In a bid to achieve a turnaround, loss-making IFB Industries Ltd, which is the market leader in the front-loading washing machine category, is shedding its low-key image and plans to target a wider audience with a slew of new initiatives. In a change of strategy, IFB also plans to ‘make more noise’ in the marketplace this year and enter lower price points.
Restructuring moves, which began in late 2003, have included product repositioning, with lower price points being targeted and decentralisation of operations by setting up 19 branch offices, with each operating as a profit centre, with a separate budget for local-level marketing activity. It has also inducted people with a strong retail background as regional and branch managers, so as to give a fresh impetus to channel management and demand generation.
The company, which began exporting to Gulf countries last year, will this year also expand into the South Asian market. The first consignment will be sent to Nepal next week and markets like Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be addressed this year.
IFB is going in for a new price positioning to address a wider target audience with entry level products to lure the top-loading washing machine buyers of rivals. The first such machine, priced at Rs 14,995, was launched late last year. It now plans to introduce a newer model in a month’s time, which will be priced even lower, at around Rs 11,500. The brand, which enjoys a 60 per cent market share in front-loading washing machines, had been operating in the Rs 20,500 to 26,500 price band.
Besides going in for electronic advertising later this year, the company also plans to tap unconventional avenues to build up an atmosphere of trust. Ashutosh Vaidya, manager-national sales, IFB, “We plan to go in for local activities like roping in local women to recommend our products and build up trust. We are also in talks with regional test labs and Jal Boards to get them to endorse our products on their water saving features.”
While exploring the lower end of the market with a front loader at the price of a top loading machine, IFB will also bring in special edition, high end, image boosting products, or those tailored to meet specific needs like a model with a water tank attached to it for areas facing water shortage.