Covid-19 impact: Reckitt Benckiser cashes in as hygiene takes centre stage

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO, RB
British consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser continued to ride on the renewed wave of hygiene and sanitation during the July-September quarter in India. 

As consumption of hygiene-related products remained high due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all its four key brands reported healthy growth in the local market, said a top executive. Dettol, the largest brand in its India portfolio, gained market share during the quarter. 

According to Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive officer (CEO), Reckitt Benckiser, the brand gained share in all its key markets across the globe. 

Last quarter, Narasimhan had said the brand gained 430 basis points in market share during the first half of 2020. It overtook rivals like Unilever’s Lifebuoy and Lux in the local soap market.

In the sanitation and home hygiene space, two of its flagship brands — Lysol and Harpic — performed well. “In India, we witnessed continued uptick for Harpic,” he said during an earnings call. 

At least 20 million additional households in India are now using the brand, compared to the same period last year. With Lysol, Reckitt Benckiser gained share in the floor disinfectants market.

Dettol, along with other hygiene-related brands like Lysol and Harpic, contribute over 60 per cent to the firm’s revenues in India.

Its leading brand in the men’s contraceptive segment — Durex — also gained market share in India.

Despite having a portfolio that suits the growing needs among consumers for hygiene-related goods, Reckitt Benckiser had to realign its business with the new normal. “Our markets have been redefined by the pandemic. Dettol is a renowned brand for decades and we launched it in 19 new markets during the quarter,” he said.

With an increasing number of consumers shifting towards online purchases, Reckitt Benckiser registered 50 per cent growth in its e-commerce channel over the last year.

The pandemic’s arrival had provided the much-needed tailwind for Reckitt Benckiser in India. Despite it betting on the Swachh Bharat mission, its sales remained muted till 2017-18. 

Data available with the Registrar of Companies shows that in spite of multiple attempts to promote the brand, Reckitt Benckiser’s India revenue grew a meagre 1.77 per cent year-on-year to Rs 5,814 crore in FY18 from Rs 5,711 crore in FY17. Filings for FY19 could not be accessed.

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