The Rs 1,000-crore per year premium soap market is set to get more competition from state-owned Karnataka Soaps & Detergents Ltd (KS&DL), which launched Mysore Sandal Millennium, priced at Rs 720 per 150g piece.
KS&DL, known for its pure sandalwood oil-based soaps, is targeting the ultra luxury category segment. Positioned as a 'super premium' soap, it will compete with some international brands imported and sold in India like Hermes, Olay and soaps from Amway, sold in the range of Rs 750 to Rs 2,500.
"Mysore Sandal Millennium is by far the most expensive soap manufactured and sold in India. It is 10-12 times more than the most expensive soap available in India," said Shivananda Naik, chairman, KS&DL.
Presently, the most expensive soap brand in India is Mysore Sandal Classic, priced at Rs 75. Next to it is Mysore Sandal Gold, for Rs 60. With the launch of Millennium, KS&DL is the only company to make premium and super-premium toilet soaps in the country. The nearest competition to it is Hindustan Unilever's Dove, priced below it.
The Millennium is produced from exclusive vegetable oils mixed with special conditioners, moisturisers, Vitamin-E, Jojoba-Mimosa and pure sandalwood oil, says the company, which claims various positive attributes for each of these compounds.
"We have not used any animal substance in this product and it is made of pure vegetable base," said V S Venkatesh Gowda, deputy general manager, R&D, extolling it as a perfect solution for a variety of ailments and skin types. He said two years of research went into developing the soap and the cost of manufacture was pegged at Rs 7-8 lakh per tonne. The soap was also tested for dermatological studies in India and Paris.
KS&DL has drawn up a multi-pronged strategy for distribution in India and abroad. it is to be marketed through five-star hotels, hypermalls, super bazaars and other major stores. It is also planning to market through government offices and lifestyle stores, Naik said.
The company is also planning to export the soap to the UK, US, Malaysia and West Asia, among others, where there is a demand for super premium soaps. "We have test marketed the Millennium soap in all these countries already and received very good response from buyers," said H M Nataraj, general manager, finance.
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Presently, the super premium category soap market is worth Rs 30 crore in India and is mainly dominated by imported brands. KS&DL is aiming at sales of Rs 5 crore during the next financial year, he said.
For those who cannot afford to buy this soap in India, the company is planning to launch a 30g pack priced at Rs 125. The 150g soap comes with a holder of acrylic. For second-time buyers, the company is planning refill packs at lower prices, Nataraj said. A special packaging has also been designed, stretch-wrapped in polyfilm to retain the fragrance and visibility, packed in a special carton with a self-locking flip lid at the top.