How to make water purer than ever

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on January 09, 2018

Thirst for purity: The demand for water purifiers goes up as the heat rises and people grapple with water-borne diseases.

Aquaguard’s challenge is to retain its first-mover advantage in a busy market filled with choices

As it nears its 35th birthday, the Aquaguard brand must be relieved that consumers are finally acknowledging purifying water by machine is superior to boiling. “It’s only over the last 20 years that boiling has lost its prominence,” says Marzin Shroff, CEO, Eureka Forbes. “Only about 40-45 per cent now believe it is the last word in purification,” he says, quoting a usage and attitude study.

When the brand came into being, selling purifiers was an uphill task. Boiling was the gold standard. People ignored the message that it killed germs alright but did not deal with other impurities. So it followed that no one wanted to pay for it. The first mover in its category in the early ’80s, Aquaguard faced competition from other brands when it was finally making a mark – these brands brought in purifiers with RO (reverse osmosis) technology, claiming that it was more advanced, compared with UV technology. “But RO is not superior in every water condition. What’s more, for every litre of purified water, 6-7 litres are wasted,” says Shroff. The company’s R&D department has since come out with purifiers that sense which technology suits the water in every locality and treats it suitably.

However, these are at the premium end of the range of water purifiers Eureka Forbes sells. The company’s personnel check the quality and source of water before suggesting the appropriate purifier. The ₹8,000-15,000 segment is the most popular in a market that ranges from ₹1,600 to ₹40,000. Once sold only direct, Aquaguard is now sold in stores too, and has gone on to become a super brand with a recall level of 92 per cent, says Shroff. It has a market share of over 67 per cent and beats its closest competitor in both UV and RO technologies by two times, he claims. It has two sub-brands – Aquasure, for the lower end of the pyramid, and Dr Aquaguard, for the top. The company has developed 17 water purification technologies to combat 17 different water conditions in India.

Bitter rivalry

Eureka Forbes has had to contend with some severe competition, which was not without some unpleasantness as well. Rival Kent alleged its products were not up to par, and could not get certain certificates of quality, a claim that Eureka Forbes contested hotly. Hindustan Unilever’s Pureit sued Eureka Forbes for allegedly disparaging its brand in its advertising. Kent is a very visible advertiser, having used a celebrity (actor Hema Malini) to endorse its brand, for many years now.

Harish Bijoor, brand domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, says Aquaguard believed its wide reach and pioneer status would negate the effect of the competition’s advertising. “Today, Kent has occupied pole position in this race for imagery. Aquaguard needs to very quickly shift gears from its heritage status to a status of scientific contemporaneity. I do believe there is still time available for Aquaguard to overtake the new imageries being built by Kent and others,” he adds.

After three decades and more, Eureka Forbes has moved from “pure and safe” drinking water to “healthy” drinking water. “Healthy,” Shroff explains, is very much a latter-day proposition. The company’s latest technologies do more by preserving the minerals in the water, fortifying it and help absorb them better.

It is only since 2015 that Madhuri Dixit (and husband Shriram Nene) has stepped in to endorse Eureka Forbes. Shroff has often said other companies in the category promote RO technology even though not all water needs to be treated this way. “Unfortunately, the one who shouts the loudest is often heard the most,” says Shroff. India has 15 per cent of the world’s population and 2 per cent of the world’s water. “As a responsible organisation, we shouldn’t spend our money on fooling customers,” he says.

Growth potential

The rapid growth of cities and towns leads to ground water depletion and brings up more – and “new-age” – contaminants such as lead, arsenic, fluorides as the bores go deeper and deeper. Growing awareness among consumers, lack of access to pure water and the need for convenient solutions ensure the water purifier market will grow. Growth will also come from service, says Shroff. Currently, the market is estimated at 5 million devices per year. The organised electric purification category would account for about ₹3,500 crore including after-sales service.

However, there are challenges. The largest threat is the spurious and locally assembled me-too brands. These devices sell at half the price of branded ones and often have no quality checks. The second largest challenge is consumer education and the understanding of the technologies.

Certain parts of the country that do not get running water are a challenge. So is drinking water delivered in big bubble packs at many city homes – the source of the water is suspect, and the wide presence of BPA (Bisphenol A) in the packs is a health risk. Eureka Forbes itself sells 20-litre bubble packs under the Aquasure brand but they are certified for better quality, says Shroff.

Next is to ensure that replacements and upgrades are also from within the Eureka Forbes family of water purifier brands. “Water Plus is the theme we focus on and it takes us beyond pure water into the space of temperature, taste and much more,” says Shroff. Nor will Aquaguard be left out in this age of Internet of Things. Shroff claims the Intelligent IOT Aquaguard can send technicians to service a unit even before it breaks down. Now that’s one promise we’d like to see the company achieve and keep!

Published on August 10, 2017

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