Rob Katz

News Roundup: Much Ado About India

India Sunrise Ganges RiverThe BOP business news from India brings readers updates on three firms whose names ought to ring a bell – Arvind, Hindustan Lever, and ITC. All three were featured in “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” and have been the subject of case studies, speeches, articles, and much more. And now, thanks to the Indian business press, we hear about their continuing push down market.

First there’s an update on Arvind Mills, the company behind Ruf & Tuf jeans and other BOP-friendly consumer products. In Prahalad and Hart’s original s+b article, they describe how the company moved strategically into a new market:

Arvind Mills has introduced an entirely new delivery system for blue jeans. Arvind, the world’s fifth-largest denim manufacturer, found Indian domestic denim sales limited. At $40 to $60 a pair, the jeans were not affordable to the masses, and the existing distribution system reached only a few towns and villages. So Arvind introduced Ruf & Tuf jeans, a ready-to-make kit of jeans components (denim, zipper, rivets, and a patch) priced at about $6. Kits were distributed through a network of thousands of local taoilors, many in small rural towns and villages, whose self-interest motivated them to market the kits extensively. Ruf & Tuf jeans are now the largest-selling jeans in India, easily surpassing Levi’s and other brands from the U.S. and Europe.

Now Arvind has entered into a joint venture with the U.S.-based VF Corporation in order to better market VF’s branded apparel to India. In my opinion, VF probably wants to bring Arvind on board because they’ve demonstrated success in reaching the BOP. VF doesn?t want to miss out on the market, but they aren?t sure how to reach it. A perfect reason to partner.

The second update is about Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), whose Project Shakti sets up small enterprises selling health and hygiene products. The company recently announced its expansion plans:

To support Project Shakti, we are now launching value-added services in rural belts. With Shakti Vanis, we are educating villagers on health and hygiene. Also, we are running campaigns on ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) in villages. As part of the strategy, HLL has tied up with [the] Scojo Foundation to offer spectacles to villagers at low price points… With this, Project Shakti will be operational across all states in India. The company also plans to cover 500,000 villages with 100,000 Shakti Ammas (women entrepreneurs) in the next two years.

Finally, ITC announced plans to further expand its eChoupal system. Through the Choupals (meeting place in Hindi), rural farmers learn management techniques, order fertilizer and other supplies less expensively, check market prices, and sell products online. As a result, earnings have increased up to 20 percent. Like Hindustan Lever, ITC plans to further expand:

ITC Ltd is also planning to set up 50 Choupal Sagars (rural super stores) by the end of this fiscal year. This is in addition to the existing network of 5200 choupals in 31,000 villages that serve 3.5 million farmers.