How Bisleri Became a Household Name in Bottled Water Segment

The History

Bisleri was created by an italian businessman, inventor and chemist, Felice Bisleri. Initially it was an alcohol remedy that is made up of cinchona, herbs and iron salts.

Dr. Rossi was a family friend of Felice and took over management of Bisleri Brand after Felice died.

India was just getting independence and Dr. Rossi was thinking of new business ideas. He noticed the acute shortage of clean water in Mumbai. Middle and lower class had to consume the low impure water but it was a big problem for rich Indians and tourists.

Dr. Rossi thought that drinking water would be a huge business in India, though at that time people laughed off the idea, insinuating that it would fail in India and nobody would buy drinking water in a bottle! How wrong they were!

Bisleri’s first water plant was set up in Thane, Mumbai with the help from a lawyer Khushroo Suntook. Dr. Rossi and Suntook continued their work despite cynicism from a larget section of people and started producing bottled water.

Bisleri made two products, Bisleri water and Bisleri soda. Initially these products were out of reach of common men for the price tag. Consequently, Bisleri was available in five star restaurant and hotels only. Dr. Rossi soon realized that keeping it exclusive to the rich only will make the products scalable.

The entire Bisleri company was sold in 1969 to Chauhan brothers for Rs. 4 lakhs which was a hefty amount in those days.

Bisleri Expansion

Incidentally, bottled water was not given priority when Chauhans took over, instead Bisleri was sold as a soda water – carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water. Bisleri used glass bottles at this time.

They also engaged in an ad campaign – Bisleri is veri veri extraordinari. The misspelling was meant to catch attention of people.

From 1981 to 1987, Parle focused on promoting its soft drinks division. Lima, Mazaa, Thumbs up were the brand’s soft drinks making waves in the market. Then in the year 1993 – 1995 Coca Cola entered the picture. The battle between the two giants heated up and Parle seemed to be hurt the most. Coca Cola also brought legal charges against Parle.

In the meantime some franchisees left Parle and joined with Coca Cola. Due to this and the legal cases pending against their soft drinks division, Narendra Chauhan decided to sell off the entire division and focus only on bottled water.

He sold the division to Coca Cola and also entered into a 10 year non compete terms where he or anyone from his family could not enter the software market for next 10 years.

This is actually where Bisleri started to pick up as a bottled water mater.

In 1993 Bisleri brought 500 ml water bottles to market. Before that, no one tried the 500 ml variety for water bottles. People liked the change and sale of Bisleri went up by 400% !

After that Bisleri started making bottles of 12litres and 20litres.

In 2016 Bisleri changed its color from blue to iconic green to distinguish itself in the market and also to show its environment friendly side.

Bisleri – a Marketing Success

There is stiff competition in the bottled water industry, yet Bisleri is able to maintain a 36% market share.

A large part of their success can be attributed to their focus on water quality and innovative marketing campaigns.

Bisleri has been focusing on quality throughout. Their water passes through several stages of purification and the bottles have tamper proof seals.

Initially only the rich could afford to pay for Bisleri. Bisleri is now made for all sections of people and is various sizes. Bisleri made the 500ml category of bottled water famous and there have been copycats later trying to emulate their success.

Bisleri has been running very effective marketing campaigns. They use catchy slogans and visuals to attract people to their products. The simplicity of the message stays in people minds and they reinforce it with repeated marketing. “Bisleri is veri veri extra ordinari” – is one such slogan meant to catch people’s attention.

In 2017 another campaign rolled out – one drink, one nation. Water bottles were packed with regional languages where they were sold. In 2018 Bisleri declared – Har Pani Ka Bottle Bisleri Nahi – meaning that every water bottle is not Bisleri, anoher smart campaign aimed at focusing on the uniqueness of Bisleri and also to take pot shots at the copycats.

Bisleri has engaged in multiple forms of marketing activities. From advertising on television, print forms to usage of billboards, posters and hoardings.

They have run close to 600 campaigns in India.

Most of their marketing campaigns are well thought out, simple and created to last in peoples’ mind for a long time. “Bisleri is veri veri extra ordinari” – is already an iconic slogan. They followed it up with other catchy ads that focused on their stregth – of water purity – and hygine.

What next

From 1969 to 2022 it has been quite a remarkable journey for the company. Bisleri has 5000 trucks all over India to sell water. Their distribution network is robust and tireless which contributes to their success.

In 2018 their revenue was Rs. 1500 crore. In the year 2022 the revenue crossed Rs. 5000 crore for the first time.

Given that they have an established business with a strong fundamentals in place, the upcoming days look promising for Bisleri. One concern in the entry of Coca Cola and Pepsi in to the bottled water category.

With deep pockets and rivalling distribution network, these other companies can eat in to the market share of Bisleri sooner than expected. It remains to be seen what counter measures Bisleri adopts in fighting the competition.

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