In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers and innovators, We bring our next interview with Mr. Ashish Chhabra, Joint Managing Director, Hygienic Research Institute (Parent Company of Vasmol Hair Oil).
Launched as Vasmol Emulsified Hair Darkener in 1957, Super Vasmol 33 Kesh Kala has been India’s favorite for more than five decades and still continues to be one of India’s most trusted brands. Innovated by Mr. Kailash Chhabra, Super Vasmol 33 Kesh Kala has been giving natural-looking black hair to its consumers across generations.
Ashish K. Chhabra is the Joint Managing Director of Hygienic Research Institute Pvt. Ltd (HRIPL).
He is involved for more than 20 years into active FMCG business of HRIPL & has closely worked in cross-functional areas viz. Sales, Marketing & commercial departments.
Ashish is at the helm of steering HRIPL as a new-age cosmetic company & is instrumental in nurturing the Streax and Vasmol brands into formidable hair care brands with his marketing acumen.
Let’s see how the journey has been for one of the oldest brands in India.
- Let’s start with the journey of Vasmol, where it all started through and how has been the journey so far?
Super Vasmol 33 Keshkala was launched in the late 1950s, as a pioneer to the hair colors category, in those days it was a novel concept however to explain to people as to how to use it, Vasmol chose a lucid way of depicting SVKK as a hair coloring oil, which needed to be applied like a pre-bath hair oil regime. Hence the product was being identified as a hair color oil. With media advertising penetrating through TV, Vasmol too started advertising in the late 90s, its flagship product Super Vasmol 33 Keshkala, an oil-based liquid hair darkening agent, which used natural oxidation to color hair rather than chemical-induced oxidation. The first challenge in advertising this concept was to explain to the consumer in simple terms the safety aspect of SVKK and thus came the legendary slogan “Surakshit Kaale Mere Baal, Vasmol Ne Kiya Kamaal” along with the oil benefits of the product. This communication made SVKK a household name across millions of households. The brand Vasmol came to be understood as the safest way of coloring hair, taking a cue from the success of Keshkala oil Vasmol introduced powder colors with the goodness of henna in the form of Kali Mehendi in the late 2000s which became an overnight success with consumers who believed in the natural and herbal goodness of brand Vasmol. An important juncture in the journey of Vasmol was its entry into Hair oils, it opened a new category for believers of Vasmol as they were getting good quality Jasmine Oil from their trusted brand and again the product Vasmol Jasmine Oil was received with open arms by consumers. A marked shift in communication as compared to other hair colors advertising in those times was the use of females as the main protagonists, this established Vasmol as the trusted product for the lady of the household who is also responsible for the purchase of most toiletries purchased for the day-to-day needs of the family. It was the same conviction of the chief decision-maker of the family that Vasmol could successfully launch a unique Black hair Oil (Vasmol black hair oil), with its unique property of preventing premature greying of hair. Most recently Vasmol has launched a Henna based color true to the brand’s philosophy of being a natural and caring brand. The brand commands a strong loyal consumer base with over 15 million units of Vasmol hair color and oil products being sold every month.
- Being one of the oldest indigenous brands, how did you manage to compete with the growing competition and entrance of bigger players in the market?
Vasmol has a unique positioning of being an Indian, natural /herbal-based brands which differentiate itself from other big players of the category, even with the entry of the MNC players Vasmol’s core base of consumers kept growing because the brand understood the Indian, natural ethos of hair color and hair oil using consumers. Even today the brand is very relevant and buzzing in the minds of its a loyal set of consumers. No other brand in the hair color category has this unique Natural /Herbal and Indian appeal as Vasmol does.
- How important is it to maintain brand credibility and name among the consumers?
To build trust and unique positioning in the minds of consumers requires longish years of pushing a set of values until they become almost like a surname to the brand. It is also very important to avoid diversions that take away that appeal. The Indian, traditional ethos of brand Vasmol was reinforced with its unique set of products and its differentiated communication over the years. A no-compromise policy on these factors led the building of credibility on the brand, the company HRIPL never cut corners which could have led to a compromise of the brand credibility.
- What is the importance of brand value and ethics?
Values and ethics for a brand are as important as maintaining human value and ethics in a family, this requires a high level of strategic thought process and consistency in behavior.
- What are your views on the current FMCG market and how will it shape in the future?
Transitions which are happening in the FMCG industry –
The product offerings are moving from being targeted at a household to being targeted to an individual, there is a flurry of niche products which is leading to multi variants of the same type of product being used in a household e.g., earlier there used to be one bottle of shampoo for the whole family now there are more than one shampoo variants inside the same bathroom catering to individual needs of each family member.
While FMCG industry has taken on digital advertising aggressively it is not able to complement sales of its products with the same fervor, largely because of the small ticket size of the products, which e-com companies find difficult to cater due to logistical constraint of supplying a sub Rs. 30 products (avg. FMCG product price).
Soon the concern about environmental issues will lead to drastic changes in the FMCG products’ formulations and packaging, the industry will see upheavals then. Across the industry-leading companies are already gearing up for this changeover
- Digital or Traditional? Which way of advertising and promotion do you like more?
Traditional advertising is one-way information disseminating medium with brand propagating their beliefs on to the audience, however digital is a two-way communication where consumers indulge in the experiences shared by brands and they (consumers) also respond back in real-time about their experience of the brand, digital has a lot of word of mouth influence and this form of advertising is as promising as it is scary because one wrong move and you will be trashed in real-time by consumers. The importance of building brand values and ethics becomes that much more important in the digital age. Both forms of advertising complement each other and are necessary in today’s times.
- How good or bad has been digital media for old businesses?
They are a boon as they let a new set of consumers look at you in a refreshing way.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Ashish and Vasmol. Kudos to him for continuing with the brand trust and value of Vasmol for so long.
You can check our other interviews here.