Water Purifier Players Battle for Every Drop

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It’s said the next world war will be fought for water. While this frightening scenario — a global battle between nations for the precious resource — is strictly hypothetical in proportions, a skirmish over water has already erupted in India. No, not the disputed Cauvery water nor the water sharing between India and its neighbours, but between brands in the water purifier market. And it’s between market leader Eureka Forbes (EFL) and Hindustan Unilever which has been for sometime trying to create a niche for itself in the market. Judging by the confrontations taking place in the market and in court as well, rest assured, the battle for supremacy in this segment won’t be relegated to just a few encounters here and there.

By the time you read the story, a third installment would have played out. That is the hearing of the defamation suit filed by HUL on EFL for showing the mascot for Pureit in a demeaning manner in its ad. According to sources HUL is seeking damages to the tune of Rs 190 crore from EFL for allegedly disparaging HUL’s product (read The Economic Times dated 28 September,2009.) One can hazard a guess that a compromise will be worked out, but the first salvo, not seen before in this segment and usually associated with CSDs and FMCG segment, has been fired.

And it’s not without any reason. For over the years, the below Rs 2,000 market has emerged as a hotly contested space. EFL with Aquasure, HUL with Pureit and even Kent and Philips are looking at a larger share of what constitutes more than 20% of the Rs 1,400 crore and growing domestic water purifier market. What makes the battle interesting is the opportunity comprising 81% of the target market made of urban and small towns who drink water directly from the tap, or purify it using candle water filters, muslin cloth and other methods. So it was only a matter of time that the market leader and the challenger’s roads crossed.

Aquasure’s range begins at Rs 1,950 while Pureit is priced at Rs 2,000 and both are targetting volumes at the bottom of the pyramid. While other players like Kent and Philips are yet to enter the ‘battlefield’ , Kent is currently demonstrating Kent Gold, an Rs 2,500 product to interested consumers and even Philips India is eyeing this segment with interest . While EFL was doing its bit and more, but when HUL launched the Rs 1 crore safety challenge this year EFL couldn’t remain silent any more. The Rs 1- crore challenge of Pureit invites customers to compare Pureit with other brands in the market on three safety features. It was a provocation which EFL couldn’t ignore. And it’s the same ad involving Smriti Irani with a person in a yellow rain coat (hinting at the Pureit ad of Rs 1 crore safety challenge) in question from EFL which prompted HUL to take legal recourse. However, neither parties are talking about the case as the “the matter is subjudice”.

Source: Economic Times (link opens in a new window)