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Marketing Interviews

Amit Burman

CEO | 08 Apr 2003

"There are a lot of juicewalaas in city markets, so juice is not something Indian consumers had not seen before. And, we felt if we give them juices in a packaged form, which is more hygienic, it should do well"

In Brand Speak this time, Amit Burman, Chief Executive Officer, Dabur Foods Ltd., speaks to exchange4media's Nikhil Gupta, on its brand strategy, psyche of Indian housewife and buying patterns in the processed food category.

Q. How is your brand 'Real' fruit juice doing in the market?

We launched it in the year 1999, and over the years it has shown us very good growth. From last year to this year, it grew at about 30%. I believe it's good growth but then we are starting from a very small base, for a category, which is at a very nascent stage as compared to its potential today.

Q. What kind of background research you had done before launching your products- 'Real' fruit juice and 'Homemade' cooking pastes?

When we launched 'Real', we didn't do much of market research, as we clearly saw there was a gap in the market. And looking at the Indian consumers, and there are so many juicewalahas in the market, so juice was not something Indian consumers had not seen before. So, we felt if we give them juices in a packaged form, which is more hygienic, it should do well. In other categories, 'yes,' before launching 'Homemade,' we did a lot of research. What we found was that in a typical Indian household, cooking as an activity could be split to two parts. One is the negative activity, which involves preparation of right mix of spices and pastes for the food. The other one being the positive activity, which consists of what an Indian housewife ads on top which makes the final food different in your house than my house. That is where she gets the pride from serving guests, husband, her family, that's something she doesn't wants to loose. So, we decided rather than if we focus on the positive labour, we would be taking away this feeling of pride from her, so we focused on the negative labour, where ginger paste from my house and your house is crushed the same way, garlic paste in my house and your house is crushed the same way. So, we are focusing on what is around the main meal and we are not focusing on the main meal.

Q. How did the market reacted to 'Homemade' pastes?

Most of the products that we have launched actually try to create a category. Even today there is no national level player except us present in the market.

Q. How fast is the 'Homemade' range growing sales wise?

Sales are not growing that fast. In India, there is an inherent problem in the processed food category, they compare the commodity with the market prices. If they were to go out and buy 200g of ginger, it should be equal to so many grams of paste. They don't look at the processing part, that processing is free in their minds. Similarly, what happens is when the commodity prices are going high our product starts selling more. Also, what we have seen is that a housewife usually keeps a bottle of Ginger paste of a garlic paste in the refrigerator and its only used as an emergency. But in regular use, that is something we are trying to create, it should be a regular use item.

Q. What is the USP of Homemade?

The USP as I explained, one insight that we got from the consumer, that the taste of spices grinded on Silbatta (grinding stone) is different from the taste we get from the mixer. We incorporated that in our manufacturing process, we actually use stone grinding to give the same taste to the consumers. We also ran an ad campaign, which has a tagline, saying, "Homemade Ka Paste, Swad Silbatte Wala."

Q. Going further, how do you maintain a check at the retailers level that the products are being displayed properly at the point-of-purchase (pop) since the bottles are usually not clean, which creates a perception that it might be very old?

See, the manufacturing date is printed over there, but in terms of cleaning the bottles and all, when our sales officers visit the stores, his first job is to check that the products are displayed properly and the bottles are kept clean.

Q. Just exploring one thought, wont it be better if the "Homemade" pastes are delivered to the housewife at home, since a lot many times she would feel awkward picking it up from the shop shelves?

That's a good suggestion, but rather shying away from sending it to their house, we have to build a brand to tell that consumer that it as good as fresh. Its an inherent problem, people in India will never agree that something that is packaged is fresh. Thus, the onus is on every player in the processed food industry to change the perception to- whatever is on the shelf is fresh.

Q. Going back to 'Real' fruit juice. Who is the typical target consumer? And are you trying to compete with Softy Drinks as category?

In 'Real', we have two range of juices one is Real fruit juice other is Real Active juice. The Real fruit juice is targeted towards the housewife and kids, and the Real Active juice is targeted towards the young adults between the age of 24 to 35. We are very clearly focused on the in-home segment and soft drink is more out- of- home impulse purchase.

Q. How do you maintain the balance in availability of product on the counter as well as the freshness of the product?

I think it has been a learning experience, in terms of distribution. Very clearly, in processed foods as a category, the date of manufacturing is very critical to the consumer. So, we worked on our products, and now our products are about 35 days from date of manufacture.

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