Bisleri battles look-alikes with vernacular labels

Bisleri is investing Rs 50-60 lakh on introducing bottles with dual-language labels across the country

e4m by Venkata Susmita Biswas
Updated: Aug 29, 2017 2:05 PM  | 4 min read

The bottled water market in India is growing at a significantly high rate of 23–25% driven by the quest for clean water and water on-the-go. In this growing market, Bisleri has been attempting to stay relevant to its consumers and to that end is now introducing dual-language labels across India. The initiative is aimed at connecting with locals and battling counterfeiting. 


Speaking to exchange4media about the insight behind the initiative, Anjana Ghosh, Director – Marketing at Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd., said, “We wanted to communicate with consumers in every state. So we wanted to use their own language to talk to them because people generally feel very nice when spoken to in their own tongue.” Bisleri has already launched the vernacular labels in Telugu (AP, Telangana), Marathi (Maharashtra), and Hindi for Uttar Pradesh. 


Ghosh said that this move will also fight counterfeiting of Bisleri. Bottled water is one of the most abused products with a number of spurious look-alikes in the market. A small town railway station may have two different look-alikes posing as Bisleri but no legitimate product. 


As a pioneer of packaged drinking water, any packaged drinking water has come to be known as Bisleri and therefore look-alikes under the guise of Bisleri abound. “There are look-alikes of our brand and various bottled water products are marketed using our font. We wanted to ensure that consumers in remote areas where they are not as comfortable with English as in metros do not get misled and conned by these counterfeits,” she said. 


While it is hard to put a number as to how much loss Bisleri incurs due to counterfeiting, Ghosh said that the company is, in fact, in no position to override those who counterfeit Bisleri. “They have a Bureau of Indian Standards license. So our statutory controls are allowing them to manufacture look-alikes. Legally, we cannot do anything, the only thing we can do is create awareness among our consumers.” She added that Bisleri is creating awareness about avoiding look-alikes especially when consumers do not know how safe the water in the bottle is. Ghosh admitted that counterfeiting is a challenge that the brand has been battling for a long time and does not have a concrete solution. “The dual-label initiative is an attempt in this direction.”


Bisleri has 122 bottling plants across India and the labels across all these plants will be changing soon. “The estimate for changing the labels is around Rs 50–60 lakh. This includes creating new template blocks in every language at every plant.” For now, Bisleri is introducing the dual-labels in three languages, but there is demand from other states as well for the dual-language labels. “Assam has shown interest already; we are now working for labels in every state.” Bisleri will roll out dual-language labels across India in the next couple of months. 


KV Sridhar (aka Pops) also felt that the language connect is a smart move and one that is also tried and tested by other brands. Coca-Cola across the world has labels in the local language, “Having the label in a local language means it can be read by them, otherwise it becomes a symbol. And when it is a mere symbol people may buy a look-alike because they do not read the spelling,” he said. The language connect is important, he said. “Why else do we do advertising in 16, 8 or 4 different languages? It connects people.” He noted that in other product categories the brand name is written in multiple languages on the side of the box, this is to help consumers identify the brand. 


Hailing the initiative as a welcome move, Jagdeep Kapoor, Director of Samsika Marketing Consultants Pvt. Ltd, said, “The most important thing for a brand is to be pronounced correctly. So a vernacular label aids in that. And it also garners a strong connect because it reflects their culture. Brands are built in the minds and hearts of people. To enter the minds and hearts you have to use the runway of language.” He added that using a vernacular language does not at any rate bring down the value of the brand. This does indeed protect the brand from spurious look-alikes, Kapoor said. “When there is such high demand for a brand like Bisleri, you want to protect it on all fronts. The dual-language label will have a number of benefits,” he said. 

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