Kent has been working on products to provide clean drinking water, air, fruits and vegetables to customers over the years. With the launch of two new air purifiers, founder-chairman of Kent RO Systems Ltd Mahesh Gupta talks to us about what drives the company to keep innovating and giving something different to its consumers with each product
Q] Kent has unveiled two new air purifiers based on Hepa Pure Technology. What is the market for air purifiers in India?
Heavy industrialization and urbanization are poisoning the air in many Indian cities. With the introduction of new methods for detection, the term air-pollutants is now no longer confined to the emission of greenhouse gases or smoke but encompasses a wide range of pollutants like PM 2.5 particulates, VOC, NOx, Odour and Carbon Monoxide, among others that can trigger a range of health issues. We at Kent believe that, just like ‘Access to Clean Water’, ‘Access to Clean and pure Air’ is also an individual’s fundamental right. We have come up with Kent Hepa Room Air Purifiers, shaped from the amalgamation of the proven Hepa technology. We have introduced two new models – Kent Aura and Kent Eternal.
Over the years, air pollution in India has become quite a serious issue. This gives rise to the demand for air purifiers in the country. While the market for it is at a nascent stage currently, it is evolving fast due to the increase in pollution.
Q] Has there been a rise in the demand for air purifiers after the recent WHO warning about worsening air quality in Indian cities? How do you plan to spread awareness among consumers about such products?
As per the data provided by WHO, cities including Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur have the highest concentration of PM 2.5 particulate. The national capital leads the pack with more than 153 micrograms per cubic meter. Thirteen Indian cities have made it to the list of “Top 20 cities in the world with the highest levels of PM 2.5”.
Media attention has brought this issue into limelight and consumers have started showing interest towards air purifiers. We have already started our campaign to spread awareness about indoor air pollution. It is very important to create awareness about how polluted and hazardous even indoor air is. We have released both print ads and TVCs to alert customers about the rising need of air purifiers. Today, as people are active on social media, we are also using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs to create a buzz.
Q] Tell us about your latest ad campaign.
With our latest campaign, we have tried to communicate to our customers that clean air is a necessity for every individual, especially for pregnant women, children, asthma patients, elderly people and people with heart conditions. The Kent Hepa room air-purifiers employ an innovative technology that is capable of removing 99.97% of particles, less than 0.3 microns in diameter. Our brand ambassador, Hema Malini, is featuring in the latest TVC. We have also launched the campaign in electronic and print media.
Q] What was the media mix for the campaign?
We took a 360 degree media approach for the campaign and launched it on print, electronic as well as digital. Our purpose is to reach out to as many consumers as we can with valuable information. With Hema Malini as the face of the company, it has been made easier for the company to be recognized as our customers recall us through her face.
Q] Till a few years back, Kent spent majorly on print advertising. How has that changed over the years?
Initially, it was quite difficult for us to advertise on TV because of a limited advertising budget. Thankfully, our customers realized the superiority of our products and our sales started picking up through word of mouth. I re-invested in the business and initiated a brand campaign.
In 2005, I realized my technology might be ahead of the curve but my marketing strategy was definitely outdated, at worst, and misplaced, at best. I was hoping to transfer the skills I had picked up while establishing SS Engineering, to market Kent as well. Because my experience was in industrial product marketing, I marketed Kent RO like an industrial product.
I knew that I needed to create a brand that consumers would trust and instantly connect with. For this I needed a star, someone who was a parent, to tout and build faith in the product. In 2006, we managed to rope in Hema Malini as our brand ambassador, who was later joined by her daughters, Esha and Ahana Deol, in our promotional campaigns. Starting from print ads, we slowly managed to come in television campaign as well. Although our print media campaigns till now have been aggressive, we have been able to strike the right balance between print and electronic advertising.
Q] Kent started off as a water purifier producing company. How did the diversification to vegetable and fruit purifiers and water softeners happen? How big is the market for such products?
Starting with RO water purifiers, Kent has now made forays into the Purity space - air purifiers, vegetable purifier and water softener. These products fall into our motto of promoting “Purity” and are manifestations of the company logo “Innovations for better living”. It has been an overwhelming journey. Kent RO has over 40% market share in RO segment and it is growing CARG @ 25-30% year on year.
Q] How is Kent’s marketing strategy for Tier II and Tier III different from its strategy adopted for Tier I cities?
Kent RO is aggressively focusing on Tier II and III cities and we are getting significant demand from there as well. Hence, we are in the radar of expansion in the nonmetros. It has been reported that Tier II and Tier III cities will grow in the next economic boom. The penetration and awareness of water p urifiers has increased over the years. But still many people in rural India cannot afford the price tag of a water purifier. To solve the affordability problem, the company has developed a gravity model purifier which removes the contamination due to arsenic, fluoride and heavy metals dissolved with water in many parts of the country. We are doing well in the segment.
However, for air purifiers, we will concentrate on the state capitals and Tier 1 cities and subsequently expand to all cities where the air pollution is a matter of concern.
Q] What is the company’s overall marketing strategy for the next few years?
We have a multi-pronged marketing strategy which consists of Direct Marketing, white goods channel sales and e-commerce. We are expecting our export to reach Rs 50 crore in 2016-17. In the previous year, export of the company stood at Rs 20 crore where we primarily exported purifiers to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Kenya. We believe we have developed good products and have a sound technology. We see potential in Africa, Latin America and other South East Asian countries.
Q] What percentage of your annual spending is allocated for advertising/marketing?
We had a turnover of Rs 680 crore in the last fiscal year. We spend around 12% of our turnover in marketing and brand awareness every year.
Q] From being a relatively newer player in the market in comparison to brands like HUL and Eureka Forbes to being a Rs 680-crore brand in 2014...Kent has come a long way. How difficult was it to make the products available for consumers?
Over the years, Kent RO has been able to create its niche in the market. Our approach was different. I always look ahead, never sideways or backwards to see what the competition is doing. I don’t want to learn from their strategies. We wanted to be a socially responsible brand and make a difference in people’s lives by affecting all-pervasive areas of their existence - water, food and air. Our fundamental vision is defined by producing innovative healthcare products that purify the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe, and thus help people live healthier. This strategy and vision has helped us stand apart from others. The brand has won many accolades and recognitions including the only RO to have the ISI mark from the Government of India, Quality certification by NSF Lab USA and Gold Seal by Water Quality Council of USA.
About the brand
Kent launched India’s first domestic RO water purifier back in 1999. Today, the brand has come a long way, having diversified into other products including vegetable, fruit, air purifiers and water softeners. Today, the brand owns 40% market share in RO water purifier segment and covers a wide network with over 1500 distributors, 10000 dealers and over 500 direct marketing franchises. With a prominent presence in Asia, Kent currently exports to more than 30 countries worldwide.
Be Honest with your brand always!
Creative Agency: Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi Pvt. Ltd.
Media Agency: Jigsaw Pictures
PR Agency: Regional Public Relations Pvt. Ltd.
The founder-chairman of Kent RO Systems, Mahesh Gupta has more than half a dozen patent technologies to his credit. Having launched his career with IOCL in 1978, he moved to the healthcare segment in 1998 and launched the first domestic RO water purifier. Today, Gupta also spearheads PHD Chamber of Commerce as its Senior Vice President.