Shreyas Kulkarni

Asian Paints' Amit Syngle on winning India's rural markets with Kohli and affordability

The paints company plans to beat distemper and the unbranded sector.

“Earlier people used to paint their homes every eight to 10 years, it has now come down to three to four years,” says Amit Syngle, MD and CEO, Asian Paints. 

He was speaking to afaqs! after announcing Asian Paints' big rural push with Neo Bharat Latex Paint on 15 April, a new affordable paint offering was introduced to lure in homeowners who desire a “smart paint” but are limited by their purchasing power. 

“People do not have too many choices and the unorganised sector really uses price point to take on the consumers,” he stresses. 

Who are these people? They’re residents of India’s small towns with populations between one to five lakh, read a slide from Asian Paints’ presentation at the event. 

“Our research indicated consumers want to upgrade to a smart choice, a trendy choice but at the same time, they are not willing to pay too much,” says Syngle.

The Neo Bharat Latex Paint, says the MD and CEO, can paint a two-room set for Rs 5,000 and provides superior finish, higher coverage, and better washability compared to the incumbent distemper and unorganised players which Asian Paints will take on in the rural markets. 

Propelling the new product for Asian Paints is cricketer Virat Kohli. The decision to cast him was by design. If Sachin Tendulkar represented the India of the ‘90s fuelled by liberalisation, Kohli represents the aspirations of today’s India that is overt, in-your-face, and knows what it wants.

The first of the two ads (yet to go live) shows Kohli participating in a local gully cricket tournament. After witnessing the winning shot, he presents the trophy to the victorious player who rushes home to share his win with his family. 

Kohli too reaches his home followed by the paparazzi who want a picture of the two. Seeing the faded walls and chipped paint, a reporter prompts them to take the picture outside.  

The kid’s and his parents’ faces drop, and it is where Kohli introduces the Neo Bharat Latex Paint that transforms their home and their lives. 

The tagline is 'Har ghar khilega, har ghar khelega'. McCann Worldgroup has made the ads. 

Asian Paints, in addition to Kohli, has Deepika Padukone and Karan Johar for its premium Royale Glitz and Ranbir Kapoor for the Ultima Protek paint brands. 

When asked if the number of high-profile celebrities can leave some consumers scratching their heads, Syngle was unconcerned. “Ranbir and Deepika are more concentrated on the north-west zone and Virat has a pan India mass connect.”

Market research firm Mordor Intelligence says that the Indian paints and coatings market size is estimated at USD 9.56 billion in 2024, and is expected to reach USD 15 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 9.38%.

Asian Paints recorded a consolidted revenue of Rs 34,489 crore in FY23, an increase of 18.5% year-on-year. It competes with the likes of Berger, Nerolac, Dulux, Nippon, and even newcomers like JSW Paints and Birla Opus.

As it takes on the rural markets, it has gone all out with its marketing blitz. Television takes the lead because when it comes to its reach, “it's strong when you look at in terms of smaller towns and geographies. Your overall mass channels are still good, news is pretty good, they act as strong penetrative media.”

Digital will play a role, of course, and so will OOH. “We have big programmes in terms of participation in melas and haats and local events which have a bright connect with these people because that's their only form of entertainment,” remarks Syngle. 

And the most interesting aspect of the brand is the packaging. Taking on a hexagonal shape instead of a circle makes for easy carrying and scraping of paint. The MD and CEO says the Neo Bharat Latex Paint will be available pan-India from April.

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