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How Bisleri became a generic name for bottled mineral water - Part 1

Not many know that Bisleri has Italian roots. Set up by an Italian entrepreneur Signor Felice Bisleri, Bisleri originated in Italy from a spring called Angelica in a town called Nocera Umbra. The Italian mineral water company was launched in Mumbai in the year 1965 and was acquired by the Parle Group, founded by the late Jayantilal Chauhan, in 1969.

Today, the name Bisleri has become synonymous with and almost a generic name for packaged drinking water. Having a strong presence, with 125 operational plants (13 owned) and a strong distribution network of 3,000 distributors and 5,000 distribution trucks across India and neighbouring countries, Bisleri stands true to its promise of providing safe, pure and healthy mineral water to consumers for the last 50 years.

In a free-flowing conversation with Adgully, Anjana Ghosh, Director – Marketing & Business Development and Anurag Khandelwal, Creative Head, Mumbai, 82.5 Communications, take us through Bisleri’s successful marketing strategy as well as stand-out campaigns over the years. Excerpts:

From 1965 – A journey well taken

Parle got over Bisleri in 1965, thus we are celebrating our Golden Jubilee. We didn’t start out with packaged drinking water. We initially had our portfolios of flavours and Bisleri club soda. Our package drinking water came into existence only in 1969, when out then Chairman believed that this would be the future, when people would want to have good drinking water and demand will grow. Initially, we had only 3 retail outlets in India that sold packaged drinking water – 2 were in Kolkata (then Calcutta) and 1 was in Mumbai (then Bombay), which mainly catered to the foreigners who wanted bottled drinking water. That’s where the story began and today, we are in every part of the country.

Every Bisleri plant has its ground water source, which undergoes vigorous testing before the water is used.

Market response

Our initially foray included 3 retail outlets that were selling bisleri and the TG comprised mostly the foreigners. In 1969, everybody asked our then Chairman “Who will purchase water in India when you get it for free?” Our culture also says that serving people water is a pious act and should be free. Thus, there were strong reactions on who would drink bottled water.

Then, somewhere in the late 80’s more and more Indians started travelling abroad and in early the 90’s with the spread of globalization, travelling abroad became even more prevalent. With this, people became more aware of global trends and this, in turn, fuelled the need for packaged drinking water and since then we have been on a roll.

We had a clear field laid out for us as I am not aware of whether Bisleri had any competition at that time.

Key landmarks and growth

The journey has always been one of growth; we have been growing in the last 54 years. I think the biggest milestone was in 2016 when we changed the brand colour from blue to green and now that everybody is in green, that is the biggest challenge. People who are drinking bottled water aren’t really drinking water at home from their taps. Chennai and Gujarat are the largest markets for packaged drinking water.

The packaged water industry is around Rs 14,000 crore with a surfeit of local brands. In the branded category, we have a share of around 65 per cent. We want to grow our share to at least 80-90 per cent of the category. We have been growing at around 25 per cent year-on-year. Going forward, we want to speed up our growth and have set a target of 30-45 per cent over the next 5 years.

Classically, urban is our biggest market, while rural constitutes around 20 per cent. If you go to any village now, you will find bottled water. There is not a single village where you will not find bottled water – whether it is branded or unbranded. Even people in rural areas have started buying bottled water while travelling.

In FY2019, our growth was around 23 per cent, and we are going to double up our growth projections.

Bisleri is exported to Dubai, Bangladesh, with franchises globally. We will be exporting Vedica, our natural mineral water brand, very soon.

Factors driving growth

 

There are several factors that are fuelling growth in the packaged drinking water industry. This is primarily led by more and more people moving towards convenience. With people becoming more conscious about the quality of water that they drink and health concerns, it’s been an evolution – from drinking tap water to filtered water and then moving to consuming bottled water – this is what is driving consumer towards bottled water.

The promise of goodness comes in multiple sizes that are just right for various occasions. Bisleri 250 ml and Rockstar 300 ml are perfect companions for party, lunch boxes and entertaining guests. Bisleri 500 ml bottle is the perfect choice when you don’t want to share. Bisleri 1 ltr and 2 ltr bottles keep you and your family going for the day and quenches thirst on the go. Easy to pour 5 ltr jar is your trusted partner on weekend getaways, while our classic Bisleri 20 ltr jar ensures that you have pure, safe and healthy drinking water available at home all the time.

Focus on Club Soda, Vedica, Pinacolada

As I said, Vedica is our natural mineral water brand, which means the source itself is pure and you don’t have to purify the water, it is the purest form of water that is not contaminated. We have a natural mineral water source in Uttaranchal.

It’s more about logistics and the process in which it goes through the natural conditions and then brought into the market. The colour of the bottle as well as the packaging are different. We did special communication for Vedica in 2013. Vedica is available only in hotels and 5-Star restaurants as well as retail in the A-Class category.

Vedica and Club Soda are big portfolio for us. As far as the soft drinks are concerned, we had launched 4 flavours two years back, which were sugary beverages. In keeping with the times, we are making the drinks healthy by adding fruit juices in them. We have launched Fonzo and we will continue with it till it stabilises and reaches a new market. More flavours are in the pipeline, which we will be launching this year or next year.

Tackling counterfeits

That’s a fact that the consumer may say Bisleri but not reflect to see  whether they are picking up the right bottle or not, that’s where the awareness program we are working on to just tell the consumer to look before they purchase a bottle of water, not every brand  is Bisleri. We feel the spurious brands or look alike brands are much stronger in the market where we are and basically we blame ourselves because the brand is so strong and people want Bisleri, it’s always in high demand and if we don’t reach on time it will be someone else giving you the option and that’s where the spurious brands or the look alike brands come in picture. And if you are talking about refilling duplication, that doesn’t really happen and that’s the wrong myth that consumers have that somebody will open the bottle and fill it. There may some changes made on the bottle appearance just to confuse the consumers.

Tomorrow: Bisleri’s award-winning advertising strategy

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