Thursday, March 24, 2005

What’s in a name?

A lot, apparently.

I left Madras in late eighties and came back to Chennai couple of years back. The new name has been in vogue for about 8 – 9 years now and the younger generation knows the city only by the new name. But even now there is lot of noise being made about the name change. Recently, the elected representatives of Tamil Nadu passionately debated about the name change. No one argued for going back to calling the city Madras but wanted some very popular ‘brands’ that carry Madras in its name to switch to ‘Chennai’.

Lot institutions (both public & private) like the city corporation, development authority and the likes have long switched to Chennai. Madras Corporation is now Chennai Corporation and Madras Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA) is now Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA). But several other institutions like Madras University, Madras High Court and Madras Rubber Factory (MRF) still carry the legacy name. So the esteemed legislatures wanted these institutions to switch to Chennai in their title. They passionately argued for several hours on this ‘critical issue’ spending several hundred thousands rupees of public money.

So, what was the outcome?
Tamil Nadu Government deliberated this ‘important’ issue for several weeks spending more of the public money and rejected the demand of the legislatures. Needless to say the demand for name change came from the opposition.

Government responded that Madras High Court, University of Madras & MRF are known worldwide in its current name and ‘brand equity’ is quite considerable for them to discarded.

Applying the same rational, I wonder how the name of the city was changed in the first place. After all Madras is still known worldwide and there is quite a ‘brand equity’ in that name. Madras name would have come handy particularly now when the city is competing for IT investment dollars with Bangalore and Hyderabad.

BTW, why is the Chennai airport code still MAA? Shouldn’t that be changed as well? What was New York airport code before JFK?