Every year, right before school resumes, there is a mandatory ‘back to the school’ shopping time that involves heading to discount stores for stationery, hunting for the perfect bag, and buying new shoes at the nearest shoe store. In addition to these items, there is also one item that children in Kerala never seem to miss: the latest Popy umbrella.

In the last 25 years, Popy, Kerala’s top umbrella brand, has transformed the umbrella from being a mere commodity into a ‘must-have’ product.

A household name in Kerala since its inception in 1995, Popy has become known for its catchy jingles and quirky products. Moreover, Popy has become one of the most popular umbrella brands in the country. Popy umbrellas have explored every level of innovation, from neon-colored baby-sized umbrellas to those with Bluetooth connectivity and fans.

Yes, the brand has a fascinating history as well. Discover how one family created an umbrella empire in Kerala and the history of its branding.

Umbrellas that run in the family

Founded in 1954 through the efforts of Thayyil Abraham Varghese, fondly known as ‘Kuda Vavachan’, Popy has a long history dating back to the 1950s.
After the demise of Abraham Varghese in 1968, the brand ran on for two more decades. The ‘Popy’ brand came into existence in 1995, under the efforts of Davis Thayyil, Scaria’s eldest son, who took the company to newer heights and milestones. Though Davis Thayyil is managing the affairs of Popy, the next generation is already stepping up.
Davis Thayyil’s son, Kevin Thayyil, has just stepped into the family business recently and has seen the rise of the company throughout his childhood.

“During my school days, my classmates would ask me about the new umbrellas that were yet to be launched, and they would always be curious to know what the quirky element for that year would be,” he explains.

“My father, on the other hand, would always come to me for feedback on the products and would consult with me to see whether children enjoyed the products. Even my grandfather for that matter was very keen on knowing children’s opinions, and I think that was one of the biggest winning factors for the brand,” he adds.

So why the name Popy?

“My grandfather’s younger brother was diagnosed with down syndrome and couldn’t speak until the age of 8. One of the first words he said was ‘Popy’ referring to his favorite candy- Poppins.
This became a word that symbolizes happiness and joy to the family, so my grandfather decided to go ahead with that name for the brand,” Kevin explains.

The story of Popy's biggest campaigners - CHILDREN

From the moment Popy was established in 1995 it has set a high standard when it comes to marketing and was one of the first few brands in Kerala to go with catchy jingles and ads that captivated adults and children alike.
Mazha Mazha, Kuda Kuda, Mazha Vannal Popy Kuda (Rain rain, umbrella, umbrella. When the rains are here, it’s time for Popy umbrellas) – this jingle became an anthem for 90s kids in Kerala. Over the years popy umbrellas became a cultural icon for Malayalis all across the world.
To create children’s favorite characters on Popy umbrellas, the company partnered with Walt Disney, Marvel, Green Gold Animation (creators of Chhota Bheem), DC, and Star Wars.
It was a common sight to see school children lining up at different Popy outlets across Kerala by May to get their favorite cartoon characters’ umbrellas.

Popy even created the ‘Popy Kids Club’ where children could dial their number to speak to a fictional ‘Popy uncle’. Almost 8-10 lakh kids signed up for the club in just a few months, making it an instant success with Popy’s younger fans.

Unlike any other Indian brand, the children became the company’s biggest ambassadors. Even though the quirky umbrellas didn’t sell well like the regular ones, they did all the marketing for the brand.

Staying on top of the Trends

Popy has developed about 150 umbrella models over the last 19 years, featuring ultra-violet silver coating, water-repellent technology, wind-proof technology, and even uni-chrome gold plating to prevent rust.
Popy was quick to launch our own ‘Popy Nano’ umbrella when Tata launched the Nano car in 2009, which is the “largest small umbrella in the world”. This three-fold umbrella measures up to a palm’s size (16cm) and became a remarkable hit that season.
Over the decade we also came out with umbrellas with GPS trackers, a selfie stick umbrella, and even one with Bluetooth connectivity that could allow people to attend calls and listen to music through the handle of the umbrella.
The brand has also won the Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Award, the IMM civil award, the Bharat Udyog Jyothi Award, the Bharat Vikas Gold Award in 1996, and the Kerala Consumer Protection Council Award in 2000.
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