Shubhangi Mehta
May 02, 2013

‘We never believed in biting more than we could chew’

Q&A with Piruz Khambatta, chairman and managing director, Rasna, on the brand’s foray into RTD beverages with Ju-C

‘We never believed in biting more than we could chew’

Tell us more about the foray into ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages with Ju-C.

Rasna has come a long way in the soft beverage category ever since it was started several decades ago. Not only has the company understood the requirements of the Indian consumer, it has, at all times made efforts to offer the best possible value proposition in keeping with the Indian mindset of ‘value for money’.

Rasna Ju-C is a brand new and innovative addition to our existing portfolio and is sure to fill need gaps of consumers, basis their tastes and preferences. The introduction of the new category (RTDs / ‘nectars’) signifies our acknowledgement that we have developed an innovative product and believe in offering the best products to our customers, products that are enriched with natural taste, more nutritional value and a variety of flavours albeit at very competitive prices.

Being in the market since 1980’s, how has Rasna seen the market evolve?

Rasna was launched in the early 80’s.We became national through our television advertisement around 1985. The 80’s were very different, right from the films to the product. Since we are a home grown company, unlike other companies, everything was Indian. From the beginning we have had our own distribution system, our own R&D, our own marketing, etc. We have in fact redefined the way kids marketing happens. We never believed in biting more than we could chew. Hence our focus was always on the concentrate market then. We now hold the largest portfolio of powdered concentrates in the world.

We believe that we need to outgrow ourself. So, if I’ve sold powder for 30 years, it does not mean I will keep on selling powder for another 30 years; we believe in growing and expanding. The expansion though happens in terms of getting into beverages or nectars, maybe even a drink for winters, but not something that Rasna cannot associate itself with (like pickles or noodles).

How has the marketing strategy for Rasna changed since the 80’s? Who are your media and creative agencies today?

When it comes to the powder portfolio, the marketing has changed immensely over a period of time. But I believe that our basic ethos remains the same. If you see the latest campaign featuring my daughter (Avan), it still says ‘I love you Rasna’, but the set up is very modern and apt for today’s time.

For our Fruit Plus which is an energy drink, we have Virendra Sehwag, who fits into the picture of endorsing an energy drink.

I believe that India has changed a lot since 80’s and we need to match up to the change. This is just not for Rasna, but for any old brand to survive, one needs to move at a speed with which the consumer is changing. In fact, in the last 30 years our logo has been changed some seven or eight times.

Talking of the nectar category, our target audience is completely different as we wanted a market share separate from Rasna (powder concentrate’s). For this, we have invested in a complete new set up, with a different marketing manager, product manager, CEO, GM and a separate agency. In fact we want Rasna Ju-C to compete with Rasna Fruit Plus. So, we are working on different strategies for both.

There are few things at Rasna that I look into myself - firstly, the product itself. I taste the product myself before the launch. Second is the advertisement: I like to control the way my ads look. Thirdly, I like sitting trough consumer research myself.

For Ju-C advertising, we have recently started working with Contract Advertising, about four months back. For regular Rasna work we work with Curry Nation. For Squash, we work with Cut The Crap.

Our media agency is RK Swamy Hansa. We handle the digital bit ourselves as we aren’t very big on digital as of now. Our PR work is handled by Imprimis. For research, we work with IMRB and Whiteline.

What are your views on competition? What is the present market share for Rasna?

We are generic to our category. We have always redefined the category. We were the first ones to add 21 vitamins and minerals in the powdered Rasna; competition followed. We lead not because we have been in the market for 30 years but because we are able to redefine thought leadership.
In the overall powder concentrate market, we hold a market share of almost 80 percent.

Which regions or States offer maximum sales for Rasna?

The highest growth is coming from the North Indian States. In terms of sales, the top States are Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

What is the overall advertising spend for Rasna, how has it changed over the years?

It’s around Rs 35 crores. We have reduced our ad spending now and the simple reason being that television is not as effective as it used to be and money is now going into modern trade. Our biggest focus now is distribution, ensuring that we reach out to more outlets.

What is the share of Rasna exports in the overall Rasna revenues? And which countries are you already present in? Any plans of expanding your export footprint or acquisition?

Around 20 percent (share of export). We are already present in 40 countries; these would be more of developing economies for the simple reason that powder concentrates are more in demand there.

We are expanding in Africa. No plans of acquisitions though.

What are your marketing plans when it comes to international market?

Exports can never be done if we are in a commodity mode. When we talk about food products, they are designed for a country, just like it is in the case of pizza or a burger. The product needs to be made,designed and marketed according to the taste of the country. Hence there is a different product, packaging and marketing strategy for each market.

Also see: Rasna TVC

Campaign India

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