Suraj Ramnath

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

We spoke to the chief sales and marketing officer of Hamdard India, marketer of sharbat brand RoohAfza, about the brand's new ad campaign and marketing challenges.

RoohAfza, the flagship sharbat brand by Hamdard India, has recently launched its new TVC '#Ghulkejiyo'. The campaign has been conceptualised by FCB Ulka, directed by Jaydeep Sarkar and produced by Bubble Wrap Films.

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

RoohAfza's new TVC - Ghulkejiyo

The new ad is targeted at the youth of India. The target audience for the brand is 13-34, male and female, SEC A and B.

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

Mansoor Ali

Talking about the competition for RoohAfza in the syrups and concentrates category, Mansoor Ali, chief sales and marketing officer says, "In this 1000 crore category there are brands like Tang and Mapro among others and we have about 45 per cent market share. To me, anything which is a thirst quencher or refreshment and occupies a place on the shelf is my indirect competition."

Adding about the markets that are strong for the brand and the markets RoohAfza is trying to penetrate, Ali says, "Three to four years ago RoohAfza was focused on the North and central India, but no longer. We have made marketing attempts and done a lot of activation work in the softer markets. Deep South markets like Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still the softer markets for us than what we would like them to be. We have consciously launched a small pack of RoohAfza which is a trial pack, at a very economical price. But today, our dependence on North and central India has come down."

Currently, the new TVC is supported by digital, print and outdoor campaigns.

Two years ago RoohAfza came up with its 'Lalach ek kala hai' campaign, sung by Sonu Nigam, to target the youth, whereas this campaign - 'Ghulkejiyo' - talks about unity in diversity and the background song from this ad is inspired by 'Ye Hai Bombay Meri Jaan' sung by the late Mohammed Rafi from the film CID that released in 1956.

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

RoohAfza's 2016 TVC - Lalach Ek Kala Hai

We asked Ali the reason behind changing the communication since the brand is trying to reach the youth. He says, "Both are different communication platforms, but the philosophy remains the same. 'Lalach ek kala hai' was based on a very deep consumer insight and it talked about young people who are greedy about their passions and we thought, if you have to be greedy about your passion, then it is not a wrong thing, it is an art. We continue to talk to the young people; it's just that today it is about coming back to your roots. It is no longer uncool to talk about home-cooked meals or mom's cooking. So, we said today it is important to get back to the emotions which are also in the current context that there is an immense need for living together (ghul milke jeena). We connected that with the sharbat, when it is mixed with anything, it is magical. Hence, ghulke jiyo."

When asked how he plans to get a new set of consumers to drink RoohAfza Ali's response was, "There are two things to do, one is within the category, there are people who are consuming other products and how do you get them to drink RoohAfza. For that, it is very important for us to talk about us being the only natural refresher and that our product is made out of herbal, natural products. We bring back the nostalgia and roots in our communication that connects people with RoohAfza. But outside the category, it becomes a larger challenge because of the format those drinks come in. RoohAfza is a drink that you have to get home, make and drink whereas other products can be consumed then and there."

Since the loyal consumers of brand RoohAfza have usually been the parents and the grandparents who have been buying it for years would packaging be one of the challenges to get the youth to notice and buy the brand?

Ali says, "The original RoohAfza bottle has a retro and heritage branding and we don't want to make a drastic change because there is a strong identity that exists in the bottle. To attract the youth, we have extended the RoohAfza franchise into a Tetra Pak product which is fusion. We did a pilot launch last year and we are doing a launch again this year. That is our ready to drink 200 ml Tetra Pak which has RoohAfza mixed with a fruit juice (Lychee, Mango and Lemon flavours)."

He adds, "Now the RoohAfza franchise is extended to three sides of the spectrum. One is the loyalists; second, the millennials who would have RoohAfza and other products; and the third would be the completely new youth TG who would want to drink it in a convenient format and we have extended Tetra Pak to them."

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

Surjo Dutt

Talking about the challenges, Surjo Dutt, national creative head, FCB Ulka, says, "The challenge was to make a 100-year-old iconic drink relevant for the youth of today. As the idea 'ghulke jiyo' took shape, we knew we had something that would resonate with the entire country, across all ages."

He adds, "When we mix and mingle with each other, only then is it that we truly come together. Just like RoohAfza's unique taste which comes out only when it is mixed with something else. It was an absolute pleasure bringing this idea to life using an iconic song, paired with heart-warming visuals."

Last year, RoohAfza launched its Tetra Pak drinks - RoohAfza Fusion. Interestingly, the new ad by the brand doesn't show this option despite it wanting to stay relevant to the youth. So we asked our brand experts if the ad is good enough to get the brand its desired TG i.e. the youth.

According to Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, there is no strong cue in the TVC that suggests that it is exclusively targeting the youth. "The cardinal sin in marketing is trying to be all things to all people which to my mind, is the main problem with RoohAfza's latest communication. Perhaps a result of a lack of clarity on how to position the brand reduces its appeal to its lowest common denominator."

He adds, "While this particular advertisement tries hard to make a virtue of its versatility with the underlying metaphorical theme of 'mixing well,' it struggles under the weight of the number of communication objectives it seems to have set for itself which, going by the film, appear to be the following - It should be made contemporary, yet with an old-world charm; it should cut across all demographics; it should demonstrate its versatility of usage; it should depict multiple usage occasions, and it should do all this while attempting to form an emotional connection around creating harmony and conviviality. Trying to additionally depict the Tetra Pak drinks would have overloaded it even more."

Sinha believes that a classic challenge often faced by marketers, is how to keep a brand with an old-style legacy contemporary, without diluting its heritage. "This has been the issue with RoohAfza ever since the advent of a plethora of offerings in the beverages market, from carbonated drinks to fruit-based drinks in various modern packaging formats", he adds.

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

Samit Sinha

"Tamil Nadu and Kerala are still 'softer' markets than we'd like them to be": Mansoor Ali on RoohAfza

Harish Bijoor

About the packaging, Sinha adds, "The absence of a clear and sharp brand strategy will also reflect in its packaging and visual identity in general. It is possible for brands to retain an old-world look and yet be highly appealing to the youth. Scotch whisky brands and single malts, in particular, manage to do this well, making retro look cool."

He adds, "As inspiration, it might be interesting to look at a case study of a brand that managed to make this transition successfully. In the 1980s, Lipton Tea in the US was struggling to shake off the image of being associated with a drink for 'little old ladies.' They took that perception head-on and turned it on its head."

Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. also believes that if the ad is about targeting the youth, he doesn't see it enough, but he likes the product-centricity in the execution. "This execution is a 'ghulke jiyo' execution. The prime takeaway is unity and the unitariness of our beings. It goes well with the fact that RoohAfza is not only a straight drink with plain old water, but that it mixes with all and everything, literally. RoohAfza is the ultimate sweet mixer."

He adds, "In this primary communication piece for RoohAfza, the brand does well to avoid all its new avatars, which, I am afraid, will be the bells and whistles around the primary brand."


Client: Hamdard

Brand: RoohAfza

Agency: FCB Ulka

Chief Sales & Marketing Officer: Mansoor Ali

Brand Manager: Urooj Ashraf, Mohd. Aqeel

President: Debarpita Banerjee

National Creative Head: Surjo Dutt

National Planning Director: John Thangaraj

Business Head: Lokesh Sah

National Films Head: Alpa Jobalia

Creative: Abhijeet Ray, Arijit Sengupta, Arijit Gupta, S Srinath, Moumita Pal, Deepak Latwal

Account Planning: Mohini Verma, Vaidehi Tandon, Disha Bhattacharya

Account Management: Akshay Sharma, Anurag Nair, Shrikanth Bhandarkar

Films Team: Mazhar Khan

Production House: Bubble Wrap Films

Producer: Richa Lal, Ketaki Guhagarkar Surve

Director: Jaydeep Sarkar