Eureka Forbes’ truly believes in its tagline ‘Your friend for life’ as it believes in protecting a customer’s daily life. Shashank Sinha of Eureka Forbes Limited tells us how the company is betting big on innovation to fulfil its promise to its consumers
BY SAMARPITA BANERJEE
Q] Your recent pilot lung filter test threw up some alarming findings. What are your thoughts about the test? Are you planning to carry it out in other cities?
At Eureka Forbes, our aim is to protect a consumer’s daily life - whether it’s through the water they drink, the home they stay in, or the air they breathe. We are present in categories related to water, cleaning, air and security. We have devised our entire business keeping the customer lifecycle in mind. Currently, the market for air purifiers is small and therefore, our job as category leaders is to educate people about what really happens inside one’s home. It was this thinking that led to the lung filter test which helped us monitor indoor air quality. We used Dr. Aeroguard’s special HEPA protection lung filter and the samples were tested at the FICCI Research & Analysis Centre. The reports revealed the presence of air pollutants like arsenic, lead, nickel, chromium and cadmium indoors. And that’s something we have been actively talking about now. We started off the pilot test in New Delhi and have since then carried it out in other cities including Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata. We will soon be conducting this in other metros and Tier II towns, as well.
Q] Air purifiers are still looked at as luxury items. How difficult is it to reach out to consumers and tell them otherwise?
A majority of consumers believe that once they are inside an air-conditioned (AC) room, they are safe. Our aim, therefore, is to educate people like you and me, who spend a lot of time in AC offices, travel by AC cars and sleep in AC rooms that this view is contrary to the reality. Unfortunately, the outdoor air which looks more polluted is actually less harmful than the air indoors. The air outside primarily consists of a large amount of particulate matter and our bodies are designed to take care of those. However, if I were suffering from viral, there would be a 90% chance that I would transmit it to people sharing a room with me as we would be breathing the same air inside the room, which is dangerous. The World Health Organization says indoor air pollution can be between 10-90 times more dangerous than the outdoor area. And that’s what we are trying to make people understand.
Q] What gives you an edge over the other players in the segment?
Our understanding of the Indian consumer gives us a clear edge. We have been a part of the industry for about 35 years now. From an early stage, we have been measuring the quality of water in different parts of India which has helped us come up with technologies unique to the country. We conduct the same exercise for checking air purity, where we track the pollution levels every 500m radius across the country and based on the findings, develop tailor-made solutions. Today, about 90% of air purifiers globally are manufactured in China but the humidity level and even air pollutants here are very different from China, which is why we have developed a filter to suit Indian needs. The same applies to the other categories as well.
Q] How has the brand’s communication evolved over the years?
A large part of our communication has to do with the number of consumer interactions we have. Our products are presented to customers in the form of direct selling, shelf products and in conjunction with scientific institutions. In direct sales, we have about 6,000 feet on the street and each person meets at least 40 consumers every day, out of which they have meaningful conversations with about 18-20 who are apprised of our offerings. These conversations help us achieve more than what just advertising can. We also have about 7,000 service technicians who carry home our message. They visit about five to seven homes each day. Out of our 21,000 retail outlets, roughly 1,500 have an in-shop promoter. Our people-to-people communication is our most critical way of communicating with our consumers. Other than that, we advertise too. In terms of spends, however, we might be the third or fourth highest spender in the category. However, that is because we give a lot of importance to our people-topeople communication. Advertising does play an important role, but is handled differently at Eureka Forbes. We also invest in PR and organize activities for key opinion leaders. Increasingly, Digital is playing an important role too.
Q] Eureka Forbes functions in the home surveillance and security solutions verticals as well. We have never seen the brand promote the category…
This business is more service-based, rather than product-based for us. There are a lot of products available in the market at our cost, or even at one-fourth our cost. But this business requires an intelligent integration of the solution with the consumer’s lifestyle and personal needs. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all in this business. Every home is different. Currently, we are promoting it primarily to our existing users. We have never advertised it. It’s a small business, but it is growing steadily.
Q] With e-commerce coming in, in such a big way, is directselling still as important?
Yes. Direct sales is the only way of customizing a product to suit specific requirements of the market. Penetration of all the categories in our business is low. Therefore, we still see a large part being played by direct sales, because in all four categories, we are still in the first phase, in terms of product lifecycle. We are still talking to people, educating them about the need for a solution for pure drinking water or air or cleaning or security. Direct selling will continue to play a key role at least for the next 8-10 years.
Q] What is your primary media mix?
We are driven by TV in the traditional medium. We use Print selectively but more in the edit form rather than pure-play advertising format. Digital plays a large role in lead generation and educating consumers. In terms of percentage, this year, we invested between 5560% in TV, 30% in Digital and about 10% in Print.
Q] How important is innovation for the brand?
Extremely! At an organization level, there are constant conversations around the next product in the pipeline, the next innovation. We recently launched a water purifier in Bangalore and Mumbai called the ‘Intelligence’ that you can talk to. This is the only water purifier, at least in India, where once installed, a customer can just forget about it. The product will tell you when it needs service, it will dial the number of the service center and will tell you if you have consumed enough water for the day. It will also tell you to drink more or less water, based on whether the weather is warm or cold. You can tell your Aquaguard to give you a glass or bottle of water. That’s the level of innovation we want to bring about in our products.
Q] What will be your key focus area for the next few years?
In water purifiers, we are working on expanding the market and the user base. For air purifiers, we are trying to establish the category. In cleaning, we are doing different things to increase the usage of the product, and looking at cleaning needs of different individuals. In security, at least for some time, we will cater to our existing customer base before opening it up.
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