Amit Syngle has always meant business. Serious business. “We are looking at the health and hygiene category seriously,” says the managing director and chief executive officer of Asian Paints, at the company’s fourth quarter earnings call on June 23. Asian Paints recently rolled out hand sanitiser and surface disinfectants under the brand Viroprotek. What makes Syngle—who has spent over 29 years at Asian Paints—take this bet is simple: brand extension. For a company that has been selling, and aggressively promoting, anti-bacterial paints—The Royale Health Shield line is endorsed by Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor—entering the hygiene business makes logical sense. Though the intent to explore the new category was, as Syngle puts is, ‘to help the government and NGOs,’ the company has aggressively pushed the brand through TV commercials too. Equally aggressive is the parallel distribution push, to reach out to FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) distributors and shops. “We are looking at in terms of catering to the market demand in a very strong way,” Syngle said in the earnings call. Asian Paints declined to comment as it is in its silent period before the announcement of Q1 results. With metros and Tier I cities—badly bruised by Covid-19—forming 45 to 50 percent of Asian Paints’ revenue, analysts say the company has been quick and smart in exploring new options. Moreover, as consumers are reluctant to opt for painting their homes currently, and with discretionary spending taking a beating, additional options of revenue would be welcome. So can a paint brand make a transition from walls to floors, from living rooms to bathrooms? Can Viroprotek take on the big boys of toilet cleaners such as Harpic? Can it give a fight to the biggies in floor cleaning like Lizol and Domex? Marketing consultant Jagdeep Kapoor reckons so. In brand categories with little competition, which are dominated by few brands, there is going to be a huge rush of new launches, says the managing director at Samsika Marketing Consultants. “There is enough elbow space for new entrants, especially ones with good sales and distribution network,” he says. However, Kapoor, says he is baffled by the fact that there is a common brand name for the floor and toilet cleaners. Harpic, he explains, has two variants for bathroom and toilet cleaners because they are different categories. “Asian Paints should have different names for different categories to avoid consumer confusion,” he says. Syngle said in the earnings call that the company has used the sanitisation service San Assure for a large number of shops and homes. The brand has also rolled out a ‘safe painting’ campaign to ensure the safety of painters and assure customers a safe experience at home. Through these initiatives, Syngle reckons, the company will be in a strong position to not only address uncertain times but also create far more resilient customer connect, to drive the business forward.
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