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Ramesh Chauhan - the man behind Bisleri

While it is common to find instances of brand names becoming the generic term for certain inventions (For example, Xerox brand used as generic term to refer to photocopy), there is one particular brand in India which has taken branding to an all new level, by becoming synonymous with something as simple & natural as water. That brand is the omnipresent "Bisleri".

 

The roots of Bisleri in India can be traced all the way back to the1960s, when the Italian company founded by Felice Bisleri was in the business of selling bottled water in India in 2 variants: Carbonated water & Plain water. The company struggled with sales because India was not yet ready for the idea of "paid water". Moreover, their glass packaging made them heavy & impractical, thus reducing their scope even among the elites.

 
 

As the company had finally decided to wind up in 1969, Ramesh Chauhan (Parle) acquired the brand at a throwaway price, as he felt their carbonated water could be marketed as soda. However, for the next 2 decades, Ramesh Chauhan was so busy with his soft-drink brands (Gold Spot, Limca, Thums Up, etc) that he never got the time to focus on Bisleri, and the brand thus confined it's presence only within a few 5-star Hotels and remained as a niche brand for a long time.

 
 

In the early 1990s, as Coke's re-entry into India posed a huge threat to Parle's soft-drink brands, Ramesh Chauhan decided to sell all his brands to Coca Cola, but retained Bisleri brand within Parle, as he didn't want to sit idle and needed something to work upon. Now that he had all the time in the world to focus on Bisleri brand, he started working on large scale demand creation. The timing couldn't have been better, as the 90s was the time when Indians were becoming more health conscious, and the rising incomes among middle class (due to effects of liberalization) meant they were willing to spend as well.

 
 

Ramesh Chauhan grabbed the opportunity to ride upon such public sentiments and embarked upon an aggressive marketing strategy in which Bisleri was presented as a feasible option for clean water, especially during travel, when boiling/filtering water was not practical. Around the same time, he introduced PET bottles which not only made the whole packaging lighter & cheaper, but also attractive due to its transparency.

 
 

The real turning point was in 1995, when Ramesh cleverly combined all these revolutionary changes and came up with a compact 500 ml ultra-lightweight PET bottle for Rs 5, which took the nation by storm, and Bisleri became synonymous with bottled water, and there has been no looking back ever since. Today, Bisleri is a Rs 3,000 crore brand which has developed such deep trust among Indians that most foreign MNCs, despite their deep pockets, have actually given up hopes of competing against them, which is a testimony to the business acumen of Indian entrepreneurs like Ramesh Chauhan who cleverly understood what Indians wanted, and gave them the right product at the right time, and most importantly, at the right price, without ever compromising on quality.

 
Story by
Guru Prasad

Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...

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