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Rohto’s strategy for finding a place for themselves in a very competitive market
Making an entry
It’s been two years since Rohto entered the Nepali market with a range of its popular cosmetic brands. According to Pradip Mandal—the brand manager of Rohto-Mentholatum (Vietnam) Co Ltd, Rohto Pharmaceutical’s Vietnam subsidiary, and Rohto Nepal—before they made their foray here, the company first conducted rigorous market research. Based on the feedback they received, they decided to first introduce nine brands of skincare, haircare and cosmetic products. Recently, they decided to introduce one of their best-selling OTC (over-the-counter) eye care products, New V.Rohto. Since the Government of Nepal doesn’t have regulations or provisions for distributing drugs under the OTC category, the company had to register their pharmaceutical products as prescription drugs and distribute them through medical channels. That decision to roll out New V.Rohto has already helped with company branding. In just three months since its introduction, New V.Rohto is getting increasingly recommended by many prominent ophthalmologists.
For any multinational company, says Mandal, it is always in the company’s interests to expand into markets with potential. And the company’s year-long research and study of the Nepali market, done on behalf of Rohto by its agents working in Nepal, showed that Rohto’s products would be in demand here. For now, the company, rather than focusing on upping sales volumes, wants to hit home the message of the quality of its products.
Rohto’s primary focus, unlike with many of its competitors, is to localise the image of the products. The company has appointed national idols such as actress Priyanka Karki and singer Indira Joshi as its brand ambassadors. “I think many companies don’t realise the impact such strategies can have in a new market,” says Mandal. “A product that’s doing exceptionally well in one part of the world sometimes may not be able to reproduce the same degree of success in other parts. Localising the brand image bridges the gap between the foreign products and the consumers. We want to market our products in such a way that people can relate to the figures they idolise and accept the products as their own.”
Intimate customer service
Without great interaction between a new company and its consumers, the company can’t efficiently expand its market. So Mandal and his team welcome any complaints and feedback—through social networks like Facebook, etc. They also periodically conduct product-quality surveys. Indeed, Mandal’s personal email address is also available to anyone who wants to contact the company, have their queries answered or obtain information about Rohto products. In certain cases, Mandal also sees to it that customer queries be forwarded to the help-desk at the Vietnam customer-care unit.
Choosing the right distributors
You can have the best product in the world, but if your supply chain network is weak, your brand name can take a hit. Rohto’s products are currently being distributed through two different channels in Nepal. The cosmetic line is distributed by Vishal Group and the pharmaceutical products by BK Group—both companies with established goodwill in the market. They distribute Rohto products not just in Kathmandu but in pharmacies, retail stores and supermarkets in Nepal’s other major cities—Pokhara, Narayanghat, Nepalgunj and Butwal, among others.
Evolving according to market needs
Rohto is known for tweaking its products in accordance with the needs of the market. It has in the past made changes to its products in response to the climatic conditions of a certain market (which can affect the efficacy of skin or beauty regimes). Oftentimes, Rohto has also poured resources into developing products that they know will fill a market need. For instance, because malaria is prevalent in Vietnam, Rohto developed a line of mosquito-repellant products—a category of products that the company did not produce before. This trait, says Mandal, is one of the defining characteristics of the company, “We constantly evolve according to market needs.”
“Localising the brand image bridges the gap between the foreign products and the consumers”
“We’re not looking to change the face of the industry within a year or anything. Establishing a company in a new market requires patience and dedication,” says Mandal. “Over the next seven years, we’ll be making huge investments in Nepal.” While the competition in the crowded sector that Rohto is in is exceedingly tough—with all the major brands already catering to the market needs—Mandal believes that healthy competition forces companies to improve their products. “At the end of the day, the consumers are the beneficiaries of the products they use and also the judge of the quality of the products they choose,” says Mandal. “We believe in the potential of our products and in the judgement of the consumers.”