afaqs! news bureau

A chat with Dabur’s Gaurav Parashar about a shampoo positioned to slay coronavirus

In an opportunistic move, the new Vatika Germ Protection shampoo claims to protect against germs and coronavirus.

The latest addition to Dabur’s Vatika line of shampoos ‘protects’ the hair from germs and Coronavirus. This is also probably the first time a consumer facing shampoo brand has claimed to rid our hair of germs.

The ‘germ-kill’ proposition in the personal care business has for long been associated with product categories like antiseptic creams/lotions, toothpastes, mouth-washes, soaps, handwashes and more recently, sanitisers.

Shampoos have been sold differently. One of the oldest personal care categories, shampoos have mostly been about beauty and wellness. The propositions in the category have undergone a fair share of evolution themselves but have retained wellness and beauty at the core.

With a high category penetration and dozens of competing brands, the market is valued upwards of Rs 8,000 crore. It is led by HUL (Dove, Clear, Sunsilk, Clinic Plus), followed by players like P&G (Pantene, Head & Shoulders), ITC, Marico, Dabur and CavinKare.

The category has majorly been built on the promise of strengthening hair and removing dandruff from the scalp. Over years, brands explored newer propositions like hair nourishment, damage control, conditioning, protection from UV/pollution, herbal ingredients, etc. in order to stand out and stay relevant.

The more recent category trends include eco-friendly and organic shampoos (like WOW and Mamaearth).

Vatika’s shampoo expansions are also in line with the industry trends. The first Vatika shampoo was launched in 1999 as a herbal alternative to other chemical based shampoos available back then.

More recently, the brand launched its ‘plant-based’ variants with in-trend ingredients like coconut milk, argan oil, onion and apple cider vinegar.

The germ protection proposition in shampoos has until now been limited to medicated shampoos prescribed by dermatologists and hair experts for specific medical conditions. Dabur’s ‘germ-protection’ stance obviously comes at the backdrop of the covid pandemic. The product also claims to protect against coronavirus.

This only adds to Dabur’s anti-covid lineup which includes immunity boosting products like Chyawanprash along with sanitisers and soaps.

In conversation with afaqs!, Gaurav Parashar, marketing head - Hair Care, Dabur India, says that the new launch was a pretty straightforward move for the company.

The discussion started last year in the middle of the pandemic and the idea was to solve the problem of covid germs piggybacking on peoples’ hair. This set the ball rolling for seeking a new formulation and ensuring that it passes clinical tests before making it to the consumer market.

Vatika Germ Protection shampoo has been launched in four SKUs - 80ml, 180ml, 440ml and 640ml priced at Rs 45, Rs 95, Rs 250 and Rs 400 respectively. It will be available on Flipkart and regular retail channels.

Gaurav Parashar
Gaurav Parashar

Parashar says that like masks, the shampoo is targeted at anyone stepping out of the house - be it for work, studies or shopping.

But does it mean that the shapoo only zaps germs?

Parashar explains that being a shampoo product, it first of all has to clean and condition the hair. “On top of that, it has herbal ingredients like neem which is a well known microcidal. While Vatika is all about beauty, our roots are Ayurveda and herbal. Any white space that we find in the herbal beauty space is a potential area for Vatika.”

He mentions that unlike other product categories that were impacted either positively or negatively, consumption of shampoo as a category hasn’t changed much. “People were still using shampoo even if they were going out less.”

The ingredient chart for the new shampoo includes neem, aloe vera, lemon, methi, almond, rosemary and tea tree. Interestingly, the new Dabur shampoo doesn’t claim to kill 99.9 per cent of the germs. Instead, it claims to provide up to 99.9 per cent ‘germ protection’.

This cautious use of vocabulary could be because of the scrutiny around anti-covid claims by products. Ad industry body the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had recently asked Dabur to ‘modify or withdraw’ a Chyawanprash ad claiming that taking two spoons of the product daily provided protection against covid-19.

Speaking on the positioning and advertising of the shampoo, Parashar says that the brand will be drawing consumers’ attention towards the exposure of the hair to germs while outdoors.

“While there is a lot of awareness around washing hands and social distancing, people sometimes miss out on the importance of keeping their hair safe. There are some people using hair caps, etc. but exposure to the virus via hair isn’t top of the mind,” he signs off.

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