Emily Tan
Apr 17, 2013

How Reckitt Benkiser cleaned India's toilets to dominate the market

INDIA - For a country that has 88 million flush toilets, spending only US$62 million a year on toilet care products is "not the greatest combination," according to Ian Bell, head of global home care research at Euromonitor.

Harpic India's door-to-door salesman lives on in its campaigns
Harpic India's door-to-door salesman lives on in its campaigns

The primary reason for India's low spend on toilet care is a traditional attachment to using acids and other chemicals for the cleaning chore, said Bell in a video post from Euromonitor. 

To sway consumers, Reckitt Benkiser's toilet care brand Harpic long ago adopted a door-to-door approach to educating consumers about the benefits of using bleach-based cleansers versus traditional products, Bell said. 

Currently, Reckit Benkiser's brand Harpic is the leading toilet-care brand in India, commanding a share of 74 per cent (in 2011). The brand is credited with creating the product category 25 years ago.

According to this marketing case study, Harpic established a Door-to-Door Consumer Contact Programme in 1984, which had salesmen knocking on doors across the country, offering to clean the toilet—and do it better. This initiative was supported by campaigns such as the Harpic Challenge in 2002, which promised to replace the toilet free if Harpic did not outperform traditional methods. The Harpic Challenge more than doubled the brand's penetration from 8 per cent to 19 per cent, helping to make it India's top brand.

The Harpic Challenge is still ongoing, with a twist. Havas Worldwide's 2012 spot (below) has the Harpic man challenging a homeowner to lick her nose (yes, really) to emphasise the toilet cleaners' ability to reach every corner. 

Although the brand is now facing competition from Hindustan Unilever's Domex and Cif (which has also adopted Harpic's door-to-door approach) and Henkel India's Sanicare, Euromonitor believes there's room for everyone. 

By 2020, India will have 110 million flush toilets, thanks to government support in the interest of health and hygiene. The Ministry of Haryana, for example, offers financial incentives to any individual that installs a toilet. 

"So there is a great opportunity for manufacturers to develop toilet care in India," concluded Bell.

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