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Price Wars: Consumer interest in detergents finds new voice

15-June-2004
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Price Wars: Consumer interest in detergents finds new voice

After the recent price cuts on premium detergents by leading multinationals, consumer organisations are turning the heat on companies by testing the quality of detergents. After the Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI), yet another voluntary action group ‘Voice’—a member of Consumer International—has kicked off a ‘comparative testing process’ to guage the impact of the recent price cuts on the quality and performance of four premium detergents in India.

In a bid to get authentic results, the Delhi-based organisation ‘Voice’ has purchased samples of detergent brands which include Surf Excel Blue (HLL), Ariel Compact and Tide (P&G) and Henko Stain Champion (Henkel) from various retailers in Mumbai and Delhi, says Voice technical officer H Wadwa. “Just as any consumer, we bought these detergent brands from retail shops in the two metros. Also, we did not disclose the purpose for which the purchase was being made. We do not accept samples sent by manufacturers as a rule,” he adds.

In March this year, Procter & Gamble had kicked off a price war in detergents by slashing the price of Ariel and Tide by 25-50 per cent. HLL promptly followed suit and cut the price of its leading detergent brand Surf Excel Blue to bring it on par with that of competition’s.

Viewing with suspicion the recent price cuts on premium detergents by leading multinationals HLL, P&G and Henkel, Voice carried out tests for over two months to find out if there has been any degradation in the quality of the products to enable price cuts.

According to CGSI results, the performance of Tide, Ariel and Surf Excel Blue have improved after the price reduction

After carrying out pre- and post-price reduction tests on five detergent brands, Voice has now got its first set of results ready. Says Mr Wadwa: “In terms of quality, there’s a perceptible change in one or two brands. Performance-wise, these brands performed well. Manufacturers keep changing the composition now and then. We have to wait and watch the long-term impact of these price cuts to give a clear picture.”

According to Mr Wadwa, the organisation will continue to evaluate the long-term impact of these price cuts in the next six months. So the wait and watch game continues for both consumers and consumer organisations across the country.

On the other side of the spectrum, how do Indian detergent majors react to these ‘ongoing quality tests’? Comments a spokesperson from HLL: “We have said this in the past and state once again that HLL is offering the same quality at much more affordable prices now to build a much larger consumer franchise for its products.”

Sharing similar views, P&G’s Beijing Technical Center for Detergents (China) head of R&D Dick Carpenter says P&G has reduced the prices of Ariel and Tide while maintaining the same quality and performance.

Said external technical expert and a professor & consultant for chemicals & surfactants Venkat Iyer, who reviewed the performance of Ariel & Tide post price reduction: “I can say that both Ariel & Tide continue to be consistent in delivering stain removal and whiteness.”

According to CGSI results, the performance of Tide, Ariel and Surf Excel Blue have improved after the price reduction.

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