Binaca, Dalda, Moti… Kahaan Gaye Woh Brands!

28 Nov,2011

By Bhanu Pande & Ratna Bhushan


There was a sense of deja vu when, earlier this month, Titan Industries acquired Swiss heritage brand Favre Leuba for 13.8 crore. “The brand Favre Leuba has been dormant, we intend to revive the brand in India,” explained Mr Harish Bhatt, COO of Titan, India’s largest watchmaker. The 1960s and 1970s were the glory days of the 274-year-old brand, and it even sold in India for about five decades till the early-1980s, a recall that Titan now wants to capitalise on. If it succeeds, it will be a rare instance of an Indian company acquiring an old, but flagging, brand and giving it new life.


In the last two decades, for example, Bunge didn’t manage that turnaround with Dalda. Neither did Dabur with Binaca, or Hindustan Lever with Hamam and Moti. The reasons are many: the new owners did not want to, or failed to, or had a change of plans. “It’s unfortunate that a lot of companies acquire brands and then don’t know what to do with them,” says Mr Ramesh Chauhan, chairman of Parle Bisleri. In 1994, Chauhan sold five aerated-drink brands-Thums Up, Gold Spot, Limca and Citra and Rim-Zim-to Coca-Cola, only to see them mostly being left to drift or die.


Another drifter is Dalda, the iconic vanaspati brand that was a market leader till the 1980s. In 2003, when US agri and foods company Bunge bought Dalda from Hindustan Unilever for 90 crore, the brand had travelled the arc from being the proxy for its product category to a marginal existence. Bunge’s reason for the buy- a toehold in a new market-could have put Dalda back in the reckoning.


The company tried, but the cooking-medium market had shifted — from only unhealthy vanaspati in the 1970s and 1980s to healthier refined oils. Bunge India did not respond to an email. A senior brand professional, who handled a cooking oil brand in the early-2000s but did not want to be identified, says Bunge was essentially a commodity player and lacked the “marketing mindset” to revive Dalda. “The company launched refined oil variants under Dalda, but it was too late, too little,” he says.


Industry players say Dalda now has a share of about 2% in refined oils, where the leader is Fortune of Adani group (13%) and brands of Ruchi Soya (10%). In vanaspati, Dalda is still among the top brands with 12% share, but the segment itself has shrunk significantly.


A worse fate has befallen Binaca, an oral care brand whose popularity in the 1970s and 1980s was next to that of only Colgate, and which was also a prefix to a much-loved radio programme, Binaca Geetmala. Binaca has faded to near oblivion in the subsequent two decades. Dabur bought it from Reckitt Benckiser in 1996 — for “less than 1 crore” according to an official at Dabur who was involved with the deal — with the intention of reviving it to ride into the white toothpowder segment.


Dabur failed in that product diversification because the category was stagnant and margins thin, and it withdrew.  Mr Sunil Duggal, CEO of Dabur, calls Binaca’s acquisition a “gamble that did not pay off”. “Sometimes, when a brand is available at a throwaway price, you don’t think twice about picking it up,” he says. “We bought Binaca hoping to leverage it in some way, but it didn’t work.”


Following an organisational restructuring, Dabur decided to focus on brands that had some herbal association. Binaca, not being one of them, languished. Mr Duggal says Dabur put the brand for sale, but found no takers at the designated price of 25 crore. It is still present in Dabur’s portfolio as a toothbrush brand; Mr Duggal declined to reveal Binaca’s contribution to its revenues, but says it has helped the company recover its acquisition price.


Mr Viren Razdan, managing director of Interbrand India, a global brand consultancy, says the value in an acquired brand can be broken into four parts: its equity (what it promises); its culture (how the previous owner honoured that promise); its infrastructure (distribution, marketing and sales); and the visual expression of its identity (advertising). “How it ‘fits’ into the future ambition of the acquiring company is what dictates how it is cultivated, or destroyed, for a larger good,” he says.


Killing competing brands by buying them was one flank of Coca-Cola’s entry strategy. While Dalda and Binaca were neglected and dying before they found new buyers, Mr Ramesh Chauhan’s array of aerated drinks were market leaders when Coca-Cola bought them in 1994. Between them, Thums Up, Gold Spot, Limca, Citra and Rim-Zim had a 70% share.


Coca-Cola wanted to kill Thums Up and Gold Spot to give its own competing brands — Coke and Fanta — greater space to grow. But such was the popularity of Thums Up, it has always remained Coca-Cola’s largest selling brand in India despite poor marketing support in the initial years.


Conceding its strength, the company re-launched Thums Up, making actor Akshay Kumar as its face. Today, according to market research firm Nielsen, Thums Up remains the country’s largest aerated drink with a share of about 15% of the 13,000 crore category.


Thums Up made its own story, but Gold Spot and Citra (citrus drink) could not. A former Coca-Cola India executive says the company let those two brands die a natural death to give life to its competing global brands — Fanta and Sprite, respectively.


Coca-Cola did not respond at length to a questionnaire on its thinking behind these four brands. “As for Gold Spot, we are the owners of the trademark, but do not share future plans for our brands,” was all a company spokesperson offered by way of explanation. “They seem to have no attachment to the brands,” says Mr Chauhan about Coca-Cola’s approach to Gold Spot and Citra. He feels even Limca has been not marketed to its full potential.


For acquirers, more than emotional attachments, such brand buys acquisitions are about business strategy. For example, says Mr Prathish Nair, brand consultant at Bangalore-based Transcend Brand Consulting: “When the acquired brands are regional, the companies deliberately don’t take the brands national so they can block regional rivals.”


It’s what PepsiCo India has done with Uncle Chipps, which was the largest selling potato chips brand in India till 2000. PepsiCo acquired it from Amrit Agro in 2000 to drive its own growth in snack foods.


But PepsiCo also had its flagship snack-food brand, Lays, to push. So, while it markets Lays aggressively, Uncle Chipps is distributed in select states, primarily Northern ones, to combat smaller brands. Similarly, Hindustan Unilever has ploughed Hamam, once a national brand of repute, on regional duty. Clearly, more than the brand, it’s about the business.



Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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One response to “Binaca, Dalda, Moti… Kahaan Gaye Woh Brands!”

  1. cagedsoul says:

    Some of these brands have fond associations and some were in categories that were considered as luxury at one time like Moti soaps or Aramusk. Mysore sandal still has its niche followers. Thanks that its with the Govt and hence still continues