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Boots Piramal plans foray into OTC segment

Purvita Chatterjee

MUMBAI, July 24

BOOTS Piramal Healthcare Ltd (BPHL) is evaluating the options of enhancing its portfolio of brands that can be sold through general stores.

The company is hoping to transform itself from a pharmaceutical company to a leading OTC player in the fast moving healthcare goods (FMHG) industry.

This 51:49 joint venture between the UK-based Boots Healthcare International and Nicholas Piramal India Ltd is planning to enter the OTC segment in categories such as vitamins, minerals and supplements where it still does not have a presence. It is also considering a foray into the herbal market, either by acquiring or establishing a new brand in this segment.

Speaking to Business Line, the new Chief Executive Officer of Boots Piramal Healthcare, Mr Abhijit Sanyal, said, "At present, we have a negligible presence in the general stores across the country where we do not stock our range of brands due to the presence of certain active ingredients which under the law can be sold only through chemists." Although the company reaches out to nearly 1.5 lakh chemists across the country, it has yet to make inroads into stores which typically stock FMCG products. By enhancing its portfolio of OTC brands, it is hoping to make inroads into a network of general stores that stock its products.

Focusing primarily on its five key brands Clearasil, Saridon, Polycrol, Strepsils and Lacto Calamine, the company is looking at increasing its basket of goods, which would include developing or acquiring herbal brands and products.

In fact, it was in April this year that the company decided to become a full-fledged OTC company, marketing healthcare products on behalf of both partners. Nicholas Piramal's range of ethical drugs were shifted back to the parent company while its own list of OTC brands were included in the joint venture's portfolio.

The brands of Boots Healthcare include Strepsils (medicated sore throat lozenge), Ultra Clearasil (acne treatment cream), Icy (throat lozenge) and Sweetex (artificial sweeteners). The OTC brands from Nicholas include Aspro (an analgesic), Lacto Calamine (a skincare lotion) and Polycrol (an antacid). However, the Rs 75-crore BPHL is primarily focussed on developing a handful of high-turnover brands from its present kitty. Saridon with a Rs 27-crore turnover is its biggest brand followed by Strepsils (at Rs 16 crore), Polycrol (at Rs 10 crore), Clearasil (at Rs 7 crore) and Lacto Calamine (at Rs 5 crore). The company is hoping to develop each of these brands as mother brands with line extensions following them.

In the recent past, the company has relaunched its 50-year-old brand of Ultra Clearasil by introducing a soft squeeze lamitube in a combination of red and blue which will be followed by a new campaign devised by McCann Erickson.

Pegging the OTC market at Rs 2,500 crore with growth rates hovering between 12 and 15 per cent, the company has decided to invest heavily in its brands, since the UK-based Boots has already targeted India as one of its most important markets.

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