HLL bid to revive talcum powder segment

MUMBAI, APRIL 29. The Indian talcum powder market, which witnessed a sluggish growth rate of 8 per cent last year, is set to get back on track. Taking the lead in the revival of the `talc' market is the market leader, Hindustan Lever's Pond's brand.

HLL is in the midst of relaunching its Pond's brands in plastic packs with added `functionalities'. Mr. Shrijeet Mishra, business head, Talcs & Deodorants, Personal Products, HLL, said, ``The whole objective is to revive the talc market - to grow it even more than in the past. When we started moving to plastic packs, it moved up to 13-14 per cent. But it has come down to around 8 per cent. This is mainly due to lack of innovations and non-users did not perceive functionalities in the products. One of the big things about the re-launch is to bring in functionalities of the talc.''

Pond's is the largest brand in the talcs market with a 59-60 per cent share. The talcs market size is about Rs. 540 crores in value terms. Pond's India was a subsidiary of Hindustan Lever from 1989 and was merged with HLL in 1998 and only the Pond's brand remains. HLL has two units - one at Pondicherry and another at Silvassa - for the manufacture of talcs and deodorants.

Regarding the rationale behind the re-launch of the products, Mr. Mishra said, ``Since we have a large part of the share, it is our duty to make the market grow.''

The company re-launched Pond's Magic in October last, Dreamflower in mid-March this year, Sandal in end-March and the latest product, a new offering, Light N'Fresh, is being launched country-wide. Pond's Magic and Dreamflower are the two big brands.

According to Mr. Mishra, ``Sandal is a big segment in the South and parts of Maharashtra. It is primarily a facial use product. Apart from the benefit of Sandal which gives a lighter complexion, we have added functionality by adding a sunscreen to protect skin.''

Light N'Fresh has been launched to take on prickly heat from a different point of view - prevention. ``Prickly heat talc is curative in nature but this product is preventive. Light N'Fresh has already been launched nationally and in Kerala. The big three southern States will see the launch by mid-May.'' said Mr. Mishra. Light N'Fresh has sweat absorption material (SAM) which helps prevent excessive sweating.

Talc, according to Mr. Mishra, is a very different field particularly in the South. Consumers use it for a bundle of benefits - not just freshness, fragrance or just facial whitening. ``It is used for a variety of reasons, unlike a deodorant which is usually used underarm. About 26 crore people use talcs in the country and it is a very basic cosmetic. We tried to find out why people are not using talcs and found that it was perceived as a thing of the past. We then felt the need to add functionality to bring people back into this category.''

Competition has been active in the prickly heat talc segment with products such as Boroplus and Dermicool having been launched. ``This segment has seen massive investment and the segment which was beginning to decline has shown some resurgence. We have been working on this segment since 1998 but we wanted to be different. And we arrived at this concept of prevention and sweat absorption material. We are very excited and now the whole range has gone on to functionality. New users - a strong area of our focus, will begin to come into the category.'' said Mr. Mishra.

However, the prickly heat talc segment is still a small part of the talc market at 3,500-4000 tonnes out of the 26,000 tonnes of volume of the talc market.

The question is that as the market becomes large, would deodorants impact talc in the long run particularly considering the slew of brands that have hit the market in deodorants. ``HLL is the leader in deodorants also and my view is that it is going to be a long time before we see an impact on talc.'' according to Mr. Mishra.

With the re-launches under way, HLL is confident that it would be able to get back on the growth track for talcs soon and according to Mr. Mishra, ``From 8 per cent growth rate last year, we will certainly get into double digits in the current year.''

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