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ITC trying out new agarbatti fragrances
The Hindu Business Line - 28 Mar 2017

Ties up with temples for use of Mangaldeep incense sticks

VM Rajasekharan, CEO, SBU -
Agarbatti and Matches Business, ITC Ltd

FMCG major ITC Ltd is experimenting with a variety of new fragrances for its agarbatti (incense stick) range under the 'Mangaldeep' brand.

According to VM Rajasekharan, CEO, SBU - Agarbatti & Matches Business, the company has also introduced new form factors include the Dhoop. Typically, Dhoop variants roll incense paste and Benzoin resin (also called Sambarani) into cones, pyramids, or logs.

"We are working on various categories and new fragrances of ambience creation. All this will target mostly the puja market and will be through the Mangaldeep brand," Rajasekharan told BusinessLine. At present, the Mangaldeep portfolio includes 40 stock keeping units covering 20-odd fragrances.

ITC does not give a separate turnover break-up for the agarbatti and matches vertical, but clubs it under the 'FMCG - Others' segment. This category reported a turnover of Rs. 7,626 crore for the first nine months (April to December) of this fiscal.

"We are growing close to 20 per cent year-on-year. The agarbatti segment has been profitable for us," the CEO added.

The incense stick, agarbatti and allied offerings market in India is pegged at around Rs. 6,000 crore; with the organised sector accounting for 40 per cent (or Rs. 2,400 crore) share. 'Mangaldeep' and 'Cycle' (of the NR Group) arethe two major national players in the segment.

Tie-ups with temples

Rajasekharan said that the company has tied up with temples like Vaishno Devi for use of Mangaldeep incense sticks in 'puja thalis'. Value packs for households are also being pushed.

As part of its larger branding strategy, there is also a 'Mangaldeep' mobile app, which offers devotional content including bhajans and information on performing pujas.

ITC has a capacity to sell one billion sticks a month, mostly via 20-odd outsourced units (small-scale factories) across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, West Bengal, Chandigarh.

The company is also looking at import subsidisation by collaborating with governments and communities in Assam and Tripura for bamboo. The bamboo stems used in incense sticks are now imported from countries like Vietnam.

"In terms of cost or yields, imports are still a cheaper option. But we have taken up an import substitution programme to help small-scale businesses and different communities," Rajasekharan said.

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