28 Jun 2019 21:35 IST

Assuring you a good night’s slumber

The superbrand Goodknight is part of Godrej Consumer’s home repellent market, with a 50% market share

A World Health Organisation estimate in 2016 ranks mosquitoes as the ‘deadliest’ species, with 725,000 human kills a year. The irony is that death caused by other humans — an even graver concern, since this is not involuntary — comes a poor second with just 475,000 per year. The greater irony is that the mosquito has proved the adage ‘The female of the species is deadlier than the male’ true, as it is the adult female mosquito that transmits most of the diseases!

This just means that companies providing solutions to eliminate or control mosquitoes have a rosy future. And riding the crest of this wave in India is a brand called Goodknight, the highest-selling mosquito repellent brand in the country today.

In the early 1980s, the fight against mosquitoes was dominated by coils, like Tortoise and Rooster, which reportedly held about 40 per cent of the market share in the mosquito repellent category. Other products included creams such as Odomos and sprays like Baygon and Finit. Electronic Mosquito Repellent (EMR) Mats, like Deemos and Vape, accounted for just 10 per cent of the market: customers, concerned about the cost and the power consumption, were reluctant to try a new product.

An electrical engineer named R Mohan (later to become famous as Goodknight Mohan) took up the distribution of Vape when he found that it was most effective in protecting his daughter from mosquito bites. But the product did not pick up and Mohan decided to enter the market with a brand of his own, backed by know-how from Sumitomo Chemicals of Japan. Transelektra Domestic Products Limited (TDPL) was thus born and entered the EMR market with the brand ‘Goodknight’. The pack showed a mother and child in peaceful slumber, and the name drove home the message the brand wished to convey.

After some initial problems, sales of Goodknight products picked up, and the brand soon dominated the EMR market. By the late 1980s, coil sales had fallen and smoke-free mats made up almost 50 per cent of the repellent market. Goodknight sold well across all urban areas, or electrified areas that had high mosquito density and a population earning well enough to experiment on innovative products.

Mohan, a pioneer in the household insecticide market, introduced the aerosol-based, insect-killer spray ‘Hit’ in 1988. Both products proved to be bestsellers and, soon, major corporations were showing interest in acquiring the company.

In 1994, when a deal with Hindustan Lever did not go through, the Mumbai-based Godrej Group stepped in and acquired TDPL (its first acquisition). This was reportedly the first time an Indian FMCG company made a buyout.

The brand made great strides in the Indian market, responding with new and improved products every time a rival threatened to usurp its position. Innovation has been at the heart of the strategy to push the brand to the top slot. It also involved some important acquisitions by the Godrej Group.

What is the basic requirement of any mosquito repellent? It is to ‘hide’ the human ‘target’ from the mosquitoes by using blockers to deflect the homing system on their antennae. This means that whatever is used to repel mosquitoes should meet certain criteria – it should not just discourage the attack for a certain period of time but should do so on all surfaces and in all kinds of weather; it should be a non-toxic, non-irritant product that also does not damage clothing; and it should be either odourless or have a pleasant fragrance to be acceptable. Reasonable cost and effectiveness against other insects would make it even more appealing to the consumer.

Goodknight has fulfilled all these criteria over the years. In the mid-1990s, when coils from other brands showed an upsurge in demand, Goodknight came up with the ‘Supermat’. It soon entered the coils category as well, upsetting the then-market leader Tortoise within a short space of time. Its 10-hour red Jumbo coils and 12-hour Jumbo coils (the world’s longest-lasting coil), introduced later, were primarily aimed at the rural market.

When a close competitor came up with the vaporiser, it was quick to respond with its own offering. The 45-night refill in 1995 (later followed by 60- and 90-night refills) and Turbo Refill in 2003 gave the brand the necessary impetus, which soon translated into an unshakeable lead when the Activ+Plus System was introduced in 2007.

Other innovations followed – the Low Smoke Coil, the Goodknight Advanced Fast Card, the Xpress System and the outdoor personal repellents like Fabric Roll-on, Patches and Cool Gel.

The home insecticide market in India today is well past the ₹4,000-crore mark, of which Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL) is said to hold nearly 50 per cent.

The Goodknight product range today comprises the latest Neem Agarbatti, Power Chip System, Power Active+ System, Patches, Fabric Roll-on, Xpress System (liquid vaporiser +diffusing machine), Cool Gel, Power Shots, Activ+ Low Smoke Coil, Mini Jumbo Coil and Fast Card. These are manufactured at factories located at Chennai, Pondicherry and in the North-East region.

Goodknight’s R&D department is responsible for several breakthrough innovations like the Fast Card — a small piece of paper that is burnt to instantly get rid of mosquitoes and keep them away for about four hours (priced just ₹1); the Activ+ System that delivers double the power and effectiveness; the Xpress System that works three times faster; the Low Smoke Coil that reduces smoke; and the Neem Agarbatti, with neem and turmeric, a natural mosquito repellent.

More than 2 million outlets across the country offer the Goodknight brand. The rural areas account for about 30-35 per cent of the sales.

If Goodknight has managed to stay at the top and achieve top-of-the-mind brand recall, it is for two reasons — indefatigable innovation and clever marketing. For a product seen only as a problem-solver and in a low involvement category, it has built up a surprisingly strong customer base with its message of ‘nurture’ and ‘protection’.

Goodknight does not say it ‘kills’ mosquitoes — only that it offers ‘protection’ against them — especially ways to ‘protect happy moments’. Right from the first ad on television in 1985 to the highly popular ‘Golu’ ad aired recently, it has focussed on the emotional ‘family’ aspect. The Goodknight ads have been extremely well conceived and well received. Be it the husband who brushes aside the mosquito menace with ‘No problem, switch to active mode’; the ‘Subah Bolo Good Knight’ campaign that educated consumers about mosquitoes that bite during the daytime and spread Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika; or the ‘Make India Malaria-free’ campaign, it has demonstrated that its focus is more on the wellbeing of the consumer rather than profit.

One of its recent ads for ‘Cool Gel’ is targeted at rural households where the entire family sleeps outside; by projecting its product as non-sticky and ‘cool’ apart from being mosquito-repellent, Goodknight has tried to wean consumers away from other skin-based repellent creams.

Goodknight products are exported to various countries around the world like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Fiji and Yemen. It is the market leader in the last three countries. Recently, it was introduced in Africa.

The brand has achieved the consumer ‘Superbrand’ status several times.