In a Market where Products are not differentiated, Bisleri has Constantly Innovated new branding Techniques, Distribution Channels, Advertising and packaging; 4PS B&M Documents The Brand Of This Iconic Brand

In 1969 Italian entrepreneur Felice Bisleri, who introduced the concept of bottled water to India, was casting about for a buyer for his eponymous brand. He found an eager taker in Ramesh J. Chauhan, then a 28-year-old businessman looking to expand his soft drinks business. For Chauhan, the purchase made sense as it complemented his branded soda (carbonated water) portfolio. “In late ‘60s and early ‘70s, there was good demand for soda from five-star hotels. We had brands such as Gold Spot but no soda and soon after buying the brand I launched Bisleri Soda. But we did not even look at the water business then,” recalls Chauhan, Chairman of Bisleri International.

The bottled water market in India then was in an embryonic stage. Chauhan could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that Bisleri would one day become so hugely popular and profitable so as to become a generic name for the bottled water industry. Today, he presides over a growing range of Bisleri products, which starts at 250-ml bottles and goes up to 20-litres containers. He is credited with creating the bottled water category from scratch, which is today estimated to have a market size of Rs.2,400 crore (just the organised sector). He controls about 60% of the market in volume terms and owns a brand that consultants value at being over Rs.3,000 crore. The company sellS some 17 million bottles a day through its 3,50,000 nationwide retail outlets and some 4,000 exclusive distributors.

That’s not bad, considering that the market for bottled water has three strong national players other than Bisleri: Aquafina, Kinsley and Himalayan; and countless other regional pretenders. In fact, the industry, which analysts say is expected to keep growing at a scorching pace of over 25% annually, is one of the most thriving sectors in India. “Per capita consumption of bottled water is low, estimated at about five litres per year as against the global average of 24 litres. Attracted by the huge potential that India’s vast middle class offers, multinationals have been trying to capture this rapidly growing market,” says Tushar Trivedi, founder of bottledwaterindia.org, a provider of water treatment plants and mineral water plants.

Chauhan agrees, “The water business is huge and is going to get much larger.” He cites a recent AC Nielsen study on the beverages market that indicates water is 2.2 times the size of the soft drinks market, in terms of litres. The volume sale of bottled water in India is forecasted to exceed 7,440 million litres by the end of 2013, translating into a market worth more than $1.5 billion. However, the category is still largely commoditised and price-sensitive.

Four years before Chauhan bought Bisleri, bottled water was launched in India in Mumbai in glass bottles, in two variants: Bubbly and Still. Recalling those early days, Chauhan says: “Business was very difficult as there was a lack of awareness about the benefits of drinking purified water. Even the brand was acquired as a supporting business to our soft drinks portfolio.”

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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