The soap opera begins

Godrej No.1 became a ₹1,000-crore brand in FY15. So what? And what next?

Photograph: Shutterstock; Illustration: Manish Marwah

Adi Godrej takes a moment to gather his thoughts before answering. The question is about a 1997 research finding on the opportunity in the toilet soaps market. It had been less than a year since the joint venture between Godrej Soaps and the Cincinnati-headquartered Procter & Gamble had been called off. Hindustan Lever, as the company was known then, had over a 70% share of the toilet soaps market and over the past five years, had been facing heat from Nirma, its old nemesis from the detergent industry. At that point, Godrej’s biggest soap brand was Cinthol. “Research indicated that people liked the quality of our soap. We realised there was an opportunity for a good soap at an affordable price,” says Godrej, who is the chairman of the eponymous group. At that point, Lifebuoy was still the largest selling soap in India and with other brands like Lux and Rexona, Lever was sitting very pretty.