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PM Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan doubles toilet cleaner sales

Economic Times:  September, 2015

Mumbai: Consumer product sales may be going down the toilet but toilet cleaner sales growth has more than doubled since the launch of PM Modi's pet project Swachh Bharat, latest IMRB consumption data shows.

The toilet cleaners segment, which was growing at 3-6% in the past few years, has seen a sudden surge of 10-12% growth in quarterly sales since October last year when the sanitation programme was launched.

"Very clearly, we are seeing an upward trend in toilet and bathroom cleaner purchases after October, '14. Interestingly, the growth is driven by rural markets," said Manoj Menon, group business director at IMRB Kantar Worldpanel which studies consumption patterns through volume sales. Rural markets, where most of the nearly one crore commodes were installed, saw a 30-60% growth in the past three quarters between October and June, a phenomenal jump given that the segment was declining a year ago.

The data also revealed that nearly 60 lakh households used toilet cleaners during the recent June quarter compared with 42 lakh a year ago in the hinterland.

"The construction of household toilets is resulting in a growing awareness about sanitation and hygiene, and people in rural India are buying quality sanitation products for their households," said KK Chutani, Executive Director-Consumer Care Business at Dabur India that sells Sanifresh toilet cleaners. "This growing awareness about sanitation and cleanliness is helping drive demand for branded toilet cleaners." Homegrown Dabur rolled out a 'Swachh Toilet, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan', which will provide germ-free public toilets across the country.

Potty training

From scaring consumers about the dangers lurking beneath their bottoms to spreading awareness on better hygiene practices, marketers of bathroom sanitation products such as Reckitt Benckiser, Hindustan Unilever and Dabur are doing their bit too.

For instance, HUL through its Domex Toilet Academy, made toilets accessible and affordable, while promoting the benefits of clean toilets and good hygiene. "We aim to provide innovative solutions and create self-sustaining delivery models which generate both public health benefits and business growth while simultaneously enhancing livelihoods by enabling local ownership and entrepreneurship," said an HUL spokesperson.

Reckitt Benckiser, that sells market leader brand Harpic, has roped in Amitabh Bachchan as ambassador to cover villages in nearly a dozen states, pledging Rs100 crore for its cleanliness drive.

"Projects like these do translate into consumers buying more hygiene products but the big impact will be in the long term. Our immediate priority is to change consumer behaviour," Reckitt Benckiser regional director, South Asia, Nitish Kapoor, had told ET last month.

Pricing strategy

Not everyone grabbed the cleaners just because of a higher awareness initiative. Pricing strategy by companies helped too as both Reckitt and Dabur launched smaller packs of 200-ml at an affordable Rs 24-30, especially for rural markets to generate more trials and usage. This, in contrast, to their products that are sold at an average Rs 50-70 for a half litre pack and over Rs100 for a litre pack of toilet cleaners in urban markets.

Experts feel that many consumers, who traditionally used products such as acid, bleach and detergents, could have shifted to branded products as reach for such products is just 10%. "Consumer awareness for sanitation and hygiene need in rural and semi-urban areas has gone up where more consumers not just bought cleaners but also upgraded within category to using products designed for germ removal. With overall penetration for the category still low, such a start could have forced many more consumers reaching out for cleaning and hygiene products in time to come," said Devendra Chawla, president - food and FMCG at Future Group, which runs Food Bazaar, India's largest food supermarket.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Education Fund ( UNICEF) estimate that there are more than 620 million people engaged in open defecation due to lack of access to proper sanitation and 60% of all open defecation is in India.

The government claims to have constructed around 80 lakh countryside toilets across India under Modi's Swachh Bharat mission, which aims to make India "open defecation-free" by 2019 by building 12 crore toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore. PM Modi has already called for corporate entities and private sector to bring in their resources and expertise in managing large-scale projects, while maximizing impact and efficiency.