The ‘Meine desh ka namak khaya hai’ TATA advertisement campaign in 2002 offered viewers an instant connection. In India, salt and loyalty have been associated from time immemorial. ‘Namak halal” and “Namak Haram” are commonly used terms for honest and dishonest people respectively. According to cultural connotations, after consuming salt at a person’s house the one who has consumed the salt should not cheat his/her host. The campaign connected with the consumer at an emotional level.
TATA Chemicals Ltd (TCL) started manufacturing salt in 1939 after establishing a solar salt works at Mithapur, Gujarat. It pioneered the concept of iodized and vacuum-evaporated salt in India in the early 1980s and created a need that was not felt by consumers before. Interestingly, the opportunity came accidentally, when in 1983, the company needed fresh water for its boilers that produced soda ash at its Mithapur plant in Gujarat. As fresh water was scarce in the area, the company began processing sea water. Salt of high quality was the by-product. Estimated to be worth Rs.10 billion, TATA has a 21% share in the packaged iodized salt industry in India. According to A.C. Neilson in Brand Track 2002-03, 90% of the people surveyed across the country had tried TATA salt at least once. The salt market is pegged at five million tones out of which 1.5 million tones are of the branded variety. TATA salt leads the market with a 40% share. According to analysts, TATA was able to get the leadership position in the category as it had the first mover advantage. Some competing brands include Annapurna from HLL, Dandi from Kumwar Ajay industries, Shudh from the Mirma Group, Captain Cook from DCW Home foods, Ashiwaad from the ITC stable, besides some international brand likeCargil and Congra. From ‘vacuum-evaporated’ to ‘iodized’ from ‘free flow’ to ‘danedar’, one does not see much brand differential among competitive brands, hence the need for a strong and memorable advertising plank and better packaging. One finds vigorous advertising by major players in the mass media. Looking at the overseas potential, TATA, according to industry buzz, is exploring the Middle East market and those of neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.
Tetley’s overseas distribution network could come in handy for marketing the salt in these countries. In order to expand the user base, TATA salt that is priced at Rs 8 per kilogram, against un-branded salts at Rs 3-4 per kg. The company has launched its economy brand ‘Samundar’ at Rs 5 per kg. Purity, trust, and value have been the planks of its communication strategy. The earlier catch-line, ‘Namak ho TATA ka, TATA namak’, when more competitors came into the market, and the need for an emotional bond was felt. Besides an aggressive approach to branding, the company improved packaging, sales, and supply chain management. According to company sources, consumer research by TATA Chemicals in June 2002 revealed that people had a sense of insecurity and a disgust for corruption, which they thought were eroding Indian democracy. The insights that the research provided helped in tapping patriotic and nationalist favor. TATA took the opportunity to be associated with the universal theme of ‘remaining ture to one’s salt and to one’s country’. This was the philosophy behind the ‘Meine desh ka namak khaya hai’ tagline. The new packaging, with the visual of delectable cuisine, backed this. ‘Vacuum evaporated’ and ‘iodized’ were clearly written on the pack a plank that other competitors also used. The advertisement with the visual of a banana leaf and a pinch of salt in a corner ( a traditional serving in south India) with the headline: ‘To Indian housewives, our salt always comes first’ and the catch line ‘Meine desh ka namak khaya hai’ was considered by analysts as amongst the greatest advertisements when it appeared. In order to connect with communities, TATA salt has used public relations to sustain the brand on a ling term basis. Since the launch of the ‘Desh ka namak’ campaign in 2002, during some specified months, a small percentage of money that accrues from the sale of TATA salt is set aside for economically disadvantaged children. In the two years since the launch, 25,000 children have been provided with one year of education.
- Salt is a generic product and is basic to human existence. Why then in your view, is there so much competition and rigorous marketing in this category?
- Who are the major players in the branched salt category and what are their advertising planks?