Innovation and Business for Good – an India story.

 

Mosquitos are a common menace in almost every part of India. The branded market for repellent product business is Rs.3600 crore or $520m. It is believed that even today almost 54% of the population does not use branded products and relies on burning Basil leaves or Neem leaves as an alternate remedy for repelling mosquitos. Today chemical companies to consumer goods companies vie for a share in the market and convert the non-believers to believers.

For several years we have seen company after company launching product after product to fight this menace and capture the branded market segment. We had a long association with Mosquito repellent coils and tablets. Then came creams and sprays. On the other end of the spectrum we had aerosol sprays that were marketed as a pest control solution. After a breakthrough innovation, the producers moved from coils to liquid vaporizers. But I have seen all this marketing effort towards selling their product and capturing the market segment to add to their bottom lines.

 

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As said above all of these products were aimed at the branded market. And there is nothing wrong there. Every company aims for and thrives on profit. The 54% market that did not use these products did not use them were those who could not afford to buy them. At any given point in time, these products were out of reach for those who struggled for survival on a day-to day basis. A day wage laborer could not think of spending Rs.50 out of his Rs.200 wage to buy a coil. None of the rural poor can afford to spend this kind of money. They preferred to burn leaves or sleep with the mosquitoes than spending money on these luxuries.

Another common problem with all of these were the side effects of all these products. The smoke emitted by the coils was hazardous and caused breathing problem in children and adults alike. Again the liquid vaporizers or tablets required electricity which is a rare commodity in the interior parts of the country even today. So even if people could afford the vaporizers or tablets, there was no electricity to run the machines that could vaporize the chemicals in the products. With these difficulties, most of the producers ignored these consumers for a long time. Again profit being a prime motive of most of these companies, these non-consumers were an unattractive lot.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised when a well-known company in the FMVG sector – Godrej Consumer Products Limited – launched their latest innovation in October 2013. This innovative product was developed in conjunction with labs in Indonesia and tested in those markets prior to its India launch. The product is basically a piece of paper that is embedded with TFT molecules. You have to fold it and set it alight. It burns for all of three minutes.

Now why is this product a disruptive innovation? Let’s consider the cons of other products and tick them off against this one.

  1. Cost Effectiveness:

The coils, vaporizers, creams, sprays are all unaffordable to a large chunk of population in India who struggles to survive. This product launched at Rs.10 for 10 cards, effectively Re.1 per card.

  1. Resources:

This product works without electricity solving a major constraint that a major proportion of the rural and semi-rural population faces.

  1. Safe:

Since this card burns only for a few minutes and stays active for upto 4 hours, the problem of smoke and the effects related to inhalation of smoke have both been eliminated. You can burn it in a corner, away from people and enjoy the benefits devoid of the smoke.

  1. Ease of use:

The usage of this product is very straightforward and simple. It is basically ‘a piece of paper that burns.’

I have nothing against any company or product. What I love is the fact that the company has made product so affordable and put it within reach of any and everybody. Again it is a product that has been specifically developed keeping developing countries and their specific problems in mind. I like the thought process that has been applied in general. I look forward to more and more companies incorporating socio economic responsible behavior along with business for good concept in their overall strategy.

Sources:

http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/godrej-consumer-may-hit-bullseye-with-new-product-113092400664_1.html

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