nitish bajaj, over the counter products, piramal enterprises

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Piramal’s consumer products division, the maker of over-the-counter products like the Lacto Calamine skincare range, i-pill contraceptive, Tetmosol soap and cream, Neko soap, and Caladryl lotion, has carved out a strategy to reach a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore.

The company is tapping celebrity-led campaigns, expanding its distribution network, and leveraging e-commerce as it eyes rapid growth. Nitish Bajaj, CEO of Piramal’s consumer products division, spoke to Moneycontrol about the way ahead. Edited excerpts:

What is the road map to achieving Rs 1,000 crore revenue for the consumer products division?

About three years back, we decided to pivot towards investing in some core power brands in a big way and drive the rapid growth of these brands. There are brands licensed for distribution from Bayer Consumer Health like Saridon and Supradyn, and our brands like Lacto Calamine, Little’s, and Tetmosol. We have been investing heavily in these brands. We have recently added two more brands to the investment kitty – Sloan’s and Naturolax.

This is one big shift under which we have invested in power brands to drive growth significantly ahead of the industry growth rate. Each of these investments is backed by fairly deep-rooted consumer insights to understand what works for consumers. Based on these insights, we are developing appropriate campaigns, often taking a celebrity who could get the message across.

On the business front, we are doing a lot of investment in building a very strong network for distribution. Within the OTC healthcare space, we cover about 200,000 outlets directly… We have also enabled technology for this. All our retail universe today is on a mobile handheld, geotagging, and everything is mapped on a mobile network. We have embedded salesforce, analytics, and automation tools, which allow us to maintain and drive the productivity of our field force. That is another key lever that is helping us drive both our distribution and also the quality of execution in the store.

The third is of course e-commerce. We now use online not only as a testing ground but also for growth. We have launched a range of innovations for all power brands, some of which are exclusively on e-commerce. And through e-commerce launches, we have tested these buyer concepts. E-commerce allows us to get sharper critical feedback from consumers on the product, using which we can dial up those features. If there is feedback on product improvement, that can also be brought in before we go nationally… The ecommerce business has rapidly grown from less than 3 percent of our business to almost 15 percent of our business in just about three years.

How much have you invested in power brands and in expanding distribution lately?

We do not share numbers, but broadly, each of these brands has an advertising-to-sales ratio above 20-25 percent. So there is a fairly high investment, ahead of curve, on each of these brands. Secondly, TV media is the dominant and the biggest driver for all these brands, but we are also supporting TV with print, especially for brands that are targeting men such as Polycrol and Tetmosol. For brands that sell well on e-commerce, we conduct digital campaigns. For a brand like Lacto Calamine, we are present on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms.

Will you go to the masses with brands like Lacto Calamine as you chase growth given that it is positioned in the premium segment presently?

Lacto Calamine is in a mass premium segment and is not in the super-premium segment like Olay or Neutrogena. We are launching a host of other offerings under the brand and expanding its portfolio. Under Lacto Calamine, over the last two years we have launched face wipes, cleansing wipes, sunscreen, and peel-off mask; and we recently added aloe vera gel to the portfolio. We have also launched two new face washes under this brand.

Lacto Calamine as a brand is specifically targeted at women with oily skin. So our core is to give our TG offerings which help them manage their oil and keep them free of oil-related problems.

Coming to distribution, e-commerce is one big destination, where we are making sure each of these innovations becomes available and visible. All the new products under the brand were launched on e-commerce initially and we have invested significantly to promote these brands digitally on social media and also on the e-commerce portals. Our sunscreen since its launch has found many takers and hence we have now started to roll it in the general trade.

Are you looking at new categories for other power brands also?

Yes. For example, under Tetmosol we have launched dusting powder and signed on Ajay Devgn and the communication is about to go live. It is going to compete with the likes of Nycil, Candid, etc. Similarly, if you look at Little’s, therein we have launched an organic range of personal care products, diaper rash cream and we are looking to add a few more products over the next six to nine months.

How much revenue are you targeting from these brands?

Each of these brands is growing rapidly. Little’s is doubling in size every year and is one of the fastest-growing brands in the baby care category. Our ambition is to make it Rs 500 crore brand over the next five-three years.

Are you looking to launch brands to tap new categories?

Yes, we are looking at two-three areas and one of them is geriatric care. And so we launched a brand called CIR last year in e-commerce and introduced products like adult diapers and bath wipes.

We are also looking to launch a host of other offerings under our ‘I’ range. Last year, we launched an intimate hygiene liquid under the name i-feel and now we are working on other relevant intimate hygiene products and sexual wellness products under this brand to be launched in the next six to nine months.

What kind of potential do you see in these segments?

If you look at i-pill, it was a non-existent category when it was launched in the Indian market. And within five-seven years, it has become a Rs 100 crore category. India as a consumer market has a fairly large potential across these segments. It does require some patience. We have to keep investing but once relevance and affinity for the product usage are built, we see fairly large business potential.

Segments such as baby care and skincare are very competitive. What’s your game plan to edge out your peers in these segments?

We have a differentiated product line. For instance, our baby care range Little’s is organic and we ensure that the baby gets the best of care with the pure and natural ingredients. Second is communication or endorsements, when I talked about wipes and diapers, we have taken trusted names like Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan. The third part is – our pricing is very competitive. In a category like wipes and diapers, you need fairly competitive pricing. And this ensures both trials and continued repeat purchases.

We see fairly strong retention rates. For example, for Little’s, 65 to 70 percent of our consumers are repeat customers on e-commerce. These three levers are helping Lacto Calamine. While beauty is a very cluttered space, we are singularly designing products, which are meant for consumers who have either oily skin or who face skin-related problems.

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