"Our biggest challenge is to be relevant to the newer generation"
Mansoor Ali, CMO, Hamdard India, says, consumers are moving away from products that are synthetic or manufactured with chemical processes; be it medicines, cosmetics, home or personal care products.
Hamdard India, the 100-year old producer of Unani and herbal FMCG products, is not only on a transformational approach for the last two years but has expanded its product portfolio to attract a newer generation. A year ago, the company delved into the ready to drink segment with the launch of RoohAfza Fusion and generated a revenue of Rs. 300 crore. The company also has plans to push Unani products aggressively in the market in the coming years with innovative marketing strategies.
Exchange4media spoke to Mansoor Ali, Chief Marketing Officer, Hamdard India, to know his visions and plans for the brand and what are his strategies to deal with the competition.
You launched RoohAfza in UAE. Tell us more about your global expansion plans.
UAE isn’t the only country where RoohAfza is present. In the past two-three years, we have launched RoohAfza and other Hamdard products in many other countries too. We have a presence in almost 20-25 countries. Our objective is very clear; we don’t want to do sporadic business.
We want the business to continue throughout the year. When it comes to other countries, we have established distributors who have their own networks and supply the product to stores and therefore, we have entrenched the brand by investing in other markets.
UAE is a big market for us because there is an Indian diaspora there and for them, RoohAfza reminds them of their home. There is an emotional touch with the brand. Not only in UAE, we are also present in other countries like US, Canada, Europe and very soon we will be entering Australia.
It’s amazing to notice that even the global population living in these markets are actually adapting to RoohAfza. However, you can’t expect a non-user to suddenly pick and use the product. So, we do a lot of sampling in these markets, consumer activations and kiosk stations for example.
What’s the present consumer trend visible in the FMCG Sector?
There are many trends and the strongest one visible in all FMCG segments, particularly on the food side, is that consumers have become too conscious. The biggest example is the carbohydrate heavy drinks; their craze has gone down because people realized it contains a lot of sugar and has no nutritional value. Consumers are moving away from products that are synthetic or manufactured with chemical processes; be it medicines, cosmetics, home or personal care products. People prefer to use herbal or natural ingredients based products. That’s the shift not only happening in India but across the world. Companies who have herbal or natural products in their DNA are in a much better position today and I would put my company on that position because all of our products are based on Unani. 100 per cent of our products are based on herbal and natural ingredients, as we don’t use preservatives.
The other trend that we are witnessing is, consumers have become much more informed and are making specific choices.
While brands are moving to Ayurveda and herbal products, there isn’t any direct competition in the Unani space. Do you see this as an opportunity?
In Unani space, there isn’t much competition because we are the largest one and every other competitor is quite below in terms of either revenue or product. There are some regional players who have similar products like us. However, we won’t limit ourselves to Unani only. We are a company based on natural herbal ingredients and there we have a lot of competition. Any company in the Ayurveda space becomes a competition and now companies are floating into the category of natural products. So, directly or indirectly, there’s a competition.
When it comes to Unani, we still need to create awareness and put a lot of efforts to build the Unani space. The market potential is huge and has a lot of scope to grow.
Whom do you take as your competitor? How difficult is to deal with a brand like Patanjali?
Patanjali is an interesting phenomenon and there are two ways I look at it. Firstly, Patanjali has been able to create a benchmark and relevance in the space of natural products segment. We are a very different model; we are not like Patanjali and would never like to be Patanjali because we are very focused; we operate in those categories which are meant for us. We might have extensions in the similar categories. Patanjali has tried to enter every space and large parts of their products are outsourced. We have our own factories and are proud of our qualities and the trust we have maintained.
We welcome the competition because that makes the market grow. There are two kinds of competitions, one in the FMCG business and the other division we have is the Unani space. Service, ability to provide products in minimum time, affordability, ease and efficacy are the measures we have adapted to propagate Unani.
How are Hamdard wellness centres doing? What is your Pan-India presence like?
All these wellness centres are growing at 25 per cent in terms of footfalls and convergence. People are adopting wellness centres. Today we have about 10 and are in the process to open 15 more this year.
In 2015, Hamdard aimed to double its revenue in three years. How far have you reached in achieving this goal?
There had been a certain market disruption that happened, like GST. It has set back a lot of consumer companies because the market adjusted itself and trade was down, but still, things are doing pretty well. It will take a couple of more years to reach the target, two years from now.
Since a long time, we have been hearing that Hamdard will enter the cosmetics segment. How soon could we see this?
I can’t share the plans right now. Manufacturing cosmetics in the herbal and natural space is one of our major plans. Currently, the work is happening at the R&D level. It will take more time, like a year or more.
What are the new segments you are looking to expand? In today’s time, how important is it to connect with a younger generation and what are you doing to stay relevant?
The key task Hamdard has right now is to stay relevant with the youth. Products like RoohAfza and Safi have loyal consumers. But if you look at 12 to 13-year-old kids, probably the relevance of Hamdard among them is a little low and we admit it. Our biggest challenge is to be relevant to the newer generation and therefore we launched Fusion. It’s an extension of RoohAfza in a tetra- pack format because the youth want convenient products and all our advertising would be based on them. If you look at our earlier ads of RoohAfza or Safi, they were very stereotypical, but from the last two years, it has changed. All our advertising, packaging and formats have changed. It is very important to be available where the youth is.
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