Mumbai: When Wesley International recently recruited more than 30 graduates from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, its name did not ring a bell with many students.
That should not have been the case since Wesley International is the world’s second biggest, and India’s largest, maker of shaving blades by volume. It sells its blades under the Super-Max brand.
“We have not been very media-savvy,” Ajay Bindroo, group chief executive officer of Wesley International, said in an interview. “Yet, we are growing at 60% (globally). In India, we grew at 35%. We have done something right. I think it’s the fact that we are in the roots of India. We have got that one step right.”
To strengthen the brand’s recall in India, the company has doubled its advertising budget from 7% to 14% of its overall sales this fiscal.
Its first burst of communication can be seen on premium properties such as the Indian Premier League and for overseas consumers on actor-producer Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate television programme.
Besides, added Bindroo, the company is exploring acquisitions. It has appointed Allegro Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based investment bank, to scout for possible acquisition targets around the world as it looks at adding capacities.
The R.K. Malhotra company, which started operations in 1986 in Mumbai as Vidyut Metallics Pvt. Ltd, changed its name in March 2011 to Super-Max Personal Care Pvt. Ltd as it started expanding internationally in the 1990s.
It has 23 offices around the world, and leads in market share in South Africa, Oman and India.
“The company has close to 65% of its revenue coming from international operations and 35% from India as compared with 19 years ago, when India contributed to 95% of its overall revenue,” said Bindroo, who is also looking at recruiting from Ivy league schools such as Cornell University as well in the coming year.
He did not disclose the financials of the company as it is a privately held company and is headquartered in Dubai.
The men’s shaving market is segmented into systems, disposables and barber blades (double-edged). “In the double-edged segment, Super-Max is the No. 1 company in the world. We dominate this market,” said Bindroo.
Wesley gets about 75% of its revenue from razor blades (including barber blades), and the balance from value-added products such as shaving gels.
“A large part of India, whether it is rural, semi-urban or even in urban pockets, still goes to the barber and gets a shave with barber blades,” said Pragya Singh, associate director, Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd, a retail consultancy.
However, the barber blades, sold at Rs 1-2, are not considered to be a significant part of the Rs 1,600 crore shaving market, which is dominated by more expensive cartridges and razors, said Singh.
To be sure, over the last five-seven years, Wesley International has been diversifying into more value-added and premium segments. “We will launch more hi-tech products, build our brand and educate our consumers to move up to value-added products without burning a hole in their pocket,” said Bindroo.
“The firm (Wesley) is a good example of successful transition of ideas and products from East to West,” said Anand Ramanathan of KPMG.
International expansion, especially in emerging markets, is high on the agenda of consumer packaged goods firms such as Dabur India Ltd, Marico Ltd and Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. Marico, which makes Saffola and Parachute oils, gets 24% of its revenue from international operations, up from 15% five years ago. Dabur, known for brands such as Hajmola candies and Vatika oil, gets 30% revenue from its overseas operations, compared with 24% two years ago.
For Wesley, competition remains stiff in India with multinational peers, including Procter and Gamble Co.’s (P&G) Gillette India Ltd, launching low-cost razors. Gillette Guard razor, for example, is priced at Rs 15 and the refill cartridges are priced at Rs 5 each. P&G is exploring emerging markets for its next phase of growth.
“Only about six months after launching in October 2010, the Guard crossed 50% of razor market share by volume in India,” Vijay Govindarajan, professor of international business at the Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth, wrote in a co-authored article in the Harvard Business Review issue of 16 April.