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India's Plague of Knockoffs

Big marketers battle lookalikes as sales in the countryside boom
India's Plague of Knockoffs
Illustration by Emma Kelly

Sunita Kumar, a factory worker’s wife in the Indian village of Hazratpur, has added talcum powder and face cream to the small vanity case she uses for weddings and festivals. She doesn’t know they’re fakes.

Sitting cross-legged on the rough cement floor of her home, head covered by a red and green sari, Kumar confesses she can’t read the label on her tube of Fairy Love lotion, an imitation of a popular brand called Fair & Lovely from Unilever Group. The packaging on the powder is virtually identical to that of BoroPlus, made by Emami Group, except the brand name has been tweaked to BoroLiv+. Both products were purchased by Kumar’s husband, who is also illiterate. Satish Kumar earns about 5,500 rupees ($107) a month working at a hand-pump plant but says he doesn’t mind paying extra for “good company” brands: “Even if it is more expensive, I get a good product.”