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Samir Singh, Global EVP, Skin Cleansing, UnileverHUL
The global monthly production of Lifebuoy hand sanitizer increased by 56 times.

We anticipate an increase in demand for more portable hand hygiene products as people start stepping out: Unilever’s Samir Singh

The global monthly production of Lifebuoy hand sanitizer increased by 56 times.
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  • In our latest interview series, we talk to brands to understand how they are coping with the new normal and their strategies towards navigating these difficult times.
  • Samir Singh, Global EVP, Skin Cleansing at Unilever tells us what kind of demand it has seen for its flagship brand Lifebuoy and how the organisation has increased its production to meet the increasing demand.
  • The global monthly production of Lifebuoy hand sanitizer increased by 56 times and liquid hand wash by three times compared to a typical month in 2019, Singh shares the challenges they faced and brand’s marketing strategy.
The global threat from Coronavirus is continuing to grow, and at a rapidly accelerating rate. This has made even slackers wash their hands at least four times a day. As a result, FMCG brands that manufacture hand sanitizers and liquid soaps have seen their sales swelling up. Furthermore, the increase in awareness about personal hygiene and care is also driving the market’s growth.

According to Technavio, Market Intelligence Agency, the hand sanitizer market in India is poised to grow by USD 405.31 million during 2020-2024 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Its analysts estimate the market to grow at a CAGR of 61.02% till 2024.

To meet this increasing demand, the global monthly production of Lifebuoy hand sanitizer increased by 56 times and liquid hand wash by three times compared to a typical month in 2019. And now, as people start stepping out, Unilever’s Lifebuoy is expecting a higher demand for its hygiene products.

“We have obviously seen an increase in demand for hand hygiene products. Handwashing has never been more important, and, at Lifebuoy, we believe that we have an important role to play to ensure that people can get hold of the products they need. As people start venturing outdoors and returning to work, school and other aspects of their lives, we anticipate an increase in demand for more portable hand hygiene products such as hand sanitizers,” shares Samir Singh, Global EVP, Skin Cleansing at Unilever.

Telling us how the brand managed to meet the ever-increasing demand in the past three months, Singh said, “Throughout the pandemic we have been working hard to ensure continuity in our operations and supply chain to help meet demand and ensure products reach the communities we serve. We have achieved this by prioritising production of hand wash, soap and hand sanitizer on lines across Unilever’s factories; setting-up new factories; and working with manufacturing partners.”

A lot of companies like RSH Global, Nivea, Emami, Cipla Health, Dabur have made their maiden entries into the hand sanitiser market to ride the demand and to help people stay safe. Lifebuoy will also continue to look for newer opportunities and innovate to help its consumers.

“At Lifebuoy, we continue to explore opportunities to help our consumers feel protected and safe. For example, we anticipate that as countries ease out of lockdown, many people will be looking for more portable, ‘on-the-go’ formats such as hand sanitizers and wipes to help maintain good hand hygiene,” said Singh.

Moving beyond competition

The pandemic has also made brands to keep competition aside and remind its consumers that everybody is in this together. Globally, brands like Nike and Adidas joined hands to protest against George Floyd’s murder. Closer home, brands like Dunzo, Dettol and Lifebuoy have left competition aside for the moment and are thanking each other for their services in marketing campaigns.

Spilling its marketing strategy, Lifebuoy’s Singh said, “We’ve been working quickly and flexibly to ensure we’re advertising in the places where it will help to inform consumers. As a brand and as part of our purpose, we use a variety of methods and channels to promote and inspire good hand hygiene practices. In response to the pandemic, we are using the power and influence of our media reach to improve handwashing behaviours by rallying millions of people to #dothelifebuoy in an engaging and ‘sticky’ manner. We’ve launched this global challenge across Instagram and Tiktok, with about 50 billion views and counting, across India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Africa and the Gulf.

On mentioning competitors, he said, “When the pandemic first emerged, we launched a public service campaign which encouraged the use of all soap – not just Lifebuoy but competitor brands too – with the line ‘Please use the soap nearest to you. Not just Lifebuoy but any soap like Dettol, Lux or Hamam.’”

Coronavirus is the biggest teacher

This highly volatile market, Singh said, has taught him the importance of being authentic, responsible, and consistent in communicating with your consumers.

Elaborating on the lessons he has learnt lately, he said, “Authenticity, because your brand purpose has to be in the DNA of your brand, it can’t be invented artificially during the time of crisis. People see through that kind of purpose washing. Responsibility because people expect especially at these times for brands and institutions to do the right thing, even if it is not immediately business apparent. That’s why we have advocated the use of even our competitors' soap brands since January, and that’s why we continue to direct people to official sources of information from reputed government health bodies. Consistency, because otherwise brands won’t have impact at scale. Brands need to do tangible things on the ground that make a difference, rather than only talk about things in communications and advertising.”

The need for hygiene products has never been higher, which has made Lifebuoy realise how important a role it plays in consumer’s life.

“Never before in history has a consumer goods category played such a central role in the future wellbeing of the world – that is a huge responsibility for everyone who works in this industry, and that’s what drives us every day to make a small difference, one soap at a time,” concluded Singh.

COVID-19IndiaCases: 936kDeaths: 24.3kRecovered: 592k
COVID-19WorldCases: 12.96MDeaths: 570kRecovered: 7.37M
COVID-19USACases: 3.28MDeaths: 134kRecovered: 1.04M