Ashwini Gangal

"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat

As Dabur gears up to go to market with its new ready-to-drink ethnic drinks range Hajmola Yoodley, we take a look at its resemblance to Paperboat.

Recently, Dabur India announced the launched of its ready-to-drink (RTD) beverage range Hajmola Yoodley, positioned as an extension of its popular digestive brand Hajmola.

The flavours (ethnic), packaging (curvy stand-up pouches) and pricing (Rs. 30 per 250 ml) all resemble Paperboat, two year-old brand from the house of Hector Beverages.

"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat
"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat
Hajmola Yoodley will be available in six variants - Ajooba Aam Panna, Nimboora Shikanji, Guava No. 1, Jazbaati Jaljeera, Golmaal Golgappa and Kabhi Kala Kabhi Khatta. Over the next six to 12 months, more flavours will be added. Paperboat's flavours include Jamun Kala Khatta, Kokum, Golgappe Ka Pani, Aam Panna, Jaljeera, Aamras and Ginger Lemon Tea.
"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat
When asked about the overt resemblance to Paperboat, Sanjay Singal, marketing head, foods, Dabur India, says, "We sell nearly 800 crore tablets of Hajmola every year. Hajmola has 99 per cent penetration. We wanted to extend the brand to a liquid format. Yoodley is like 'liquid Hajmola'. Through Yoodley, we're leveraging Hajmola's 'chatpata equity'."

Launched as a digestive tablet in the 1970s, brand Hajmola was later extended to the candy format. Last year, it was launched in pure confectionery form with Hajmola Chuzkara. Singal says about the flavours, "When you say 'chatpata', it can't be a mango drink; it has to be an ethnic drink. It's a coincidence that Paperboat already has these flavours. If I walk out of a metro station in Noida, I'll see five thela-walas standing there, selling aam panna, shikanji and golgappa... you can say we have taken inspiration from them."

Yoodley and Paperboat operate in different markets, Singal insists. "Our ambition with Yoodley is not to target the organised market for these flavours; that market is very small - approximately Rs. 140-150 crore," he says about the packaged ethnic drinks market.

"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand. We're targeting the real market, the unorganised market... the market where the seller stands with a matka and sells these flavours on the street. Rather than taking share away from any player in the organised segment, we want to take share from the unorganised sector and bring it into the organised sector, through Yoodley," says Singal, according to whom, the unorganised market is roughly ten times the size of the organised market.

A 'JLT (just-like-that) mood drink', Yoodley targets the 15-28 year old. During the test marketing phase, Yoodley will be made available across around 500 outlets, including airlines, schools, colleges and hotels. The product will go national around February next year. As of now, the media plan includes digital communication; the team has created an online initiative called 'Yoodley Shararat University'. Communication across other media platforms will accompany the national roll-out of the product.

Yoodley Versus Paperboat - Brand Analysis

Brand consultants go as far as to call Dabur's move "Paperboat marketing" or "copy-cat marketing." It reminds others of the Lay's-versus-Balaji battle, because, despite the parity in price, Paperboat appears 'classy' and Yoodley, 'massy'.

"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat
According to Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., a brand consultancy, the biggest disadvantage for Paperboat is that it is no longer unique. The second disadvantage is that Yoodley looks like a more "fun" brand, what with the accessorised faces and bright colours on the pack.

"Paperboat was successful with this kind of product (ethnic RTD beverage) and packaging format, and then in comes Dabur, keen to join the play," he says, going on to infer, "Nothing wrong with it. The packaging is similar, but not patented. The products are similar, but generic. The tone of the packaging communication is different. And that's where Dabur is possibly attempting a more 'massy' play. If Paperboat is a Pepsi, Yoodley wants to be a Thums Up."

Bijoor is impressed with Dabur's pricing strategy: "Had Dabur made the mistake of pricing Yoodley lower than Paperboat, the consumer would've felt the product quality is inferior."

What's the immediate challenge facing team Paperboat? - To make sure the consumer wants to buy the brand, and not the flavour. After all, people are suddenly spoilt for choice, when it comes to RTD ethnic beverages.

"Paperboat needs to continue investing in its brand. Yoodley will take a while. Paperboat has a window period of four to six months to do this aggressively," suggests Bijoor.

Should Paperboat worry about the reach and retail clout of Dabur? "Absolutely," he asserts, pointing out, that given Dabur's superior distribution and supply chain network in many parts of the country - especially tier two and rural markets, where Paperboat will take some time to reach - it will be seen as the pioneer in this category. "Dabur is bound to up the ante on retailer margins," he predicts.

"We're not trying to take share from any existing brand": Dabur's Sanjay Singal on Yoodley Vs Paperboat
Shripad Nadkarni, co-founder, MarketGate, a brand consultancy, and investor in Hector Beverages, manufacturer of Paperboat, says, "In some way, it is a validation of this category being a big opportunity space. After soft drinks and juices, the next big thing is Indian, ethnic drinks."

He's not worried about market share just yet. "The market is very nascent at the moment. It's premature to talk about share," he says, adding, counter-intuitively, "I think Dabur's push will help stimulate the market. If Dabur, with its deep pockets, pumps money into this range, it will eventually help the category grow. In fact, I wish one or two more players join in. That's when the category will get scale, over time. At this point, money needs to go into driving awareness and trials. We need 'category space' on the shelf."

He is, however, skeptical about Dabur's claim that Yoodley is an extension of its candy (Hajmola). "Golgappa pani does not fulfill a digestive need; it is an indulgence-related flavour. With something like Jaljeera, I can understand... but overall, the claim sounds tenuous," he reasons.

He rationalises his reservations with a couple of questions: If Dabur is not competing with Paperboat, then why have the same packaging? If the thela-wala's patrons are Yoodley's TG, then why price it at Rs. 30 per 250 ml?

"The price point is in dissonance with the strategy. Despite Dabur claiming its market for Yoodley is very different from that of Paperboat, I would not be surprised if it all boiled down to the modern trade outlet," Nadkarni decodes.