Ever felt stalled at the face of a big bully, whether it is in Entrepreneurship where you are fighting an established company or at work where you are pegged against a blue-eyed boy?
If so then go on and read this compelling story of how a small town one-product one-man outfit wriggled the horns of a global corporation and eventually emerged as a synonym for a whole Product Category – Low Priced Detergents and Toilet Soaps.
In 1969, Karsanbhai Patel, a chemist at the Gujarat Government’s Dept. of Mining and Geology, came out with an indigenous phosphate free detergent soap that he started selling locally, when he cycles 15 kms everyday to work. What started as a pursuit to earn some side income soon became a hit in his hometown.
Sitting in his humble home he packed his product in simple poly bags and named it as Nirma, after his daughter Nirupama. He priced the strange pale yellow powder for Rs.3.5/ kg when Surf by Unilever was being priced at Rs.10/kg.
In India ‘Surf’ by Unilever was synonym to detergent powder during the 1960s and 70s. It held an undisputed leadership in the detergent market then. However, they were struggling with low penetration as their product was considered as premium by many low income and rural households.
KarsanBhai kept his product rather simple; all premium qualities like whitening agents, perfumes were knocked off and instead just focused on executing his mission – Better Products, Better Value, Better Living.
Having an upper hand on pricing, the only hurdle in front of KarsanBhai was initial market adoption of the product. If he were able to make sure the retailers stocked his product, then it would be easy to sell Nirma.
Without having a big budget for marketing or offering attractive promotional deals, KarsanBhai was forced to think of a smarter move. He requested the wives of the workers in his factory to do a small favor. He asked them to regularly enquire for Nirma detergent powder in all the shop in the zones where their husbands were supposed to distribute the product.
Seeing many housewives asking for this particular brand of detergent, the retailers when approached by the KarsanBhai distributors readily accepted the product and stocked them. The product price helped them to sell it easily.
By growing steadily through the next couple of decades, Nirma gained 35% market share in the detergent market in the 1990s.
What KarsanBhai and Nirma teaches us is that, don’t let big boys to run you down in the game of life, instead rewrite the rules of the game and rule the game. And spread inspiration and value to others in the process!
Can you think of any similar experiences from your own life? Would be eager to know of them, go ahead and share them on the comments section!