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Fresh 'Aer' in air care market

Why Godrej, which gave up Ambi Pur two years ago, re-entered the category

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Rekindling the old romance or seducing a new love, whatever the reason, Limited (GCPL) is back to flirting with the air care category after a gap of two years. The company has launched its air freshner brand, ‘Aer’, setting its sights on the air care market for the home as well as car segment simultaneously.

To recount the back story, Godrej in partnership with US consumer goods company, Sara Lee, had introduced the latter’s air freshner brand, Ambi Pur. However, in late 2009, fast moving consumer goods major P&G bought out the brand from the parent company globally. Following which, despite holding the licensing rights for till 2012, Godrej chose an early exit, surrendering the licence in 2010 itself.

In view of the recent re-entry of the company in the market, analysts are tempted to retell the story of Godrej’s moves with regard to the air care category. Godrej had justified the early exit then by saying that Ambi Pur didn’t contribute heavily to the sales anyway. The stance now is that the exit gave the company an opportunity to develop its own brand and that it is extremely bullish on the category.

There isn’t any doubt about the bullishness despite the category being pegged at just around Rs 265-270 crore currently. That’s because the number to watch out for is the growth rate, hovering in the range of 30 - 35 per cent. That, and the fact that fragrances are an integral part of our culture. Sample this: the branded incense stick market is worth over Rs 1,200 crore today. The category is certainly not direct competition and its consumers do not represent a captive consumer base for air freshners. A simple price comparison, with one (incense sticks) available for as little as Rs 10 - 20 and another for Rs 100 plus, illustrates the point. But it does give one an idea about the Indian fascination with fragrant surroundings.

Speaking of the high growth potential, Sunil Kataria, executive VP - sales and new business development, GCPL says, “Indians are becoming very conscious of their life style and the imagery that they represent. Over the last decade, this consciousness has only risen. And fragrances are very much a part of this - a statement of your personality, a part of your image.”

Using this insight, clubbed with an understanding of the consumer being targeted - age group 22-40 years, upwardly mobile, someone smart, not falling for exaggerated claims by products - gave rise to the brand personality of Aer as per the company - honest (all about the fragrance), quirky (starting with the name, adding a twist to the very air it hopes to freshen up) and functional (design aspects).

And, since the product is thought to be representative of a person’s imagery, it must be a lifestyle product, which then must look good. This then was a key point in the Aer strategy as per Kataria, “merging design and functionality”, building a product that looks good and feels good.

Apart from looks, other consumer insights were also used to develop Aer, especially for car variants. Like, having an option to controlling the release of fragrance or shutting it down entirely, especially when not using the car. Or, for the vent variants, incorporating the bottle in the design such that it isn’t visible and won’t fall and break, if the car jerks suddenly.

Not surprisingly, Godrej will opt for the 360 degree approach while designing its marketing plans. Television, print and digital will be used heavily for the purpose. The campaign will be rolled out in another two - three weeks as per the company, that is, after the distribution, which is currently underway, is set up.

The company is planning a three-pronged approach for distribution: general trade, modern trade and car accessories showrooms, probably in that order of ascending importance. “The product is surely more geared towards modern trade as those consumers can be converted faster since they are better exposed to the category. Also, the disposable incomes needed for it are higher,” says Harish Bijoor, a brand consultant.

Exploring the car accessories showrooms channel is a learning that Godrej is carrying forward since its Ambi Pur days. “We developed strong relationships within this channel during our Ambi Pur days and even after a gap of two years are being able to build upon it. This channel is crucial as it allows one to catch the consumer in his moment of truth,” says Kataria. That is about the business to consumer channel. But there are also plans of building a business to business network, with GCPL in talks with original equipment manufacturers.

The air freshner market has till date managed a measly penetration of 3 per cent. With Aer’s entry, there are now three major players in the space, the other two being P&G’s Ambi Pur and Reckitt Benckiser’s Air Wick. “There is enough room for multiple players since the category is still at a very nascent stage. The challenge here is to expand the market and more the players, the better and easier it will be to do that,” says Bijoor.

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