17 years ago
WHEN John Abraham and Bipasha Basu, the new brand ambassadors of Clinic All Clear, decided to launch the new Hair Fall Defense shampoo during a special appearance on the Ranbhoomi episode on Sony channel's Fame Gurukul it was a good indication that Hindustan Lever Ltd wanted to break away from conventional mass media advertising to communicate the virtues of its latest variant.
Recently, the brand ambassadors made a special appearance to gauge whether the contestants of Fame Gurukul had the confidence to make the first move and create the best impression under the spotlight in an off-channel Ranbhoomi event of the show.
Says Sanjiv Kakkar, Vice-President (Hair & Oral Care) HLL, "Launching our new variant during the show gave us the unique setting we wanted. Clinic All Clear stands for confidence, which is one of the main elements of this show."
Of late, a resurgent HLL is stepping up its presence in hair care, one of the fastest growing segments in the FMCG category. The market leader in shampoos has been feeling the pressure from both the top and bottom end of the market and felt it was time to extend the equity of its strongest shampoo brands. The withdrawal of Ayush is also being cited as one of the reasons why the company wants to fill the void left by the brand since it has enhanced its 'Ayurvedic' portfolio by stretching its largest selling Clinic Plus brand to this segment.
The post-hair wash market is also being explored: Sunsilk has been extended to an 'after-wash combing lotion,' along the lines of products such as Livon and Silk & Shine.
However, some industry observers are of the opinion that HLL's moves in the hair care market could have come much earlier as the market is already 'overheated' with new products. But others differ. They say that HLL does not want to take chances and needs to test the success rate of other hair care brands before it leaps into new segments.
Today, HLL is busy unleashing new products and extensions of its existing brands. Subsidiary Lakme Lever too has decided to foray into the already cluttered hair care market. It is making bold moves by launching new product categories such as hair sprays and hair mousse — segments untapped by the other majors in the hair care segment.
Apart from Clinic All Clear's new Hair Fall Defense variant, HLL has extended the equity of its Clinic Plus shampoo to an Ayurvedic offering. The new sub-brand — Clinic Plus Ayurvedic Hair Wash — is priced on par with Clinic Plus Health shampoo with milk proteins. With natural ingredients such as neem, tulsi and cinnamon leaf oil, the hair wash's dark brown packaging distinguishes it from the rest of its predominantly blue colouring.
Claims Kakkar, "With the launch of the Ayurvedic Clinic Plus, we are offering an alternative in the hair wash category." However, market analysts say the product is meant to help tide over the disappearance of the company's other herbal brand, Ayush, from the market.
"It was a big opportunity for Clinic Plus to exploit and the two issues are not related," explains Kakkar.
Making a comeback in the post-wash segment, the FMCG major has also launched Sunsilk Naturals 9 to 9 combing lotion for both wet and dry hair. It withdrew the Sunsilk Naturals brand of hair conditioners some time ago. "This product was a new concept, and not an after-wash conditioner. It offers the benefits of oil minus the stickiness and smell," Kakkar claims.
The after-wash product is expected to give the company some space away from the saturated hair oil category but then, there are other brands such as Livon and Silk & Shine which offer almost similar benefits. However, HLL's late entry into the category comes with the lowest pricing among existing brands. Industry observes believe HLL is trying to expand the post-wash market and with its economy pricing, wants to market the product to the mass users.
Besides, in the past, HLL was also toying with the idea of launching a ceramide-based Sunsilk hair oil, which it subsequently discontinued. Analysts say it is not a good idea to have hair oil and shampoo under the same brand. However, HLL does have hair oils under its Clinic franchise.
Procter & Gamble, meanwhile, is beefing up its shampoos as well. Instead of entering the post-wash segment, it has relaunched the Pantene range with the addition of coconut oil for the post-wash effect. It was specifically upgraded to suit the needs of the Indian consumers. Besides, the company has also decided to set up a couple of 'Pantene strength stations' at upmarket malls in the metros to address the needs of one's 'tress' concerns.
Observes M.G. Parameswaran, Executive Director, FCB Ulka, "The shampoo market is overheated and as a market leader, HLL is feeling the pressure. It is now trying to leverage the strong equity of its shampoo brands but maybe it should have got into the new segments much earlier."
Lakme Lever is also moving beyond cosmetics and skincare into the hair care market. The subsidiary has made a foray into the hair care market with a new sub-brand — Lakme HairNext.
Explaining the need to enter the hair care category, Anil Chopra, Vice-President, Lakme Lever, says: "The consumer's desire for beautiful hair at an affordable cost has led to a boom in the hair care market. Not only are store shelves sporting a large variety of hair care products formulated to fit an individual's personal hair needs, shampoos and conditioners now promise added benefits. The Indian woman is exposed to international and national trends in beauty and styling, is very demanding and is looking for technologically advanced hair products that provide great benefits."
The company's Lakme salons are coming in handy to promote its new offerings. Chopra adds, "Lakme has introduced the Hairnext range of advanced services that is available in all the 75 Lakme Beauty Salons in over 29 cities."
However, analysts tracking HLL are not too sure of Lakme's success in the hair care category. Nikhil Vora, Vice-President (Research), SSKI Securities, says: "HLL's brand equity in shampoos is already quite strong. There has to be a new positioning for Lakme's shampoos and it has to be drastically different from the rest. Shampoo is a growing category but its volume growth is due to sachets. There will be value growth on the back of volume growth in future. But whether there is space for a differentiated product in shampoos is something we have to wait and see."
According to AC Nielsen research, shampoo is one of the fastest growing categories within the FMCG sector, registering a value growth of 10.9 per cent between April 2004 and March 2005. Recently, P&G introduced a new Head & Shoulders Nourishing Aloe Vera variant in the market. In fact, in terms of pricing, Lakme Hairnext range is pegged close to Head and Shoulders.
With P&G widening its product portfolio in hair care, HLL is becoming cautious. Observes Praveen Tripathi, Chief Executive, Hansa Consulting, "HLL is preparing itself for the possible entry of more hair care products. Hair care as a segment is still shampoo-dominated and is not in full bloom." In this scenario, Lakme Lever has taken the first step towards introducing hair sprays and hair souffl, products not yet offered by any Indian brand.
But there is still a long way to go before the market leader can actually be overtaken. As Tripathi says, "Globally, P&G is a hair care leader and will try to establish the same position in India. However, it will still take a fair amount of time before HLL's leadership position can get eroded."
Being the market leader, HLL has to bear the onus of leading the market with new products. But this time around, the company is acting under pressure to strengthen its leadership position in a category which is already cluttered.