Copy us? Go ahead, says Reckitt honcho

05 Oct,2011


By Shruti Pushkarna

Reckitt Benckiser needs no introduction and neither does the man who has ensured an outstanding record for the company in India.


MxM India caught up with Mr Chander Mohan Sethi, Regional Director – South Asia, Chairman and Managing Director, Reckitt Benckiser (India) in a one-on-one interview, at the release of the latest international Dettol Habit Study by the Global Hygiene Council in association with Reckitt Benckiser, in New Delhi. The study which was carried out in 12 countries including India, found that people who have good manners have better personal hygiene.

Mr Chander Mohan Sethi has envisioned and assisted Reckitt Benckiser in its entry into various sectors, as well as helped the company establish a strong foothold in the household products and personal care sector.

Mr Sethi began his career at Reckitt Benckiser India as Branch Manager- Eastern Region in 1984. He was promoted to the position of National Sales Manager in 1987 and in three years, recognizing his huge contribution to the company, he was promoted as Head of Marketing and Sales. He also headed Reckitt Benckiser, Nigeria and West Africa in 1994. Mr Sethi began his career as a management trainee with Glaxo SmithKline Consumer Products Ltd.

Reckitt Benckiser, a global consumer goods company, headquartered in UK, is a world leader in household, health and personal care. Some of its leading brands include, Dettol, Harpic, Strepsils, Vanish, Veet and Mortein.

In this candid interaction, Mr Sethi reinforces Dettol’s growing market share and the need for competing brands to think of newer ideas to take on an iconic brand like Dettol.


Q: What are the key insights of the latest Dettol Habit Study, specific to India?

First and foremost, the study has been done in 12 countries; more than 14,000 consumers have been contacted. In India, the study has also been done, both in metros, mini metros and in smaller towns. I think two key insights have come. One is that, male and female hygiene habits are the same. And secondly, which is a bit concerning, is that the younger generation unfortunately is not following as good hygiene practices as they should. I think that certainly is a surprise for us.


Q: As the latest report states, good manners and behaviour are equally important factors as much as the availability of good infrastructure to practice good hygiene. How do you react to that?

I think it’s a great insight, it’s a great fact of life, that you could have the best infrastructure but if you don’t have the right hygiene habits, it would lead to, you know, infection. So you can have a very clean room, you have a very large home but if you don’t have the right habits, there is going to be a problem of hygiene.


Q: Is Reckitt Benckiser taking any specific initiatives for hygiene awareness in rural India?

There is a very fine definition between rural-rural and what I call semi-urban. In very small, 40,000-50,000 population towns, we focus in different regions in terms of going to these towns and doing mother contact programmes, also in school programmes and hospitals. I would like my team to go into areas where they can effectively to do it.


Q: How does the Global Hygiene Council function?

The Global Hygiene Council is basically an independent body made up of very eminent doctors and scholars. They do studies on hygiene practices, on what should and what should not be done, after getting insights into consumers’ lives and consumers’ homes, in places of work. These are independent specialists, who get funded by their universities or hospitals where they are attached. But when they come to the Council, which is where we put an education endowment to run this entire body for more than ten countries, they meet a couple of times, and we use their material to be able to propagate good hygiene.


Q: Dettol ranked as No1 in the Most Trusted Brand survey by Brand Equity in 2002. It slipped down to No2 in 2003. Even though the brand has consistently ranked in the Top 10 Most Trusted Brands, it never regained the No1 mark. How do you react to that?

The first point is that Dettol is one of the most trusted brands in this country and over decades together. The second point is that there are a lot of new brands that have come, whether it is in the technology sector, cars, information or services etc. So it’s a question of what is the priority in that consumer’s mind at that point of time on his list of things. For us, it’s very important that we read the consumer’s reaction and feedback. But just to give you an idea, Dettol Liquid, in an independent survey by Nielsen, is 85 percent of the market. If you take Dettol Liquid hand wash, again Nielsen says, 53 percent of the market, so I could go on. Now if Dettol were not in one of the most trusted brands then we wouldn’t have 85 percent of the market in liquids, wouldn’t have 53 percent in hand wash. And just to say, Dettol soap for example, the body soap, it used to be No 8 in the soap market, and it is today No 3 in the entire soap market. Certainly in the germicidals, we are today at the top.


Q: Dettol has positioned itself as the germ fighter brand; how have other players in the market affected this position? In fact, as a study indicates, in 2007 Dettol made an effort to reposition itself to take on Lifebuoy. What do you say to that?

Lifebuoy tried to position itself like Dettol, I mean they must be running out of ideas that they have to… but you know, I can’t blame them. If you have an iconic brand like Dettol, everybody would want to be like Dettol. So good luck to those guys who want to copy us but the consumer says there is only one Dettol, there is only one brand which they trust in terms of hygiene.

Post a Comment 

3 responses to “Copy us? Go ahead, says Reckitt honcho”

  1. Oncethegrey says:

    Comes across as a rather arrogant and disillusioned man? Seems to have more vitriol for competitive brands than passion for his own brand. Never an ideal recipe.

  2. TK says:

    It’s an interesting experience to watch the interview while reading the transcript. But it would have been more interesting if the reporter’s voice, too, was included in the video. It would also make it look natural.

  3. Rahulkis says:

    Great Shruti..well done..nice to see your name up in lights?:-)

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