Dabur evokes feelings of trust, health & well-being: Amit Burman, Vice Chairman

Burman talks about the brand's origins in the bylanes of Kolkata to emerging as a transnational enterprise with presence in over 120 countries across the globe

Amit Burman

The story of Dabur began with a small but visionary endeavour by Dr S K Burman, a physician in Bengal. His mission was to provide an effective and affordable cure for ordinary people in far-flung villages. With missionary zeal and fervour, Dr Burman undertook the task of preparing natural cures for the killer diseases of those days, like cholera, malaria and plague. Soon the news of his medicines travelled, and he came to be known as the trusted ‘Daktar’ or Doctor who came up with effective cures. And that is how his venture Dabur got its name - derived from the Devanagri rendition of Daktar Burman.

Dr Burman set up Dabur in 1884 to produce and dispense Ayurvedic medicines. Reaching out to a wide mass of people who had no access to proper treatment. His commitment and ceaseless efforts resulted in the company growing from a fledgling medicine manufacturer in a small Calcutta house to a household name that at once evokes trust and reliability.

Over the years, Dabur expanded its portfolio and ventured into FMCG. But the core of Dabur remained Ayurveda and nature. Their FMCG portfolio includes five flagship brands - Dabur as the master brand for natural healthcare products, Vatika for premium personal care, Hajmola for digestives, Réal for fruit juices and beverages, and Fem for fairness bleaches and skin care products. 

We spoke to Amit Burman, Vice Chairman, Dabur India Ltd to understand the brand’s 135-year-old herbal and Ayurvedic heritage, and future plans. 

“Dabur, as a brand, evokes feelings of trust, health & well-being in the consumer’s mind. We remain true to our heritage and are continuously working to update our portfolio in line with changing consumer demands and aspirations. Our intention is to continue to grow our presence across the four key verticals that Dabur operates in, i.e. Health Care, Personal Care, Home Care & Foods. Besides, we also plan to have a greater play in the overseas markets and are exploring newer emerging market geographies,” he explains.

Edited excerpts: 

What major role do you think has marketing played when other players like Patanjali entered the market and declared a Vedic war?

The entry of new players in the Ayurveda segment has certainly helped grow the popularity of Ayurveda, particularly among the younger generation, at a faster pace. Marketing has played a key role in popularising Ayurveda. 

While a lot of players are talking about or introducing their so-called Ayurvedic variants, Dabur offers authentic Ayurveda backed with science. It’s this science-based Ayurveda that’s our USP in this market and has helped us grow ahead of others. 

Our Ayurvedic toothpaste Dabur Red paste has been among the fastest growing toothpaste brands in the country and we have emerged as the third largest player in this market. We have recently introduced the country’s first Ayurvedic Gel toothpaste. Another recent example is the launch of an Ayurvedic kadha for cough and cold in a ready-to-use format called Honitus Hot Sip. 

We remain true to our heritage and are continuously working to update our portfolio in line with changing consumer demands and aspirations.
Dabur India also has a strong in-house research wing that follows a ‘bush-to-brand’ approach. We have our in-house nursery, which grows several rare herbs that go into various products. 

Today, we grow rare herbs in over 5,000 acres of land across India. This in-depth knowledge about nature and natural ingredients is one of our big strengths in the market. This research wing also undertakes detailed tests on individual ingredients and products to ensure that the final product meets customer needs and aspirations.

We have been deploying modern-day science to validate the benefits of various Ayurvedic preparations and medicinal herbs mentioned in our ancient textbooks. These have been part of our efforts towards making traditional Indian knowledge available in a form that appeals to the modern consumer. Our efforts have not only helped make Ayurveda relevant for the modern-day consumer but also made it convenient to consume these formulations that are otherwise difficult to prepare. 

Dabur is growing in the lesser explored area of business, like lite foods, how does it flow when it comes to marketing?

Lite Bite Foods is an independent venture and is not connected to Dabur India Ltd. It is a personal investment by me. In 1997, the Burman family initiated a study and redefined the roles of family members in the management of the company. The study concluded that to attract, hire and install an experienced professional management team to lead the company, the family members will have to leave executive roles in the company. Today, none of the new generation Burman family members get an entry into Dabur India Ltd. They are, encouraged to set up independent ventures and create enterprises the size of Dabur or even larger.

What are the next steps for the brand?

In 2017-18 our direct reach crossed 1 million retail outlets, making it one of the largest direct distribution networks in the FMCG space in India. Our presence in rural markets has gone up significantly. Dabur now reaches to 41,000 villages across India and has a network of almost 11,000 sub-stockists. The average number of brands sold in rural markets has gone up by almost 10 per cent and availability and reach of smaller brands has been significantly enhanced.

Going forward, we are targeting to expand our direct coverage to 1.2 million outlets over the next few months. Also, we plan to expand our rural reach to over 60,000 villages over the next couple of years.

We have also embarked on a new strategy of scaling up smaller Ayurveda-based brands in our portfolio. We have a number of brands that are based on Ayurveda. These may be small brands today but have the potential of becoming Rs 100 crore brand each. There are almost 20 such brands in our portfolio today, and there is a huge opportunity to scale them to a level of around Rs 100 crore each. Every year, we will identify 3-4 brands and invest behind them with higher media spends and also product innovation to scale them up.

This year, we have identified three prime categories which are huge and offer a huge potential for growth. First is the baby care category, which is growing at a fast pace and we have identified our baby massage oil Dabur Lal Tail as the first brand for this scaling up strategy. The second area is digestive area, where we have a brand called Dabaur Pudin Hara. We will be looking at opportunities to scale up this brand in terms of moderation of formats and extending its distribution. The third category is Cough and Cold where we operate with the brand Dabur Honitus.

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