Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dhathri : Evolution of a Corporate Brand

Corporate Brand  : Dhathri

Brand Analysis Count : #475

Kerala- the state where I belong , is famous as a consumption market with little or no manufacturing activity. The state, which is an ideal test market for most of  the consumer products, is dominated by trading & service business rather than manufacturing. Hence the number of brands that originate from Kerala is very less compared to other states.Kerala is well known for Ayurveda. The land is rich in terms of a very well organized and reputed ayurvedic treatment centers. An emerging brand in this genre is the brand Dhathri.

Dhathri Ayurveda Pvt Ltd  was started by Dr Sajikumar, a trained Ayurveda Doctor, in the early nineties. Dr Sajikumar belonged to a reputed family of Ayurvedic practitioners with a rich tradition tracing back to two centuries. Initially Dr Sajikumar's treatment centre was known as Warrier's Hospital and Pachakarma centre which later became Dhathri.

The origin of the brand Dhathri happened in 2005. Dr Sajikumar launched a hair oil under the brand name Dhathri. The hair oil quickly captured the market's attention and the brand became a blockbuster hit. The success of Dhathri hair oil prompted the company to launch a slew of products first in the hair-care segment and later in skin-care market. Interestingly the company decided to use Dhathri as the brand name for all the products across categories.

Along with the FMCG products, the company also ventured into wellness market through the launch of ayurvedic services like slimming centers under the brand Dhathri ABS clinics. Dhathri is now a Rs 250 crore company with interests in FMCG, traditional ayurvedic medicines , clinics and wellness centers.

Dhathri as a brand  is strongly associated with hair-care. The brand has followed a celebrity endorsement route towards brand building. All the launches from Dhathri is endorsed by celebrities and the consistent heavy investment in promotions has ensured that the brand had a top-of-mind recall among the consumers.The success of hair-care products prompted the brand owners to enter the skin-care segment. Dhathri extended itself by launching face-packs, skin creams and related products. Over a short period of time , the brand became an umbrella brand endorsing a plethora of products across various categories.

                                 Dhathri hair oil endorsed by Samyukta Varma
                                 Dhathri endorsed by Usha Uthup
                                  Dheedhi shampoo endorsed by Revathi
Dhathri hair oil has positioned itself on effectiveness platform. The brand has the tagline " It really gives results " reinforces the promise of effectiveness of the product.

Later Dhathri ventured in to the shampoo and soap market with the launch of new brands - Dheedhi and Dhin. Later a toothpaste brand ( Mavila) was also launched. The company also added health-care products like Chyawanprash , diabetic supplement and a family nourisher ( Winsmart) under the Dhathri brand or endorsed by Dhathri.According to a news report, Dhathri has now 20 varieties of herbal products under its brand-line.

Along with these developments, the company adopted Dhathri as the corporate brand name and adopted the name Dhathri Ayurveda. In November 2010, Dhathri began to look at markets beyond Kerala and launched its hair care products in Tamil Nadu.

It is really good to see a regional brand spreading its wings and venturing into a highly competitive national market. But along with those good feelings comes certain thoughts on the current marketing practices of Dhathri.

There is no doubt that Dhathri has grown fast. I feel worried when brands grow fast and become too ambitious. The wide and unrelated products in the portfolio of Dhathri is a matter of concern as far as the brand is concerned. The company although has stated in their website that Dhathri is an umbrella brand , too much unrelated products will dilute the core brand.

Another important branding funda that Dhathri missed was the  core brand strategy . Dhathri has evolved from a hair-care brand to an umbrella brand but this evolution is not seen in the core brand Dhathri. When ever a brand moves from a product-focused brand to an umbrella brand, its DNA changes. The brand owners need to create a new positioning and set of brand values for the umbrella brand. The positioning and brand values of the umbrella brand should be in a  broader platform  so that the new umbrella brand can endorse a diverse set of products.
Now every product in the Dhathri brand portfolio uses the name without any common thread tying itself to the core brand. The company has left it to the consumer to create a distinct position for Dhathri which I feel is dangerous. 

Ideally Dhathri should have created a core brand strategy that should revolve around Ayurveda. The Dhathri umbrella brand should have a unique set of values and brand elements including a tagline that exemplifies its positioning. The umbrella/corporate brand should also have a set of campaigns for creating its own place and then only it should proceed to endorse other products. Each product will have their own campaign highlighting the product features and the umbrella brand will give credibility to individual products. Ideally individual products need to have a sub-brand which could later be developed as a standalone brand.
Now I think no one can answer this most important question " What is Dhathri ? " is it a soap, shampoo, hair care, skin care , food supplement or ayurvedic company that produces all these ?? As a  consumer, for me Dhathri is strongly associated with haircare products and rest of the products have secondary significance. It is important for this brand to comeout of this vague definition and project an individual powerful identity which can be used to endorse products across categories. Once that position is created rest becomes more easy.

The large number of products in the portfolio also may further create problems. The funds for brand promotion is limited and too many products will stretch the company's resources. Most of the products in the ayurvedic market are promotion driven and the growth will show as long as the brand invest in the ads. Larger the products, the thinner will be the investment for each products. This is a vicious cycle which has killed many startup brands which expanded fast riding on the success of one or two launches. 

Dhathri is aiming for a national launch and in that process may rub shoulders with powerful brands like Dabur , Himalaya etc. It is important for the brand owners to get the brand architecture correct before taking the leap.