Krishan Kumar Chutani Image Credit: Supplied

The FMCG business is in a constant state of churn. As one of the leading brands in the vertical, what are the trends in the space that Dabur is party to?

What’s next, is the question that fires the relentless hunger to innovate for FMCG players. Consumer adoption fuels this trend leading to a constant churn of new products, innovation of new formats and an overall excitement of newness in the world of FMCGs.

Ultimately, the consumers benefit with multitude of choice at the place where they shop and, nowadays how they shop too.

At Dabur, we had a few firsts in new product innovations such as Vatika Blending Rituals – a personalised hair oil where consumers can choose their own mix of natural oils, Vatika Hair Food, Hair Wax and Oil Shampoo. Within oral care, we have launched Dabur Herb’l Alpha range toothpaste with four natural ingredients – charcoal, black seed, aloe vera and olive, and in healthcare, Honitus Ayurvedic Lozenges for cough and cold relief and Rapidex pain relief spray, just to name a few.

Among the other trends that we are party to are e-commerce, digitisation, automation and sustainability.

We are on our path to be naturally digital at every stage of the GTM funnel, from concept to shelf and consumer experience. On the e-commerce front, our contributions to total business has been exponentially increasing and the growth is in triple digits, year-on-year in the Middle East. We enjoy preferred partner status not only with giants like Amazon and Noon but also with rising stars like Talabat and El Grocer among others. Brick and mortar e-commerce businesses are going strong with partners like Lulu, Carrrefour, Nahdi, Panda and Dawaa to name a few.

We have also increased our focus on sustainability — with reduced plastics in our packaging, and seen an increase in clean energy consumption in our factories. Reduce, reuse and Recycle is among our core philosophies towards sustainability initiatives.

New normal is now passé, as FMCGs across the world are gearing up for the next normal, and so are we.

How has Covid impacted Dabur’s business in the region and how has the brand risen to the challenge?

In the region, we have seen unprecedented category decline of 25-40 per cent in consumption across categories due to Covid-19. Consumers were discretionary in their choices as need to have and nice to have. Some of our hair care categories did suffer. However, on the positive side we have also seen the emergence of health and hygiene categories. Products that protect us, our families and our home emerged quicker and posted highest growth. Our entire Dermoviva hygiene range, Vatika Sanitising range and 100 per cent Ayurvedic Honitus Lozenges were launched in record time that helped us tide over the decline in demand of our core categories. We also launched a Home Care range of products under the brand name, Dazzl.

During Covid, health and well-being become top priority for consumers. This led to few consumer behaviour changes that are going to stay around. The notable ones are online shopping and buying natural, herbal and ayurveda products to naturally balance our well-being. We are strengthening our product portfolio to be more natural and represent the stronger foundations of ayurveda.

The personal care sector is extremely competitive. What are the unique challenges the brand has been facing while looking at expanding markets?

Recent commodity price escalations, supply-chain cost increases, and decline in consumer optimism leading to reduced consumption are some the challenges we are tackling. However, with life returning to normalcy in many geographies, we are also witnessing demand returning to pre-Covid-19 levels. Our market shares have in fact grown in few categories like hair oils, hammam zeit and toothpaste. To overcome the challenges, we are expanding our product portfolio in relevant health and hygiene categories, and also geographically expanding by launching our products in markets in China and LATAM.

What are the major changes you have brought about in the brand since taking over as CEO for Dabur ME?

In the last 137 years, Dabur’s success has been built on the philosophy of adapting to constant change. With changing times and to prepare for the future, few new initiatives we are focussing on are the e-commerce push, #DaburCares for community support, and the five pillars of cultural shift, built on innovation that excites youth, data driven decisions, simplifying processes, reduce, reuse, recycle and teamwork that inspires. We believe these will help us stay relevant for the next century and beyond.

We are already witnessing results of these changes — our global e-commerce push has started contributing considerably towards the growth of our mainstream business. We have reprioritised our marketing investments for digital-first initiatives, and then traditional media. Another first at Dabur International is our CSR initiative #DaburCares, launched amid the pandemic, and that has helped local communities throughout last year. Tie-ups with NGOs — Royati Society, SmartLife Foundation and KMCC, helped us reach our essential products such as Dermoviva Sanitisers, Dabur Honey, Glucose, Dabur Chyawanprash and other essentials to those in need during the pandemic. With regard to sustainability, energy and water conservation are the immediate goals at our eight manufacturing plants in international locations.

What are Dabur’s expansion plans for the short and long term?

Our international business covers 100+ markets, contributing to 28 per cent of our global business. In the short term, we are focussing on growing our business through the launch of innovative products in the MENA. Our long-term view is that China and Latin America will offer future growth potential. We are working with strategic consultants for entry into these markets. We are also looking to expand our healthcare and food categories to our global consumers, while more locally, we are hoping our participation in Expo 2020 will help us to expand our distribution network of these categories globally. E-commerce has and will continue to be one of our core strategic focus areas in the short and long term.

With 137 years of our expertise and experience, taking ayurveda to the global stage tops our list of priorities. ●