Iconic Ads: Santoor – Twacha Se Umar Ka Pata Hi Nahin Chalta!

Indian women believed they should look young to earn compliments. The finest example is when a married lady with a kid is mistaken for a young girl.

Wipro launched a sandalwood–turmeric-based soap called Santoor in 1985 after evaluating several product concepts. Santoor was coined from the first three letters of both ‘san’dalwood + ‘tur’meric.

Sandalwood and turmeric paste have traditionally been used for beautification. Because of the skincare and beauty benefits it provided, the product was distinctive and relevant.

Conventional advertising, which touted the “benefits of sandal and turmeric in soap” was employed.

Then, in 1986, the advertising was updated to be more current, with a greater emphasis on the ingredients.

1987 -88 Wipro found that Santoor sales were not picking up but just steady

In 1989, Ulka came on board. It figured that the product quality was good, but that was not enough.


It conducted research and discovered that the brand name and the ingredients had nothing in common. The brand had a middle-class image, and the advertising did not emphasize any significant benefits.

Santoor only appealed to a select group of consumers who want a sandalwood-based soap with a tiny market share.

Other findings included that women wanted to be respected and loved, that beauty and good looks were desired qualities, and that there was a link between looking good and using soap.

People were becoming more modern due to increased urbanization and disposable incomes. People were more conscious about how they dressed and appeared, as well as the image they presented. Concern for beauty and appearance was on the rise, and there was a greater focus on oneself than previously.

Santoor was viewed as a conventional middle-class brand and the Santoor woman was not noticed.


 For ages, Indian ladies have used sandalwood and turmeric pastes for skincare. These aid in the tightening and suppleness of the skin, resulting in the idea of ‘younger-looking skin.’

Santoor was positioned as a soap that gives ‘younger looking skin’ backed by the core ingredients. And the imagery, modern.


The creative trigger was  “good for younger-looking skin”.

Subodh Poddar, now a senior creative resource in Ulka was briefed. He was wrestling with ideas his team and he had contributed. He was clear that emotions were the way forward.

And one sleepless Christmas night, Subodh and his team had the eureka moment – “Twacha se meri umra ka pata hi nahi chalta”

Subodh distinctly remembers that Poonam Gidwani was the model for scratch presentation. Rahul Patel shot her. Rough films were done by Juno Malhotra and Kutu Chatterjee.

The famous jingle was composed by the great melody master, P Vaidyanathan. Melodious Kavita Krishnamoorthy sang the jingle.

Subodh had one more surprise. For the tag line…Twacha se meri umra ka pata hi nahi chalta? He used the voice of Alisha Chinai. 

The marketing team had agreed to the idea and it was test marketed in Kochi which was extremely successful

Kailash Surendranath made the first two films.

But the best film was yet to come.

While Indian women believed they should seem young to earn compliments, the finest example was when a married lady with a kid was mistaken for a college girl.

The film had a group of college girls accosting our Santoor woman in a bookshop, asking her in which college she studies … only to be surprised when her daughter runs up screaming ‘Mummy’!

At the insistence of Anil Kapoor (ex-Chairman Ulka), Subodh started directing films. Anil was confident that Subodh could do it even though he had no prior experience.

Anil told Subodh “ use your ideas, use the best DOP and the best music composer and you are done.” And he was right.

Subodh’s DOP for this film was Ashok Mehta (the award-winning cinematographer). And the model was Priya Kakkar.

Subodh recounts an interesting and scary tryst. “As planned, Priya was supposed to walk through the music store. On the day of the shoot, Ashok Mehta was lighting one of my sets.  Priya came in, but in a wheelchair. She had a huge plaster wrapped around her leg.”

Priya had partied the night prior to the shoot. Her friends had challenged her. The challenge was to dance like Hema Malini to the song from Sholay  – Jab Tak Hain Jaan.  She was not a person to walk away from a challenge. She broke a bottle on the floor and danced on the glass pieces!

Ultimately Subodh and Ashok made Priya stand on a trolley. Only mid shots were taken and Priya glided onto the set, all glamorous.

When Subodh looks back it was traumatic then, but now he laughs about it.

Subsequently, the Santoor marketing and Ulka teams tried to modernise the Santoor mother. They put her in fashionable western clothes, chopped her hair, and put her in an aerobics class, but it did not resonate with the consumers.

The Indian mother, the consumers did not accept “ a mother desperately wanting to look young?” It did not match Indian mothers’ mindset.

In its first year the sales went up from 2 tonnes to 8 tonnes.

In 2006, Santoor became the 3rd largest selling soap and in 2019, the 2nd largest.

The basic ‘mummy’ formula has stayed the same in all advertising for a long time.

The advertising now celebrates the achievements of a woman who must now fill the ‘men’s world’ with her talents/skills to become a pilot, doctor, engineer & most importantly – mom.

A huge thanks to Subodh Poddar for patiently contributing to this post.



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