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Published on: Aug. 11, 2020, 2:10 p.m.
Tupperware India's strategy to turn around
  • The Indian facility is the third largest in the world

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Tupperware India, the wholly-owned subsidiary of around $2-billion Tupperware Brands Corporation with global headquarters in Orlando, USA, has come up with a new strategy. The premium homeware brand has now adopted multi-channel sales approach in India in place of direct selling as its primary sales channel

Traditionally known for its direct-selling model engaging women, for the legendary brand which started its journey way back in 1946 in the US, India is the first and the only market where it has gone in for multi-channel selling after having present in this growth market for over two decades. Though in some countries like China, Korea, Brazil and Philippines, the global brand with products line that includes preparation, storage, and serving products for the kitchen and home, has deviated from its direct-selling model due to the dynamics of the local market, it has more or less maintained a single channel sales strategy. In China, since direct-selling is not allowed, it is selling through 7,000-odd physical stores. Similarly, in the Philippines, it sells through e-commerce market place, Lazada.

Under its newly-formulated strategy, Tupperware India with its head office in Gurugram, has now also started selling through its recently-established offline stores, online e-commerce platforms as also its newly-formed webstore, even as the company has consciously continued with its core direct-selling channel in India where it currently boasts of having 70,000 women as its direct selling consultants as against around 3 million globally. Over the years, the brand has cultivated a strong and loyal network of more than a million direct sellers/consultants in India.

The new strategy was given shape in July 2019 since the brand in India faced a challenging situation as its sales started plummeting. In a market that was continuously growing for homeware and kitchenware categories, the sales of Tupperware India dipped at a CAGR of over 10 per cent between 2013 and 2018.

In fact, India which was among the top 10 markets for the brand around 5-6 years ago, slipped to the top 20 markets by 2019. India is the growth market for Tupperware, along with countries like Russia, Europe, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia. Whereas countries like China, Brazil and Mexico are big markets for the brand which has footprints across 100 countries through its home and kitchenware categories spanning over design-centric food preparation, storage and serving solutions. Besides, the group also has presence in beauty and personal care products through its brands like Avroy Shlain, Fuller Cosmetics, NaturCare, Nutrimetics and Nuvo.

The new strategy, where the company has now already put up 55 stores (franchises) across 32 cities (and looking to take this count to 100 stores by December this year) and made its products available on e-commerce market places like Amazon, Flipkart and Paytm, has already started yielding desired results as the premium homeware brand has now not only able to arrest the decline in sales but also reversed the trend with more than 15 per cent growth in the first quarter of CY20 as compared to that in the same period last year. In fact, the company is looking to end this year with a growth of over 10 per cent in a market disrupted severely by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. As per the new strategy, the company has plans to grow at a CAGR of over 25 per cent in the next four-five years.

This year, Tupperware India is looking to sell over 4 million units across 400 SKUs in categories like dry storage, bottles and lunch/tiffin boxes. Besides, the company also has plans to double its exports to around 3 million since many of its sister concerns across the world are facing severe challenge in maintaining their production. The company exports to around 28 countries in Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Backed by a workforce of around 600 people, the company has a 10-million unit per annum (installed capacity) modern manufacturing facility at Dehradun, Uttarakhand, which is also one of the global manufacturing hubs for the group.

For this mould-based manufacturing process, moulds across various product categories are sourced from the group’s centralised global mould development centre in Australia, while the design and development takes place at its global R&D facilities across Asia, Europe and America. The Indian facility is the third largest in the world after Latin America and China, and currently capable of making more than 93 per cent of the production locally (except for some specialised finished products).

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we are very much on our growth path now. Looking at the need of the hour and dynamically-evolving consumer requirements, the brand has transformed its sales strategy and adopted a multi-channel approach to serve latent demand. Ours is a harmonised multi-channel model where other new channels continue to exist in coherence with our traditional direct-selling channel of sales. In a short span of time, despite challenges, we have been able to pull off a remarkable turnaround through this new approach,” says Deepak Chhabra, 45, managing director, Tupperware India.

With over two decades of diverse and insightful experience in the field of retail, brand management, sales and merchandising, Chhabra is spearheading Tupperware’s business transformation in India ever since he has been roped in by the company one-and-a-half-year ago. He is a strong advocate of brick & mortar stores and believes that the retail model will always remain powerful and relevant, in spite of the proliferation of e-commerce business.

While Chhabra strongly believes in the retail channel, he doesn’t rule out the importance of direct selling and hence has tried to synergise the same with the new channels that are emerging in the rapid-changing market place. In fact, in case of direct selling too, the company has recently brought about a new approach in order to overcome the challenges faced by its direct sellers due to pandemic-related restrictions.

In fact, Tupperware has become one of the first brands to strengthen its direct-selling channel through social selling where its sales consultants are currently using social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to reach out to their existing and potential customers. All the sales carried out by these direct sellers are directed to the company’s newly-built Webstore which ensures swift and direct deliveries to customers via a well-planned logistics chain managed by a third party partner, even as earnings are easily credited to the direct sellers digitally. The company has also designed customised training modules for its direct sellers in order to make its direct sellers adjust to this new way of engaging with the consumers effortlessly.

“Our direct selling channel has been one of the strongest mediums of sales for us and it has stood the test of time during Covid-19 challenge as well. As we all embrace the idea of a virtual world and move towards adoption of digital solutions, concept like social selling has become highly relevant and useful. However, for us the social selling model is an extension and not a replacement of the physical meet and greets, which Tupperware is traditionally known for,” says Chhabra. He believes that the added advantage of social selling is its zero-investment initiation model, inbuilt convenience and efforts being saved in terms of time and other similar resources.

A footwear technologist and marketer by qualification, Chhabra started his career in 1996 with Phoenix International Ltd and since then has held various leadership roles with brands such as Crocs, Reliance Retail, Skechers and Sprandi before joining Tupperware. At the American lifestyle and performance footwear company, Skechers, he became one of the youngest CEOs in India at the age of 33.

Experts are of the view that over the last decade or so, the Indian market has undergone a transition following change in demographics and other macro-economic factors. Consumers have become more demanding and discerning, and are asking for more buying options and looking for better shopping experience. In this changing market place, for any brand to restrict itself to a limited sales option will only be counter-productive. They feel that most of the brands need to have omni-channel presence in this dynamic market place since this not only provides them with better reach but also help build a better risk hedging proposition. The current pandemic has already validated this fact where brands with omni-channel presence, have seamlessly been able to reach out to their customers even as they faced disruptions in their offline sales.

On Tupperware India’s newly formulated multi-channel strategy, they are of the opinion that in today’s market place, just having quality products in one’s portfolio may not ensure one’s success. But one has to be proactive in enhancing the reach through multiple ways in a market that has evolved. Even world’s largest direct-selling brand Amway has also changed its strategy and opened up physical stores.

“The market has evolved and in this market one has to be agile and prompt in a consistent manner. And it applies to even a brand like Tupperware known for its legacy and product quality. It was high time that they realised that they could not afford to continue with their age-old approach of direct selling which started as a means for social engagement for women. Customers on the other hand are giving more importance to convenience now. Tupperware’s multi-channel model has already started yielding positive results and going forward this will help the brand restore its position in the market,” says N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, a consumer analytics and brand insights company.

“I see it as a great strategy to get into multi-channel selling, even as they over the several years had created a proven channel of their own i.e. direct selling. Tupperware has taken a right decision. In fact, this is the only way forward in a market that has undergone a big change,” states Harish Bijoor, a brand specialist, who runs Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, a Bengaluru-based consulting outfit with a presence in Hong Kong, Seattle, London, Dubai and the Indian sub-continent.

With the multi-channel approach, Tupperware India has now enhanced its footprint significantly, reaching to over 1,000 locations across major as also Tier II and III cities. Its 55 stores which it opened in the last 10-12 months, are located across 32 cities, including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Kozhikode, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Goa, Baroda, Nagpur, Amritsar, Pathankot, Jalandhar, Gangtok, Bhilai and Dehradun. Though before pandemic, the company had planned to set up around 150 stores by the end of this calendar year, it has now curtailed the number to around 100 stores. Most importantly, all its stores are franchise-run stores, by women entrepreneurs. The company has currently 100 distributors that too are primarily run by women.

Despite the fact that the company has now added other sales channels to its sales armoury, it has still continued to generate 80 per cent of its sales from its core channel of direct selling, and in the remaining 20 per cent, 12 per cent is coming from e-commerce platform and 8 per cent from offline stores. “Our women-centric direct selling channel will continue to be a dominant play going forward as well. We will continue with our same DNA of empowering women. In fact, our heart remains the same where women are our driving force,” says Chhabra.

In fact, despite all these changes and challenges around, the company has fortified its direct selling channel further as over 2,000 women have joined the company’s direct-selling network in the last couple of months alone. While the company has continued with its women-centric story and always encouraged and empowered women, in the current challenging time of pandemic when the household income has either shrunk or on the verge of shrinking, Tupperware’s commitment towards these women, has emerged as a big support system for these households.

“Working with Tupperware smart chopper in my kitchen during this lockdown, I decided to enrol myself with the company as a consultant. During my initial one month of consultancy, I went through rigorous training sessions with the company’s distributor, ‘Twinkle Party Sales,’ in Vadodara. Moreover, now that everything has become online, I feel confident as it offers immense convenience and flexibility as I am a young mother,” says Bhumi Pathak, a recently-joined Tupperware sales consultant.

“The brand offers support and flexibility which helps me take care of my personal and professional responsibilities at my own pace. Tupperware helped me in exploring and bringing out the hidden strength and confidence in me. I am more than happy the way my association with Tupperware has shaped up over these years,” says Neeharika Katikaneni who is currently running one of the Tupperware distributors – ‘Oyster Party Sales’ in Hyderabad. Till 1998, she was a counsellor at a hospital and was finding it difficult to pursue her career with her three-year-old child. She joined Tupperware as a sales consultant and subsequently became one of its top distributors and currently she boasts of a sales force of over 2,500 women.

Sushmita Bhattacharya of Tupperware’s Kolkata-based distributor, Probha Party Sales, recalls how her life transformed after joining Tupperware – from being a typical housewife to an entrepreneur with her own identity. “Within a year of joining, I became a distributer. The woman in me not only gained huge financial strength but also recognition and awards for my dedication. Tupperware made me who I am today, and I also take great pride in changing so many others’ lives as well,” adds Bhattacharya who has been associated with the company for the last 21 years.

While the company has reinvented itself on the sales front embracing multiple channels for sales, the company has also introduced a series of measures to boost its production facility at Dehradun and the overall supply chain. Having suffered a complete shutdown during the initial two months of lockdown, the company has now restored it to over 70 per cent and, maintaining all safety measures among its workers. The company has gone in for a greater degree of automation which has not only minimised the degree of human intervention but also helped increase the productivity level. They have introduced QR code also.

“Being a design and innovation focussed company, we always stride towards developing and manufacturing high quality, standardised products. We have a world class manufacturing facility and follow practices and processes that make our products of world class quality,” says Shyamal Chatterjee, director and India head of operations, Tupperware India.

“Even as we are a global company, we always design and develop products as per the local needs. Our Indian operation has been at the forefront of designing and developing many such products which eventually gets into our global portfolio. Our recent strategy to get into multi-channel selling is also something that is done for the first time in the world. And most importantly, we have done it without deviating much from our direct selling channel with women at the core,” says Nitin Malhotra, associate director, product marketing, Tupperware India.

Tupperware India, which has got in its portfolio over 400 SKUs across its dry storage, bottles and lunch boxes, was the first to develop and introduce a line of bottles of various configurations for the Indian market five years ago and thereafter the line was adopted in other parts of the world as well. Similarly, lunch and tiffin boxes were also introduced by the company for the first time in India. The company has designed and developed a line for containers for bulk storage, dedicated to the Indian market.

Now the company is planning to introduce steel containers and lunch boxes for the Indian market as consumers are showing some sort of inhibition towards using plastics. The company is also getting into consumables like sanitizer, disinfectant and dish wash in a Covid-19 afflicted market, even as the production of these products are outsourced to a third party.

“By doing so we are augmenting our offering and creating more options for our discerning consumers who are always looking out for something new and innovative. While as a company we have been doing this, but under the new strategy, we are now more proactive in the market and closely evaluating various possibilities and opportunities,” says Chhabra, adding that the company every year introduces around 40 new products in the Indian premium homeware and kitchenware market.

The overall market for homeware and kitchenware, including cookware, storage, bottles/flasks and serveware, is currently around Rs30,000 crore, even as the categories (market) where Tupperware has its presence is valued at around Rs10,000 crore. While the overall Rs10,000-crore market is growing at around 6 per cent, the organised portion (i.e. around 25 per cent) of the market having players like Tupperware, Milton, Borocil and Lock & Lock of Korea, is growing at over 20 per cent per annum. Out of the 350 million households in the country, Tupperware India targets the niche (premium) segment of 35 million households.

While the company is proactively exploring opportunities in the market, Tupperware as a brand is globally known for its sustainable business approach where it announced its global vision last year – “No time to waste” – to significantly reduce single-use plastic and food wastage. The company is now using 100 per cent recyclable packaging which is not only safe for the environment but has passed all safety tests conducted across India, Brazil and Indonesia. The new packaging will keep the product safe in extreme climatic conditions across locations, including warehouses, point of sale outlets and even in transit. “Tupperware continues to design products that are durable, high-quality, and made to keep food fresher, longer and to be reused for years to come. Tupperware is one of the few global brands which offers a lifetime warranty to its consumers so that they buy these products with complete trust and confidence,” adds Chhabra.

With all these activities and measures in place, Tupperware India is getting back on track after almost five-six years of challenging period when the global brand saw its sales falling relentlessly in a market that continued to grow in the back of changing demographics and improving macro-economic indicators. Being a legendary brand with several decades of legacy, it found itself at the crossroads where it has to put in place a new strategy of adopting multi-channel sales approach something which is very much imperative in a fast-evolving market. The strategy has already started yielding desired results to the company which now under the new leadership looks more proactive and agile. Backed by a strong brand and quality products, the company is now all geared up to not only restore its position in the market but also strengthen its footprint in the premium kitchen and homeware markets in India.

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