Customer Is King: Story Of Maharaja Of Alwar & Rolls Royce

It is a common perception of laymen, or non-marketing people to be precise, that businesses which provide a certain product or service are brands. But to be true to the definition of ‘branding’, even celebrities, politicians, or public personalities in general are brands. They need to maintain a certain image in the public’s eye, true to their respective essence, and that is what makes them a brand.

In the pre-independence colonial era, when India was observing the western influence on many things, the concept of branded products was invented. Unknowingly or knowingly, the famous personalities or public figures, like the Kings or Queens of a certain kingdom, also had a brand image of their own. One such famous story is of a brand war between the imminent British luxury car manufacturer, Rolls Royce, and the Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh Prabhakar.

Rolls Royce: The Brand

Rolls Royce has a very humble origin, with its roots in Henry Royce’s electrical and mechanical business, started in 1884. Royce made his first car in 1904, when he got introduced to Charles Rolls, a proprietor of a car dealership company. Royce’s car-building skills and Rolls’ business sense resulted in the inception of Rolls Royce Ltd., a car manufacturing company on March 15, 1906.

It was famously known as ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ as it features a woman, leaning on the car with her arms stretched wide, and a cloth flowing through them resembling ‘wings’. However, Rolls Royce’s initial association took place during 1932 via the country’s aerospace sector, when Tata Aviation Services launched its first aircraft powered by Rolls Royce Gipsy engines, and soon after the Indian Air Force went onto rule the skies in 1933.

Trivia has it that before the First World War, Rolls Royce produced over 20,000 cars, 20% of which were shipped to India. Owning a Rolls Royce was a matter of pride, and the luxury car manufacturer had a fanbase amongst the Indian Kings. There were around 230 Indian Maharajas who owned 2000 Rolls Royces in India.

Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh Prabhakar: The Brand

Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh Prabhakar, was the ruler of Naruka Kshatriya Dynasty, and the Maharaja of the princely state of Alwar, from 1892 to 1937. He was the only son of the previous ruler and was noted to be brilliant, scholarly as well as charming. He is an alma mater of Mayo College, Ajmer, and highly regarded as an Indian English orator and scholar. He lived a luxurious lifestyle with the treasury money, until later in life he was forced into exile. He also indulged in noteworthy imperial services during his rule.

History Has It!

Since time immemorial, the Indian Subcontinent was ruled by great kings and queens, until the Britishers came in as traders and slowly established themselves as our country’s rulers. They used to look down upon the general Indian public, unless they belonged to the Royal families.

The story in question has it, that Maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh, was visiting London and decided to take a stroll along the famous Mayfair Road in very normal clothes, and not his traditional royal robes. He came across a Rolls Royce showroom and as he entered it, the salesman ignored him, while the security humiliated him, thinking him to be an ordinary poor Indian who won’t be able to afford the luxury car.

King of Alwar, Jai Singh, felt extremely humiliated and went back to his hotel. He asked his servants to give the showroom’s manager a call and inform him that the Maharaja himself wishes to visit their showroom to buy a few of their cars. The manager was elated beyond belief, preparations were done to welcome the Maharaja, the staff put their best appearance on and rolled out a red carpet to receive him. The Maharaja wore his bejeweled traditional Royal attire, went inside the showroom and bought all the 6 cars present there with full payment in addition to the shipping charges, all at once, and left the showroom staff stunned with his action!

The Sweet Revenge Story

All the six cars were then transported to India, and as Maharaja Jai Singh received them, he ordered the municipality to use these luxury vehicles to sweep the streets of the city. Yet another stunning act by The King, which spread like a wildfire across continents. The acclaimed brand Rolls Royce was left in shock, eventually resulting in a decline in their reputation, brand image, as well as revenue.

Following this event, the Rolls Royce had to send a Letter of Apology in the form of a telegram to the Indian King Jai Singh, for their behavior. They even offered 6 more brand new cars to him absolutely free of cost as a token of the apology. Maharaja Jai Singh accepted the apology and asked the municipality to stop the use of the luxury cars as garbage collection vehicles around the city.

The Strategy of Marketing Warfare

While there are quite a few war strategies, this story may be related to the Passive-Aggressive War Strategy. Passive-Aggressive behavior is characterized by passive modesty, and indirect communication. A typical passive-aggressive strategy involves response, not a reaction. In addition to it, the response comes after a brief pause, which is calculated and is given when the other party least expects it.

Maharaja Jai Singh, in this story, felt extremely humiliated, but was composed enough to think through a strategy of revenge and then act upon it. It was also not just an act of revenge, but he accepted the apology when the potential result of his response was met with. His idea, maybe, was just to make the brand associates feel the humiliation that he did, encouraging them to not read a book by its cover from the next time onwards, treat its customer as King, whether he is a king in reality or not.

If you visit our website nDimensions Studio, you will find that Maharaja Jai Singh is our primary mascot. The reason behind this is, that we take immense inspiration from him and the way he approached this sweet vengeance. He does not let his emotions get the best of him and responds tactfully to the situation. We at nDimensions Studio are big fans of great strategies, and try to implement a mindful, holistic approach in the strategies we create for our clients, tailor-made especially for their brands.