood and the village need to be gifted something or other. Cigarettes, cheap perfume sprays and synthetic clothe material or saris that will last beyond five generations were some of the cheaper options to keep everyone happy. Among these gifts, the kids usually gets the so-called “Happy T-shirt” which is nothing but a round neck T-shirt made of cheap synthetic fabric and a big H A P P Y written on it in a semi circle. We kids were, indeed, very happy to get them as gifts and would proudly wear them till they wore out. Those who wear Happy Tees were identified as the Gulf fellow’s son or relative.

(Several years later somebody revealed to me that a dozen of them would cost only something like 5 Dirhams or so and that’s how the poor Gulf Malayali could afford to buy them for everyone of our age group in that village. By the way, I do not know the actual the brand name of this T-shirt but it was always known as Happy shirt)

4. Chelpark Ink

Chelpark Ink - New style bottle
Of course, the usage of fountain pen would mean daily refill of ink in the same. When we were in fourth or fifth grade, we used cheaper “Brill” or “Camel” brand of ink. At that time my father was using a Sheaffer’s pen and he used to buy this blue-black ink by Chelpark. It was super quality ink for the Indian standards and I believe it’s still being produced in India. However, the original wide-bottom glass bottle is missing now.

I used the Chelpark ink for several years, I would say till I got my first job but had totally forgotten about it until my co-brother Manoj reminded me of that brand last week. In fact, that was the inspiration behind this post.

5. Camel instrument box

The camel brand of math instrument box is no brainer. Camel is still a leading brand in India for stationery and art-craft supplies. However, during our school days it was something big and getting a Camel box was an ultimate achievement in one’s otherwise limited wish list. Some of us get them during fifth or sixth grade and had to use the same till you pass out of 10th standard. Many times, the original paper sleeve wrapper around the box would be preserved intact for many years in order to protect the precious box from losing any of its print work on the surface.

For those who couldn’t afford to spend two rupees more, there were brands like ‘Nataraj’ and the twin-brother of Camel was the ‘Camlin’ brand of instrument boxes.

6. Premier rubber slippers

Paragon Hawai Chappal - Premier looked something like this
Lungis and Dhotis were the perfect clothing (and it still is for many) for Malayalis due to the sultry climate conditions and rains aplenty. The perfect footwear that goes with them was a pair of ‘Premier’ rubber slippers. I believe, I am recalling the name right because before brands like ‘Paragon’, ‘Fisher’ etc surfaced, it was all about Premier Hawai chappals. I am attaching a picture of the currently available Paragon slippers to give you an idea of how Premier looked like. But I guess, Premier brand is not available any more.

Talking about these Hawai chappals, most Malayalis wore them to school, colleges or even to work. And like their ultra white dhotis (Mundu), these slippers used to be maintained ultra clean was well. The jobless and educated mallu’s main hobby – apart from discussing international politics and Hartal or Bandh opportunities – those days was cleaning own slippers not just from the top but from sides and bottom as well.

I have used this brand of slippers for many years and I still have a pair of Paragon at home.

7. Murphy radios

Murphy Valve Radio (Image courtesy:
Now, this should ring the bell for all because many Indian families must have had one such Murphy or Philips vintage radio until recently. These were known as ‘valve sets’ which requires quite some skill to tune it to the right frequency and several precautions for proper maintenance. Many of the featured a green dancing light valve that can be seen outside and moves according to the tuning procedure. The frequency needle – mostly sitting at a centimeter or two away from the actual frequency numbers and usually dangling – had to be carefully positioned to get the right radio station and its position usually is not the same when you tune from left as compared to the right. Basically only the owner of the radio and most likely only the elder male member of the family could tune it to perfection.

These radios also had external antenna fittings and sometimes sporting a long mesh antenna – stretching from one end of the house to the other – was considered something royal. Due to issues in tuning or reception, most of the radio stations then used to sound like the distant Ceylon station. The cold starts used to be almost impossible and needed some heating via incandescent bulbs and occasional taps (out of frustration as well) on its wooden cabinet. Usually to listen to the 12:50 noon news (called Delhi news), one had to start preparing at around 12:30 itself.

Despite all the above issues, it was fun to see and listen to such a Murphy radio. And I almost forgot to mention the Murphy logo which had a sweet baby’s face.

Does anyone still have a vintage radio at your home?

8. Dyanora TV sets

Dyanora TV - Image courtesy:
Now, these are not really very old entities but it was the first Indian television brand that I got to watch (at my neighbour’s place). I believe it was in 1980 or so? These Dyanora TVs (black and white) used to be thrice as big as its picture tube itself with two speakers on either side and sliding shutters that would close from both sides. It had pathetic design aesthetics but who cares when the transmission itself is available for only one or two hours per day – that too in black and white and with full of interruptions (Rukaavat ke liye khed hai!)

Though I never ever liked Dyanora as a brand, I think it was one of the household names during those days and I remember it as the first TV I ever watched.

9. Vijay Super Scooter

Well, in a comment within my post about the Bajaj Chetak Scooter, I had mentioned about the Vijay super scooter. I learned riding on a Vijay super which is a discontinued model for years now. It was in fact something that looked like a Lamby and would run on a half-petrol half-kerosene mix. Though, this combination meant starting trouble and occasional ‘fut-phut’ sounds, I always remember it as the first geared two-wheeler I have ridden in my life not to forget the Luna moped which I had tried prior to that.

10. Tinopal

Now, how many of you can guess what it was? Tinopal (later it became Ranipal) was one of the clothe whitening agents (like Ujala) that I have seen my mother using during my childhood. It always amazed me because a drop of it was good enough for a bucketful of white clothes to make it surprisingly sparkling and smelling good. Its fragrance was similar to that of the modern fabric conditioners but I believe it was far superior. Sometimes, I just don’t understand why such brands were discontinued.

Tinopal to Ranipal
Tinopal to Ranipal ad, Image from

By the way, I managed to Google out this newspaper ad announcing the brand name change – Tinopal to Ranipal

Over to you

I am sure all of you have plenty to talk about those retro brands. I still have many in my list but some of them that I haven’t directly consumed or experienced.

Let me know if you have any pleasant memories to share about those products or old brands that you have seen, used or experienced 20 or 30 years (or even before) back!