Hindustan Lever has decided to increase the number of Ayush Therapy Centres (ATC) in an attempt to make up for lost time and capitalise on the positive consumer response generated in the initial years after the launch.
The maker of Dove beauty soap and Lipton tea will expand the number of centres to 40 by the end of '06 from about 26 now. By '07, Lever hopes to have about 100 such centres across the country.
“The franchise system is in now in place, and we are now focusing on expanding the brand's footprint in a focused manner. While earlier it would take us 6-7 months to launch a centre, we have now managed to do it in 4-6 weeks, as there is a between understanding of the dynamics,” said Dalip Sehgal, executive director, new ventures and marketing services, Ayush.
This current scale-up is seen as a wider plan to finally invest money behind the handful of new ventures, such as the water project piloted in Chennai, HLL Network, the direct marketing arm, and Project Shakti. HLL had launched a flurry of new ventures from '00 onwards as part of Project Millennium. But many of these projects did not make the cut and were later shut down.
Insiders say that the HLL board is keen to back the remaining projects and scale them up nationally, as long as they aggressively grow the topline. The new team under CEO Doug Baillie has been invested with the task of scaling up these projects.
Lever launched Ayush some time in '00, hoping to capitalise on the strong demand for beauty and hair treatment products based on ayurveda in many parts of the country. While the retail products flopped, the Ayush Therapy Centres managed to attract sizeable consumer interest.
The plan is to increase visibility of the service centres, and the focus may not be metros and semi-metros where the real estate costs can be steep. Since Lever is adopting a franchisee model, the investment cost may range between Rs 18 lakh and Rs 20 lakh in the cities.
Apart from launching centres, the brand will also market itself through direct sales agents. “With the brand visibility and reach going up the next 2-3 years should see Ayush stabilise as a brand and become profitable. The southern region has seen encouraging response however, the North and West will be region that would require attention.” Mr Sehgal added.
Ayush's products may see the light of retail once again, if the brand is actually able to deliver by its Ayurveda and personalised care positioning. As of now, the company stated it will focus on one-to-one communication and look at building the brand's equity in the market place.
However, HLL has not ruled out bringing Ayurveda to the retail format in the future. Ayush is looking at occupy a mid-market slot in terms of pricing which begins from Rs 400 to Rs 1,500.