We will look at geographical expansion for our salons; but for products, we aim to expand within India at the moment.
Godrej Consumer Products entered the premium haircare market in 2013 after acquiring a 30% stake in salon chain BBlunt, and soon launched haircare products under the BBlunt brand.
Five years later, the brand is now working to strengthen its digital presence to boost awareness and sales. Anirban Banerjee talks to Devika Singh about the crowded haircare and beauty segment, the picky target group, BBlunt’s Bollywood edge, and more.
What prompted the change in BBlunt’s retail strategy? How much does online contribute to sales presently?
About 22% of our sales comes from online channels. However, we see the share of e-commerce going up to 27-30% by the end of this year. Over the years, as we have sharpened our target group (TG), which is women professionals in the 27-33 age group, we realised they are concentrated in the top six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and Chennai. This TG is very active on the internet and often goes to modern trade stores or specialist beauty stores for shopping; do not switch brands easily and need a push to even try a product. So we decided to focus on e-commerce and tied up with Amazon and Nykaa, so that consumers can read up about us on the internet and make up their minds. Offline, we have expanded to premium beauty stores — around 120-150 stores, with beauty advisors in each of them.
Your competitors, meanwhile, are present in premium beauty salons. Why did you opt out of this strategy?
The share of BBlunt salons in our overall portfolio is not more than 1-2% since they are few in number, and also stock other brands. We focus on high-end, non-professional channels because our products are meant for consumers. A majority of India buys beauty products from either evolutionary e-commerce channels such as Nykaa, or premium beauty channels and regular stores. Therefore, we did not restrict ourselves to stores.
The beauty and haircare space is brimming with multinational brands as well as homegrown start-ups such as Kama Ayurveda and Mamaearth. How does BBlunt differentiate itself?
While our competitors claim to understand hair internationally or have specialised ingredients in their products, our products have been designed for Indian hair and weather conditions. Also, although start-ups have carved a niche for themselves, trust and credibility are very important in the FMCG business. BBlunt’s strength lies in its decades of experience styling Bollywood celebrities and transferring that into bottles, which the Kamas and Mamas cannot replicate. Larger establishments like ours have an edge in this market as we have better market access, better FMCG and beauty credentials, a better marketing strategy and a strong product proposition.
There are companies like UrbanClap offering salon services at home. Has that impacted your business?
I cannot comment on the salon side of the business, but as a marketer, we see this as an opportunity. We can tie up with these players and ask them to use our products and advocate them when they visit a high-end consumer. We had a similar tie-up with Uber, wherein our products in a few modern trade stores came with an Uber discount code.
How are you reshaping your marketing efforts, with the change in retail strategy?
We have shifted our focus to digital here, too. We are building a strong content portfolio online and tying up with bloggers and influencers; looking at micro-activations strongly and conducting styling sessions, demonstrations at modern trade stores and specialist beauty stores. Since our TG is present in offices, we are looking at weekend activities with them for promoting our products. We are also tapping the print medium, but are refraining from television commercials.
Do you plan to expand your product portfolio?
Our product portfolio currently consists of hair colours, shampoos, dry shampoos, conditioners, styling products, serums and temporary hair colours. We will introduce variants in these categories going ahead. Our focus will be on these products for women in the short term, but we may launch more products for men in the future. We will look at geographical expansion for our salons; but for products, we aim to expand within India at the moment.