The Fevicol story began in 1959, when the Parekh Group floated Pidilite Industries to capitalize on the potential market for synthetic resin adhesives, or "white glue" in India. The primary application of white glue was in woodworking, with secondary applications in upholstery, flooring, and footwear. Being a synthetic resin adhesive, the product’s ease of application worked as a unique selling proposition for the brand; this was at a time when unwieldy natural adhesives (which needed to be melted before use) were the norm in the wood furniture making industry.
Pidilite Industries decided to leverage the Fevicol brand’s success and popularity by launching a version suitable for the retail market. The first product line extension, a 30-gram collapsible tube, was introduced in the early 1970’s. Subsequently the company rolled out a spate of uniquely packaged Fevicol products, available for school students as well as professional and educational institutions. The introduction of various packaging formats helped transition the brand from the image of an industrial product to an all-purpose glue.
“Today, the flagship brand of Pidilite Industries has an approximately 60 percent market share in the overall adhesives market in India,” says Vishal Malhan, marketing head of Pidilite Industries.
“Despite the various applications of the product, the majority of the sales are driven by carpenters who use Fevicol in furniture making," says Malhan. Presently, the Indian furniture industry is highly fragmented with 85 percent of sales dominated by the unorganized sector.
Roughly 65 percent of furniture production is in wood, and carpenters play a vital role in deciding which adhesive to use. As Malhan explains, “When furniture is made, the cost of adhesive is only a small amount, roughly 1-2 percent of the overall cost. Thus, the initial strategy was to help carpenters realize the importance of using quality products, since one does not save too much by using cheaper unbranded alternatives."
The brand’s reputation for its consistent focus on quality was propagated through word of mouth publicity, and has led to the brand enjoying a high level of trust among its target audience.
This level of trust is echoed in the words of Premchand Vishwakarma, a local carpenter in Mumbai, who has been in the carpentry business for over a decade. “I have bharosa (trust) in the Fevicol brand as it is of good quality. If the glue is good, then the furniture that we make will be long lasting and ensure that our customers are loyal to us. Like many others who use cheap quality glue, we are not in the business of earning today and running away tomorrow,” says Vishwakarma.
Building a strong bond with carpenters
Apart from product quality, maintaining close contact with its primary target audience, the carpenters, has helped Fevicol sustain its leadership position in the white glue market.
In its early years most competitors—small-scale local manufacturers of white glue and multinational brands like Movicol (currently discontinued)—marketed their products through hardware stores and timber marts. Fevicol, on the other hand, approached carpenters directly. This direct marketing initiative was one of the most successful strategies employed by the company and helped the brand gain a strong foothold in the white glue market.
“Over the years, we have introduced a series of programs for carpenters and end-users to help build a strong relationship with them,” says Malhan.
He continues, “We introduced Fevicol Furniture Books which showcased furniture designs with illustrations and measurements. These books helped enlighten the carpenters on new styles and trends in the furniture market, apart from building awareness for the brand.”
The Fevicol Champion’s Club (FCC) was another initiative introduced by the company. It served as a platform for carpenters to increase their social contacts and be part of a social network. As Malhan explains, “Through various club activities we helped uplift the lifestyle of the carpenter. In the past, we organized free dental check ups, blood donation camps, or celebrations during festivals like Independence Day. Today, many member carpenters are actively involved in organizing such events and many club chapters are self-sustained.”
While the formation of this club has helped carpenters develop a feeling of belongingness, this tactical move has helped the company build strong brand equity for Fevicol. As M.B. Parekh, managing director of Pidilite Industries, said in Magindia.com (an Indian e-magazine), “The idea is to remain close to the carpenters and make them feel that it is not just the product but the entire company that is close to them.”
The company went a step further by sponsoring activities to build relations with the families of the carpenters. For example, the company regularly organizes vocational training for their spouses and children—educating them on everyday activities like opening bank accounts and sewing. Other community building events include the "Jud jaaye tyoharon par" (come together during the festival) event, where carpenters and their families unite to celebrate different festivals.
Connecting people through humor
“[Apart from direct media], creative advertising has also helped keep the brand alive in this non-interesting category,” says Malhan. The creative strategy that Ogilvy & Mather has employed for Fevicol is "to make bonding a Fevicol attribute," and its advertising has used intelligent humor to convey this meaning. Some of its award winning TV advertisements include showcasing an egg that won’t crack because the hen that laid it fed from a Fevicol tube (1988), to more Indian-specific ones like a creaky bus carrying an unimaginable number of passengers glued together because of a Fevicol signage ad (2001).
“[To summarize], consistent quality, widespread distribution networks, and excellent customer relationships have been the [key success factors] for the Fevicol brand,” states Malhan. And knowing its strong brand equity, the brand will continue to be glued to the minds of Indian consumers.