Rashmi Menon

Brand Owner's Summit: Darshan Patel's business mantras

Founder of Vini Cosmetics, Patel shared his insight on the importance of identifying niche markets, market research and creating a strong consumer pull.

Darshan Patel, founder of Vini Cosmetics and former co-founder, Paras Pharma, is a firm believer in market research. Patel was instrumental in the launch of 25 brands including Krack, Moov, D'Cold, Itch Guard, Set Wet, Livon, Fog, 18+ and Jinjola, and created six categories in his 26-year career. In an on-stage conversation with Chandan Nath, Patel spoke about branding and creation of niche markets for products at the recent Brand Owner's Summit held on February 8-9 in Ahmedabad.

Brand Owner's Summit: Darshan Patel's business mantras
A man with solid business acumen, Patel emphasised that while gut also plays a role in the launch of a product and in brand building, research has a big role to play. In fact, research has shown him the way to tackle competition, he said. "No matter if your brand is new or old, you will find your path only through research," he asserted. For instance, Moov was positioned as a knee pain reliever, post market research in 1993. However, the brand wasn't growing as it was used by people above 50 years of age and only when the knee pain was acute. As a result, the brand became stagnant within four-five years of its launch.

The team then realised that Moov could be marketed as a back pain reliever. Considering that its competitors such as Iodex and Amrutanjan were addressing sprains and headaches, respectively, Moov positioned itself as a special product for backaches. The repositioning added a fresh lease of life to the product, and saw its sales go up more than five-fold to one crore tubes per year.

However, after this, the brand again reached stagnancy. "This time, rest was our biggest competitor because research showed that when women had a back ache they chose to lie down, especially in the afternoon So, we came out with a campaign 'Moov laga ke so' (Apply Moov before sleeping). If you cannot fight something - in this case, rest - you must make it your ally," he advised.

Patel suggested that besides market research, it is important to identify niche markets and create a product that stands apart in a cluttered market. "Niche markets are small to start with. Multinational companies usually don't like to enter niche markets because of this. So, they don't come to compete with me. And as for the local competitors, they can't match or deal with the diversity of products I offer," Patel revealed.

It is also important to create a place in the consumer's mind. And for that, one needs to find out what consumers are missing, and what they want, Patel said. He recalled how, despite the clutter of brands in the deodorant market, his company Vini Cosmetics launched Fogg in December, 2011. While a large variety of body sprays were available, research showed that consumers were unhappy with the number of times they could use a can. So Patel launched Fogg with the promise of no spray, no wastage. In a category full of chemistry between the sexes, Fogg stood out with its purely feature-driven advertising. In just over a year, it is already the second largest brand in a crowded category.

The next insight was that the idea precedes the product. The reason for this is simple, he said, as "ideas can be tweaked but you cannot do that with products once they are manufactured." Livon, a serum that disentangles hair, was an exception, however, Patel stumbled upon it after watching women fighting with their tangled hair after a wash. When he asked his wife if such a product would be useful for women, his wife said yes and Livon was born. "It was one of the few products that came from observation rather than research," he says.

The event was powered by monster.com, supported by associate sponsor Bestow and dinner sponsor Khushi Advertising.

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