Sunday, July 25, 2021

Dabur’s toothpaste Chief Harkawal Singh on the how and why of ditching the outer paper carton around its Red toothpaste tubes

No, he is not worried the tubes will get squashed, it turns out. For now, the tweaked packs will be available at Reliance Retail outlets.

Your monthly salary has been credited. Your grocery list is ready. You’re at the supermarket. Hand sanitiser? Check. New face masks? Check. Soap bars? Check. New toothbrush? Check. Toothpaste? Squash.

The last bit was exactly our thought when we heard that Dabur had decided to brush away the outer paper carton from its ‘Red Paste’ toothpaste brand.

The paper saved by removing the outer cartons will be repurposed to create notebooks for underserved children supported by leading New Delhi-based NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY), said the brand in a press release.

Earlier this year, consumer goods giant Unilever announced a plan to introduce recyclable tubes in India in a bid to reduce plastic pollution. But to hear about a toothpaste tube on display at a modern trade store without its outer carton, sounds a bit alien.

Harkawal Singh

So, we decided to have a quick chat with Harkawal Singh, Dabur Oral Care’s Marketing Head. He looks after brands such as Dantamanjan, Red Paste, Babool, Miswak, Dabur Herbal Toothpaste, Dabur pulling oil and Dant Rakshak.

Edited excerpts:

Why did you take this decision?

This decision is part of the larger Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) journey of Dabur. Every team, whether it is marketing, packaging, purchase, etc., has a task – to come up with ideas on how to reduce our carbon footprint, or things that can be eliminated without disturbing the consumer.

In one of those brainstorming sessions with cross-functional teams, the simple question asked was: What can I remove from our packaging without hampering the customer? One of the ideas was about the carton, because it eventually goes into the wastebasket. So, that is where this entire idea came from, and we started working on it.

We have introduced a family pack without a carton (200 gm for Rs 100) in the market in select channels. (In our inventory, it will be classified as an SKU.) That is how this entire thing started – how paper can be saved from a company’s point of view.

Aren’t you worried that the tube, without the outer paper carton, will be squashed while being transported, or when the customers pick it up from a store shelf?

I don’t see any problem. The main function of the packaging is at the transportation level, where it is packed in an outer shipper carton, and at the store.

The outer carton is not the primary packaging of the product, it is the secondary packaging. From a transportation and shelf storage point of view, that’s where its functionality is the highest. After that, it has gone into the dustbin.

The tube will not get squashed because when the customer picks it up, it is straightaway put inside his or her basket.

We have tied up with Reliance Retail and its modern trade outlets because it is a self-service store, unlike a general kirana store, where everything is stacked on one shelf, which is a constraint.

The outer carton carries a lot of information, such as price, expiry, ingredients etc.

Even now, when you pick up any toothpaste, you will find the information on the primary as well as the secondary packaging. That is a standard practice now.

Why have you launched a special pack for the rural markets?

When I say special pack, it is more of a low unit/cost pack. We have a very strong rural network. We have removed the carton there as well, and stored it directly on the store rack.

Why have you chosen to go with Reliance Retail as a partner?

Dabur and Reliance are strategic partners. Reliance is, all said and done, the biggest modern trade player in India today. It is also entering other touch points, small and big. It gives us this huge network. Also, with Reliance JioMart, we can reach a larger number of outlets, pin codes. It’s a win-win for both of us.

Once you introduce this pack on e-commerce sites, aren’t you worried about their additional layer of packaging that defeats your purpose?

Today, if you order a Dabur Red Paste pack, it will come inside the e-commerce brand’s packaging. If you ask for, or buy a phone, it will also come in the e-commerce brand’s paper and plastic packaging. As an industry, as e-commerce players, as a community, and as a society, that is a challenge. E-commerce players are aware of the challenge and I hope they are working on it.

If you had ordered a 200 gm Dabur Red Paste online two months back, it would have weighed 400 gm. Now, if you order the pack we have launched, it weighs less, because there is paper saving.

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