Gillette, a unit of Procter & Gamble, sells an India-specific razor, the Guard for 15 rupees, or 34 cents, and each razor blade is just12 cents. Guard has grown share faster than any other P&G brand in India. And Gillette’s market share for razors and blades in India has grown to 49.1 percent, according to Euromonitor.
The Daily Mail reports that Gillette has sold razors in India for over a decade. Offering its high-end Mach3 razor, which costs about $2.75, and a stripped down Vector two-bladed razor on the lower end, which goes for about 72 cents.
Gillette failed with its early version of the Vector in 2002. The version of that razor had a plastic push bar that slid down to unclog the razor. The bar was added because Indian men have thicker hair and a higher hair density than their American counterparts. But this was not enough.
Gillette, which is based in Boston, wanted to test the product among Indian consumers before launching it, and took the short cut of using Indian students in the local area as testers. But when Gillette launched the razor in India, the reaction was different. Executives were baffled about why the razor flopped until they traveled to India and observed men using a cup of water to shave. All the Boston area students had running water. Without that, the razor stayed clogged.
‘That’s another ‘a-ha’ moment,’ Carvalho said. ‘That taught us the importance that you really need to go where your consumers are, not just to talk to them, but observe and spend time with them to gather the key insight.’
Carvalho decided to bring 20 people, ranging from engineers to developers, from Gillette’s U.S. headquarters to India for three weeks.
The resulting Guard razor has one blade, to put the emphasis on safety rather than closeness, compared with two to five blades found on U.S. razors. One insight from filming shavers was that Indians grip the razors in many different ways, so the handle is textured to allow for easy gripping. There’s also a hole at the handle’s base, to make it easier to hang up, and a small comb by the blade since Indians hair growth tends to be thicker. Next, the company had to figure out how to produce the razor at the right price. ‘We had to say ‘How do we do this at ruthless cost?’‘ Carvalho said. P&G scrutinized the smallest details. It cut the number of components in the razor down to 4 compared with 25 needed for Mach3, Gillette’s three-blade razor. They even made the razor’s handle hollow so it would be lighter and cheaper to make.
‘I can remember talking about changes to this product that were worth a thousandth, or two thousandths of a cent,’ said Jim Keighley, the company’s associate director for product engineering.
How this matters
It is easy to jump to the wrong conclusion when addressing the India market. Gillette designed the Vector for Indian skin and hair type but neglected to consider the environment in which Indian men would use the product in market. American companies stumble like this often.