What’s wrong with naming your business after Adolf Hitler?
So asks Rajesh Shah, the co-owner of Hitler, a menswear store in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, which opened earlier this month.
Mr. Shah said in a telephone interview that his shop is named after his business partner’s grandfather, who was nicknamed Hitler after he acted the role in a college play. The name stuck, owing to the grandfather’s strict disposition.
Now the name adorns the banner of his grandson’s shop, complete with a tilted swastika sign. (An upright swastika is regularly used as a Hindu symbol, a practice that predates Nazi Germany by hundreds of years).
Members of Ahmedabad’s tiny Jewish community, who number less than five hundred, have approached the store about renaming it, calling the German leader a monster, Mr. Shah said. But so far Mr. Shah and his co-owner have resisted a change.
“None of the other people are complaining, only a few Jewish families. I have not hurt any sentiments of the majority Hindu community. If he did something in Germany, is that our concern?” Mr. Shah asked.
He said he thought Hitler was a “good, catchy” name for his shop. In fact, his business plan seems to include cashing in on the name to attract customers. “We have not written anything below the sign or on our cards to indicate what we sell to generate mystery,” he said. “The customers who come in tell me they came in seeing the name.”
So far, business is good, Mr. Shah said.
If the Jewish community really wants the name changed, they can pay for it, Mr. Shah said. “I have spent too much on branding for my shop,” he said.
The Ahmedabad store is one of a handful of Indian businesses named after the Nazi dictator. Owners seem to have picked the name more for shock value than an embrace of or admiration for Nazism.
Baljit Singh Osan, the owner of a pool parlor called Hitler’s Den in Nagpur, Maharashtra, said the name is what has made it famous all over town.
Mr. Osan, who opened the pool hall six years ago, said he settled on “Hitler’s Den” because he was looking for a unique name, something that had recall value. He said he did not sympathize with the German dictator or his beliefs, but still he refused to change the name when the Jewish community in Nagpur protested.
“If I name my son ‘Hitler’ and I wanted to start a business in his name, would they have a problem with that?” Mr. Osan said. “There are no laws like that in our country.”
In an e-mail interview with The Times of India last year, David Goldfarb, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said of Mr. Osan’s business: “We can only assume that the owners of this new establishment are unaware of the horrendous meaning of the usage of Nazi themes and insignia for commercial gain.”
A television serial on Zee TV about a dictatorial woman, which began in 2011, also uses the name of the German leader in the title: “Hitler Didi,” or “Hitler Sister.” It was renamed “General Didi” in December 2011, after the Anti-Defamation League in New York protested the original title. The name change affects only its broadcasts in the United States, though. In India, it is still called “Hitler Didi.”
“We deeply regret any distress that this name may have caused, and it is our intention to change the name immediately,” The Hollywood Reporter quoted a Zee TV statement from 2011. “It was never our design to cause any grief and for that we deeply apologize.”
An apology is not forthcoming from Prakash G., who goes by his first name, the manager of an Internet advertising company that was first named Adolf Hitler Inc. when it started in May 2011. The Tamil Nadu-based company changed its name to AHI ADS in January, bowing to what he called “public pressure” and the huge amount of negativity it generated, Mr. Prakash said.
Asked about the usage of a variation of the swastika symbol on his current Web site, Mr. Prakash said that AHI ADS was an abbreviation of “Adolf Hitler Inc. Ads.” He added that he did not believe that Hitler was “such a bad person.”
“I have read his autobiography and like some of his ideas,” Mr. Prakash said.
Source: The NY Times