Akanksha Nagar, Financial Express
September 25, 2023
Adding to the fizz in the energy drink market, NourishCo, a division of Tata Consumer Products (TCP), has unveiled Say Never — a caffeine-based energy drink priced at Rs 10 for a 200 ml cup — in two variants of red (berries) and blue (tropical flavours). In its initial phase of launch, the brand will be available largely through general trade outlets in Karnataka and some key markets of the north, including Delhi, NCR, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Vikram Grover, MD, NourishCo Beverages, TCP, says, “With Say Never we are celebrating the heroes who carve their own path.”
As a functional beverage, the energy drinks segment has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years to stand at Rs 3,500 crore in 2022. Experts reckon the market will touch Rs 10,000 crore by 2027. Red Bull is the category leader with a 61% market share of the market.
PepsiCo’s debut of Sting a few years ago at an inviting Rs 50 for 250 ml (as opposed to Red Bull’s Rs 125 for 250 ml can) had shaken up the category. With a 7% market share Sting has surpassed PepsiCo’s older products like Mountain Dew to become the company’s fastest-growing brand. Charged by Thums Up kept up the buzz for Coca-Cola during the 2023 edition of the Indian Premier League on Star Sports. Grover says Say Never will stand out for two reasons — the attractive price point and the cup delivery format, which the company has used with Gluco+. “The rapid growth in this energy segment in the recent past has come on the back of price disruption, and we feel that we can take that disruption forward,” he adds.
As energy drinks still operate in a niche segment with a premium play, an affordable price point can be a game-changer, say experts. “Affordability is a significant driver in India, especially for pre-teens, teens and college students,” says Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight. For many years energy drinks were treated as a niche premium opportunity, but the availability of lower price options has opened up the mass market as demonstrated by PepsiCo’s Sting in PET bottles with a much lower price point.
While the cola giants have an obvious advantage in terms of shelf space accessibility, given the market’s trajectory even smaller players stand a good chance to create a space for themselves. “Clarity in positioning, techniques to make the brand stand out, and ensuring availability with strong distribution and replenishment is imperative to get ahead,” Dutta suggests.
TCP plays in the energy space with Tata Gluco+, a glucose-based energy drink targeting a young consumer set; for Say Never the target is the youth between the ages of 18 and 35.
Besides pricing, what will be make or break is marketing muscle and a differentiated appeal, says Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting. “Say Never can position itself as a party-drink — akin to how Red Bull is equated with active lifestyles. There are enough opportunities to create nuanced differences in attributes, functional benefits and most of all, emotional benefits.”
NourishCo contributes 4% to the TCP overall business and in Q1 of FY23, its recorded a strong revenue growth of 60%. TCP’s flagship drink Tata Gluco+ registered a growth of 61% in the same period.
(Published in Financial Express)
Manu Balachandran, Forbes India
July 28, 2023
Revant Himatsingka doesn’t despise junk food.
The 31-year-old firmly believes that those who consume it also know the perils and long-term risks associated with it. From obesity to heart disease and diabetes, junk food is often counted as a more serious threat to life than even smoking according to some studies. “Most people who consume Coke and cigarettes know they are bad for you and consume them,” Himatsingka says.
Himatsingka, however, has a problem with junk food masquerading as healthy. That’s why over the past few months he has been busy calling out its makers, and in the process taking on some of the world’s biggest FMCG behemoths.
Since April this year, Himatsingka, through his social media profile, Foodpharmer, claims to have taken on almost all the FMCG companies in India, whose products he has reviewed, and in the process has been swamped with lawsuits. Himatsingka has a following of half a million followers on Instagram.
“Food is probably 60-70 percent of what shapes our health,” Himatsingka told Forbes India over a telephone call. “And what is shaping our food today is packaged food, which is very different from what our grandparents grew up eating. Most packaged food is just selling junk and they’re marketing it as healthy. This happens even more in relatively poorer countries.”
Himatsingka began his war against fake claims with a video about Bournvita, made by confectionary maker Mondelez. That video, critiquing the children’s drink for its excessive use of sugar, was shared across social media and on WhatsApp. Himatsingka poked fun at Bournvita’s tagline Tayyari Jeet Ki (preparing for victory), instead suggesting that Bournvita was preparing children for diabetes.
He listed out all the ingredients in Bournvita, debunked claims that the drink is healthy, and remarked that half of a package of Bournvita is sugar, and [it] even contains cancer-causing ingredients.
Trouble soon followed. Mondelez sent Himatsingka a legal notice asking him to take down the video within 24 hours. Coincidentally, the notice came to him on the last day of his notice period at McKinsey where he had been working as a consultant. Unfortunately for Mondelez, the video continues to be in circulation, more so across WhatsApp. Himatsingka took down the video and even issued a statement saying that he had no interest or resources to take on the company in any court cases.
“Most people have Coke once a week,” Himatsingka says. “But people have Bournvita twice a day. So you end up having 14 [servings of] Bournvita in a week. So, the net impact of Bournvita is probably worse than that of Coke.”
“As a growing market, India is potentially a natural “dumping ground” for poor products and processes that have been used by prominent brands in other markets,” Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of management consultancy firm Third Eyesight says. “It is incumbent upon Indian customers to be diligent, picking up cues not only from Indian consumer-activists and but also their counterparts in the developed economies.”
From Kolkata to New York and back
Himatsingka grew up in an upper-middle-class household, with a homemaker mother and a father running his own business in Kolkata.
After his schooling, Himatsingka went to New York to study finance at the New York University’s NYU Stern School of Business where he graduated in finance. For a year after that he worked with a bank in the US. At 22, he ventured out into writing a book, Selfienomics, a self-help comedy book focusing on managing finances, health, religion, death, starting a business, and even completing projects on time.
“I wrote one chapter on how to read a food label even then,” Himatsingka says. “Back then, and even now I believe that it is the most important skill in the 21st century.” While he did secure admission into the illustrious IIM Bangalore, Himatsingka turned it down, instead focussing on his book.
By 2018, Himatsingka went to do an MBA at Wharton and followed it up with a course in nutrition, while also starting work at McKinsey as a consultant. “As a consultant, you work to solve business problems and you try to structure solutions,” Himatsingka says. “We focus on our career when it comes to structuring solutions and being data driven. But I try to extrapolate that into life. In life, one of our most important aspects is health.”
Himatsingka was also concerned by the growing link between cancer and heart diseases to packaged and processed food. In 2019, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested a possible link between “ultra-processed” foods and cancer. The study defined ultra-processed foods as those lacking vitamins and fibre, which also contain high levels of sugar, fat, and salt. Such ultra-processed food, the study noted, represents as much as half of the daily energy intake in several developed countries.
“This is such a big problem and no one is talking about it,” Himatsingka says. “No one is trying to solve it. So, I thought, I wanted to do something in this space.”
That meant, Himatsingka, who by his own account was making very good money in the US, decided it was time to come back home, and try and do something around awareness. “I’m very social impact driven,” Himatsingka says. “April 1st is when I made the Bournvita video. I made a video showcasing how Bournvita was falsely labelling itself. Their label showed that you get stronger bones and muscles. Then I got a legal notice from Bournvita asking me to take down the video in 24 hours.”
The idea for the Bournvita video, Himatsingka says, came from his concern that a product like Coke had become the face of obesity and junk food, while many others were marketing themselves as healthy, without it being so.
Mondelez, the makers of Bournvita soon retorted that the drink contains nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, D, iron, zinc and copper that help build immunity and have been part of its formulation for 70 years. It also said that every serve of Bournvita has 7.5 grams of added sugar, much less than the recommended limit for children.
imatsingka though found support from unexpected quarters. The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest India (NAPi) a think tank comprising independent experts in epidemiology, human nutrition, community nutrition and paediatrics, medical education, administration, and management, issued a statement supporting Himatsingka.
“The food product Bournvita falls under the ultra-processed food (UPF) category based on its ingredients list,” NAPi said in a statement. “This industrial formulation is inherently harmful. There is enough scientific evidence present in the public domain pertaining to the negative impact of increasing consumption of UPFs on human health, which include several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression (Non-Communicable Diseases-NCDs).”
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also issued a notice to Mondelez asking the company to review and withdraw all misleading advertisements, packaging, and labels. The NCPCR is a statutory body to protect child rights.
Fighting it out now
Personally, for Himatsingka, the pushback from Mondelez couldn’t have come at a worse time. “I had just quit my job. And my family was asking me what I was trying to do with my life. They said ‘you had such a good job, you left all of that, now you are getting into a legal fight’,” Himatsingka says. “So I removed the video as they asked me to. And that got even more attention.”
Since then, Himatsingka has been actively taking on FMCG companies and their products in the country, ranging from ketchup, and chyawanprash to juices and bread among others. Himatsingka recounts having received legal notices from Dabur and even been asked to remove a video by Sting Energy, owned by PepsiCo.
He says his strength, however, comes from many parents who have reached out to him and are thanking his efforts for making them aware of the importance of reading labels. “People are reading labels for the first time and have now started figuring that many of the products are not that healthy,” Himatsingka says.
However, the pressure of the job continues to be heavy. “There is a lot of pressure,” the 31-year-old says. “These companies send legal notices and I have no idea how to deal with it. These are very technical and very dense documents, where they analyse each line and write a paragraph on each line. I once got a 300-page document from one company and they were asking me for a few crores. It’s strenuous.”
What lies ahead?
For now, the 31-year-old says his focus remains steadfast on raising awareness around food.
“Because of the Bournvita controversy, the rollover impact is that all the other companies are also going to get scared now to falsely market themselves,” Himatsingka says. “I cannot think of a human problem that is relatively easy to solve than nutrition labels and it creates massive impact.”
A few weeks ago, Himatsingka raised awareness about the growing consumption of bread in India and how most makers of bread who sell whole wheat or brown bread use more maida, which has less fiber, and is unhealthy. He had also called out juice makers for their use of sugar by comparing various mango juices available in the country.
“When a movie comes out, there are reviews and I can openly say whether I liked a movie or not,” Himatsingka says. “So why can’t I say the same about a food product? I’m just unboxing a product and saying what is there inside it. So I don’t think I’m legally wrong. They can ask me for whatever money they want. But I don’t think they can win on that.”
Along the way, he says he has also seen positive changes in companies. For instance, Himatsingka made a video on ketchup and explained how Maggi Rich Tomato Ketchup has more sugar than tomato in its ingredients. “Last month, they (Nestle) announced that they’re changing the recipe,” Himatsingka says. “They’re reducing their sugar content and they are going to have more tomatoes than sugar. One tiny change like that has such a major impact on the large scale.”
Experts agree that the growing scrutiny about ingredients is certain to give FMCG majors sleepless nights. “Given that food has a disproportionate share in our spend, an enormous impact on our health as well as a tremendous ecological footprint, it is only natural for consumers to question the composition, the origins, and the overall impact of the food that is being sold by leading brands,” says Dutta of Third Eyesight. “Over the last several decades, packaged food has become laden with synthetic flavouring, colouring, and shelf-life-extending chemicals, which are being called into question by activists through blogs and social media. On several occasions, prominent companies are forced to change their product composition or, at the very least, admit to the health-negative implications of their ingredients.”
Meanwhile, over the past three or four weeks, Himatsingka says he hasn’t been flooded with lawsuits. That’s partly because he has become quite careful about how he words his statements, instead focusing only on the merits of his argument.
“There are millions of problems in the world. But most of the problems are very hard to solve, like air pollution. But teaching people how to read a food label is easy. I feel learning how to read a food label is more important than coding in the 21st century, where most of what we’re eating is processed or packaged.”
Indeed, the fight is long. And Himatsingka is only gearing up for more.
(Published in Forbes India)
Tushar Goenka, Financial Express
March 13, 2023
Flipkart Supermart, the online grocery delivery platform of the Walmart-owned ecommerce company, is betting on regional brands to unlock the next phase of growth. Over the past few months, the e-tailer has been listing brands and making them more readily available in cities where their recall value is high.
The regional push targets staples and is pronounced across categories such as atta, tea, pulses, among others. So, instead of offering, say, just the Tata brand of tea, Flipkart also showcases local favourites like Nameri Tea for the residents of Assam. Similarly, instead of selling Nestle’s Maggi and ITC’s Yippie noodles across the country, Flipkart will also let customers pick brands selling Korean noodles, popular among north east teenagers.
The shift in focus is vital in a country whose grocery bill totals $600 billion, of which offline sales account for a staggering $592 billion, while online is a much smaller $8 billion. Further, of the total grocery bill, the share of regional brands at around 60% is much higher than organised national brands that stood at 40%, according to rough estimates from EY.
So far, the plan seems to have worked for the company. Smrithi Ravichandran, head of grocery, says her unit has grown 2.5X between June 2022 and February 2023.
The reason for this shift in focus is easy to understand. In Ravichandran’s own words, “The Indian palette changes every 150 kilometres.” Consider this. The kind of toor daal consumed in Chennai is different from that consumed in Madurai. That is, even within a single state (Tamil Nadu in this case) there is a huge difference in preferences. And that is true for most categories.
Next, look at the potential. Ravichandran’s department sees about 65-70% of its orders coming from Tier 2 and beyond, with metros and Tier 1 cities accounting for the rest.
Analysts believe Flipkart’s initiative is a step in the right direction. Says Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, a retail consulting firm, “Focusing on regional brands makes eminent sense not just to cater to tastes in a particular geography but to also serve consumers who have moved away from their hometowns and might find it difficult to buy their chosen brands.”
That said, catering to regional preferences is easier said than done. “If one has the same selection even for the same state, it doesn’t help. But there is a cost in catering to that varied choice and we’ll need to operate more fulfilment centres,” Ravichandran adds.
From what to how
Flipkart’s plans to double down on the regional selection in grocery will mean partnering with some of them. Here consumer data available with Flipkart will come in handy, says Ravichandran.
Angshuman Bhattacharya, national leader, consumer product and retail, EY India, believes that by offering more regional brands in categories like atta, Flipkart will deepen penetration, giving smaller players a chance to tap a wider customer base. “Smaller, regional brands will be hungrier for growth and may end up offering healthier margins than what a nationalised player would do,” he adds.
In this, Flipkart’s approach is similar to that of Future Retail under Kishore Biyani, who underscored the importance of a regional brand-led strategy. “The Future Group had launched around 10 private labels of atta and that is no easy feat. A regional brand-led focus might prompt Flipkart to toy with the idea of launching its private labels at a later stage. Or it may even end up asking the regional brands to package staples under its brand, thereby yielding much higher margins,” Bhattacharya of EY points out.
Flipkart isn’t drawing the line just yet. The company will invest in technology to tell customers about the origin of the products they order. “Conscious consumerism is another aspect we will focus on. So, on the packet of a toor daal, consumers will have traceability regarding where and when exactly the daal was harvested,” Ravichandran adds.
This journey will not be a cakewalk for Flipkart. Analysts point out that to be able to partner with Flipkart and address its customer base of over 450 million, smaller brands must up their supply chain spends. That apart, there is always the fear that if the e-commerce giant does not get the desired results, it might discontinue such tie-ups, leaving the regional players in the lurch. Flipkart must allay these fears right at the outset.
(Published in Financial Express)
Christina Moniz, Financial Express / BrandWagon
November 4, 2022
Direct-to-consumer (D2C) lingerie brands, often credited with transforming the category and the way women shop for innerwear, are expanding their offline footprint in response to growing demand from tier-II markets and beyond. Zivame, whose journey began online just over a decade ago in 2011, has grown its offline presence to over 120 stores and also sells through over 4,000 partner outlets. In its recently concluded Grand Lingerie Festival, Zivame saw its sales grow three times,with a 120% increase in new customer acquisition. “Tier-II markets are showing massive potential and though tier-1 remains our highest revenue contributor, we are seeing significant revenue baseline shifts in tier-II locations,” says Khatija Lokhandwala, head of marketing at Zivame. The company has announced that its focus will be retail expansion in the second half of this fiscal, going beyond metros and tier-I markets.
Another decade-old D2C player in the innerwear segment, Cloviais eyeing the immense opportunity presented by smaller markets with aggressive expansion plans in place. “Clovia currently has 45 exclusive brand outlets in the country and has been diversifying its product range, with plans to open 130 outlets by the end of this fiscal. Ours has always been a mass- market brand, and most of the repeat customers come from tier-II and tier-III markets,” explains Pankaj Vermani, founder and CEO, Clovia. He notes that over 65% of its customer base is from the non- metro markets, and average order values are 20% higher in these cities compared to the metros. Earlier this year, Reliance Retail Ventures acquired an 89% stake in Clovia’s parent company (Purple Panda Fashions) for Rs. 950 crore. Vermani adds that Clovia will ben- efit from the conglomerate’s scale and retail expertise, driving up growth and love for the brand. Reliance Retail had picked up 15% stake in Zivame back in 2020.
Shaping the market
The women’s innerwear market in India is set to double to reach $11-12 billion by 2025, according to a report by RedSeer. Aside from the key segments of bras and panties, ancillary products like athleisure, sleepwear, swimwear and lounge wear are also boosting the lingerie category’s growth in the country, as is evident from the widening portfolios of leading brands. The online segment for women’s innerwear is expected to become a $1 billion market by 2025.
Experts believe there is a large opportunity for companies to grow since 60% of the $6-billion women’s intimate wear market in India is unorganised, and the category is still largely underserved.
“The lingerie market is an example of improving supply feeding into a growing demand, and the increasing demand expanding the opportunity for more brands to step in. Larger cities, with their higher income profiles and demand concentration, are the logical first-choice market for companies such as Zivame,” points out Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight.
The competition in the large cities is greater, with a plethora of Indian and global brands, which is why Dutta recommends that e-commerce led companies should push aggressively in smaller markets to drive sustained growth.
The fact that D2C brands have better data sets at their disposal to glean insights about Indian women and their concerns when buying innerwear has also worked in their favour.
“Intimate wear shopping can be overwhelming for a lot of women. Finding the right size and choosing styles for their specific needs requires an environment free of embarrassment and judgement. At Zivame, we help women choose the right size and perfect fit, ensuring a private, comfortable and discreet shopping experience,” says Lokhandwala.
While lingerie can sometimes be prohibitively expensive, Vermani points out that Clovia’s feedback-led design approach helps it keep pricing competitive.
The brand creates each product in small quantities, and uses technology to predict future sales based on customer feedback, thereby determining the right quantities for production. He states, “With this approach, we have created a fashion brand that is low on cost, high on consumer appeal and efficient in inventory, leading to better margins and cash flows.”
(Published in Brandwagon, Financial Express)
Akanksha Nagar, Financial Express
September 5, 2022
Can you give a brand a second shot at life?
Reliance Retail Ventures certainly thinks so. It has acquired Campa-Cola for an estimated `22 crore from Delhi-based Pure Drinks Group on the assumption that it will not only be able to revive the five-decade-old brand but can also use it to springboard into the dog-eat-dog soft drink market in India.
It will not be a cakewalk surely. The ones who were fans of the brand—which was launched in the 70s—have moved on, and younger customers have little or no association with the brand.
Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, believes that Reliance must have been very keen on getting into the soft drinks category as a part of its overall strategy of retail expansion. In any case, it hasn’t had to shell out a bomb for the brand so it is a less audacious gambit than starting from scratch. There is one other factor that might work in its favour—which is the formula, the taste of which had near widespread acceptance in its heyday.
Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion Brand Solutions, who is handling a similar resurrection of Garden Vareli sarees, says giving an old brand like Campa-Cola a new life will be far from easy—the Campa-Cola generation is now in their sixties and therefore there is very little monetisable value in the nostalgia.
Launch versus resurrect
From the looks of it, Campa-Cola will have to fight sip for sip, bottle for bottle.
Rohit Ohri, chairman and CEO, FCB Group India, who had managed the Pepsi account for more than a decade, says it will be difficult for a new brand to find space in a market dominated by multinationals like Pepsi and Coke. While the residual equity can help get the foothold, the real challenge would be to woo a younger consumer set.
Naresh Gupta, co-founder and CSO, Bang In The Middle, concurs: “When you try to resurrect a brand, you do it knowing that the brand isn’t doing well or has been out of circulation. That is big baggage for the brand to wipe out. Often the residual awareness and following are limited to the audience that is less likely to be your core audience today.”
There is also the fact that young people in the metros are moving away from colas, preferring healthier drinks or niche artisanal products instead. At the same time, soft drink is an impulse category and needs a large dose of salience to fly off the shelf.
Gupta says Reliance can try and build on the Indian-ness that Campa-Cola exudes. His guess is the old brand will be used as a calling card in trade and there would be a host of new launches that build upon it. “Campa-Cola may fuel a lot more fresh fizzy drinks launch from Reliance,” he adds.
That said, just the sheer time an old brand has spent on the shop-shelves would give Campa-Cola an edge over any new brand that its current owner might want to launch. An old brand can appear to be proven, experienced and secure, while a new brand could be seen as untested, raw, and risky. An old brand may have had a positive relationship with the consumer but may have been dormant due to strategic or operational reasons. In such a case, reviving the brand is clearly a good idea, says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive, Third Eyesight.
Reliance could have launched a new brand but if the existing brand has residual awareness or connection, it could be the pivot around which other brand properties can be built. Here, the new owner also has the benefit of having a wide retail network. As on March 31, 2022, Reliance Retail operated 15,196 stores across 7,000-plus cities with a retail area of over 41.6 million sq ft. This, if nothing else, will give Campa-Cola a start any new brand will die for.
(Published in Financial Express)