Bisleri’s journey in India — when a brand became a category | The Financial Express

Bisleri’s journey in India — when a brand became a category

As a brand, Bisleri is a placeholder for bottled water, which means that every time you ask for a bottle of Bisleri, you may not get a bottle of Bisleri, the shopkeeper may just give you “any” brand of mineral water.

Bisleri’s journey in India — when a brand became a category
Bisleri was launched in India in 1965 by Italian entrepreneur Signor Felice Bisleri.

Every brand wants to be at the top of the ladder. But sometimes this can be a double-edged sword in the branding world — if a corporation’s product is overwhelmingly popular, it risks what is called genericisation — that is when the average buyer associates the brand name with the product category itself.

Bisleri owner Ramesh Chauhan has grappled with a similar problem for decades but has successfully turned it into an advantage. As a brand, Bisleri is a placeholder for bottled water, which means that every time you ask for a bottle of Bisleri, you may not get a bottle of Bisleri — the shopkeeper may just give you “any” brand of mineral water.

That’s the stuff of nightmares for a brand that has created a category from scratch.

Yet, in the intensely competitive packaged water market today, global brands (Coca-Cola’s) Kinley and (PepsiCo’s) Aquafina trail Bisleri, which has a share of about 32% of the organised market. As per media reports, the Bisleri brand’s turnover is around Rs 2,500 crore and the profit for FY22 was Rs 220 crore.

“Creating a new category is an achievement much bigger than building a brand out of a commodity,” says Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion. 

Bisleri was launched in India in 1965 by Italian entrepreneur Signor Felice Bisleri. It was snapped up by Parle in 1969 and the company went on to singlehandedly build the category of mineral water in India.

“Bisleri’s problem is a good problem to have, as long as you are able to ensure it is your brand that the consumer is getting when they ask for a Bisleri and not Brand X or Y. And no other brand is extracting mileage from the popularity of your brand. More importantly, you must ensure the consumer doesn’t get a counterfeit,” says Sumanto Chattopadhyay, former chairman & chief creative officer of 82.5 Communications, which has been handling Bisleri’s communications for many years.

Counterfeits and category proximity have been the brand’s biggest challenge in recent years. Bisleri launched regional language labels in 2017 and the camel ad of 2018 saying Har Paani Ki Bottle Bisleri Nahin (every bottle of water is not a Bisleri). “It was a masterstroke; the camel is the water expert and the ad resonated with people,” says Chattopadhyay.

The second phase of the campaign launched in 2018 depicted the story of a mother and her baby camel with the mother insisting her baby drinks only Bisleri and does not settle for any other source of water (Har Maa Janti Hai…). Besides convincing the out-of-home consumer and the retailer, the mother-child campaign also wooed the lady of the house — a key decision maker when it comes to family health — to create a permanent space for itself on the kitchen countertop. It already had the 20-litre bottle for home and office since 1991.

The next big milestone was the launch of the Bisleri @Doorstep initiative during the pandemic-induced lockdown. The aim was to service the “increasing demand for safe and pure mineral water delivered at home”, the company had said at the time of the launch.

Bisleri is the only brand the owners have held onto until now. In 1993, the company sold Thums Up, Maaza, Citra, Gold Spot and Limca to Coca-Cola, when it re-entered the Indian market. 

Bisleri International also owns a premium packaged water brand, Vedica, and four fizzy drinks, Spyci, Limonata, Fonzo, and Bisleri Soda.

“Now look at it from the perspective of the buyer: They not only get a phenomenally large brand but they get this humungous distribution, which makes it so much easier to push any new consumer product they might want to push through it,” sums up Rediffusion’s Goyal.

Also Read: ONDC to democratise e-commerce in India: Report

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First published on: 25-11-2022 at 10:34 IST