Godfrey Phillips, the second largest player in the Indian cigarette market, has decided to have smoking lounges in high visibility locations where smokers are invited to sit in well designed rooms with soft cushioned sofas with built-in ash trays. Other services like charging their mobile phones are also on offer.
The initiative, which is now across 12 locations, costs the company anywhere between Rs 3-5 lakh per location. The company refused to divulge expansion plans.
This move is the second of its kind launched by the company. Earlier the company had created similar lounges in vans, which were parked outside malls and market places. The mobile vans could seat 8-10 smokers and again ensured that the smoke would be taken care of in a safe manner.
While the company claims that its primary motive is to make smokers aware of a non smokers rights, it is impossible to deny that the move also poses the company's brands like i-gen, and Four Square as thoughtful brands that care for their consumers.
However, the company denies this is a purely branding exercise. Aditya Gupto, general manager, Godfrey Phillips said, "It is a part of our social responsibility initiatives, by way of this attempt we want to make smokers sensitive to the rights of non-smokers. We wish to make them aware that they must not smoke openly in public places as the inconvenience non smokers by doing so."
It's obvious that the lounges also bring along a neat bit of brand visibility. At the locations the company's brands are visibly placed and and also sold. Most ash trays are marked with the company's brand Four Square and the red Squares of the brand are also prominently visible at the lounge.
KA Advisors and former MD and CEO of FMCG major Britannia, however, defended the move. He said, "It is very difficult to support a social cause and not have a rub off on your brand."
The company first began the initiative in a mall in Ahmedabad about two years ago. After it received positive responses from the mall, it was approached by other malls to build similar lounges in their malls.
The lounges are equipped with air purifiers, exhausts and ducts which clear the smoke in a safe manner. Given this safety aspect malls and multiplexes seem to be welcoming the idea.