Business Opportunities in India
Yakult’s marketing and distribution approach goes beyond retail
Date of posting: 04-10-08
      One of the attractive food segments in India is the dairy sector which has been entered some time ago by Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd., an Indian joint venture of giant Danone group from France with Japan’s Yakult. FII spoke to Shefali Sapra, General Manager, Corporate Communications, Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd., about Yakult, quality and production issues and the marketing and sales approach.

      Question: Could you please tell us what exactly is Yakult, and what it is made of.

      Sapra: Yakult is a delicious probiotic fermented milk drink. In 1930, Japanese scientist, Dr.Minoru Shirota, discovered the beneficial strain of bacteria – Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. The beneficial bacteria are added to a special milk solution made of skimmed milk powder, glucose syrup, natural flavour, sugar and water. Yakult contains no preservatives, which is why you need to store it under 10 degrees centigrade at all times. The longevity of Yakult is one month.

      Question: What are Probiotics and why do we need to drink Yakult.

      Sapra: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which helps to keep our digestive system (Gut) healthy. The probiotic bacteria in Yakult are resistant to gastric juices and bile, and reach intestines alive in large numbers to impart various health benefits. Along with that, it makes immunity strong.

      Question: When did the Japanese Yakult come to India? How big is the set-up, it’s production and where is it located.

      Sapra: Yakult came to India in October, 2005. In December, 2007, it entered into a 50-50 alliance with the world’s largest maker of dairy products, Groupe Danone. The total amount of investment is of 136 crores. January 18, 2008, marked the inauguration of Yakult’s first state-of-the-art probiotic factory in India, at Rai, Sonepat, Haryana. Built on 8 acres, the plant has a total capacity of 1 million Yakult bottles per day which will be achieved in a phased manner. Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd. has ensured that the unique manufacturing process is fully automated, with strict quality control measures which ensure that each Yakult bottle has more than 6.5 billion live bacteria. Keeping this in mind, the machinery has been specially imported from Japan.

      Question: What kind of quality control measures are taken in production.

      Sapra: More than 100 checks carried out to ensure that the final product tastes right. And of course, special care is taken to safeguard the viability of live Yakult bacteria. Workers wear special clothes like hair nets, masks, gloves, etc. Workers sanitize their hands and pass through the air shower before entering the production area. The bottling and filling area is controlled with germ free air. Every batch of Yakult produced is monitored for 24 hours before it is dispatched for sale.

      Question: What is Yakult Danone’s standing in the Indian market? How would you compare it to the global arena.

      Sapra: As we are relatively new in the Indian market, it will require some time to get versed with the people over here. As far as global market is concerned, we are present in 31 countries around the world and over 25 million people enjoy Yakult daily. Besides Japan, Yakult is highly popular in Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand and Brazil. The rest are steadily moving on it’s course.

      Question: Where in which outlets is Yakult available, and what is usual price.

      Sapra: Yakult is easily available at retail outlets and in all leading supermarkets across Delhi and NCR, with the likes of More, Spencer’s, Twenty Four Seven, Big Bazaar, etc. As Yakult is a health drink, even top five star hotels and hospitals in New Delhi have included it. Each bottle of Yakult is of 65 ml and comes at a price of Rs.10 only.

      Question: Who all do you think are your potential competitors.

      Sapra: The only other probiotic drink in the market is Mother Dairy’s Nurtifit, however we do not see it as a potential competitor, as Yakult is ahead of Nutrifit in all departments.

      Question: As probiotic is a new concept for Indians, what kind of marketing and sales approach is being implemented for Yakult.

      Sapra: Yakult has introduced it’s globally successful home delivery system, through Yakult ladies, who deliver Yakult right to the consumer’s doorsteps. After complete understanding of Yakult, through a comprehensive 1 month of training, Yakult ladies set out to educate others of it’s long term benefits. The Yakult Ladies System of door-to-door distribution has been created to help customers fully understand the health benefits of probiotics, along with a free sample at the very first time of their visit to your home. The Yakult Ladies, key components in the company’s distribution system, are young, dynamic women propagating good health and spreading cheer wherever they go.

      Question: Which are Danone Yakult's regional marketing plans in India.

      Sapra: Currently, Yakult is present only in the north India region comprising of Delhi, NCR and Punjab. We have plans of taking Yakult to Mumbai and Bangalore in the near future.

      Question: What kind of customer feedback are you receiving? Is there any effect on people's general health after drinking Yakult.

      Sapra: Good results can only be achieved after drinking Yakult consistently. We at Yakult consider our customers as our Brand Ambassadors, hence their good health is our top priority. So far so good, we have received excellent feedback from our customers. They are finding the taste good and many have seen the change in their health, after drinking Yakult for months. As the sweet Yakult is getting popular, more and more people will discover strong immunity and good health, by drinking it daily.

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