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ďItís India, not Botswana!Ē

Issue Date - 27/10/2011
Chander Mohan Sethi is a Reckitt veteran (he has been with the company since 1984), whose love for its brands, especially Dettol, is evident every time you converse with him. He has ensured an excellent track record for Reckitt Benckiser in India, taking it to various segments on health, personal care and hygiene. His focus on power brands has ensured that brands like Dettol, Veet, Durex, Vanish, Lizol, Harpic became household names especially in urban India. Rural is still a tough nut for the company, where its high price points are proving a deterrent. In this interaction with onkar pandey, Sethi talks about the road ahead for the company in India, and strategic importance that India has in Reckittís global roll call.

B&E: Today, Dettol is your star brand in India contributing almost 50% of your revenues. It has successfully extended into soaps as well. How do you look at the brandís future ahead?
Chander Mohan Sethi (CMS): Dettol has been there for 75 years in India. Itís one of the most trusted brands in India in the health and hygiene segment. Today, it has an 86% market share of antiseptic wash liquid and a 52% share of the liquid hand wash segment. It has crossed the Rs.10 billion annual sales mark by far. But we donít give much importance to numbers; the consumer is most important.

B&E: Whatís the product penetration of the soap category in India?
CMS: Today soaps have a 96% penetration level, but if you take antiseptic soap category where we play, the penetration is roughly about 62%. If you then take Dettol antiseptic liquids, the category penetration again comes to about 70% in urban India, and 40% in rural India.

B&E: You promote Dettol as an antiseptic product, but today itís being increasingly getting popular as a body wash as well. So how do you straddle the two segments simultaneously?
CMS: There are different products in the area of hygiene that we make. For liquid handwash, we have a different product. Then we have the soap as a personal body wash. Dettol antiseptic liquid is used not just for cuts and wounds but also for surface cleaning, surface disinfection, clothes disinfection in the wash, and even in the water we use for wash. Not just that, even for shaving purposes, itís used over cuts and wounds if any. So there are different products for different usage. So the point which comes across is that for the health and hygiene habits we follow, Dettol is there at every step.

B&E: How is your rural penetration faring and how are you going about your rural strategy?
CMS: If I take Dettol soap, the total universe of outlets in the country is about 5.5 million shops including paanwalas and mom-and-pop stores. Dettol soap is distributed in 2.3 million stores. And that is between urban and rural. In rural India, we have a 40% distribution reach. Of course, no company is able to reach all the villages. So like many others, we too use the wholesale channel, where we go to more than 3000 towns. In those towns, we have distributors, retails and wholesale operators who act as suppliers to other smaller markets in their vicinity. In terms of business from rural India, itís different for different products.

B&E: How is the OTC segment faring. What is the business potential you see from it in the coming 2-3 years? What will be your global marketing strategy vis-a-vis Paras?
CMS: Currently, OTC comprises 15-20% of our business, and is an integral and important part of our overall portfolio. Itís one of our strategic growth pillars. As far as Paras goes, these are still early days, but watch the space. We paid Rs.32.6 billion to buy Paras. So itís extremely important. We are in India to grow our business, and it is an important future growth market for us. Paras products are already in Africa, Middle East region and Bangladesh. So it already has a decent global footprint. And we will help it further with our traditional strengths like distribution in those markets.


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