Bisleri on the block

Can’t seem to find link to the Economic Times story for this, but apparently Bisleri is up for sale for between Rs.120 and Rs. 150 crore. Among packaged drinking water brands, Bisleri was the brand I trusted most until a couple of years ago, and it’s sad to see how it’s just fallen apart after building up excellent brand equity.

As a consumer, when do we not want to buy a product? When we can’t afford it; we don’t have a use for it; we’ve not heard of it; we don’t like it (issues like swadeshi vs videshi); someone we don’t like, uses it (yeah, there are those); we don’t like its advertising; we’ve heard/read bad reviews; when the company has been involved in some controversy; when the product is injurious to our health; when we are suspicious of the quality of the product.

Some of these things are within the company’s control. For mineral water and food, for me, the last one is critical – if I don’t have faith in the purity of the water – I’ll stay thirsty.

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Bisleri themselves seemed to play on this need for safety, coining the popular tag-line ‘Play it safe’. The advertising helped differentiate the product from its competitors who, more or less, communicated nothing. Bisleri’s seal was also breakaway (hence irreplaceable), even though (I’ve heard), the sealing process was the slow and could clog up the assembly line.

Somewhere along the way, Bisleri fell off the radar. Distribution was poor and where there was once Bisleri, one found Aquafina and Kinley. Then, a couple of years ago, I came across new Bisleri bottles, which I thought were spurious. But then they began showing up all across Delhi.

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The “safe” breakaway seal was replace by a regular seal, but the change wasn’t communicated.

And more variants (packaging) emerged…

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And some of these variants were sold simultaneously. They were manufactured in different parts of Delhi, and one had the website www.bisleri.com printed on it, while the other had www.bisleri.co.in printed.

So, the mistake – a complete lack of communication on Bisleri’s part. According to Sahad, the asking rate for Bisleri was Rs.450-Rs.500 crore, five years ago.

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Now they have a new product out – a mineral water brand (as opposed to a packaged drinking water brand), and they are advertising it. Still, there are three types of Bisleri bottles in the market in Delhi right now…

Related: A lesson in distribution from a paanwala

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8 Comments

  1. I doubt the fact that Bisleri is up for sale. In fact quite contrary to it, they are on the verge of a turn-around. Almost every other shop in Bombay has started stocking Bisleri now. Aquafina has started disappearing from the shelves.

  2. Jay, it could be that they’re beefing up distribution now, hoping for an increase in visibility and hence valuation. Have seen a lot of startups do that – push for visibility and news coverage so that familiarity can get them better valuations. Bisleri’s probably trying to show that things are mostly hunky-dory.

  3. Possible, But I think things are looking up for them, coz this is one product that has to be pushed, becoz for the consumer, it doesnt matter if its aquafina or bisleri (not considering the controversy). Still whenever people ask for mineral water they always say, “ek Bisleri dena” 🙂 Whats more, now they are even getting that bisleri.

  4. @Nikhil: Did you mean people do not buy a product or a brand?

    “we can’t afford it” – applies to both

    “we don’t have a use for it” – applies to product

    “we’ve not heard of it; we don’t like it (issues like swadeshi vs videshi); someone we don’t like, uses it (yeah, there are those); we don’t like its advertising; we’ve heard/read bad reviews; when the company has been involved in some controversy;” – apply to brand

    “when the product is injurious to our health; when we are suspicious of the quality of the product.” – could apply to brand or product

    While buying a product is more ‘need’ driven i.e. driven by a state of physiological deprivation, the choice of a specific brand is more ‘want’ or ‘demand’ driven which is why all this money is spent advertising brands to create a want and which is why reasons like ‘someone we don’t like uses it’ are cited, turning which on its head explains celebrity endorsement as a tool.

    I have a sturdy water bottle and I take water from home, when I travel wherever I am.

    @Drumster: The generic use of a brand name is the brand owner’s ultimate nightmare. Not to mention trademark violation issues.

    I do not know how enforceable it may be in India but may be Bisleri can draw inspiration from Google… I am sure you know that Google has issued legal advice on how to use Google as a verb to mean search. ‘To google’ is wrong and to say that while using Yahoo is not on; ‘To Google’ is to use Google to search;
    (Where the double standards show is that they did not object to the word ‘google’ being included in the Merriam-Webster;)

  5. sir i am from chennai we use to be your dealer before now we left because one mr vijay kumar from supply devison and mr ravichandran they speak so badely did u ever think about ur dealer why they left from the head office any body think and meet the dealer in person in regarding bubble top.no clames no damage replacement no refund amount pls see the back office management. because biseleri is good brand
    copy to MR Ramesh Chauhan

  6. What precautionary measurs do you take if the spurious water (in house treated with unknown purity) is dispensed in your (Bisleri) jars?

    One big showroom is doing this in their premisis. I am associated with ‘Voulantory Organisatio in the Interest of Consumer Education’ (VOICE). We may lift water samples for testing and evaluation. What will be your liability in case water is found substandard/unfit for drinking?

  7. What precautionary measurs do you take if the spurious water (in house treated with unknown purity) is dispensed in your (Bisleri) jars?

    One big showroom is doing this in their premisis. I am associated with ‘Voulantory Organisation in the Interest of Consumer Education’ (VOICE). We may lift water samples for testing and evaluation. What will be your liability in case water is found substandard/unfit for drinking?

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