Hindustan Lever and its strengths

Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) is the largest detergent manufacturer in India. HLL is one of the few companies that targeted and delivered to the bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) markets very effectively. One of the key strengths of HLL is their distribution and marketing penetration in the BOP markets. HLL products are manufactured at around 100 locations around India and distributed via depots to almost 7500 distribution centers. HLL has the reach to all villages with atleast 2000 people.

Pricing for the BOP markets

HLL is known as the company that comes up with innovative products for which the poor are willing to pay for. In fact they base their product on peoples’ willingness to pay for the product. For example, let us consider the case of Lifebuoy. HLL does some initial market research and comes up with the requirement that the Indian rural population need germ kill soap. Now, HLL experts immediately don’t go to the laboratory and come up with the most sophisticated germ kill soap. Rather, they have a bottom-up approach which works well for the mass markets. HLL does market research to understand how much are people willing to pay for a benefit like germ killer. Considering the price to be the retail price, it evaluates its target margins it gives a challenge cost. Then it comes up with a business model which delivers that challenge cost.

Marketing and Communications Strategies

Everything seems good on paper, but how does HLL manage its competitors. The key strengths of HLL is its distribution channels available to deliver Lifebuoy at the price the market dictated. The sales and marketing strategies of HLL are based upon microfinance institutions, micro-credit lending, and rural entrepreneurship. One such project is the Project Shakti which started in Andhra Pradesh and expanded to 12 states in India.

HLL tied up with the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and offered them products which are relevant to the rural population. A member of an SHG is selected as a Shakti entrepreneur, also called ‘Shakti Amma’ will receive stocks from HLL rural distributor. With some training from HLL, the Shakti entrepreneur sold those goods directly to the local village population. HLL witnessed 15% increase in sales from the villages of AP, which accounted for 50% of total sales of HLL products in AP.

An important reason for the success of this integrated marketing strategy for rural India is the consistencies of goals between HLL, the government units, and the NGOs. As Lifebuoy is targeted for socially desirable improved health goal, the other parties are happy to cooperate with HLL. This kind of integrated positioning, targeting, sales, marketing, and distribution strategy has given HLL a real edge over its competitors.