Ahead of Independence Day, Campaign India speaks with Indian brands that set up operations in the country pre-independence and continue to dominate their space to understand how they have evolved. Read on to understand how these brands aim to stay relevant for the next 75 years...
Here's an excerpt of our chat with Mohit Burman, vice chairperson, Dabur India:
The biggest advantage of being an Indian brand in the Indian market? Does it help gain consumers’ trust?
While Indian consumers have preferred brands that meet their expectations of quality and trust, consumption habits have undergone distinct changes in the post-pandemic world. On one hand, the average Indian consumer is today more cautious about his/her spends, on the other hand, they desire to buy brands and products which are rooted in Indian ethos, and are good for the society and the environment. The Swadeshi culture has gathered steam with the Indian consumer increasingly preferring made-in-India products.
In the Indian FMCG market, Indian brands have been leaders in Indian categories like hair oils, Chyawanprash health supplements, etc, whereas the international brands have been leading in international categories like shampoo, toothpaste etc. However, packaged fruit juices are the only foreign category where the Indian brand Real has been, by far, the market leader.
Your biggest competitors when you began – do they exist now?
Dabur was one of the first companies to launch branded ayurvedic medicines in India, and we did not have any competition in the category. We have since transformed from an ayurvedic medicines maker to a transnational FMCG company with a range of products based on ayurveda and natural ingredients.
Over the years, we have seen several companies launching ayurveda-based FMCG products. The entry of newer players in this category has helped grow the market size, and bring in new consumers.
Toughest marketing decision the company took in the last 75 years?
There have been several. One of the toughest decisions taken by the Burman family at a corporate level was the decision to divorce ownership from management. It was a business decision and not so much a marketing decision. The family was among the first business families in India to decide to move away from active day-to-day management of the business and hand over the reins of the company to a professional team.
For the Burman family, the organisation is paramount. The family realised that the promoters should provide a long-term vision to the company and that professionals should manage the show efficiently. So, the strategic thrust comes from the promoters. That was when we decided to hand over the management control to the professionals, and the family took non-executive roles on the board.
I feel the promoter family, once they have taken the decision to let a professional team manage day-to-day operations should step aside and let the team manage the show. However, they should be available to give broad directions or for any help required but should stay away from day-to-day management. It was this decision on part of the promoter family and the fact that they stood by their decision, that has helped Dabur soar to greater heights.
Today, none of the new generation Burman family members get an entry into Dabur India. They are, in fact, encouraged to set up independent ventures and create enterprises the size of Dabur or larger.
We do, from time to time, give suggestions to the professional team, but the final decision on whether to implement that suggestion or not rests with the professional management.
One major inflexion point, I would say, was the founding family’s decision to expand the scope of Dabur beyond ayurvedic medicines and enter the FMCG industry, starting with Dabur Amla Hair Oil. Dabur Amla Hair Oil went on to become a big brand and established Dabur as a trusted name in the FMCG industry. From the product and marketing point of view, the launch of Dabur Red Paste and Real fruit juices, entry into home care with the acquisition of Balsara and our foray into mainstream skin care with the acquisition of Fem were the other big events in Dabur’s history.
Another major turning point in the journey called Dabur came when the company decided to venture overseas around 2002. It was decided that we would set up a local supply chain rather than exporting products from India. As a result, it was decided to set up manufacturing bases abroad and make products catering for the tastes and aspirations of the local audience and not necessarily the diaspora. Today, our overseas business contributes to 27% of our total turnover.
How do you aim to keep the company relevant for the next 75 years?
Innovation has only gathered pace for us post-pandemic. We have invested in research and have been developing high-quality products to retain our leadership position in the market. Going forward, we will continue to invest in research that meet the ever-changing needs of our consumers. Dabur has moved several steps ahead on the road to contemporise ayurveda to make it relevant for modern-day consumers, and we will continue on this journey.
Your favourite brand campaign from your company from the last 75 years?
There have been many campaigns during this period that are still part of popular advertising folklore. The ‘Hajmola Sir’ campaign for Hajmola, the ‘Raju & Masterji’ campaign for Lal Dant Manjan, and all the Dabur Amla hair oil campaigns featuring stars like Jaya Pradha, Sridevi, Karishma Kapoor etc have been all-time favourites of mine. In the recent years, I thoroughly loved the Vatika ‘Brave and Beautiful’ campaign that sought to salute the fighting spirit of cancer survivors.
(This article first appeared in a special print issue published by Campaign India for Independence Day.)
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