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INTERVIEW

"Why for water there are 3-4 laws? It has to be only FSSA"
Monday, 01 April, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Bisleri is one of the most trusted brands of mineral water in India. Having a strong presence, with 135 plants and a distribution network of 3,000 distributors and 5,000 distribution trucks across India and neighbouring countries, the brand is around for the last 50 years.

Apart from owning the world’s No. 1 vertical plant in Mumbai, the company is known for stringent quality control - 10 step quality process and 114 tests. It has launched labels in regional languages across India and is aggressively promoting the brand with new campaigns. Growing at 30% YoY, the company is planning to triple its turnover in the next three to four years. However, it is concerned about the regulatory scenario in the country. Anjana Ghosh, director, marketing & business development, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd, in a conversation with Manjushree Naik, at their vertical plant in Mumbai, reveals further details. Excerpts:

Tell us about this plant, which is said to be vertical unlike most plants that are horizontal.
In water, this is the world’s No. 1 plant that is vertical. Normally, there are beer plants that are vertical, with tank on top and distillation down.
 
How many such plants you have in India and abroad?
We have 135 manufacturing setups all over India. But this is our first vertical plant. For water, normally, it is a horizontal plant but this being in Mumbai is an exception and is vertical. As for abroad, we have one in Bangladesh and one in Dubai.

What are the products that are manufactured in these plants?
We are manufacturing Bisleri everywhere. However, eight plants are for CSD (Carbonated Soft Drink). The other brands or products that are manufactured include Fonzo, Limonata, Spyci, Pinacolada, Soda and Vedica, premium water from the Himalayas.

Tell us more about this premium water range.
Vedica is natural mineral water. It is pure at its source. It cannot be filtered and packaged. It has no contamination and is rightly balanced in terms of minerals. It is good for human consumption. The water situation in Delhi etc. is too bad. So this kind of water can be obtained only in the mountains. Such water is generally of two varieties - spring water and natural mineral water. This is natural mineral water.

Tell us about the manufacturing.
Quality check is key. For most plants, source is ground water, which is subject to micro-contamination. No chemical is used. Chlorination is there but less effective as it leaves traces behind. Ozone is 10 times more effective. From raw water it undergoes 114 tests before it goes in bottle. We are following, BIS standards and BIS advises only 15-16 tests.

But the groundwater situation in India is alarming. Then how being a responsible company you are going in for groundwater?
We are aware of this groundwater situation and we are going in for rainwater harvesting at every plant. There has to be enough water that has to be charged back into the water. Many companies are going for chemical washing and it is going in the drain, which is connected to the sea. Whereas, for us, 99% of it we are packing. Also we are building check dams all over India. There is crisis but we are blessed with huge rains. Due to concretisation, we are losing the opportunity of using this rainwater. However, very soon, people will realise and we are constantly working on check drams in all drought hit areas. In Gujarat, we have done lot of work as the Gujarat government is supportive. Check dam is stopping the rainwater from going in to the sea. Whereas in city pits are made.

How do you find the regulatory scenario in the country with FSSAI bringing out so many regulations?
When FSSAI came, it was supposed to replace all licensing, however, somehow from 2006 it was not able to do so. We still have BIS, weights and measures…it’s complicated… left hand does not know what the right hand is doing…there is confusion and mess. Why for water there are three to four laws? It has to be only FSSA for water.

Bisleri has been rated as the No. 1 brand in the country recently. Comment.
Credit goes entirely to the consumer. They somehow reinforced their trust in us. We want to retain that position.

In 1965, it began as an Italian brand in India with blue branding, in 2006, it was realised that everybody was blue so the consumer needed something to identify, that is how we changed. Later, we came out with the 500ml pack that was lighter and convenient to carry for half a day’s consumption. This was followed by regional labels. This was done to encourage one nation, one water. The reason to go in for vernacular language was mother tongue is close to us. Once when I was in Italy, I heard Bengali, I wanted to see who was speaking in Bengali. So with local language people can connect better. Hence this was done.

What is your USP?
Water is water is water for everyone. We cannot add anything to water. If it is Boost then we can add some mineral. For us it is a big challenge - how to talk to the consumer.

Talking about challenges, how big a challenge has been the campaign against plastic?
Plastic is bothering the consumer the world over. It is like if plastic does not exist that is the solution. A ban is sought but there is no alternative. Where do we pack the water, how do we sell to the consumer? Consumer cannot go to the tap, so it has to be bottle.

In this regard, in 2008, we started to build awareness among masses. It is not just responsibility of the company but it is the responsibility of the consumer as well. Until we change our behaviour there is no solution in our hand. Consumer awareness also raises the issue of how to dispose. Even then, India is huge on recycling. Some 78% of plastic is recycled in India and this figure comes from the fact that that much can be scavenged. Ragpickers are picking up only plastic. If it is dirty, it goes to dumpyard.
As for us, you won’t find a single bottle as a ragpicker can get Rs 12-13 per kg on our bottles. And 97% of PET can be recylced. Reliance has these figures. We have our Bottles for Change initiative as well. We are raising awareness that its valuable, recyclable and has to be disposed after cleaning else it will go to dumpyard.

We are soon coming out with an all-India level campaign with kabadiwalla or scrap dealer, align them to collect all kinds of plastic. At least see that it does not go to the dumpyard.

How has been the growth so far and what is envisaged going forward?
The growth is 20-25% and projected to grow even more. The progression has been from tap to filter and from filter to bottle. Filtering is a tedious process and having a continuous source of water is also a challenge. The systems are such that they are not going to improve anytime soon. Further, this water is proven to be better than boiled water. The world over, there is no purifier either it is tap source or bottle source. International market is on our mind. But there is so much to do over here. Our hands are full right now.

We are experiencing 30% growth year on year and we have set our vision for next 3-4 years with the revenue being three times our current turnover. The industry is worth Rs 14,000 crore with organised being 30-35%. Some 70% are local brands. In organised, we have 65-70% share. Every bottle is sold by the name of Bisleri - that is our vision.

You are coming out with a new campaign. Tell us about that.
The campaign is woven around the theme Har pani ki bottle Bisleri nahin… we will continue with that. Price of every bottle is the same. Unlike others, for instance, if not Nike then you are going to spend one-fourth the amount on many goods, but in case of water, be it Saiganga or Bisleri it is going to be Rs 20. Further this is about impulse purchase.
Water goes in the bottle, bottle is sealed and looks clean.. why retailer is pushing such brands is because of more margin. But quality.. he has to compromise. But people think if it is packed neatly must be good. But there is a section who thinks you are the leader you must speak, so we are speaking.
 
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