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Fragrance of the Gods

BY Anjana Naskar

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Q] With Zed Black available in every part of India, what is the market share that you enjoy?
In India, we currently enjoy around 20% of the organized market share. Fortunately, we are among the top five brands in almost every state in the country. Despite being based out of Indore, which is located almost at the centre of the country, we have a presence in every nook and corner, including Tamil Nadu and West Bengal where we are the third largest brand. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, we are number three in our category, and our aim is to have our products available in every part of the country. We have worked tirelessly to achieve this goal.

Furthermore, we export our products to over 40 countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, the Bahamas, and Suriname, to name a few.

Q] Can you tell us about the global market for incense sticks, and how your company’s products are performing abroad? Are there any specific products that are particularly popular among consumers outside India?
We export both candles and scented candles, but our strength lies in agarbatti. Agarbatti is exported to a diverse range of users including Indians, Americans, Europeans, and the Spanish people. The market for agarbatti is especially significant in South America, where people frequently use it for religious purposes. Brazil is a large consumer of agarbatti, and products like anti-stress agarbatti are particularly popular. Unlike in India, where people typically light agarbatti to pray, South Americans often use the anti-stress ones for therapeutic effects. Anti-stress, money attracting, and customer attracting incense sticks are some examples of products that work well in the South American market.

Q] Zed Black partnered with the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Delhi Capitals as the Official Prayer Partner for the season that just concluded. What was the objective behind the alliance with a sporting event like the IPL? How relevant is it for a brand like yours?
We can all agree that there are two religions in this country, cricket and Bollywood. While Bollywood is restricted to language, cricket is a religion that crosses the language barrier. This is why Dhoni has been our brand ambassador for a very long time. We have always received a good response while advertising during cricket matches as it appeals to the masses.

IPL is the hottest property in cricket, and these two months when the weather is hot in most parts of the country, families tend to stay at home in the evenings, and everyone watches cricket. Especially this year, with Jio Cinema offering it for free. So, we thought that aligning with an IPL team would yield high viewership. We did a lot of strategic work with Delhi Capitals because Delhi covers a large market and is well-connected with half the country. We are fortunate to connect with Delhi Capitals as their prayer partner, and our logo is well-placed on their jersey. We are the first incense sticks brand to partner with an IPL team.

Q] As an incense stick brand, how do you plan to attract young and new-age consumers, and expand into urban markets where traditional practices may not be as prevalent?
I don’t agree that young people don’t go to temples. They do believe in God, and have their own prayers. Maybe college students have other things on their minds, like studying or relationships, but they still have their own reasons to pray. India has a large population of young people and at some point in their lives, they tend to become more spiritual and believe in God. For example, I have now started going to the temple every Monday.

I have also noticed that belief in God and spirituality is increasing among people, as seen by the rising number of temple-goers. Even celebrities like Virat Kohli, who initially said he is not a ‘puja guy,’ have started visiting temples and have had great success in their careers. So, I believe that the trend of people turning towards spirituality and God is only growing stronger.

Q] How much do the online channels contribute to your overall sales?
It’s only 1% in a year or two for us. Even for the overall incense category, online sales are still quite low, mostly because the courier cost is higher than the product cost.

Q] What inspired MDPH to expand its product range to include F&B and confectionery, and what is the company’s strategy for establishing these products in the market?
Food is a big category with no limit. Having access to the FMCG distributors and retailers, we thought we could enter the food and confectionery market, and utilize our existing sales channels. This was one reason for getting into these categories. We wanted to try different products and see how they do and are now getting very good response, especially with confectionery. It’s doing well in the market with our existing channels.

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