Having made its foray into the Indian mass market less than two years ago, home textiles brand Welspun has identified a clear growth strategy based on consumer pain points. Manjari Upadhye, CEO, Domestic Business, Welspun India, tells us how this strategy has helped the brand grow its presence across 50 markets in the country within a short span of time
Q] Welspun recently brought actor Amitabh Bachchan on board as brand ambassador. How has that move paid off for the brand?
So, this is firstly a heavily unorganised category. Our aim is to revolutionise it, and bring in products that offer comfort, functionality and lifestyle benefits to consumers. And Welspun as a brand only recently made its foray into the mass market in India. So, we decided we need a celebrity and a voice of consumers, in order to build instant credibility for the brand. Mr Bachchan is the right choice because he brings in a lot of authenticity and credibility with him. It was also the right match in terms of the Welspun brand ethos and Mr Bachchan’s personality. So when we went on air with him, we got the kind of traction we anticipated with retailers. The trade gets very excited with him. And he is the sort of brand ambassador that holds appeal for all consumers,
male or female, young or old.
Q] What was the media mix and budget you allocated towards this campaign?
To reach the mass audience in the country you would definitely need TV, so of course that was an important part of the mix. We also did a regional roll out, so we had some regional media in the initial phases when we launched this campaign. We had a head start in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, where we went big on OOH. We actually started off with the Kumbh Mela, in fact. We identified a concern for women pilgrims who bathe at the Mela, but there were not enough changing rooms for them. So we built changing rooms on the ghats and offered our towels for consumers to get a first-hand experience of the product. We got really good feedback on the towel and its price point. Later this year, during the festive season we went on national TV to the Hindi speaking markets, and some regional markets too. In the coming months, we will make the South a key focus area as we expand in that market.
Q] Considering you have taken the mass market positioning, what is your approach for the Tier II and III cities?
We started by building depth in a state after launching in its metro. So, after we launched in Mumbai for instance, we quickly expanded to regions like Nashik, Nagpur, Pune and Solapur. We have seen good traction in states like Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. So, we already have our presence today in about 50 towns in the country with around 3,000 outlets. We took the decision to go mass around 18 months ago, and we have already come a long way since then.
Q] Tell us about your marketing strategy for your premium brand, Spaces. What is your go-to-market strategy for the brand?
Our approach for both Welspun and Spaces is based on consumer pain points. The pain points across these segments are very different. For example, a consumer at the premium level would like to have bed linen that has a soft, satiny feel and therefore, qualities like anti-wrinkle and anti-allergy properties become important. The Welspun consumer wants products that are low maintenance, in a good size and quality and at a good price point. For both our brands, the approach is to create offerings that reflect the Welspun culture of innovation and technological prowess. In the coming years, demographically we will see an increase in both sets of consumers. That is why we also kept the two brands separate, because of the functionality of the product lines, the difference in target audience and the difference in the go-to market strategy. The Spaces brand will be more modern trade and lifestyle stores, while Welspun is more for the mom-and-pop traditional retail.
Q] With the ongoing slowdown, what was the festive season like for Welspun and Spaces? Did you see a muted festive season growth this year?
This year, we launched a lot of innovations like the bamboo charcoal and the organic cotton merchandise, which did very well for us. Our regular Hygro, which is the mainstay of the brand campaign, also continues to grow at a healthy rate. Also the Rangana collection that we launched during the festive season, which is our Indian art inspired bed linen, did great. So despite the slowdown, the liquidity crunch and other challenges, I cannot complain about the festive season.
ABOUT THE BRAND
Welspun India Ltd, part of the US$ 2.3 billion Welspun Group, is one of the world’s largest home textile manufacturers. With a distribution network in more than 50 countries and manufacturing facilities in India, it is one of the largest exporters of home textile products from India. Welspun is also the supplier to 17 out of the top 30 global retailers.
Creative mainline: Ogilvy
Media agency: Zenith
Creative digital agency: 21North 72East
Digital Media Agency: Foxy Moron
PR Agency: MSL Group
Q] What kind of sales do you see today from e-commerce channels? Do you think e-commerce will become a key growth avenue for Spaces in the future?
One of the things that we have just about started to get right is the kind of portfolio that we want to promote via e-commerce, because e-commerce is usually a discounted merchandise model. The consumers are not willing to buy full price merchandise on these platforms unless they are items of necessity. And if I give deals on what I regularly sell, then it is neither profitable for me, not fair to the ones making the effort to sell it at full price. So, therefore it’s taken some time to fix our e-commerce strategy. Now that we have it fixed, I believe it is the channel of the future and we need to stay invested in it. Just like the apparel category, this category will also see traction on e-commerce. It’s been a bit of a latecomer to the party but it will grow for sure.
Q] While the category is largely unorganised, what is the kind of market share you enjoy within the organised space?
Honestly, there is no agency that tracks this category. So any syndicated data for this category does not exist. Going by data that is available from external consultants, it would be fair to say that this category is valued at about Rs 40,000 crore. It is a fairly big market and is 100% penetrated so we don’t have the task of building the category. However, about 85% of the market is completely unorganised. As you move up the price ladder, the market becomes more organised with presence from some regional local brands. Nationally, aside from us, the only other nationwide brand that operates in both the mass and premium segments is Bombay Dyeing. There are other premium brands in this category too, like D’Décor.
Q] Are you looking at bringing some of your big global brands like Christy to India at some point?
We already sell Christy in India, but only to the top 100 outlets in the country. Brands like Christy are very high-end, and have a certain, set consumer base that is small. We don’t have plans to expand Christy right now because we feel like we have so much work to do with what we have with Spaces and Welspun. We are constantly looking to bring Welspun innovation more than brand.
As the CEO of Welspun India Limited’s Domestic Retail Business, Manjari Upadhye is responsible for the domestic business of the company including its premium brand, Spaces. Prior to Welspun, she was the Country Manager at Danone Dairy for two years. Upadhye was also associated with Mondelez International for over two years where she was the Associate Director, Equity for Dairy Milk APAC and was also the VP for chocolates, cocoa and beverages. She has also previously worked with companies like Pepsico and
Authenticity in messaging is key. Consumers will relate to your brand message only if it is genuine and not contrived.