In 2010, Sahil Bansal and his younger brother Salil had only one item on their bucket list: Raj Super White. After two years of extensive research and hard work, the duo from Ludhiana developed a white perfumed laundry soap that they took to the market as Raj Super White. The excitement of the second-generation entrepreneurs who came back to Punjab after an MBA from the UK—Sahil in 2002, and Salil two years later—was palpable. Started by their father Sanjeev Bansal in 1956, the family business of laundry soap and detergents under the name National Soap Mills had stagnated.
After five decades, turnover was at ₹40 crore in 2002, and consumer reach of their local brands Saheli and Raj was nothing much to talk about. Nothing changed even after four years. The revenue hovered around the same mark. For the brothers, the crisis was an opportunity to take fresh guard, and start from zero. “Raj Super White was one silver bullet we were looking for,” recalls Sahil. The product was rolled out, and the sales team fanned across the state to whitewash the market.
There was a glitch, though. There were no takers. The first problem was colour. ‘Who makes white soap?’ retailers and distributors asked the brothers. They had a point. Punjab, and India, was used to coloured laundry soap and bars: Brown, yellow and the most predominant colour, blue. ‘Is white soap for bathing or washing?’ asked some curious kirana owners. They too had a point: Raj Super White was a perfumed soap. And the last gripe was the most potent one: The price of the white soap was two times of what was available in the market. ‘Are you serious? It’s a soap, and you are charging the cost of detergent,’ quipped others.
The soap’s chances of success were fast dissolving. The Bansals dreaded the possibility of staying confined to being a B2B player. Four years after coming back from the UK, Sahil entered the business of supplying soap noodles to big FMCG players in 2007. The business had money, but no visibility, no name. “We always wanted to start our own brand, and make it big,” says Sahil. Raj Super White was the Great White Hope.
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