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From fumes to foams
Financial Express - 12 Jan 2010

ITC has made a successful transition from being a cigarettes company to a consumer goods seller in the past two years. Its consumer goods portfolio, today, includes soaps, shampoos, biscuits, and salty snacks among others.

These are all extremely competitive consumer categories with well entrenched multinational as well as domestic players such as Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Dabur and Marico. With the right product and marketing mix, ITC has not only managed to create a space for itself in this overly-crowded consumer segment but has built a strong brand recall as well among its target consumers. In 2009, the company launched variants of its popular salty snack brand Bingo! Chips. The launch was well supported by a brilliant advertising campaign that won consumers’ attention as well immense creative applaud.

Starting with the first of the Bingo! commercials, which showed scientists falling over themselves in selecting the best of three identical triangles, aka Bingo! Mad Angles, the ads have continued with their irreverent and humourous messaging. The latest are its Bingo! Red Chilli Bijli and Bingo! International Cream and Onion Potato variants, which have helped the brand cater to every palate.

In the personal care category, the company has extended its Fiami Di Wills line of premium soaps, shampoos and shower gels in an attempt to widen its product portfolio and strengthen its position in the Rs 1,500 crore in sales shampoo market. Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone is the face for this premium line, while Amrita Rao was roped in to promote the Vivel brand. Fiama di Wills is in the premium segment, that’s growing faster at 44%, compared to 21% for the overall market.This comes after the FMCG player launched its personal care portfolio which includes brands such as ‘Essenza Di Wills’, ‘Vivel Di Wills’ ‘Vivel UltraPro’, ‘Vivel’ and ‘Superia’ brands that received encouraging consumer response. In 2009, it also launched its top of the range fragrance portfolio with the Mikkel Eau De Toilette and aftershave lotion, available exclusively at Wills Lifestyle stores. With this, the company successfully straddles both the high-end and mass market ends of the market.

At a time when most rivals were reeling under tremendous cost pressures and depressed consumer demand, the company has registered impressive results on the back of a good product mix, smart sourcing of raw materials, and several cost management steps. Its non-cigarette FMCG segment continued to improve on profitability while revenues from the sector grew 14% in the July-September 2009 quarter. Investments in brand building in the FMCG segment have also brought in handsome results. Higher taxes notwithstanding, cigarette sales grew impressively and so did the rural agri-business.

The company says it’s the focus on innovation and specific consumer needs that have enabled its business to deliver superior value. A well crafted portfolio of brands with a good blend of contemporary packaging and marketing communication, is the other secret to tits success.

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