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Bisleri has always positioned itself on the basis of purity and health: Ramesh Chauhan, Chairman, Bisleri International

The company that introduced Indians to the concept of bottled water has entered the soft drinks market with Bisleri POP but put the energy drink Urzza on the backburner. Ramesh Chauhan tells BestMediaInfo why and much more

Roshni Nair| Mumbai | September 12, 2016

Ramesh-Chauhan Ramesh Chauhan, Chairman, Bisleri International

A favourite example people like to give when talking about brand resonance is of Xerox. Essentially, when one walks into a shop and asks for a Xerox what they actually asking for is a photocopy. But the brand Xerox has become synonymous with photocopying and that is just how things are. Not just the west, there are examples back home also. If you are one of those people who have, at least once, walked into a restaurant or a shop and asked for a Bisleri when you actually wanted was mineral water, then you know what we are talking about.

The brand that introduced the concept of packaged drinking water to Indians is a 50-year-old giant that has been ruling for over five decades now. Talking to BestMediaInfo about the inception of the company, the challenges of initiating an entire nation to a whole new habit, the importance of innovation and diversification and future plans is Ramesh Chauhan, the ever effervescent Chairman of Bisleri International. Excerpts:

Bisleri was launched in 1965 in Mumbai. Parle was a soft drinks company. What prompted the company to buy the brand from Felice Bisleri?

Parle is the first Indian company to buy out a MNC. Felice Bisleri was unable to market bottled water in the country at that time and wanted to exit the market. It was the right opportunity for us to become pioneers and introduce the concept of bottled water in India.

Bottled water wasn't a concept in India then. How did the company position itself in the market?

Bottled water was definitely a completely new concept in India back then. Also it wasn’t easy to advertise or market water. But we overcame these challenges and developed a legacy brand over the years and made Bisleri the leader in the segment. Bisleri has always positioned itself on the basis of purity and health.

What were your initial marketing and advertising strategies?

The first print ad campaign showed a butler with a bow tie holding two bottles of Bisleri, which looked high class. The Bisleri punch line then was ‘Bisleri is veri veri extraordinari’. The words were deliberately spelt differently to grab attention. The success of the campaign led to Bisleri being noticed as someone who would cater to the need for safe and healthy drinking water.

How has the shift from glass bottles to PVC and then to PET bottles worked?

In the mid-1980s, we shifted from PVC packaging to PET bottles. With glass bottles, we had faced enough challenges in terms of handling, the weight of glass being heavier than our product itself, transportation hassles and so on. PET was much easier to handle and hygienic.

Bisleri changed its design and packaging from blue to green in 2006. Why was the change necessary? How has the shift worked for the brand?

The change was recommended to set Bisleri apart from other bottled waters. It was also in line with the increasing global interest in ecology and green earth concepts. We knew that the small, local players would easily change to green but global brands will not. It turned out to be a brilliant idea, resulting in an increase in sales by 50-60 per cent for two years.

How does one deal with the threat of ‘duplicates’ flooding the market?

One cannot stop duplicates from cropping up in the market; the unorganised sector will always be present in any industry. What we can do is build our brand in such a way that consumers become loyal and settle for nothing but Bisleri. We need to make them aware that Bisleri has been a symbol of purity for the past 50 years and this cannot be duplicated by any other local brand.

Can you throw some light on some of the brand's landmark campaigns like 'Stay protected', 'Kiss to drink' and the strategy behind these?

For the ‘Stay Protected’ campaign, we wanted to give the brand a wider perspective, thinking ahead, while sticking to the old thought of ‘safety and purity’. We wanted to take our ‘Play Safe’ campaign forward. It was an exaggerated humour concept that we decided to go with. The ‘Kiss to drink’ campaign was the first time Bisleri did SKU-led advertising. The underlying idea behind the campaign was that each one should buy their own Bisleri bottle and not share someone else’s.

Bisleri has always innovated with its packaging. What was the driving thought behind innovations like the 20-litre jar, the 1.2 litre pack, the 500 ml bottle?

Bisleri is the only brand that has an SKU for every occasion. A 250ml bottle is convenient for one-time consumption whereas a 1 litre or 2 litre suffices the needs of a group while travelling. A 20 litre jar ensures pure and safe drinking water to the entire family. In this way, we wanted to ensure we cater to all kinds of needs of our consumers.

Bisleri recently entered the energy drink segment with Urzza. Take us through that journey and the expectations from Urzza.

Urzza was launched in 2014 but it did not do as expected. Presently, Urzza is in the backburner. We are working on re-positioning it. Once we get that in place, we will re-introduce it in the market.

Bisleri re-entered the soft drinks space with Bisleri POP. Why this move now?

A company should diversify. Consumers are open to trying out new things. It is the correct time to enter the soft-drinks space and offer consumers something absolutely new. Our widespread market reach along with our strong brand reputation gives us an added advantage.

The soft drink market is a crowded space today. What is Bisleri's marketing strategy for the product?

For Bisleri POP, we are focusing heavily on social media and digital because that’s where our target audience is. BTL activities such as event sponsorships, mall activations and so on are also being done to reach the youth. ATL for Bisleri POP can wait as of now as we want to see how the brand progresses.

How has the response been to Bisleri POP since the launch?

The response has been warm and encouraging. As mentioned, consumers are bored of the usual soft drinks available. So when the market offers them exotic and distinct flavours like Pina Colada or Spyci, it is bound to receive a good response.

With Jayanti Chauhan stepping in, there is renewed focus on Vedika. What are the future plans for Vedika?

Vedica is natural Himalayan water and caters to a niche audience and targets the urban market. It is a premium brand. Hence, the tone of our marketing campaigns for Vedica has to be in sync with the brand positioning and brand image. Associating Vedica with events like Lakmé Fashion Week and La Ultra Marathon make perfect sense since it helps us tap the right target audience.

What does the future have in store for Bisleri?

Bisleri has recently entered Dubai and we plan to expand further. The trust and respect garnered by the brand over the years is overwhelming and we will only strive hard to ensure it is maintained.

The TVCs:

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