When we talk of a water purifier in India, the name that instantly rings a bell is Aquaguard.
Now, with Madhuri Dixit beaming her magnetic smile with Dr Nene by her side in the Aquaguard TV commercial, I had almost forgotten about the smart gentleman who would appear in the ads to come and demonstrate house cleaning using a vacuum cleaner to a child or show how air/water purifiers were indispensable.
Yes, I am referring to the dynamic ‘Eurochamps,’ who projected the image of ‘The friendly man‘ from Eureka Forbes.
Pioneer of direct marketing in India
Formed in 1982, as a joint venture between Shapoorji Pallonji’s Forbes Gokak (FGL), formerly a Tata group company, and Electrolux AB of Sweden, Eureka Forbes launched the Vacuum cleaners and water purifier Aquaguard in India. This was at a time when these products were not used in the middle class Indian households, for which they were targeted. To build up the market for these products from scratch, it made sense to demonstrate the benefits to the customer, and so the company used the direct marketing approach.
The Eureka Forbes salesmen were the first of the kind in India and direct selling approach was very successful. Soon, it became the market leader in the water purifier category in India, with Aquaguard, its flagship product dominating the segment for a long time, and gained dominance in the vacuum cleaning category too.
Today Eureka Forbes, with its 8000 Eurochamps stands as the company with the largest direct selling force in Asia.
Image credit: eurekaforbes.co.in
Changing market for water purifiers
As of now UV based water purifier are most widely used water purifiers in India, with Acqaguard as the clear leader in the ultraviolet (UV) purifier segment. The reverse osmosis RO purifiers (supposed to be a superior technology), being expensive are not the preferred option in many areas. However, in future, the market for RO purifiers is expected to grow while the UV segment may decline.
Chemical purifiers, on the other hand, are more suited to areas where power supply is unpredictable. The market for chemical purifiers is also growing faster than the UV purifier market.
With new competitors such as Kent, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Chemicals having emerged in the water purification sector, the competition has intensified.
Eureka Forbes, the market leader in the UV purifier market, faces stiff competition in the fast growing RO segment from Kent RO Systems.
Eureka Forbes claims to sell water purifiers in a more responsible manner, suggesting purification solutions suited to the needs depending upon the quality of water in the location. It says it does not push the more expensive RO models on consumers who don’t need them.
Change in Marketing approach
Though Eureka Forbes started with direct marketing in India, as it forayed into smaller markets, it took to a franchising model for those markets and created franchised direct selling agents. Thereafter, the company looked at retail to increase to increase the visibility of its products.
With competition intensifying, Eureka Forbes is making an effort to retain and grow its market share. With Madhuri Dixit as its brand ambassador, Acquaguard is reinforcing its visibility on Television, and has moved over to digital marketing to persuade customers to ask for demos.
Starting with the single model of Acqaguard, the company now offers around 30 models in UV, RO and Chemical purifiers. Some of its mass market models are also sold through retail, though most of the models which are still sold through direct sales.
While HUL and Kent are retailing their products much more aggressively, Eureka Forbes, on the other hand, makes efforts to nurture the customer relationship through service contracts and spare part sales. It is moving into institutional business via large scale water treatment plants and aims to replicate its success in the rural parts of the country.
Besides water purifiers and vacuum cleaners, Eureka Forbes has expanded its portfolio to include air purifier, security solutions, fire extinguishers and solar lighting as well. Eureka Forbes may also need to reskill and redeploy its army of salespeople to enhance their presence in the retail segment.
For me the brand signifies safe and clean drinking water and reliable service. How satisfied or dissatisfied have you been with Eureka Forbes and Acqaguard in particular?
Image credit: Eureka Forbes website
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