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Asian Paints-lessons

In leadership

The success of Asian Paints is attributed to their never-ending innovation in a matured product category like paints. This quality, recognized both by fresh MBAs (among whom it is a preferred company) and the marketing fraternity, earned Asian Paints the fifth rank among durable companies in A&M's survey of the Most Admired Marketing Companies in 1994. Till the '50s, walls were painted only with emulsions. However, emulsions were, and are expensive; at today's prices, roughly Rs. 130 per litre. Consequently, few could afford it. The rest used either chuna (or limewash, Rs. 2 per 'kg.) or a crude kind of powder distempe~ (Rs. 15 per kg). Asian Paints, therefore, created a paste distemper, Tractor, a product unique to India, which settled itself in the intermediate vacant segment and opened up the market. Today, distemper accounts for 15 percent in value and 25 percent in volume of the decorative-paints market. Tractor sells three times more than its closest competitor. That's a substantial share considering that 50 percent of rupee value comes from enamels, which form the largest part of the paint market. Enamels are used on everything, from doors and windows in the house, to hoardings. Yet, since walls make up 90 percent of the surface area that an individual consumer paints, only wall paints are advertised. Enamels take a free ride. It is this kind of logic that led the company to launch Utsav two years ago, which has the potential to become the largest paint brand in India. Here, the company is trying to upgrade the user of Chuna. (Utsav is a synthetic distemper priced at Rs. 28 a kg. It is two to three times as expensive as whitewash, if the user takes 'surface coverage into account'.) The company ran an advertising campaign for the brand in which a visitor says: 'Pucce: hai, haath pe nahi chhutta, powder distemper nahi, synthetic distemper hai' (The colour is fast, it doesn't come off on the hand. It is synthetic distemper, not powder distemper). It conveyed the benefits of the product directly to the customer. Another campaign showed a housewife screaming at her husband for failing to honour his friendly Asian Paints boy mascot, to decorate his house, which, of course, he does.


Case Studies in Marketing Management and Research


UntiJ the '80s, wood finishing was done only with French polish, a commodity used in enormous quantities (30,000 tonnes a year). It is difficmt to apply, loses gloss quickly and isn't resistant to stains. In 1984, Asian Paints introduced a superior finish-Touch Wood. This lasts longer, takes care of stains, is easy to apply and works out to Rs. 7.50 per sq. ft. as against the French polish which is about Rs 5. Though the company refuses to part with the sales figures, it claims to have acquired an overwhelming share 'of the market for branded finishes. After Touch Wood, came the premium quality Apcolite Natural Wood Finish (NWF) and the economical Apcolite Clear Synthetic Varnish. Now, the company has developed four different finishes-rosewood, redbrown, oak yellow and walnut-to match the type of wood used. It then pigmented Apcolite NWF and Silkwood. Another major innovation has had to do with the size of packaging. Traditionally, the smallest tin size was one litre. Asian Paints figured that here was a need that was yet to be fulfilled. If Asian Paints has been able to figure out consumer needs so well, it is because it has spent a corporate lifetime studying the Indian consumer-not just what he needs but also how he goes about deciding on what precisely he wants. A curious aspect of the business is that the Indian consumer seeks many opinions. The ~ealer, the painter, the architect or the interior designer, the neighbour or a relative-all can influence choice, To make a successful sale, therefore, a marketer must consider the role of each, Each of these influencers have a different view of the business. The dealer proposes a paint company that gives him the best returns on his investment. The painter needs a product easy to use; it should' flow well, dry fast, hide the existing surface and leave fewer brush marks. Also, from his viewpoint, it should be avaiJable easily and have 'the best consistency of shades (tins of the same shade might not match if they are from different batches). The architect looks for finish, durability and the paint's protective ability. As for the consumer, though finish and durability matters, it is the colour that counts first. A consumer can always be persuaded to pay more for better quality. But if he doesn't get the shade he wants, he will move on. While the competition was offering 30-40 shades, in 1989, Asian Paints surprised all by announcing 151 shades in its popular Apcolite emulsion range. The commercial that supported the announcement highlighted the fact that Apcolite was the one that gave the customer the freedom to really choose a colour. It focused on the range Apcolite offered and had an excited housewife squealing "mera wala cream" ("my shade of cream"). It was aimed at making the customer feel important-rather than marginalised-in the decision-making process.
Source: Abstracted from A&M, December 15, 1994.


Rajan Saxena, "Marketing


Tata McGraw-Hill




New Delhi.