Few years ago, a Mumbai mall featured an exhibit called ‘The Free Store’. It had 87 items kept on shelves. Visitors were invited to take any item they wanted for free. The catch, however, was that they had to prise it away.
Naturally, no one succeeded, as the items were glued with Fevicol! As the signboard ‘It’s free if you can take it’ changed to ‘Fevicol ka jod hai ’, visitors who had grunted and strained themselves, started laughing appreciatively.
‘Fevicol’ is the brand name of a polysynthetic resin adhesive and is used to bond wood, plywood, laminate, cork and other surfaces. It is owned by Pidilite Industries, which was established in 1959 by the Parekh Group. The brand was launched the same year.
By 1965, it had become carpenters’ ‘preferred choice’.
Pidilite also manufactures art materials, sealants, construction and paint chemicals, automotive chemicals, industrial adhesives, industrial and textile resins, and organic pigments and preparations. But it is mainly remembered as the manufacturer of Fevicol. The largest selling adhesives brand in Asia and one of the most trusted brands in India, this ‘white glue’ has become synonymous with ‘sticking together’ and ‘bonding’.
When Fevicol was first introduced, there was competition from both, the small scale sector based in Jaipur, Nasik and Tirupati (manufacturing synthetic, resin-based adhesives) and multinationals like Hoechst Dyes and Chemicals (offering Movicol white glue — since discontinued). Old-timers may recall another brand from those days called ‘Calibond’ from the Sarabhai Group. But the new brand captured the market with ease.
This was possible mainly because of three reasons.
Ease of application : This is the brand’s USP. Indian carpenters, who were used to smelly animal resins (which had to be boiled before application) and starch-based glue, found the new product refreshingly non-smelly and easy to use. The quality of bonding was also excellent.
Direct marketing initiative : Pidilite managed to create an emotional bond with the end users of their product, the carpenters.
As anyone in the furniture market can tell you, adhesives account for only a fraction of the cost invested in woodwork. Most adhesive manufacturers just place their products in hardware stores and timber marts.
But not Pidilite. The parent company’s strategy was to make Fevicol the only name that carpenters associated with adhesives. It did this by reaching out to the ground level wood workers.
It organised seminars and shows for their edification, and also involved their families; books and cassettes containing fables about the carpenters’ artisan God Viswakarma were distributed; ‘Carpenter clubs’ taught them how to use the latest electric tools and read, understand and produce models of interior design drawings.
Pidilite built an extensive database of carpenters and updated it every two to three years. This came in handy when the company launched a magazine for furniture designs, ‘Fevikraft’, around 1975. The bi-monthly magazine was then duly mailed to all the carpenters on their list.
Not only did this keep ‘Fevicol’ uppermost in their thoughts, but it also gave them a sense of self-respect and fulfilment. The company also succeeded in getting valuable feedback from them.
The ‘Fevicol Champions Club’ (FCC) was also a part of this initiative. It became a platform for carpenters to meet and socialise with friends and families, even as they exchanged ideas and discussed new styles and designs. FCC meets thrice a year to share designs and award prizes to the best carpenters.
Once a year, the members donate a day’s labour free of cost, to mend and repair furniture at schools for underprivileged children, hospitals, and NGOs. This is Fevicol’s initiative. The brand distributes tools and raw materials to the workers, and celebrated it as Shram Daan Divas.
Last year, 42,000 woodworkers spread across 320 Indian cities participated in the event.
Advertisements : The third reason is known to everyone who has seen an ad for Fevicol.
As changes in consumer lifestyles in the 1970s and 1980s saw more furniture being made for both offices and homes, Pidilite decided to go for increased exposure through advertisements.
Starting with the Dum lagake – haisha ad, that first showcased its quality of bonding, every advertisement that followed this ad — both print and video — ensured that the product’s association with bonding was imprinted deeply in the minds of consumers.
Whether it was the overloaded bus, the sticking shadow, the egg that resisted all attempts to break it and the moustache-related videos; or the Yamraj, Bollywood movies, Crossword and Cut, Paste, Fevicol print ads, the message that Fevicol creates an unbreakable bond came across strongly.
Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) has won innumerable national and international awards with the Fevicol advertisements, all of which transcend territorial and linguistic barriers. With a mixture of humour and poignancy, these ads have touched people’s hearts to the extent that they too send in ideas for the same!
Another interesting fact is that despite repeated viewing (about 15 old and new ads were aired in rotation), the ‘fatigue factor’ never set in.
The target audience was not just people associated with furniture; it also touched the lives of householders. It became natural for people to ask for and keep ‘Fevicol’ in their homes ‘just in case’. The clever packaging of collapsible 30 g tubes, their wide availability and the easily identifiable colours, helped etch the brand in the collective consciousness of consumers as an ‘all-purpose glue’.
This is how a low-involvement product like Fevicol developed such tremendous brand recall. The ‘Fevicol ka majboot jod ’ tagline entered common parlance and everyday situations — even movies.
Going beyond obvious
The user-friendly packing has continued with variations and improvisations. The introduction of product line extensions (like Fevicol MR, Fevikwik, Fevistik, Fevibond, Fevicryl, Fevicol SH, Fevicol Marine, and Fevicol SH Xtra, among others) is based on variations in surface and exposure and have differing attributes, taking into account different conditions (like impact, fire, water, shock and vibration resistance). The brand variants have made the mother brand even stronger.
‘Fevicol Furniture Book’ (a series of volumes) was begun in 1990 to project a variety of furniture designs (with illustrations and measurements) for Indian homes. It is now ‘Fevicol Design Ideas’ and showcases design concepts not just for home owners but also for students, interior designers, commercial space owners and others. A website for Fevicol Design Ideas too was launched recently.
The business of bonding
Pidilite Industries claims to be the leader in the Indian adhesives and sealants market, among others. It boasts an annual turnover of about ₹5,000 crore (adhesives and sealants accounted for 53 pre cent). About 40 pre cent of this turnover comes from Fevicol.
The many brands acquired by Pidilite along the way — Ranipal, M-Seal, SteelGrip, Roff — have only served to increase its customer base. Today, Fevicol is said to be marketed in 54 countries worldwide and at over 50,000 locations in India (through 40,000 dealers and 4 lakh retail outlets).
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi used Fevicol as a standard to explain India’s relations with Japan — “ Yeh Fevicol se bhi majboot jod hai (this bond is stronger than that of Fevicol)”, he gladdened hearts at Pidilite and O&M.
But the fact that everyone in India immediately understood what he was referring to is a tribute to the brand itself!