Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Marketing

“People will carry sanitisers as a hygiene habit, but frequency of usage will decline”: Priti A Sureka, Emami

We look at Emami’s ‘hygiene’ ambitions as its iconic flagship brand BoroPlus turns into a vehicle for navigating newfound COVID terrain.

Priti A Sureka, director, Emami, agrees that having an an iconic antiseptic brand in its portfolio made it a lot easier for the FMCG company to enter the bustling Indian hygiene space. Today, the ‘hygiene’ category signifies a group of products that includes hand sanitisers, handwashes, surface disinfectants and ‘germ-kill’ soaps.

It was around mid-March this year that Emami’s leadership decided to go ahead with its sanitiser launch. Pack sizes, design, communication, testing, fragrance, manufacturing, etc., were quickly finalised.

The hand sanitiser segment has witnessed the entry of over 350 organised brands in the last few months. As Sureka reveals, the segment had a turnover of around Rs 100 crore pre-COVID. “The market is approximately Rs 400 crore in size at the moment, and is aiming to be at Rs 700 crore by the end of the year.”

Priti A Sureka
Priti A Sureka
"The sanitiser market seems to have stabilised during July and August."

She says that post the major spurt from February to June, the sanitiser market seems to have stabilised during July and August. Emami’s flagship antiseptic brand BoroPlus has forayed into three of the four aforementioned product categories in the last few months. BoroPlus hand sanitiser was launched in April. It was followed by the launch of BoroPlus antiseptic-cum-moisturising soap and handwash in June.

Staying true to its celeb-heavy marketing, the brand has onboarded Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla (for her mother-like image) as the face of its new hygiene range. BoroPlus already has Amitabh Bachchan and Kangana Ranaut as brand ambassadors.

“People will carry sanitisers as a hygiene habit, but frequency of usage will decline”: Priti A Sureka, Emami

BoroPlus began its journey as an Ayurvedic antiseptic cream in 1982. The brand was launched nationally as a competitor to (then market leader) Boroline by Emami’s co-founder (and Sureka’s father) RS Agarwal under the aegis of renowned Ayurveda practitioner Shivkali Bhattacharya.

Steps were taken to ensure that the product did not remain limited to the first-aid box. The packaging was tweaked to add ‘cosmetic imagery’, something that consumers ‘wouldn’t mind keeping on the dressing table’. The brand ambassadors helped drive the point.

“Antiseptic cream was mainly used for cuts, wounds and accident-related usage. We started expanding the brand to moisturising, not only the lips, but also the extended parts of our arms. There were celebrity associations and promotions of various other usages. It could also be used as a dryness repair cream, a night cream, etc.,” said Sureka.

BoroPlus leads the Rs 650 crore antiseptic cream category (with 74 per cent market share) which includes brands like Boroline, Boro Calendula, Borosoft, etc. By the virtue of its multipurpose usage, it also competes in the larger emollient category, which includes petroleum jelly and cold creams.

Backed by its antiseptic and moisturising equity, BoroPlus eventually entered the body lotion and the prickly heat powder segments. It has traditionally been targeted across age groups and consumer segments. As a cream, BoroPlus’ consumption has been skewed towards the winter months. The new extensions could turn it into an all-season brand.

"We have a lot of antiseptic equity along with the additional benefit of moisturisation."

“All said and done, sanitisers were a very small category pre-COVID. We always had our plans to launch our hygiene line, but only advanced it by a year, considering the situation. We have a lot of antiseptic equity along with the additional benefit of moisturisation. Consumers are looking for products that don’t dry out the skin. They require ‘germ-kill’, but also need something that keeps their hands soft. This is the legitimate the space for BoroPlus,” says Sureka.

The brand also retained the ‘lavender and white’ BoroPlus colour theme across its hygiene range. And the image of a family on the packs signifies its target audience. “We have given it a family sort of visual. We missed adding it to the sanitiser label because of the hurry to launch.”

“The growth from the peak months may not sustain as a long-term phenomenon."

While the sanitiser segment has seen many new entrants, Sureka maintains that the lesser-known players won’t be able to sustain in the longer run. “The growth from the peak months may not sustain as a long-term phenomenon. The category is expected to see another upswing, once the school, colleges and other institutions reopen. People will be carrying sanitisers to schools and work, but the frequency of usage will likely come down.”

"People will be carrying sanitisers to schools and work, but the frequency of usage will likely come down.”

BoroPlus hand sanitisers are available in multiple pack sizes, ranging from 2 ml, 50 ml, 100 ml, 200 ml and 300 ml bottles to a jerry-can of 5L, priced at Re 1, Rs 25, Rs 50, Rs 95, Rs 140 and Rs 2,400 respectively. The smaller bottles are targeted towards those on-the-go, while the larger ones are for refill purposes, or to keep around the house/offices. The jerry-can is purely for refill purposes and institutional sales. The brand is seeing more movement in smaller packs.

Speaking about the trends in the handwash consumption, Sureka says that the category was growing at a rate of 15 per cent pre-COVID, and is expected to almost double post the pandemic. Similarly, on the soap side, the brand is seeing a crossover from beauty-specific and general soaps to the ‘germ-kill’ variants.

“We are seeing a lot of intent to migrate, and migration from the general soaps to the ‘germ-kill’ soaps."

“We are seeing a lot of intent to migrate, and migration from the general soaps to the ‘germ-kill’ soaps in our consumer interactions. The frequency of bathing has also gone up. The trend is here to stay because of the fear of germs lurking around us, irrespective of COVID.”

"The frequency of bathing has also gone up."

Recalling her meetings with consumers, especially women from Tier-II and III cites, Sureka says that it was an eye-opening experience. “The fear was omnipresent. There were people living in joint families in small houses. They didn’t have access to hospitals and were using community toilets. How do you ask them to isolate in case of an infection?”

"They were living in joint families in small houses and were using community toilets. How do you ask them to isolate in case of an infection?”

The media mix for campaigns around the hygiene line comprises of conventional ATL and BTL mediums with a strong bias towards new-age digital and e-commerce mediums.