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ITC agarbathi divn to focus on brand-building 19 Nov 2003

The Hindu Business Line

Ajita Shashidhar

After going national last month, ITC Ltd’s agarbathi business division now plans to concentrate on brand-building exercises to promote its ‘Spriha’, ‘Ashageet’ and ‘Nivedan’ brands as national brands.

Mr. V. M. Rajasekharan, CEO, SBU-Agarbathi Business, ITC, told Business Line that its first step towards brand-building would not involve spending crores on advertising, but would make sure that the distribution network is in place. "There is no point airing an ad when the consumer does not find the product on the shelves," he said.

The company had recently tied-up with Sify to sell its agarbathis online. "More than selling online, our idea is to reach the Sify subscriber base and announce our arrival," he said.

The Rs 1,000-crore agarbathi market largely comprises regional players. "The biggest player in this sector is Cycle Agarbathis, which has a five per cent share. ITC, on the other hand, has a two per cent market share," said Mr. Rajasekharan.

He said the company is also looking at promotional exercises to increase awareness about its brand, in a market where brands really don’t matter. "We have already sponsored events such as the Spirit of Unity Concert at Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh and have also done sales promotion activities at the Tirupati Brahmotsav."

The company is also planning to launch four new fragrances under the Ashageet and Nivedan brands.

But the company hopes that the natural incense stick (herbal agarbathis) segment will grow steadily in the future. Spriha brand falls under this segment. This segment currently has just a five per cent market share, but with people becomingly increasingly health-conscious, Mr. Rajasekharan feels that this has a lot of potential for growth.

Also on the cards are plans to launch agarbathis at different price points in the fragrance segment. "Our agarbathis are now available between Rs 4 and Rs 10, but we are now planning to launch small packs priced at Rs 2 in order to reach the mass market," said Mr. Rajasekharan, who hopes to become the No. 1 player in the market by the end of next year.

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