A chat with the Dabur's marketing head-health supplements Prashant Agarwal on how the market for its ‘immunity booster’ has changed over the years, and lately, in the context of the COVID pandemic.
Chyawanprash is witnessing high demand lately. A thick, dark mixture of herbs with Amla, honey, sugar and other ingredients, it is marketed as an ‘immunity booster’. Chyawanprash has been a part of Indian households for ages, but only, or largely, in winters. The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has, however, changed the game, overnight.
Dabur is the undisputed leader in India’s Rs 700 crore Chyawanprash market. Recently, the company reported a massive 400 per cent surge in the demand for this Ayurvedic product. Dabur’s competitors, Baba Ramdev's Patanjali, Baidyanath and Emami, also reportedly ran out of their Chyawanprash stock. Though Dabur has been promoting Chyawanprash as an ‘immunity booster’ for all seasons, it has never witnessed such high consumption in summers, as it has in the last three months.
In an interview with afaqs!, Prashant Agarwal, marketing head - health supplements, Dabur India, talks about how the company has been dealing with this rise in demand. Agarwal also talk about the limited mediums available to reach out to the target audience, and how he and his team are dealing with marketing challenges.
We all know about the rise in (Chyawanprash) demand, where is it coming from?
Chyawanprash is not restricted to a particular market as such. Yes, there are some stronger pockets geographically. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a rise in demand for immunity boosting products. And, we’re seeing the demand coming from all sections of the society, as well as all parts of the country.
When you say stronger pockets, you mean...
Stronger pockets are primarily the northern and eastern parts of the country, and, of course, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. These are strong markets not only for Chyawanprash, but also for all Ayurvedic products. As we know, the entire country is fighting COVID-19 and everyone is talking about immunity boosting products. Chyawanprash has clinically proven immunity benefits, and that is why we are seeing a demand from all over the country.
Do you see a rise in demand among youngsters, especially because of the pandemic?
Chyawanprash has always been a family product, and isn’t confined to a particular age group. It has been there for ages, and all age groups benefit from it. It is too early to say if there is a specific drift in consumer patterns. It is being consumed by the entire family.
You had roped in (former cricketer) MS Dhoni to appeal to the youth. Has the consumption grown in that age group over the years?
MS Dhoni was a long time back. After that, we had (actresses) Madhuri Dixit and (now) Kajol. Yes, it is true that we have been trying to grow the consumption across age groups, and it has grown since then.
Chyawanprash has always been a winter product. Do you think after the pandemic, it will become an ‘all season’ product?
We have been working on communicating the benefits of Chyawanprash, not just in winters, but also other seasons of the year. We have been talking about the importance of immunity during the monsoon season and the part of the year when there is a lot of smog in the air, which causes respiratory problems. We have been talking about the relevance of immunity during these kinds of problems. So, we can’t say that it is constrained to winters. Gradually, there has been a change and now, the consumption of Chyawanprash happens across the year.
How about going deeper into India, or penetrating to new markets?
In the last couple of years, there has been a gradual increase in penetration. It is too early to say if it is growing deeper due to the COVID outbreak.
As you go deeper, how does the nature of your competition change? Are there local Chyawanprash brands that you have to deal with?
Chyawanprash is a generic category and Dabur is a leader in the category, which has many regional players. The strength of the brand is built over the years, and it is the only one with clinically proven immunity benefits. Regional players do not necessarily pose a threat to us. Our focus has always been to drive the relevance of Chyawanprash in Indian households.
When you say leader, can you shed some light on the market share?
Ending March 2020, we had 63 per cent of the market share.
Has distribution been a challenge? How are you tackling the rise in (Chyawanprash) demand?
Distribution has not been an issue at all. In fact, what we have been facing in the past month or so was stock-out because of the non-availability of stock in some retail outlets. Because of the rise in demand, we had to invest in expanding our capacity of producing Chyawanprash.
How does immunity, coupled with the 'Vocal for Local' drive, change your marketing strategy?
Chyawanprash has always been positioned as an immunity expert and that, too, with clinically proven results. That does not change. It is just that now, people have started realising how important immunity is. It is something we’ve been talking about for ages. Nothing has really changed for us. It is just that we want to be present in the right place at the right time.
Do you tone down your advertising efforts, or get more aggressive, in the current scenario when more and more people are searching for ‘immunity boosters’ themselves?
It is not advertising, what we are doing is information dissemination. More and more people should be aware of the immunity benefits provided by Chyawanprash. That is our endeavour through television and digital.
But the GECs have not been telecasting new shows, how do you communicate with your audience then?
While new shows stopped airing on GECs, we have seen a growth in the viewership of mythological shows. As a brand, Dabur advertised during these shows, and we will continue to do so. Remember, as people start to step out, the relevance of immunity will grow higher.
How challenging is communicating with your target audience when they are not stepping out of their home, or buying newspapers?
One challenge is that print and outdoor are completely missing as people are not buying newspapers, nor are they going outdoors. Radio isn't delivering either, as there is no vehicular traffic. When you have limited media options and there are so many advertisers, then breaking the clutter and putting your message across to the relevant audience becomes a challenge. Also, in the last two months, there were no production houses willing to shoot a film so, creating content had become a challenge.
The demand for Chyawanprash has grown by more than 400 per cent, where do you see this settling?
It is too early to say…