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Evian has big plans for India
Arati Menon Carroll | November 19, 2005
When Evian, the iconic French mineral water brand, entered the Indian market in 1999, as Marcel Bertaud, managing director, Asia Pacific, will agree, "It perhaps was a few years too soon. Perhaps we hadn't done our homework right, or perhaps the Indian consumer was just not ready for paying for luxury."
Whatever the reason, after bursts of advertising, Evian's branding activity went underground...only to re-surface recently.
Behind closed doors, in 2003, the Danone group, the mother company of Evian, did a switcheroo, changing partners from Radhakrishna Foodland to Narangs Hospitality Services that incidentally also distributes Red Bull.
Says Rahul Narang, partner, NHS, "Three years ago, when we took over distribution and marketing for Evian, the directive was simple - it was to fix the basics with regards to sales, distribution and other logistics, not fight for volumes. From now on, though, you will see steady promotional activity."
Marking its return to the spotlight, the new Evian detox campaign offers Evian as the ubiquitous antidote to all your indulgences.
"When we introduced the detox campaign in the UK, we said, 'you overindulge during Christmas and New Year, why don't you release those toxins with Evian'. Sales in the UK, traditionally low in the winter months, suddenly boomed."
Smart. Evian wasn't taking the moral high ground and preaching water over alcohol, it was saying drink your drink, but follow it up with Evian and you'll be fine. Everybody loves a quick fix.
Partnering with five-star hotels in Mumbai (Delhi is next) to create special detox menus, gyms and skin clinics for special Evian related offers and Mercedes Benz (every car will come stashed with an Evian detox kit), Evian will also play host to detox camps from time to time, to advise consumers on easy ways to incorporate a detox regimen into their lifestyle.
Evian is keen to differentiate itself from safe drinking water, it is "natural mineral water from the Alps, untouched by man".
Says Bertaud, "In most countries, when you drink Evian, the perception is that you're a discerning consumer, making the right choice with your water as you do with all the other lifestyle choices you make."
Bertaud hopes that soon he can bring into Mumbai the extravagant Evian Spa, currently only in Buenos Aires, Evian, and Shanghai. "But when we partnered with Narangs, we decided that our priority would be water, and when we get that right we will think about our other products, like our Affinity range of beauty products," he says.
The truth is that India has been a tad disappointing for Evian; they have barely made a dent in the Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion) segment, according to Harminder Sahni, principal, KSA Technopak, who believes "the market is ready for segmentation in the premium water space, but not really for luxury".
Says Bertaud, "In India, clean warehousing, trade training, appropriate product display are all key issues. Also, the Indian consumer is far more price sensitive than his Asian counterparts." Japan, for example, which is the third largest market for Evian, accounts for sales of over a billion litres.
Pricing has returned as a bugbear for Evian. A revised pricing strategy in 2002 saw prices drop drastically to Rs 25 for a 330 ml bottle, and Rs 70 for 1 litre.
Today, prices are back to where they started from - the 330 ml costs Rs 40, and a 1 litre costs as much as Rs 92. Narang claims this is unavoidable with the appreciation the Euro has witnessed, along with prohibitive import duties. So, bolstered distribution and steady promotional activity will make up for it.
Narang expects to hit 8-10 million litres of sales by 2010, a relatively modest target.
"Evian is not here to become number one," says Bertaud; "the plan is to be available when customers look for Evian and to be the best reference for quality bottled water. Evian creates its own market, so it will take time to build brand awareness among Indian consumers."Just as well their expectations have been re-set. It will be a while before Indian consumers will be bathing their infants in Evian.