Tupperware India’s toughest challenge on day #1 was to convince the Indian housewife to replace metal with plastic. It did that. Rest is known.

Tupperware is a name that brings to mind multi-hued airtight plastic containers – used to store food items – and is a common sight across homes and stores in India. A common product so you’d think. It is. But it sells too – across more than 100 countries. Last year, the $3.21 billion-valued Tupperware Brands Corporation’s global revenues amounted to $2.3 billion. So for the uninformed, Tupperware is purely an American brand; to be more precise Florida-based. Invented 64 years back by the enterprising American tree surgeon and inventor, Earl Silas Tupper, a man known as much for his creativity, as for his many quirky ideas, Tupperware has become one of the most highly regarded household item brands in the world. And though the company is largely known as the pioneer of the formerly patented “burping seal” airtight plastic containers and microwave reheating utensils, it is in reality much more. It manufactures much more and sells them too.

Red carpets, honour guards and gun salutes – the shareholders of most multinational companies that made their way into the Indian market soon after liberalisation (and therefore made hay even before the Sun shone) would have nothing less than these gestures to thank the management board of their companies for the geographical-diversification decision made. Tupperware’s shareholders would do no different. So numerically, where does India fit into Tupperware’s growth scheme? It’s there in the top bracket, you could say. Tupperware India is amongst the top ten revenue-earning subsidiaries for the company. In fact, topline of the India business for the American grew by 50% during FY2010 – definitely quick growth. But it wasn’t just last year that the company took a leap. Tupperware has been at it since it entered the market with 1.2 billion Indians, six years back (in early 1996) – a CAGR of 30% in revenues since then, is some double-digit to boast about. The brand entered India with 12 products. Today, it sells more than 100 across 59 cities in the country and has a distributorship base of 89.

In this era of stiff competition where consumer-product companies are at loggerheads to prove their point and earn profits, the case study of Tupperware’s success is definitely an unusual teacher. The change in the look of kitchenware of ordinary middle class families in India is synonymous to the successful brand journey of Tupperware in the country. And it wasn’t an overnight dream come true. Before the company entered the market, women pan-India preferred to store food and other kitchen contents in metal containers. More importantly, the steel utensils market in India was a very cluttered and an unorganised one, with many strong regional players. In India, the company first introduced products that had already made a mark in US. Thus, until 2001, Indian consumers were bombarded with products like Wonderlier Bowl, Bowled over, Thirstquake, Within Reach Canisters et al. The products sold well, thanks to its penetration strategy-direct sales technique, which kept a check on prices and helped expand the brand’s consumer network. Considering the fact that then, a majority of Indian kitchens sported the shiny silver look, the very attempt of Tupperware to enter the segment was a sign of courage and conviction shown by the brand. Cut to the present, it has 50,000 women representatives selling everything from masala boxes and roti keepers to eco-friendly vegetable cutters (and the very soon to come water filters).

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012

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

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