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BW Businessworld

Brand Baaja: Healing Generations

Even after 86 years, the skin care brand is going strong without any change to its formulation or positioning. That’s Boroline for you!

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

The popular belief is that no Bengali can do without Boroline in the house. Be that as it may, if you ask anyone In india, particularly those with roots in the central and eastern states: “what is the quintessential all-purpose cream for everyday use?”, the answer may will be Boroline.

For consumers, it is the comfort antiseptic cream that is dependable, easy to use, and affordable. One reason for Boroline’s widespread loyalty is its consistency. Neither its packaging nor formulation has changed for most part of its eight-decade old journey, says Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, Brand-Comm.

Brand expert Harish Bijoor describes Boroline as “the mother of all antiseptic creams”. According to him, “Boroline brand loyalty is a legend. This spans across regions, never mind the fact that this is a brand that was all about the East of India. Basic skin care means Boroline to a lot of women, men and children alike in this country.”

Manufactured by G D Pharmaceuticals, Boroline continues to be positioned as an over-the-counter antiseptic perfumed cream as it was when launched in 1929 in Kolkata. The cream is a combination of the antiseptic boric acid, the astringent and sunscreen zinc oxide, and the emollient lanolin and can be used for cuts, chapped lips, rough skin, and to treat infections.

Over The Years
A number of advertising professionals that BW Businessworld spoke to, readily recalled the Khushbudar Antiseptic Cream Boroline jingle that played on Doordarshan and radio and later on select cable channels in 1990s and early 2000. But the brand sells the most on word-of-mouth publicity. In the 1950s, Boroline was sold with the strapline ‘Tender Face Cream’ which was positioned as a cosmetic face cream. But beyond 1960s the company tweaked the product and positioned it as a multi-purpose skin cream. This was reflected in the print commercials too in those years, says veteran ad-filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar. “It has got a very strong brand recall as a winter cream and has a wide consumer base in Kolkata and neighboring states,” he says. Then through the 1970s to 1990s, the brand positioning of Boroline underwent changes. From being sold on the plank “Boroline has no substitute”, to “you can count on Boroline” to it is “The Original”. Towards the closing in of the millennium, Boroline was sold with the tagline “Boroline skin. Healthy skin”.

These little changes aside, consistency has been the key for brand Boroline, which hasn’t changed its trademark green and white packaging and logo since its launch. But Why? Explains Sridhar of Brand-Comm: “The basic formulation that the product has may not change if the product has a strong following and customer base, because if you try to fiddle around with it like Coke did when it came up with a new improved Coke, the people were disconnected and that turned out to be a big flop.”

Concurs Kiran Khalap, brand consultant, author and founder of Chlorophyll Brand & Consultancy. “There is a brand called Converse in USA. The product has not changed since the last 40-50 years as it appeals to the new generation. Now take for example the fruit-based beverage company Tropicana, which changed its packaging in 2009 and lost about 20 per cent market share, because the consumer just couldn’t identify with the product.”

“So the pick is this: if newer and newer segments enter the market and if these segments are not alienated and are not rejected being called their parent’s brands, then there is no need for the brand to change its packaging or product,” says Khalap.

According to Bijoor, Boroline is a “working product” with a price-point that has remained rational all the while. “This has appealed to a nation of Boroline users,” says Bijoor.

Should It Change?
The manufacturer and promoter of Boroline G D Pharmaceuticals believes that there is no need for the product or its imagery to change. According to a company insider, brand Boroline with its green packaging and elephant symbol is recognized by even those who cannot read or write. “In West Bengal, Boroline is also used by the poor and working class. It is an affordable product. These people call it “Haathiwaala cream” (cream with an elephant symbol). So why change,” says a senior executive associated with the brand. However, it should be noted that questions sent to the company remained unanswered. Attempts to get official reactions from the company about the brand, market share and financials did not elicit any response despite repeated attempts.

But can Boroline change to gain market share? According to Sridhar, the reasons for not changing could be many. “May be it is about competition. Either their competitors are too aggressive or they consider Boroline as a niche product. Lot of customers seem to be happy with the brand as it is, but can you not do some stuff that keeps the brand excitement intact?,” he asks.

Khalap has a different take. He says there is no need for the brand to change its packaging or product if it continues to be relevant to the new generation. “Also, we talk about the brand loyalty where the consumer remains loyal to the brand, so we should also keep in mind the brand’s loyalty to itself,” he says.

Kakkar argues that Boroline has held on to its market in Kolkata and West Bengal and perhaps that is the reason it does not feel the need to change anything. “The moment winter comes, people get a hold of Boroline,” said Kakkar.

But Bijoor feels that the key challenge for Boroline ahead is chalking out a path that does not disturb its brand-equity as it embarks on profits. “Many brands err at this spot, sacrificing brand equity at the altar of profits. Must Boroline become more than what it is, or should it remain just what it is. That is the key answer the the brand will seek,” says Bijoor.

Numbers Say It All
While no response, either written or oral, was received from G D Pharmaceuticals, a quick glance at the reports filed with the registrar of companies shows the financial health of the company which has made profits for 2013-14 at Rs 19.06 crore on total revenue of Rs 114 crore. For 2014-15 the net profit was listed at Rs 25.67 crore as on 31 March, 2015 on a total revenue of Rs 138.93 crore. In simpler terms, the antiseptic skin care market in India is pegged at Rs 450 crore and Boroline is estimated to account for 25 per cent of it.

But according to Superbrands report on brand Boroline, the product commands a big chunk in retail distribution network of over three lakh distributors. Also, it was commanding an annual sale of 2.8 million litres valued at more than Rs 180 crore a couple of years ago in the antiseptic cream market. It is fair to note here that the overall category is dominated by Boro Plus Antiseptic Cream that was launched in 1984 under the Himani umbrella by Emami. While Boroline still retains its hold in West Bengal, Boro Plus has become a dominant brand outside West Bengal commanding around 74 per cent share in the national antiseptic cream market, as per media reports.

[email protected]; @ashish_bw

With inputs from Abhinav Mohapatra


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