Jayanti Chauhan, vice chairperson of Bisleri
For over five decades, India's largest packaged water company, Bisleri, has remained a household favourite. Recently, the company was in the news for its acquisition deal with Tata Consumer, which eventually didn’t work out. Tata Consumer was expected to buy Bisleri for between Rs6,000 crore and Rs7,000 crore. "It was a mutual decision," Jayanti Chauhan, vice chairperson of Bisleri, tells Forbes India. "It was not that Tata walked out on us or we walked out on them. And I don't know why it has been portrayed as because they walked out, I've come in. I've been looking after the business for 14 years now." Under the supervision of her father, Ramesh Chauhan, who is chairman, Jayanti joined the family business when she was 24.
Recently, Bisleri rebranded its carbonated soft drinks (CSD) and launched three flavours. In 2016, the company relaunched fizzy soft drinks after Coca-Cola bought their entire range of aerated drinks in 1993. It included brands ranging from Thums Up, Limca to Gold Spot and Maaza. This new range of carbonated soft drinks has been launched to build a strong connection with the youth, who constitute 66 percent of India’s total population. The company’s revenue stood at Rs2,300 crore for FY23, and the overall sales growth last year rose to 40 percent. It is three times the pre-pandemic sales, the company claims. Bisleri has a 32 percent share in the organised bottled water segment that includes key players such as Aquafina, Kinley and Bailey.
Now the Mumbai-headquartered company is planning to explore untapped markets—from rural India to international ones. In a conversation with Forbes India, Jayanti talks about setting up their first overseas operations in the UAE, dealing with competition, going big on carbonated soft drinks, and more. Edited excerpts:
Q. What led to the rebranding of Bisleri’s carbonated soft drinks?
In 2016-17, when we re-entered the fizzy drinks space, the older management missed giving importance to certain aspects. And the alignment between all the departments was not as strong as it is today. This time, while bringing it back, we worked with a new team, and we have received an amazing response. Today’s youth are enjoying OTT platforms as they produce interesting and evolving programming. Keeping this in mind, we have launched a new campaign with actors who are currently popular in digital and feature films. They have a strong connection with the youth. The new fizzy drinks portfolio reflects the modern palette of Gen Z, who are looking for the ultimate refreshing taste.
Q. Any plans to foray into new segments?
I think we're quite busy with what we've launched. We also have to focus on the growth of Bisleri, the water segment. We intend to increase our distribution and penetrate smaller towns and markets where we are not currently present in. We are focusing on enhancing the overall capacity of our existing manufacturing units. And not only our units, but our co-packers and franchisees as well.
Q. How does Bisleri stand out from its competitors?
I don't believe in really looking at competition as competition. I believe we are our competition. Our incompetence is our competition. Although I do get inspired by what other people are doing. I really admire some of the advertisements that Coca-Cola makes. The new Pepsi ad as well. I take inspiration from what they're doing, like Coca-Cola being available from the smallest shop to a five-star hotel, which is brilliant. But I’m not worried about the competition. India is a pretty large country. So, I think there's space for everyone.
Q. The company will make its international debut. Can you tell us more about it?
We are going to launch in the UAE very soon, in partnership with the Lootah Group, which owns Emirates Water. They are going to manufacture Bisleri there, using the same systems that we have here. The association will help strengthen Bisleri International's presence across Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. The operations will begin in the next three months.
Q. How is Bisleri revamping its brand positioning?
We tied up with four Indian Premier League (IPL) teams: Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals and Gujarat Titans. We launched limited-edition bottles featuring the faces of the most popular cricketers. Unfortunately, none of our teams won. But still, for us, it was a big step. We have tied up with a lot of movies in the South like PS1, PS2, and RRR. We also wish to drive a youth connection since Bisleri is a legacy brand. We need to evolve as the youth are evolving. So that they also feel connected to Bisleri, like the kids who grew up in the 90s. So, it's a very youth-driven marketing style that we are adopting. And we want to be wherever Gen Z is. In fact, we are the first company in FMCG to launch an ecommerce platform.
Q. What initiatives is the company taking on the sustainability front?
We are a plastic-neutral and water-positive enterprise. We have successfully offset our plastic footprint and replenished more water into the environment than we consume in our operations. We have even upcycled the plastic into apparel, school bags, benches and more. A lot of work has been done on conserving water and building check dams. These are some ways in which we’re giving back to the planet.