As a children, we all are attracted towards chocolates and candies. It used to send a positive vibe down our spines when we had our favourite candy. Never in our wildest imaginations would anyone have thought that the same would ever happen for adults. Enter Pulse candy. The perception towards candies has changed because of this Re. 1 brainchild of the Dharampal Satyapal (DS) Group. Whether you are an adult, or child, this will surely send your “pulse” racing.
About the DS Group
In the early 20th century, when trade and commerce had not witnessed the advent of brands and marketing warfare in India, Shri Dharampal ji — the founder of DS Group, set up a small perfumery shop in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, in the year 1929. His urge to create a business around consumer tastes and preferences led him to innovate and make quality products. His vision and product revolutionised the tobacco market, getting recognition from beyond the borders too. Blending modernity, technology and tradition was what he was famous for.
Dharampalji’s son Satyapalji inherited qualities of high virtues, innovation and aspiration for being the best. He is credited with blending tobacco with various exquisite fragrances and also for bringing quality and research unknown in this category until his arrival. The group initially started off with tobacco, launching mighty successful brands like Baba, and then Tulsi. Innovative tabletop sprinklers changed the way Indian households had been enjoying salt and spices. Catch spices are known over the world for their quality and convenience. Mouth fresheners like Rajnigandha and Pass Pass created new offerings and established new categories. Its latest entrant into the market is the hugely successful Pulse candy, which has crossed the 300 crore mark in no more than 2 years.
Pulse was launched to capitalize on the fastest growing HBC (Hard-Boiled Candy) segment in the confectionery basket. As per the market research and insight firm Nielsen India, while the overall sweet candy category, pegged at Rs 6,000 crore, is growing at 14 per cent year-on-year, the Rs 2,100 crore HBC segment is growing at 23 per cent. Kaccha Aam (26 per cent) and Mango flavour (24 per cent) together claim 50 per cent share in the HBC market. Raw mango was thus, the obvious choice. The makers further realized that there were only straight flavours such as mango, orange and caramel in the market. Hence, there was a need for innovation.
The conceptualization and development of Pulse Candy started in 2013 by the DS Group which has been a pioneer in product innovations. It’s commonly known that the taste of Kachcha Aam or Amchur (Raw Mango) is a preferred taste among North & West side of country. Knowing that the hard boiled candy category has only straight flavors – Mango, Orange and Caramel in the market at that time, it seemed correct to develop a Kachcha aam (Raw Mango) flavor with a twist. Going ahead with this understanding the team started its development of candy that would provide the flavor in its most natural form – Powder or Amchur with the Hard Boiled Candy. With two years of hard work and extensive research Pulse was launched in Gujarat & Rajasthan markets in 2015.
The Success Story
“The population of the country is roughly 125 crores.
The Price point of the Pulse candy is Re. 1 each.
Sales for the company in 8 months of operations were reported as Rs. 100 crore.
Simple unitary method leads us to the conclusion that almost every person within the country has tasted the product at least once in the short span of 8 months (well, if we actually account for babies, aged people, and people who are medically not supposed to have candies, the number would actually be higher). This has been the phenomenal craze about the product.”
The story of Pulse can be seen through 3 stages: Product Trials, Product Strength, and Distribution Support.
Their start was not the best by any means. They initially placed the Candy at selected outlets in only Rajasthan and Delhi markets, and expanded once they got an amazing response. In distribution led products (low price-high volume) marketers are told to roll out a compelling spiel (selling story) for the salesman, to enable him to place the product at the outlet, and also for the retailer to push the product trials to the customers. With Pulse, the product placement wasn’t very tough as the company (DS Group) had a very strong presence at retail outlets through its already established flagship product – Rajnigandha. They used this strength to push their new products at the outlet. In such FMCG products it is well understood that if you aren’t investing in above the line (ATL) promotion then you cannot expect only Below the Line (BTL) activities (or small sampling exercises) to push your brand through, thus it is of vital importance that the retailer pushes the product to the customers. The biggest problem companies face in such a situation is that either their spiel for retailer is too complex or non-existent. Pulse gave the retailers a perfect spiel to say to customers – “Sir ek baar khaiye, iske beech me churan bhara ha, bahut acha taste hai” (Sir try this once, it has a churan powder within the candy and taste is good).
Once the trials started gaining traction, the product strength took it forward. Word of mouth started catching up as most people started referring the candy to their friends and colleagues. Some people carried it as a mouth freshener, some just as a quick sweet after a meal. School and College classrooms would always have kids who carried pulse with them for eating during classes.
What made this product different from its competitors in the HBC (Hard Boiled Candy) segment? One, it had a completely different flavour and type (two years of research had to yield some positive result). ‘Amchur’ (tingy masala) within the hard boiled candy was previously unheard of. Two, it was not the regular sweet sugar candy but a taste of ‘Kachcha Aam’ which is very much popular in northern and western parts of India. Experts say that mastering this kind of candy is not something every company can do. Most of the other candies either leak the masala in the core too quickly or do not provide ample amount of masala to give the right mix of taste. Pulse maintains just the right hardness to keep the masala core intact and also smoothens out gently to release it. This addictive flavour is the reason why consumers are not buying one or two at a time, but infact are going up to 10 pieces per purchase.
Once Pulse demand started soaring so high that it started selling at a premium in some places, it had to be supported well through the distribution. Some key initiatives towards this were -Extensive coverage, frequent refilling at outlets, and overall tight distribution norms. These helped Pulse be available at every small retailer throughout the country. Salesmen, already high on Pulse success, were given higher targets with each coming month and asked to maintain regular stock for refilling. Launch in Rajasthan and Gujarat was followed up by launch in UP & Delhi markets. By the year end 2015, news had started trickling in of new flavours (Guava) being launched in Gujarat market. By January end of 2016, the brand had already crossed 100 Crore mark, a target it aimed to achieve by March of that year. In fact, the draw was such that the company has had to expand production. It started out with one contract manufacturing unit and now has more than eight—two each in Gujarat, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, and one each in Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Earlier in 2017, the company reported that their aggregate sales for the two years of operations crossed 300 crore.
The most intriguing aspect of their success is that their budget towards advertising was almost completely nil. Yes, you read that correctly. Zero! Zilch! You must be wondering then that how could a company without any advertising activities to start with and minimal merchandising/visibility support, cross the 100 crore mark in less than a year. One of the reasons was their efficient distribution rules and channels outlined previously. The main sources of advertising for them however, were Word of Mouth (WoM) and Social media outreach.
The popularity has been a self-propelling phenomenon – the more Pulse finds admirers among the internet generation, the more mentions it gets on social media. Greater the social media presence, the bigger the cult around it grows. This is perhaps what sets Pulse apart from its competitors. Nobody was creating video reviews for them when they first launched. A user on Quora wrote a 1200 word answer on why Pulse has been so famous. Not surprisingly, this was viewed more than 100000 times by people across the country. On Facebook, there are dedicated pages, with thousands of likes, and a truckload of memes (the most in-thing now). On Instagram too, there are several posts on Pulse. Clearly, the exponential success of Pulse can be attributed to its clever marketing, and judicious use of technology, and the support of people.
Plans are also afoot to launch newer variants. The DS Group launched a variant in guava flavour in February 2016, and is looking to add more to its stock. Given the number of people who are already are so much “in love” with pulse, even the trial runs of new flavours are set to be massive successes. Just the brand name of “Pulse” is enough to sell any candy they make. New and potential flavours are already being touted. Due to the addiction Pulse has already created, it is in a niche of its own. The market for it is so loyal that even if the prices are raised slightly, to say Rs. 1.25 or Rs. 1.5, most of the consumers would still buy it. Realising its huge potential, the DS Group has started to expand its consumer base to outside of India too, with distribution having started in Singapore, UK and USA. There is also scope for the innovative technology of producing the perfect core of the candy being patented and then sold for use to other companies who have not been able to master this art. It is said that there is a saturation point of growth for every product. If there continues to be similar exponential growth for Pulse candies, will the company be able to meet the demand on time? Will Pulse sales fade out once consumers are tired of it? Will there be some other player which would displace Pulse as a leader of the 6000 crore HBC market? These questions, only time will tell. Till then, we could sit back, switch on the television, and pop a Pulse candy in our mouth!