A Mascot Who's Flying High
This is one of my favorite extant trade characters. His trade name is Maharajah. “He may look like royalty, but he isn’t royal,” said Bobby Kooka. Mr. Kooka was Air India’s commercial director as well as a chairman of Hindustan Thompson Advertising, the Indian Motion Picture Export Corporation, and Air India Charters. In 1946 (a year before India received independence from Great Britain), Kooka was responsible, with Umesh Rao, an artist with J.Walter Thompson Ltd., for the Maharajah logo (the symbol of Air India). This is one of the many representations produced during the time he’s been active.
After more than a half century, he has become one of the most recognizable mascots in the corporate world. And possibly the only cartoon mascot for a national airline. “His antics, his expressions, his puns have allowed Air India to promote its services with a unique panache and an unmatched sense of subtle humour,” reads Air Indian’s post-colonial PR. I’m not certain I want an airline to be represented by too much humor, although most economy class cabins are a joke. But Maharajah is a friendly character and deserving of the numerous national and international awards he’s earned Air India for humor and originality in publicity.