The water-plus effect

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 28, 2012 19:41 hrs

It is said that the genius of marketing lies not in highlighting the solution, but in hyping the problem enough to make the solution indispensable. Not surprising then that Eureka Forbes, the makers of water purifier brand Aquaguard chose Aamir Khan’s television show Satyamev Jayate that highlighted issues such as water shortage and impurity in one of its episodes, to launch their new brand positioning.

The brand that fashions itself as ‘paani ka doctor’ has extended itself to the ‘GROUVTH’ platform. Visually, it is a fairly literal interpretation, pushing the point of Aquaguard aiding the growth of your children. But, for the brand, it is an acronym representing the brand message: Global (G), Reverse Osmosis (RO), Ultra Violet (UV) and Taste Heightener (TH). And this is only the beginning in a series of changes and new launches that will be rolled out over the next few months, says Marzin Shroff, CEO - direct sales and senior VP - marketing, Eureka Forbes.

Aquaguard is aiming at strengthening its presence globally and nationally, especially in the premium water purifiers segment in India. The brand already operates in the higher end of the price band (Rs 8,000-19,000). It will soon be launching a first of its kind designer series (a special emphasis on aesthetics of the product) of water purifiers in India to cater to the lifestyle and luxury needs of people. The move is also in part necessitated by the fact that almost 20 per cent of the company’s sales come through buybacks or upgrades.

“The company is working on the water-plus concept. Traditionally water purifiers focus on just giving clean water. We need to now work on the extras that can be given along with like taste or say controlled temperature of the water,” says Shroff.

This shift can be attributed to saturation with regard to the technologies available like RO and UV that have found expression in almost every player’s portfolio or the steadily intensifying competition. Several companies have entered the market over the past five years. The latest entrants being the likes of Luminous, Panasonic and Godrej Appliances, in a market crowded by names like Eureka Forbes, Kent, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Whirlpool and LG. Each of these has a play in the Rs 10,000-plus RO purifier segment, with LG defining the far end of the spectrum with a price tag of Rs 40,000, necessitating Aquaguard’s initiatives if it wishes to retain its market leader position. As per the company, it currently holds a market share of 52 per cent in water purifier market across segments (see table).

The company has the advantage of experience on their side, says Shroff. “In the water purifier space there can be no one-size-fits all kind of solution. The solution (that is the product recommended) changes based on the water quality of the region,” says he. He also adds that Eureka Forbes has mapped out close to 85 per cent of the pin codes in the country and uses this database to provide customised solutions to its consumers.

But how well can this ‘understanding of the market’ serve Eureka Forbes? With an overall penetration rate of 18 per cent, the water purifiers segment presents a significant opportunity and the competition is amplifying its efforts to grab more than just a foothold of the market. One of the first fallouts is the noise around RO purifiers. “Most water purifiers advertise their RO variants today. Being the highest priced variants in any portfolio, it is a natural choice to advertise these and thereby popularising the variant,” says Harish Bijoor, a brand consultant. And in some way nullifying the ‘expertise’ of Eureka Forbes.

Then there is the sales channel to consider. Aquaguard is unique as compared to its peers in that it is sold only through direct marketing that is door-to-door sales, relying on an agent strength of 8,000. However, experts say that with changing times it is getting more difficult for the company to open doors quite literally. Couple that with the shelf space in the market getting crowded with other brands, and Eureka felt the need to extend itself to another channel.

The company launched a retail brand, Aquasure around 2008, instead of extending Aquaguard to the retail format. Aquasure has helped the company tackle problems at multiple levels – availability in retail format (without losing the exclusivity of Aquaguard and ensuring its continued push through direct marketing) and an entry in the non- electrical (water purifier cum storage) segment, popularised by players like Tata Swach and HUL (Pureit) through their sub-Rs 1,000 price tags.

Eureka Forbes has however maintained the Aquasure pricing in excess of Rs 2,400, going up to Rs 14,000. As per analysts, there is the image of Aquaguard to be wary of for sure before depressing the price tag any further, but there are larger considerations. Eureka Forbes is a part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, whereas Tata Swach is a part of the Tata Group. Owing to the overlapping business interests of the promoters, it is unlikely that Aquasure will attempt to cannibalise the sales of Tata Swach. Supporting each other through a play at different price points is a more likely scenario and being partners, rather than opponents.

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