RED ALERT
Forbes India|September 11, 2020
How Dabur Red has become a ₹1,000-crore toothpaste brand, and now threatens to dislodge No 2 Closeup
RAJIV SINGH
The red flag was raised in 2001. ‘Your rival will bleed you to death’ was the forewarning by a global consultancy firm hired by Dabur to identify the future pillars of growth. The chyawanprash maker and homegrown FMCG player, which had a sizeable presence in the toothpowder segment with its Lal Dant Manjan since 1930, was keen to enter into the toothpaste category.

For Dabur, though, it was a Catch22 situation: Powder was predicted to come to a grinding halt, and the probability of being squeezed out of the tube by the ‘Big Boy’ Colgate, on the other hand, was high. Mohit Malhotra, who was then part of the marketing team and closely working with the consultancy firm on the project, saw the threat. “It was real,” recalls Malhotra, who was made chief executive officer last year. “But so was the opportunity.”

Two years later, Dabur bit the bullet. It reached out to its loyal customers of dant manjan with a new communication, and proposition: Aapka manjan ab paste mein aaya. (Your powder now comes in the form of paste.) Though launched without hiccups, Dabur didn’t paint the town red. Reason: A lot happened in the prelude to the launch. Lal Manjan was red in colour because of a herbal ingredient and spitting it would cause stains. So when powder got converted into paste, both the properties remained. Consequently, the option of ditching red for white was explored. Add to this the result of an internal survey done by the company before the rollout: Users either loved it or hated it. “It had a stinging flavour, a cooling after-taste, and was polarising,” recounts Malhotra, adding that the company had set a conservative sales target of ₹5 crore for the brand. One year into operations, the brand clocked ₹15 crore.

Fastest Among Dabur’s Nine Power Brands

Dabur Red grew 4.5% in fiscal 2019-20 The other eight power brands—Dabur Chyawanprash, Dabur Honey, Dabur Lal Tail, Dabur Honitus, Dabur Pudin Hara, Dabur Amla Hair Oil, Vatika and Réal fruit juice—had grown 0.2%

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