In 1969, Karsanbhai Patel, a simple chemist, employed at the Gujarat Government’s Department of Mining and Geology, manufactured phosphate free Synthetic Detergent Powder in a room of his house, and started selling it locally. The new product was competitively priced at Rs. 3.50 per kg. At a time when HLL’s Surf was priced at Rs 15, the new ‘yellow powder’, as Nirma was euphemistically named, soon began to command a following of its own, in Kishnapur, Patel’s hometown. Patel named the powder as Nirma, after his daughter Nirupama. He was easily able to sell about 15-20 packets a day on his way to the office on bicycle, some 15 km away. Thus began the great journey.

In the early 1970s, when Nirma washing powder was introduced in the low-income market, Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) were entirely dismissive of the new product: “That is not our market”, “We need not be concerned.” But very soon, Nirma’s success in the detergents market convinced HLL that it really needed to take a closer look at the low-income market.

By 1985, Nirma washing powder had become one of the most popular detergent brands in many parts of the country. By 1999, Nirma was a major consumer brand – offering a range of detergents, soaps and personal care products. In keeping with its philosophy of providing quality products at the best possible prices, Nirma brought in the latest technology for its manufacturing facilities at six places in India.

Nirma’s success in the highly competitive soaps and detergents market was attributed to its brand promotion efforts, which was complemented by its distribution, reaches and market penetration. A network consisting of about 400 distributors and over 2 million retail outlets across the country, had successfully enabled Nirma to make its products available to the smallest village.

Within a short span, Nirma had completely rewritten the rules of the game, by offering good quality products at an ‘unbeatably’ low price. Nirma’s success was attributed to its focus on cost effectiveness. From the very beginning, Patel had focussed on selling high-value products at the lowest possible price. The company endeavored to keep improving quality while cutting costs.

To this end, Nirma sought to create production plants for raw materials. This led to the backward integration programme, as a part of which, two state-of-the art plants were established at Baroda and Bhavnagar, which became operational in 2000. This resulted in a decline in raw-material costs. The product went directly from the factory to the distributor.

In 2000, in a further cost reduction exercise, Nirma opted for in-house printing and packaging by acquiring Kisan Industries at Moriya, near Ahmedabad, hoping and successfully improving the quality of its packaging.

In the mid-nineties, Nirma successfully extended its brand to other product categories like premium detergents (Nirma Super Washing Powder and Detergent Cake), premium toilet soaps (Nirma Premium, Nima Sandal, Nirma Lime Fresh). It followed its original marketing and pricing strategies in the economy segment as well as in the premium segment. In 2000, the company entered the hair care market with Nirma Shikakai, Nirma Beauty Shampoo, and Nirma Toothpaste. It positioned Nirma Bath against Lifebuoy, Nirma Beauty Soap against Lux6, Nima Rose against Breeze, and Nima Lime against Jai Lime8.

Nirma, is known for sticking true to its image. In advertising, the same jingle has seen Nirma ad go places. For endorsing soaps, the company used starlets like Sangeeta Bijlani, Sonali Bendre, and Riya Sen, who were relatively unknown at that time. The advertisement messages were also very simple and focused on the benefit of the product. Nirma always preferred to place the product on the shelves first, receive feedback, and then create an enduring ad campaign.

Starting as a one-product one-man outfit in 1969, Nirma has become a Rs 17 billion company within three decades. The company has multi-locational manufacturing facilities, and a broad product portfolio under an umbrella brand – Nirma. The company’s mission to provide, “Better Products, Better Value, Better Living” has contributed a great deal to its success. Nirma successfully countering competition, has managed to carve a niche for itself in the lower-end of the detergents and toilet soap market.


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