Shreyas Kulkarni
Interviews

"We will take share from both MNCs and regional brands": Mohan Goenka, Emami

With a Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore advertising budget, Emami is set to fight for share in the home hygiene segment with its EMASOL range of disinfectants.

“I am very bullish about the economy, and I don’t see any reason why it won’t grow…,” says Mohan Goenka, director, Emami Group, a leading Kolkata-based conglomerate.

It is this very confidence that has led the second-generation Goenka (his father R.S. Goenka is Emami’s co-founder and chairman) to push the group's FMCG company Emami Limited into India’s Rs 4,000 crore home hygiene category.

On November 18, 2020, Emami Limited announced its latest offering ‘EMASOL’. It is a range of home hygiene products that, apart from “killing 99.9 per cent germs, also has BGV24™ advanced antimicrobials action that offers up to 24-hour protection from virus, germs and bacteria.”

EMASOL's range of home hygiene products
EMASOL's range of home hygiene products

Here’s a checklist of EMASOL’s offerings:

1. EMASOL Disinfectant Floor Cleaner (Citrus and Lavender); 500 ml for Rs 75, and 975 ml for Rs 140

2. EMASOL Disinfectant Toilet Cleaner; 500 ml for Rs 70

3. EMASOL Disinfectant Bathroom Cleaner; 500 ml for Rs 75

4. EMASOL Anti-bacterial Dish Wash Gel (Lemon); 500 ml for Rs 95 and 900 ml for Rs 170 (refill pouch)

5. EMASOL All-Purpose Sanitizer Spray; 25 ml for Rs 30, and 500 ml for Rs 199

London-based design firm Evolve Creative has developed the packaging for the EMASOL home hygiene range.

What’s interesting to note is the diversification of EMASOL into all brackets of the home hygiene segment. It will go up against many brands for supremacy. For instance, EMASOL will take on Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) Domex in the toilet cleaner and bathroom sub-segment, HUL’s new Nature Protect in the floor cleaner sub-segment, and CIF in the dish wash sub-segment.

EMASOL will battle Harpic (from Reckitt Benckiser or RB) when it comes to toilet cleaner and bathroom cleaner sub-segment, and Lizol for the floor cleaner sub-segment.

As for the all-purpose sanitiser spray, EMASOL will battle big giants, such as RB’s Dettol, HUL’s Lifebuoy, ITC Savlon, and newcomers like Asian Paints’ Viroprotek, Dabur’s Dabur Sanitize, among others.

Mohan Goenka
Mohan Goenka

While it’s an uphill battle, there are many opportunities too. On a call with afaqs!, (Mohan) Goenka sounds bullish…

Edited excerpts:

The home hygiene category is worth Rs 4,000 crore and the toilet cleaner sub-category is the leader. You could have gone there, but you’ve entered multiple sub-categories. Is it a case of not putting all your eggs in a single basket?

To advertise each individual product becomes very difficult and expensive. But because it (home hygiene) is a very large market and comes under a common brand name, it is easier… If the brand works, it works across the straddle.

Now, say, the toilet cleaner market is around Rs 1,500 crore, the entire product range we’ve come out with is for a Rs 4,000 crore market. For me, to enter a Rs 4,000 crore market, I can take a bigger risk. That’s the reason why most companies have come with a range of products (not just one).

Was EMASOL planned before COVID, or did the pandemic-induced lockdown produce an opportune moment?

It was planned earlier (one to one-and-a-half years back)… When the campaign of ‘Swachh Bharat’ was taking momentum, we thought of coming up with this range, but we dropped the idea. But, after the pandemic, we saw a huge opportunity because the market was growing exponentially.

Adding to this, the ‘Atmanirbhar’ movement was triggered during lockdown. Since then we are seeing that people are slightly skewed towards buying Indian products. And because most of the products in this range are dominated by multinationals, that’s where it triggered us to launch EMASOL right away and not delay it any further.

In the home hygiene category, the Unilevers and RBs hold strength, and new players have entered recently. How do you plan to take them on and aren’t you late to the party?

… We could have launched our product earlier; we were ready. But we were doing a lot of consumer research and clinical tests. You’d notice that in most products (of other brands), the only claim they’d done for the launch was the 99 per cent germ kill claim.

But we are the only product where our claim is 24-hour protection from bacteria germs and virus. We could have been a ‘me too’ product, but the ‘BGV 24-hour protection’ claim is our big differentiator.

We are fighting from two sides - MNCs and local players, and several regional players and private players too. We’ve kept our pricing very aggressive. It is low as compared to some MNC products. In these categories (home hygiene), consumer loyalty is low because they (the consumers) are price sensitive.

MNCs have faced little threat from local players, but in the last few months, Indian payers have become aggressive. We all have come in this fray. We will eat their share and as a new entrant, we have nothing to lose… It will be a good fight and consumers will decide who wins.

Are you going after the consumers of big brands, or the ones who, because of the pandemic, are choosing branded home hygiene products?

Emami is a trusted brand. When this brand name comes up, it cuts right through everyone: rural and urban. Our prices are competitive and we will take share off MNCs and local players.

What’s the communication tone you plan to take? Will it be from a COVID point of view?

We won’t talk about COVID. Instead, we will talk about the 24-hour germ protection and bring in Indian-ness: “India ka apna EMASOL”. We will talk about ‘Atmanirbhar’ and BG 24-hour protection. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushing hard for Indian products, we have observed rural and middle class markets are more likely to buy Indian brands.

From sourcing new ingredients to setting up new distribution channels, it must have been a big challenge…

We thought of launching these products a year back, but delayed it… We haven’t invested in capital expenditure (capex) and are outsourcing most products from 3P (third parties).

Distribution or marketing? What are you focusing on?

A mix of both. Usually we do a test market before launch. But this time, we’ve launched it pan-India and are going aggressive. We’ve huge distribution channels…

As for advertising (Emami plans to release the first ad in December), we’ve roped in cricketer Shikhar Dhawan as the brand ambassador and have a budget of Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore.