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Packaged consumer goods company Hindustan Unilever (HUL) on Friday said it is pledging Rs100 crore towards fighting Coronavirus in India even as it announced plans to slash prices of its personal care and home hygiene brands—Lifebouy sanitiser and liquid hand wash, and Domex floor cleaners—by 15%.

The outbreak of the highly contagious Covid-19 disease has spurred demand for personal hygiene and germ-killing products such as soaps, and sanitisers—the supply for which has far exceed demand. As consumers have rushed to stock up on such goods, HUL said it is slashing prices of hand sanitizes and hand washes.

Moreover, earlier this month, the government had declared sanitisers and masks “essential commodities" to prevent hoarding and price manipulation of such goods.

In fact, on Friday, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan, capped the prices of hand sanitisers and masks to ensure traders and brands do no benefit from the sale of such goods.

On Friday, the government said that price of a 200 ml bottle of hand sanitizer cannot exceed 100; while that of 2 ply (surgical) mask is to be capped at 8 and that of 3 ply (surgical) mask 10.

The prices are to be adhered till June 30, 2020, the government said. Earlier this week, the government had also placed price caps on alcohols used in manufacturing of hand sanitizers, Mint reported earlier.

Packages with revised (lowered) prices of Lifebuoy sanitizers, and hand wash and Domex floor cleaner will be available in the market over the next few weeks, HUL said.

“In public interest, HUL is reducing the prices of Lifebuoy sanitizers, Lifebuoy liquid hand wash and Domex floor cleaners by 15%. We are commencing production of these reduced priced products immediately and these will be available in the market in the next few weeks," the company said in a media statement.

Moreover, HUL has also ramped up the production of Lifebuoy sanitizers, Lifebuoy hand wash liquid and Domex floor cleaners and is committed to scaling it up even further in the coming weeks, the company statement added. The company said it will also donate 2 crores pieces of Lifebuoy soaps in the next few months “to the sections of the society which need it the most."

The FMCG company will partner with medical institutions and provide them free supplies of sanitation and hygiene products. HUL will donate 10 crores to upgrade the health care facilities in testing centres and hospitals. “In crisis like this, companies have a big role to play. We are working closely with the Governments and our partners to ensure that we overcome this global health crisis together," Sanjiv Mehta, chairman and managing director, HUL said.

HUL’s decision to slash prices of its key brands follows rival Godrej Consumer Product Ltd's (GCPL) recent decision to defer price hikes on its soaps portfolio—keeping in mind the demand for skin cleaning products in the country right now.

Driven by a hike in raw material costs—largely a jump in palm oil prices—India’s packaged consumer goods firms have been mulling a gradual price hike on skin cleaning products starting early this year. To be sure, HUL hiked prices of its soap brands including Lux, Lifebuoy, Dove, Hamas, Liril and Pears by 5% to 6% earlier this year to mitigate rising input costs.

However, HUL said that its pricing action “was well before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in India," a company spokesperson said told Mint earlier this week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suneera Tandon

Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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