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R&D shouldn't be for countries, it should be for products: Nitish Kapoor

Interview with regional director, RB

Viveat Susan Pinto & Arnab Dutta 

R&D shouldn't be for countries, it should be for products: Nitish Kapoor

Nitish Kapoor is the regional director of RB (formerly Reckitt Beckiser) in South Asia, responsible for three markets - India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. He was elevated to this position within a year of becoming India managing director in January 2014. Kapoor joined the British consumer goods major, best known for its Dettol brand, as a management trainee in 1993.

In an interaction with Viveat Susan Pinto and Arnab Dutta, Kapoor indicates the company's growth plans in one of its key markets, namely, India. Edited excerpts:

India has become an emerging markets hub for RB's brand development and management. What would this entail?

What RB has done is created this structure, referred to as the 'Power of One'. This structure is predicted on the belief that instead of having a centralised global organisation that interacts with 60 other countries directly, why not break it down to units consisting of homogeneous markets, which then talks to headquarters.

So, we have Europe and North America and the developing world, two broad regions under which RB's markets have now been divided. Where the Power of One structure comes into play is when we have to roll-out brand-level initiatives.

India has the responsibility of Dettol, Mortein, Harpic and Veet for the entire developing world. So, we are responsible for executing ideas that come from headquarters for these four brands across the developing world. A similar structure exists in Europe & North America. We also have the mandate to refresh products using local research and development for these four brands. This is not about generating new products because that is the responsibility of the global central research and development (R&D) unit of the company. However, we can certainly come up with refreshes for the four brands we manage out of India for the developing world.

Will RB have a global R&D facility based in India, given that it is likely to figure in the British consumer goods maker's top three markets in a couple of years, according to your global chief executive, Rakesh Kapoor?

R&D should not be for countries, it should be for products. To answer your question, we do have an R&D facility in India that does global work on pest control. Our R&D units are like centres of excellence for a certain category or categories. So, UK has health, personal care and air care. US has surface care, germ protection and vitamins, while Thailand has sexual well-being, Italy has fabric care and Germany has dishwashing, respectively.

Apart from household care, personal care and health and hygiene products that you have in the Indian market, would there be any additions to the domestic business?

Vitamins and health supplements figure in our local roadmap but we have to evaluate the business case for it before we consider launching it here. There is still enormous growth possible from our existing brands. Health and hygiene is an emerging category in India and there is much work to be done to improve penetration of existing products. Our attention is currently focused on this.

How is the Swachh Bharat campaign helping you from a business point of view? Most analysts see RB's association with it as a means to improve penetration in the semi-urban and rural areas?

Banega Swachh India, the campaign we launched following the Modi's government call for a cleaner India is a great connect between the purpose of our company and brands and a big national mission. The whole concept of taking a hygiene-education message to people who don't somehow appreciate it has been happening for a long time on our brands. Dettol had a big school contact programme with children as well as with mothers for many years. Harpic, our toilet cleaner, had a big programme with communities for a long time. But the Banega Swachh campaign simply marries our social and business objectives with a national cause. If the hygiene habits of people in general improve, it obviously will benefit companies such as ours.

From the launch of Banega Swachh India a year ago to now, what have you done?

We had two big objectives last year - one was to create awareness about personal hygiene habits, and second, was to raise conversation levels as well as money for the cause. We committed Rs 100 crore to the campaign for five years plus we raised additional funds from corporates to the tune of Rs 180 crore.

From then to now, our focus has been on behaviour change. We have developed a full hygiene curriculum for children between seven and 11. Beside, we are focusing on direct community intervention.

How do you work with religious leaders or local governments so that people take ownership of their village or community to make it open-defecation free? To make sure they construct toilets, to understand where they can get the money to make toilets etc. With that objective, we have adopted 200 villages, 100 each in Bihar and UP, where we are unveiling this open-defecation programme.

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First Published: Mon, October 19 2015. 00:37 IST