Home >Industry >Retail >Today, innovation is more than 30% of our business: ITC’s Sameer Satpathy

Fast moving consumer goods major ITC Ltd has been in an overdrive to launch new products to meet evolving consumer needs during covid-19. In an interview, Sameer Satpathy, chief executive, ITC personal care, with brands such as Savlon, Charmis and Vivel in its portfolio, talks about building business on sharp consumer insights and advertising on all media platforms to reach them. Edited excerpts:

You had mentioned earlier that you will be launching products every 15 days.

If I were to take any category we are in, if we do not play to win, we won’t win. We have done decent amount of innovation over the last six months, and two months ago I had said every 15 days, we will launch something. And we have kept that pace of innovation and innovation has become a growth driver for us. Today innovation is—give or take–more than 30% of our business. It’s a massive number.

We have done stuff under Savlon, we have launched a natural vegetable wash Nimwash. We have launched under Vivel a new Neem-based bodywash and we are doing innovations which are in other brands.

In the next 30-45 days, you will also see lots of new things coming up.

Do you feel that the heightened demand for health and hygiene products may have plateaued?

Sanitizer sales were going through the roof. Now things are a little calmer as lots of capacities have caught up. So—in that sense—yes. But anything which is innovative and which is new to the market has always done well. The disinfectants piece has done well for us.

Sharper consumer insights by the team, and then building business on top of it—is what we’re doing. One thing we picked up was the discomfort that people had when they came home. You feel you need to cleanse yourself so you have soaps. And then you need to wash your clothes. But there are some clothes like trousers and jeans you can’t wash every time. Once winter sets in, you won’t wash your pullovers or coats every day. We have just launched a clothes disinfectant spray which is being rolled out as we speak. It’s a need which is there.

So are you ignoring your beauty care brands?

No we are not ignoring them. You will start seeing innovation action on all of them. We are in the process of launching premium fragrances under Engage. You will see action in skincare in the next 15-30 days.

Is it a good time to launch a fragrance?

As marketers, each category has its game plan. Our teams use all the levers available to them to excite and get their consumers back. One way of doing it is you do promos, value offers. Or you can say, “hey, I've got something exciting for you, do you want to dip into it and try?" What that does is, it rekindles interest. Will it work at all times? Maybe, maybe not. But what it does is, to a large set of consumers, it shows that the brand is showing intent. In the end somebody has to start the breakthrough, right.

Is it a good time to have the Indian Premier League?

Yes and no. If it works, it would be a good idea. If you are in the business, you have to try and do something. You can't sit passively. People are looking for fresh content and IPL is attractive. For a country that is used to seeing cricket six days a week, there has been no Indian cricket in the last so many months. So, there will always be an audience for that. It will impact some amount of media consumption in a certain way.

Will your media mix change?

We advertise where the consumer is. We will become more fragmented—there are multiple ways a consumer can consume content—whether it is on cell phones, television or newspapers. So every brand has its own strategy but in terms of the overall media mix, we obviously operate across the entire gamut of mediums available.

How has Savlon, as a soap brand, done for you?

Savlon has done well. We don't give specific guidance on numbers but it's doing exceedingly well is the only thing I can say. It has become a very large brand for us.

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