Eureka Forbes Ltd. is India’s leading health & hygiene brand and part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group. Its product portfolio encompasses water purification, vacuum cleaning, air purification, and home security and fire safety solutions.
Marzin R Shroff – CEO, Direct Sales & Sr. Vice President, Marketing – Eureka Forbes Ltd told Sandeep Menezes that India is facing a severe public health crisis with increasing water-borne diseases and a deteriorating quality of groundwater.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are the main types of contaminants present in water across India?
The quality of water is deteriorating with every passing day. Nowadays, apart from bacteria and virus, traces of new age contaminants like pesticides, harmful chemicals and even lead, arsenic are found in water. E.g. Fluorosis has been a serious issue in Andhra Pradesh as early as in 1999 with maximum reported levels at 29 ppm and 70-100 per cent of the state being affected. The water quality tested also revealed presence of fluoride above permissible limit in water sources such as open well water and tank water. Fluoride levels above a certain level pose serious health hazards to humans and irreversible damage to plants. In the city of Agra, water contains contaminants such as fluoride, iron, bacteria and arsenic resulting in high incidence of illnesses and water borne diseases.
80 per cent of all diseases are waterborne. Annually, diarrhoea causes 2.2 million deaths worldwide, mostly among children. More than 1 million Indian children die because of drinking impure water every year.
Tell us about the main challenges to improving water quality nationwide?
India is facing a severe public health crisis with increasing water-borne diseases and a deteriorating quality of groundwater. In the past decade, though we have witnessed considerable improvement in accessing drinking water, the poor quality of water supplied by civic authorities still remains a challenge. Also, people still remain largely unaware about the contaminants present in the water and the impact that it can have on one’s health.
Secondly, there is lack of continuous supply of water in most Indian homes (even sec A and B) which is threatening the sustainability of both urban and rural India. This unavailability of water leads to greater dependence on tanker/bore well water which is highly contaminated in nature and contains varying levels of TDS.
The third grave challenge is that the water purification sector is witnessing a number of unorganised players. The task that we face is that consumers are unaware of the right technology/product appropriate for purification in a particular water condition. Water treatment (or purification) is like any other form of treatment. One needs to know what is wrong before you treat the symptom. Similarly in water purification, there is no one-size-fits-all technology to purify water.Water conditions are like diseases and each disease needs a different medicine for treatment. In case of water it is called technology of purification – RO, UF, UV, NF and many more.
How does the quality of water available in rural parts of India differ vis-à-vis urban areas?
Through extensive mapping of Water recycling is the only option is the only option of India in various parts of the country, and through extensive research and development, we know that there are over 17 different kinds of water conditions in India.
Water quality levels differ not only between geographies but even with a given radius. As a result the TDS level of their drinking water keeps changing from one city and town to another. E.g. Fluorosis has been a serious issue in Andhra Pradesh whereas in Agra, water revealed high levels of contaminants which included fluoride, iron, bacteria and arsenic. In fact, water quality differs within close proximities such as from one building to another.
Therefore, it is difficult to broadly differentiate and compartmentalise the water conditions in rural and urban areas.
Water purification is still looked as a small niche urban segment. Going forward, do you foresee low-cost water purification solutions so that more people could be covered?
The water purification, although looked as a niche segment, is growing at a rapid pace. Increasing awareness about water related diseases accompanied by awareness towards the need for water purifiers in households as a ‘must-have’ appliance is driving the industry’s growth in India today.
Till recently, people were not exposed to water purifiers as a result of economic factors and poor sales and distribution networks in these areas. However, companies with innovative products are now targeting this segment and rural Indian market now indicates high growth potential, particularly for offline water purifiers. Water purifier is no longer a consumer durable limited to affluent households, as it is now available at low prices and has started to penetrate in lower income and rural households.
In 1998, we had launched a retail brand for water purifiers – AquaSure to cater to the mass markets in India. Under this brand, the company has launched an array of low-cost storage water purifiers for rural and urban masses.
What is the current market-size for water purification nationwide? How much market growth do you foresee in the forthcoming years? Tell us about the main growth drivers?
The current market size for water purification in India is Rs. 3,400 Cr. We are anticipating the market size to be Rs. 9,000 Cr (By 2019).
1. Previously, Indian markets were not exposed to water purifiers as a result of economic factors and poor sales and distribution networks in these areas. However, companies with innovative products are now targeting this segment and rural Indian market now indicates high growth potential, particularly for offline water purifiers. Water purifier is no longer a consumer durable limited to affluent households, as it is now available at low prices and has started to penetrate in lower income and rural households.
2. Levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), hardness, chlorides, nitrates, etc. responsible for water contamination have exceeded more than the permissible limits in certain parts of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Lucknow, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. Toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead and disease-causing microorganisms are also contributing to the alarming increase in the water contamination. All these factors are contributing to the water purifier demand in Tier II and Tier III cities.
What is the future business strategy of Eureka Forbes?
Aquaguard has a market share of 58 per cent by value and 57 per cent by volume today, and enjoys an unaided recall score of 92 per cent. As part of our strategy, we are experimenting with new marketing models and offering technologically advanced and innovative products to meet changing consumer demands.
For the first time in its 33 years of existence, Aquaguard will now be available on retail shelves in addition to being sold through direct selling and e-commerce channels. With this unique distribution mix, our strategy is to adopt an omni-channel approach which will enable us to engage with customers at multiple touch points.
Other than developing distinct products to suit customers and environmental needs, such as Geneus, Enhance, Xpert RO, etc, we have recently also introduced Dr. Aquaguard range of water purifiers which offers a customized solution to prevalent water conditions. It will be sold through direct selling. These purifiers have first-of-its-kind Biotron and Mineral Cartridge that delivers not just pure but the healthy water full of essential minerals and will be available exclusively through Certified Water Specialists of the Direct Sales Network of Eureka Forbes. We have also set up 25,000 retail outlets across 1,500 towns, via a network of prominent channel partners. AquaSure, which is being sold on retail shelves will be targeted at the urban and rural masses and will remain our price fighter product for value-conscious consumers.
Moreover, Aquaguard will be available online through our own e-commerce platform and other channel partners. Currently we reach out to 19,000 pin codes in India.