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“The pandemic helped us penetrate new channels like chemists, milk booths, F&V stores”

According to the Trade Promotion Council of India, the packaged drinking water bottle market in India was valued at $24 billion in 2019, and was expected to reach $60 billion by the end of 2023. However, this segment – 80% of which is unorganised – could see a de-growth of over 30% due to the pandemic, experts say. While there are national brands who dominate this segment, there are equally many small brands from the unorganised sector who are strongly present in the regional markets and smaller towns.

With a legacy of over 51 years, Bisleri is one of the most trusted brands in India. And today, it has become a generic name when you think or associate with water. The brand believes in strong commitment towards quality and promises safe, pure and healthy mineral water to all its consumers across several markets in the country. Bisleri also follows a stringent method of a 10-step purification process and 114 quality tests to ensure purity in every sip. A symbol of goodness, trust, and purity, Bisleri has been a household name for decades. Bisleri is also present in the beverages segment and has several interesting flavours to match the palate of the Indian audiences.

Recently, they also forayed into the personal hygiene sector with Bisleri Hand Purifiers that offer a range of purifying gels and sprays with an additional touch of personal care.

The pandemic disrupted the supply chain, but Bisleri ensured that all their 150 production facilities across the country were operational from Day 1 and were able to dispatch their products through their strong network of 4,500 distributors. Sufficient precautions and safety guidelines were followed by the company on the production and packaging front at the production centres. To fight fake and counterfeit Bisleri brands in the market the company also created a new campaign to educate, raise awareness and highlighted the key differences between the original and fake Bisleri bottled water through their campaign ‘Samajhdaar Bisleri Peete Hai’.

In a freewheeling conversation with Adgully in our new column – MARKETING MINDSAnjana Ghosh, Director – Marketing and Business Development, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd, gives an indepth insight into Brand Bisleri’s growth story, how they have managed the logistics that have been disrupted due to the pandemic, the campaign strategy and much more.

The second wave has again disrupted the nation. How is Bisleri planning to reach the last mile and ensure that the brand is available within arm’s reach? What are the challenges the brand is facing during these times?

The first wave of COVID came as a disruptor for many brands, but it also prepared us in many ways. So, it can be said that compared to last year, we are better prepared because of the experiences we have gained and the processes we have in place. At Bisleri, we strive to ensure that we can supply the purest and the safest drinking water to our consumers even in difficult times because we understand that water is the most essential consumables for keeping oneself healthy.

The current lockdowns in various areas and safety concerns have restricted consumer movement. This has led to a shift in consumer behaviour, where they first reach out to online portals to shop even for essential products. Hence, we launched Bisleri@Doorstep last year. Bisleri@Doorstep, our online portal, ensures that our customers have access to safe and healthy mineral water and our other SKUs. This portal enables them to place their order with a few clicks and get prompt delivery with utmost safety.

The safety of our employees is also a key concern for us. While our employees are working from home now, we had installed ozone tunnels to disinfect our employees in our facilities apart from other standard safety protocols. We have taken additional COVID insurance for our employees and housed staff closer to the plant to prevent exposure.

How have you strengthened your supply chain and distribution? Have you explored any new channels to reach the end consumer?

During the pandemic, it is important to honour the trust consumers have reposed on us by ensuring uninterrupted supplies of mineral water. It is critical to be well hydrated to strengthen immunity, especially when consumers are in doubt about the quality of water at home and when filters aren’t at service.

We have a well distributed supply chain. We have sustained production at all our 150 plants across the country from Day 1 and all of our 4,500 distributors were active. Our production and packaging are completely contactless and we have put in additional safety procedures at our facilities, including ozone tunnels for disinfecting employees. It is the time that is testing the resilience of our supply chain, distribution network and our ability to adapt and respond dynamically to situations that were evolving almost by the day. We have collaborated with all stakeholders – the government, Municipal bodies, Police – and I thank all these people for their great support to keep the operations running. In fact, we also contributed Bisleri free of cost to the COVID warriors across the country.

It was critical to understand operating issues at ground level, sense changes in consumer behaviour, and refine the approach. There was a spike in home consumption during the early phases, and we used 5 and 10 litre jars which are easy to carry. The pandemic helped us penetrate new channels like Chemists, Milk booths, and F&V stores, as these are the only stores allowed to be open.

For consumer’s convenience from home, Bisleri@Doorstep was launched in April 2020, where consumers can easily access a range of Bisleri products. Our e-commerce initiative is an extension of our commitment to offer convenience at door step to the consumers.

We have tied up with online delivery partners to scale up servicing across top 40 cities and ensure consumers have easy access to the full range of products from Bisleri. In many cases, these partners have helped us improve our service levels significantly. To ensure safe delivery, the products is delivered by our distributors conforming to all safety measures, accepting both online and COD payments. In some cities we have also tied up with a logistics partner to ensure our e-commerce deliveries happens in 3 hours, reducing the time from 24 hours.

We have developed a cost effective hyperlocal model, which we call as the Mohalla Distribution model, again leveraging synergies with trade partners.

As we speak, we are in the process of a transformation of our route to market, factoring in all the learnings of the pandemic and also factoring in the future challenges.

With offices shut and people still working from home, how has the business been impacted when it comes to institutional selling? Have you seen any major spike in home consumption?

With the COVID related restrictions, Corporates, Hospitality, Tourism & Travel and Recreation sectors are impacted. The on-premise or out of home consumption for our industry is likely to remain subdued.

However, there is an upsurge in the home consumption demand like last year. There is an increased affinity for online shopping even for essential products. The growth of e-commerce in fact, has been one of few positive stories of this period.

Our e-commerce platform is an extension of our commitment to offer convenience to the consumers. Bisleri@Doorstep is turning out to be a big hit with the consumers. The digital campaign, ‘Ab Ghar Ayegi Bisleri’, was very well received as well on social media platforms. We advise people to stay in the safety of their homes while we deliver full range of Bisleri products at the doorstep.

What has been your communication strategy during the pandemic? How has the new advertising campaign using the camel as the metaphor worked for the brand?

We are moving towards Marketing Automation and have finalised a partner who will help us integrate consumer data from various touchpoints into one central data platform. This platform will create multiple consumer profiles and enable us to target consumers through personalised communication through the media of their preference.

We had done two rounds of advertising in mainstream media during April and May, and the response from consumers was very reassuring for the Bisleri@Doorstep campaign. Because every brand was trying to reach the consumer online and digital was the preferred medium, there was fatigue as the exposure to digital was extremely high. There was a lot of bad news around owing to the pandemic; we thought it was best to reach consumers via humour-laced communication, which was at the core of our campaign in September – ‘Ab Ghar Ayegi Bisleri - Tension free’.

We created five animated digital films, which illustrate the challenges and issues faced by the consumers. Right from the pain associated with long queues at the stores, maintenance of water filters, monsoon illnesses, depiction of our safety standards, the films are engaging and straightforward.

With our most recent ‘Samajhdaar Bisleri Peete Hai’ campaign, we aimed at making our consumers vigilant by raising awareness about the difference between original Bisleri and counterfeit alternatives in the market. We also wanted to reinforce consumers’ trust by showcasing the quality of stringent hygiene protocols followed by Bisleri. This was done to enable them to choose Bisleri and not just settle for any other brand.

As I mentioned earlier, the response from e-commerce has been really encouraging, and we plan to take it a notch higher this year. We have invested in understanding our consumers better, making the shopping experience smoother, strengthening our support infrastructure and our back-end so that timely deliveries take place and consumers have a seamless shopping experience. We are also investing in making our CRM structure more agile, responsive and reducing the TAT for query handling and order processing and fulfilment.

Our marketing campaigns should become smarter – spends efficiencies should increase, bringing down the cost of consumer Acquisition & Retention. Understanding the consumer and their preferences are fundamental to enable this. In this new Marketing Automation platform, the data is being hosted & backed up on Google Big Query.

There are spurious and fake brands identical to Bisleri floating in the market. What steps has the brand taken to safeguard the brand Bisleri and fight the spurious brands?

There are many spurious products in the market, which imitate the colour, label, logo, design, etc. These are deceptive and are clear infringements on our trademark. We do regular raids and legal actions on these counterfeits.

We want to ensure consumers choose the genuine Bisleri bottle, the things they should look for to be 100% sure. Apart from a digital campaign, ‘Fake Ko Fenk Do’, we have also incorporated measures like genuine mark stickers on our products, which is a QR code to validate.

Besides, we have the Bisleri@Doorstep direct-to-home initiative through our own online portal to provide Bisleri direct deliveries to homes.

What has been the media strategy for the brand this season? How have you leveraged digital as a medium to address the younger audience?

Bisleri has been a symbol of trust and purity over 51 years and our approach is fundamentally centered around a 5-point agenda:

  1. Ensure supply networks are fully active
  2. Reach consumers directly - Bisleri@ Doorstep
  3. Connect with humour laced communication
  4. Product innovations
  5. Strengthen digital capabilities
  6. Ensure networks are fully active

We have ensured production is sustained at all 150 plants and the network of 4,500 distributors across the country are fully active. Our production and packaging are completely contactless and we have put in additional safety procedures like ozone tunnels for disinfecting employees.

Ensuring safety of employees is a key concern. Apart from regular medical insurance, we have provided additional COVID insurance and also in some cases even house staff closer to the plant to reduce exposure.

Processes are in place to ensure safety of delivery staff, trade and consumers - like sanitizing vehicles after every trip & protective gear for delivery staff.

  1. Reach consumers directly - Bisleri @Doorstep

It is critical to understand operating issues on ground, sense changes in consumer behavior and refine the approach. We have penetrated new channels like Chemists, Milk booths and Vegetable stores – these are the only stores allowed to be open through the day in many towns.

There is a spike in home consumption during this period. Consumers are constrained by restrictions and limited operating hours. There is an increased affinity for online shopping now, even for essential products.

Our e-commerce platform is an extension of our commitment to offer convenience to consumers. Bisleri@Doorstep is turning out to be a big hit. The products are delivered by our distributors conforming to all safety measures. We have also tied up with online delivery partners to scale up servicing across top 40 cities. In many cases these partners helped us improve our service levels significantly.

The digital campaign, ‘Ab Ghar Ayegi Bisleri’, was very well received as well on social media platforms. We advise people to stay in the safety of their homes while we deliver full range of Bisleri products at the doorstep.

  1. Connecting with humour laced communication

There’s too much of negativity in the air and we have chosen subtle humour as our route to differentiate brand communication in this clutter.

Bisleri relates to the difficulties consumers pass through these difficult times. Our digital campaign, ‘Ab Ghar Ayegi Bisleri - Tension free’, was an animated series with camels as protagonists sharing concerns in the COVID times – pain of long queues at the stores, poor maintenance of water filters, monsoon illnesses, and reassurance of Bisleri’s safety standards, etc. The films were simple yet engaging.

We spoke about the new campaign Bisleri 2.0, which underscores the reason why ‘Samajdhaar Bisleri Peete Hain’. It kicked off from April 15. The campaign will run through this summer across media platforms.

  1. Product Innovations

Consumer preferences are evolving, and Bisleri has introduced Fizzy Fruit Drinks as a healthier option. We have launched 3 brands – Fonzo, Limonata and Spyci in different price points of Rs 10, Rs 20 and Rs 40.

We have also launched “Bisleri Hand Purifiers” in 3 variants: Hello Sunshine, By the Bay, and Lovely with moisturisers, attractive packaging and lingering fragrances.

  1. Strengthen digital capabilities

The sales force automation and the data analytics helped us immensely in enabling our market servicing during this difficult period. Now we are integrating consumer data from various touchpoints into one central platform for marketing automation. This platform will create various consumer profiles and enable us to target them with personalised communication, through the media of their preference. This new Marketing Automation platform, the data is being hosted and backed up on Google Big Query.

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