Indian FMCG’s new El Dorado

I have been a big fan of Zandu Balm for a long time- and this was much before Malaika Arora discovered its many charms. And it wasn’t just Zandu-whether it was a bad cold, a nasty headache or just a bad hair day( or in my case, year) , I always knew there would be a whole host of quintessentially Indian remedies I could turn to for immediate relief. Companies such as Dabur, Marico and Emami were always ready with their uniquely Indian solutions to our many problems. There was always a distinct sense of comfort about having  our  own home-grown firms being hard at work to keep millions of Indians perfectly hale and hearty, and if they made a neat little profit in the process, we were  more than happy to foot the bill. But as they say, you can’t keep a bird caged all its life, and in keeping with this  tradition, these very Indian firms are increasingly looking beyond Indian shores to ramp up their profits and the first stop for most of them happens to be Africa. Almost all of the above  mentioned names have forayed into the African market over the past one year, with Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa being the preferred destinations for most of them. Dabur has recently acquired 100% equity in Namaste Laboratories LLC and its three subsidiary firms-Hair Rejuvenation & Revitalization Nigeria Limited, Healing Hair Laboratories International, LLC, and Urban Laboratories International, LLC along with its South African arm – for $100 million, in an all-cash deal. Similarly, Marico has taken over a leading South African personal healthcare brand Ingwe,while the Kolkata based Emami has recently bought the manufacturing facility of a personal care brand in Egypt. Not to be left behind by its comparatively smaller counterparts, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., one of the giants of Indian FMCG, has acquired Nigerian household brand Tura earlier this year, followings its purchases of South African hair care brands Rapidol and Kinky(??) over the last two years. Africa seems to make sense for several reasons. Contrary to popular perception, Africa has been one of the fastest growing regions in recent times leading to a substantial amount of pent-up demand for consumer goods of all hues. With relatively low penetration levels, the African market seems ripe for picking by Indian FMCG majors as they look for newer avenues of growth to decrease their dependence on an increasingly competitive Indian market for boosting their profit margins. Furthermore, Africa is likely to be  far more accepting of Indian brands than America or Europe are ever going to be- let’s face it, a Dabur Hajmola or Emami’s Zandu balm are more likely to find takers on the streets of Cairo and Nairobi, than they will in downtown Chicago or pristine Luxembourg. Finally, and this is my favorite part, as India emerges on the world stage as a major global player, it is high time we came up with a few brand icons of our own, which can become household names across the span of the globe. The tide of globalization is beginning to turn, with Indian companies acquiring a global profile and increasingly out-matching their Western counterparts in the very game they were previously masters of. So as Indian firms embark upon their African sojourn, one can only wish them the very best and hope we soon have our very own versions of P&G and Unilever. And I am sure a certain Munni would be more than happy to help them out.

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