Himalaya Neem Facewash shakes up the Facewash Market

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Himalaya’s Neem Facewash has become a success in both the rural and urban markets due to its problem-solving and solution-driven capabilities for pimple prone skin, helping brand Himalaya become a leader in the Rs 1600 crore face wash market. But apart from a superior product, the company has made a habit of research based innovation, making the product available in different sizes and increasing awareness about it through targeted marketing. While the facewash category in both urban and rural areas has grown by 18.4 per cent, Himalaya has grown by 26.7 per cent between August 2014-July 2015. Rashi Bisaria spoke to Vineet Jain,General Manager, Marketing, Consumer Products Division, Himalaya Drug company to find out how the brand has acquired a dominant position in the market and its plans for the future. Edited excerpts:

How has Himalaya managed to capture the market share in rural and urban areas for face-washes? What would you attribute it to?
We have managed to increase the consumption in the face wash category by introducing Rs 15 pack and Rs 5 sachet recently. We have also been able to look at increasing consumption by bringing out bigger packs because the face wash is a replacement to soap and is hence indispensable. If you run out of a tube then you are lazy to buy a new one because you have soap at home. That’s why we introduced 150 ml and 200ml sizes. We want to offer 150 and 200ml sizes to get users to use it for a longer period.

In terms of the pricing, we are very competitive but compared to all the players in the market, we are providing an affordable proposition. In terms of consumption, we are the highest reputed company for face-washes. We are available in close to one million outlets across urban and rural areas.

HimalayaWill there be a special focus on the rural market in the coming year?
Yes, we have been focussing on the rural market for the past one year. We started with tweaking our media plan towards addressing rural consumers. We have brought in more free to air channels and Doordarshan into our TV media strategy.We have also used other media in the market, where TV cannot be accessed. We realised that the rural market of tier 2 and 3 towns like UP and Bihar were not able to show awareness about the brand as compared to the urban market, so we used the local print medium there to address the target group. In the last 3 months, we have introduced the Neem Face wash sachet in the TV media which is addressing a mixed consumer group.

We realised that girls in small towns and rural areas wanted to use the face wash and realised that Himalaya’s Neem face-wash was effective for their pimple problem but they had a minimal budget of Rs 100 for their personal care. A girl in the rural areas has to buy talc, a face cream, a shampoo which does not leave her with anything to buy a face wash which earlier cost Rs 55 per tube. That is where the Rs 5 sachet works wonders helping us to penetrate the rural market.

Are you targeting the rural segment because you feel cities have reached a saturation point or is it because you see potential in the rural market?
The rural market is definitely growing much faster than the urban market because today rural penetration stands at 5% which is as per the Household panel data, compared to the urban market, which is close to 25%. However, that is still much lesser than the mature categories like toothpaste and shampoos in urban India which are close to 90-95% penetration. There is still opportunity in urban India and that is why urban India is still growing at a 27% for Himalaya. In rural India Himalaya has seen a 37-38% growth, year on year .

What would you say is the brand’s biggest strength that makes it popular among consumers?
We have a product which has proven itself time and again against different competitors in the market. Our flagship product in the face wash portfolio is The Neem Face wash and the Neem face-wash contributes more than 80% for us in the face-wash portfolio itself. So that is our biggest bet. We have consumer testimonials on digital platforms to speak for the strength of our products. Thus, the product is our biggest strength. Over the years we have been able to work upon other areas of the marketing-mix like better distribution as compared to our competitors in case of the face-wash category. That is another strength, now that our brand is available in smaller towns and outlets. We are the only brand that has been able to offer variants with different benefits across the face wash needs. For example, we have the neem face-wash for the pimple problem, moisturising aloe vera face-wash for dry skin, fairness kesar face-wash for providing fairness, the clear complexion whitening face-wash for people seeking evolved benefits of whitening. We also have a lemon face-wash and the gentle exfoliating face wash in our portfolio.

What are the marketing strategies you have used to penetrate the smaller towns in the last year or so?
We have looked at India as a combination of many states and we run our tv communication in 16 different languages . Although, the metro population might be cosmopolitan but in Tier2 and 3 towns people associate with the local language. At the same time we have been able to introduce the neem face-wash sachet to penetrate more into the tier 2 and tier 3 towns.

In the tier 2 and 3 markets we have used experiential marketing to tap into the consumer base. An activity called the pure skin facial in top metros was provided to girls in government colleges so that they could experience our face cleansing products first-hand. We are conducting this activity in tier 2 towns too

What are consumers looking for today in the skincare segment? What makes them choose a product?
Consumers’ needs are evolving. They are facing a number of new age issues.These are to do with rising levels of stress and pollution which lead to certain basic problems. These need a particular solution. In the coming year we will witness evolving anti-ageing needs and evolving whitening needs. Pimples, dark spots and blemishes will be the dominant problems.
In rural India there is an increasing need to use products which urban India has already got, so the focus remains on making products available to them. Himalaya provides herbal and natural ingredients in the products as the brand proposition leading to a positive inclination of the consumer. They want natural and safe products for the skin.

What are the plans for the year ahead? Can we expect more innovation in products?
Research and development are very important for us. Considering we are the leaders in face-washes we are investing a lot in that area.

Pitch: Can you tell us the percentage growth figures in the face-wash category?
Himalaya: Over the last year which is the moving annual total of July, which is the period from AUGUST 15-JULY 15.
The category for urban + rural has grown by 18.4% wherein Himalaya has grown by 26.7%. Only for urban the category has grown by 16% where Himalaya has grown by 23.1%. Only for rural the category has grown by 32.2% and Himalaya by 42%.

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