Consumer goods firm Procter and Gamble Co., or P&G, does not have as strong a presence in India as its rival Unilever Plc/NV does. In the past, there have been a few occasions when it tried to make a dent in the market. The most recent one was some years ago, when both companies fought for market share in the detergents and shampoo markets. Rising raw material prices and Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s determination to not let go of its share saw that campaign die out quietly.
This time, P&G’s sights are on emerging markets as a whole, part of its overall strategy to regain growth. It said in a recent analyst conference that it wants to add one billion consumers to its existing base of four billion. These incremental consumers will come mostly from emerging economies. The per capita spend of an American on P&G’s products is $112 (Rs5,398) compared with $45 in Germany and $20 in Mexico. P&G does not expect Indians, who spend less than a dollar on its products, to reach that level. But it believes that it can get India and China to Mexico’s level. The difference is that Mexico took 60 years to get there, but P&G does not want to wait that long for these two countries.
Does this mean that P&G will again launch a frontal assault in some of the large consumer categories? What seems more likely is that P&G will expand the number of categories it is present in —eight at present compared with 25 in the US. It will also expand its distribution to reach out to most customers; smaller Indian firms such as Godrej Consumer Products Ltd and Dabur India Ltd have shown how expanding distribution can add to top-line growth. It also plans to focus on the premium and the lower end of the market. That would invariably mean having to expand its reach. The rising share of organized retail in the market is something that will work to P&G’s advantage too.
P&G is quite happy with its success with two products. It has become the market leader in the baby diapers category with Pampers, two years after it launched. Its entry into Olay led to a doubling of the size of the anti-ageing cream segment, and also gave it a 6% share in the skin care segment. It plans to launch “a new product”— currently being sold in 14 developed markets—in 20 more markets, including India. P&G plans to back up these plans with the investments needed, which will start reflecting in India in the current year. It will unleash a fresh wave of activity in the market, as existing market leaders will scramble to protect their franchise. Even if it does not result in a bruising battle, the contours of the Indian home and personal care products market are likely to change over the years.
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