With its array of water purification and home cleaning products, Eureka Forbes Limited is already one of the leading direct selling companies in the world. For Marzin Shroff, CEO, Direct Sales & Sr VP, Marketing, the focus now is to enhance the brand through social, digital and experiential mediums
ABOUT THE BRAND
Eureka Forbes Limited is a multi-product, multi-channel organization with a turnover of over Rs 1.35 billion and a global footprint across 35 countries. A part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Eureka Forbes’ product portfolio encompasses water purification, vacuum cleaning, air purification and home security solutions with a base of 10 million customers. In 29 years of existence, it has been a pioneer in direct selling in India and is one of the leading direct selling companies in the world, cited as a classic direct sales reference by marketing guru Philip Kotler in his famous book ‘Marketing Management’. With an 8,000 strong direct sales force operating from 220 customer response centres in over 145 cities, EFL has an expanded presence in 380 smaller towns through franchised operations. Aquaguard, its flagship water purifier brand, has been conferred with numerous Indian and international awards for its technology.
Marzin Shroff is the CEO, Direct Sales & Sr VP, Marketing of Eureka Forbes Ltd. He is the brand trustee for Aquaguard, Euroclean and Eureka Forbes, and has the task of steering the largest vertical of Eureka Forbes. His responsibility is thought leadership, category leadership and market leadership. He proactively manages business risks and is responsible for cultivating best in class talent, along with building strong leadership and succession plans. Shroff is a Chartered Marketer from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK and has an MBA in Marketing. He started his career as a brand manager at Eureka Forbes. Subsequently he has been associated with, consulted, and trained at a number of well known companies. In a career spanning over 17 years, he has acquired multi-dimensional experience in Direct Marketing, Advertising, Strategy, Luxury Branding, International Liaison & Corporate Communications. He returned to EFL in 2006 as Sr. VP, Strategy, Business Development & Knowledge Management and successfully concluded a joint venture deal with GE. He has been a guest lecturer at the IIMs, MICA, FICCI, CII, Best Prax Institute, Great Places to Work, etc.
Q] Tell us about your EuroDiya initiative. How does it take the brand forward?
EuroDiya harnesses solar energy and lights homes. This energy is also used as an alternative resource to kerosene and electricity, saving us from using fossil fuels. Eurodiya is the footprint of our green energy initiative. Eureka Forbes stands to its commitment of a happy and healthy community and ushers in a pollution-free world for generations to come.
Q] Given the product category, and Eureka Forbes being one of the largest direct selling companies in India, what role does marketing and media play? What is your media and marketing mix? How has it evolved over the years?
In direct selling, the marketing mix is different. Traditionally, direct sales companies do not advertise. However, at Eureka Forbes, we have invested in media to build our brands. Initially, we used mass media to gain door entry for “Eurochamp” but as the need for categories increased, we started investing in brand-building on mass media too. Aquaguard today is a household name with TOM recalls in excess of 90% and an intended repeat purchase of over 85%. The brand is built on a reputation of solid trust and we see it as Tried, Tested & Trusted. The marketing mix in our categories starts right from consumer interaction on how they choose features in our products, all the way to how we can play a role in their lives through social media and the digital medium. In recent times, we have increased our thrust on experiential media.
Q] What are the key insights behind your marketing activities that help you reach your target audience?
The biggest advantage of being in the direct selling business is our direct contact with our customers, not just for the sale process, but also after-sales service. These interactions give us deeper insights into their needs and help us fine-tune the product to fit in line with evolving customer needs. Over and above our internal feedback system, we also undertake various research programmes across the country to understand different needs of different sets of customers.
Q] How do you plan to capture the target audience? Is the Indian consumer really aware of the purification category? It does not seem to be a priority in the Indian mindset; so what are you doing to spread awareness?
Being pioneers in both water purification and vacuum cleaning, educating customers has been our key challenge. But today, as the category grows and new players enter, it is necessary to be more involved and to invest deeper. Our investments are not directly related to media, but reflected in our understanding of Indian water. We can proudly say that Eureka Forbes has mapped out the water conditions in excess of 90% of all PIN codes in the country. Indian water is probably the worst in the world. Our 17 water laboratories across the country map the changing water conditions for new age impurities. We engage our customers through product advertisements geared to educate them about the need for healthy living, demonstration of the product by our customer specialist with user manuals with each and every unit in consumer-friendly language, addressing post sales training needs of customers, corporate website and Eurohelpline call centre designed for instant customer feedback, a monthly e-magazine called Eurovoice to keep the customer informed about health topics and new product developments, a tie-up with the Asthma and Allergy Association to develop health education booklets and the Water Right Child Bright Schools Programme to educate children on importance of health and hygiene.
Q] What has been the growth in the sector? What is the future outlook?
It is about 15-20% CAGR; expected to maintain consistent growth over the next five years.
Q] What are the biggest challenges today?
Our biggest challenge is getting quality frontline manpower. We have undertaken a series of measures to recruit and retain our frontline manpower. Also, restricted entry in some gated communities pose a challenge for us. We are working on a series of measures through our risk management framework to address these challenges.
Q] What role does technology and new media play in building your brand?
We have always invested in deploying new technology to ensure that we reach out to consumers faster and offer an enhanced consumer experience. Our entire IT backbone runs on a robust SAP system. We have IBM as our IT partners. Technology has played a key role in the entire process from capturing basic customer data all the way to advanced campaign management and lead management tools. We have also invested heavily in the web - www.eurekaforbes.com attracts over a million unique visitors each year and offers unique features like Water Doctor, a PIN code-mapping feature that recommends the water purification technology and product best suited to the water type in a locality, and highlights the sales force of more than 7,000 Eurochamps. The website also has a “call patch” system, a feature that connects the user instantly with the closest EFL salesperson. Consumers get the option of interacting in 10 different regional languages. The feature was awarded the ‘Best use of Technology’ at the exchange4Media Digital Awards, 2011. Another feature of the website is the unique integration of the demo request form to the EFL SAP system. Once the user places a demo request, the data is directly entered into SAP. The website also offers a comprehensive 5-step escalation matrix to consumers, which ensures systematic and timely resolution of service requests.
Q] What is the biggest challenge today in penetrating Tier II and Tier III cities?
Market is maturing in Tier-II and Tier-III towns, challenge is to offer products and services which are relevant and it has to be backed with impeccable service.
Q] You are very active on social media - how are you leveraging this medium to reach out to your consumers? Will you be entering the mobile advertising sector as well?
Social media presence is no longer a ‘nice to have’ aspect for brands. Consumers are actively participating in discussions about brands and engaging with brands in the digital space. Social media provides a unique platform to get associated with the consumers. Facebook was the most apparent location for the launch of Eureka Forbes’ social presence, bolstered by an Eureka Forbes Twitter account and YouTube channel. We see social media as a platform to engage with consumers on social issues close to their hearts. Over a period of time, our Facebook page has witnessed several initiatives and activities undertaken to achieve the objective. We have been engaging with consumers on social media to work with them on social Issues that we feel strongly about – namely Environment, Water Conservation and providing opportunities to the differently abled. We see a great opportunity in mobile advertising. While we did dabble with it this year, we see mobile as a great medium to reach out to consumers. Shortly, we would be launching our mobile site. We are also in the process of integrating QR codes into our print communication that would facilitate mobile users to connect to product demo videos and brand commercials.
Q] One learns more from failures than successes. Can you share any such phase or incident in your brand marketing that helped you learn and completely turn around the brand?
There have been several occasions when we have not got things right the first time. We have tried entering some categories and have had ideas that were ahead of the times. The key learning that we have imbibed is that unless you try, you will never know if it works. We at Eureka Forbes celebrate successes but we also celebrate failures. Right now, there is no one incident that comes to mind that has changed the fortune of the brand.