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How India's first homegrown dry battery maker is transforming itself into an FMCG giant

Playing on the back of its robust distribution channel, Eveready now has diversified presence across folios. The company isn't planning to consolidate anytime but keep launching products in new categories

Eveready, for more than a century, has remained synonymous to dry batteries in India. Being the first in its category, Eveready started its journey in India from Kolkata in 1934. And now, the brand has about 80% market share in batteries.

The brand started advertising on TV by using its iconic logo – a black cat amidst the number 9. Soon, Eveready was seen in animated cartoon films, Mahabharat, and has always tried to stay ahead of its time.

Link to some of its iconic TVCs:

While the brand was well-known for its batteries, it did not rest on its laurels. It diversified its presence to FMCG category with its tea brand – Tez. Later, to cater to different demographics, Jaago, Premium Gold and Classic were added in the portfolio. It now has 60 plus blends of tea.

Eveready believes its strength lies in its strong distribution network which was built through its batteries and torches. It now has a 4000 plus distribution network and its products are available in more than 3.2 millions outlets, which is 70% of the market in India.

“The backbone of our company is our distribution system which hardly any company can match today. We have almost 1000 plus dedicated vans which go into small villages. So, we have a really strong and robust distribution system which we are depending upon,” said Anil Bajaj, Sr VP, Sales and Marketing, Eveready.

For the same reason, in 2016, Eveready launched a fruit confectionery under the name Jollies.

“The whole reason for going into confectionery category was the great distribution which we had. All the outlets which we go to, as high as 80 to 90% of our outlets, stock confectioneries. So, we keep reviewing various categories from time to time and this came up as a category which had a very good distribution tick. So, we said why not? Our distribution, our vans, our outlets, have already increased so why can’t we launch a product that would offer something better for consumers,” said Bajaj.

The brand believes that they offer the best product in its category which will help them to see a robust growth soon.  

Leveraging its strong distribution system and legacy further, the brand is now eyeing to strengthen its presence in the FMCG category. It expects a turnover of 1000 crore by 2023. To further strengthen its plan, the brand has also entered into a joint partnership with an Indonesian company – Universal Wellbeing. The products will be in the market within next six months. While Eveready will be the distribution arm, Wellbeing is going to be the production arm.

The brand's primary category - batteries and torches, contributes up to 70% to the annual turnover. However, in five years time, the brand aims to turn it around; it’s eyeing to receive 50% of its revenues from lights and appliances, followed by FMCG.

“We need to maintain this market share in a very healthy manner. Batteries maintain a stable growth of 2-3% annually. However, in the next four to five years, our new categories will grow much faster and probably become 50% of our turnover. We need to pass on these benefits to the newer categories that we are getting into – lighting and appliances. That’s going to be our main focus for the coming months,” said Bajaj.

The unorganised market in lighting category places a big threat to Eveready’s business. Despite that threat, currently, the brand is seeing 80% growth rate.

“Lighting category is highly fragmented and unorganised. There is so much unorganised import happening through various routes that it is a very difficult figure to address what is the exact share or the volume of this industry. But we are looking around 75% to 80% growth in the current running year. So, in the next five to six years, our topline should be on lighting and appliances,” said Bajaj.

In 2004, the brand found its first ambassador in Amitabh Bachchan and in 2011 Akshay Kumar became the brand’s face and continues to do so till date. Even before Bachchan, Eveready’s tagline was – Give Me Red. Eveready completed its 25 years of maintaining ‘Give Me Red’ as its core proposition this week; the brand also released a digital film commemorating its journey.

The Digital Film:

Give Me Red has been representing the youth and its energy, and the main struggle for Eveready was to evolve with newer audience and yet hold on to the same proposition. It will now pass on this legacy to the newer categories that the brand is venturing into. It spends about 3-4% of its annual budget in advertising.

“Every brand manager, every creative director, has, sometime or the other, asked us to change the our proposition from Give Me Red to something else for better results. The main struggle has been to hold on to ‘Give Me Red’ over the last 25 years and we have done that beautifully. We kept the energy and. youthfulness going and we have made it relevant to newer and newer consumers who have been coming into our fold. We intend to do the same for the newer categories, which we are getting into now,” said Bajaj.

Eveready, since its inception, has taken the functional route in its advertising. While the brand also invests in CSR activities, it will continue to use Give Me Red and functional approach in its advertising.

“Social activities are the social causes which we are supporting, and we want to keep them social only. We don’t want to ride on them for our communication strategy. Our communication remains to be passionate about what we are doing, to affect the lives of our consumers in a positive manner. Without and with an Eveready product, what your life is and what it becomes after you use them; that is the platform on which we have been working upon,” said Bajaj.

With the increasing demand of digital media, the brand has also started advertising on social media platforms extensively. As the attention span of consumers is also decreasing, Eveready wants to leave no stone unturned in reaching its consumers, whenever and wherever they are receptive.

“Any consumer needs to be caught or spoken to when he or she is receptive to communication; wherever and whenever they are receptive. That gives us the cues whether we should go speak in the hubs and fairs of rural India or whether we should talk online, use TV, Twitter or FB. That’s how we pick and choose the events or the mediums to communicate our point. And online is increasingly becoming more and more important for brands to communicate with consumers,” said Bajaj.

Eveready will continue to look for newer opportunities to leverage its distribution system further.

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