Colgate Will Bet On Science, Won't Compete With Patanjali's Ayurveda, Says CEO

Colgate-Palmolive, the oral care leader, is placing significant importance on the Indian market, which currently accounts for less than 4% of its global sales, according to Chairman and CEO Noel Wallace.

Despite holding a dominant position, controlling half of India’s oral care market, Colgate-Palmolive aims to bolster its presence further, Wallace said in a recent discussion on the company’s strategy for India in an interview with Economic Times.

India’s Role in Colgate’s Global Strategy

India ranks as one of Colgate’s most strategic markets worldwide, holding the position of its third-largest oral care market, he said. In a push to boost its growth and innovation efforts, Colgate-Palmolive has designated India as a lead innovation centre for the world. Over the past decade, India has also become a thriving talent hub for the company. Wallace highlights that “it is where CEOs should be spending their time.”

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Wallace sees immense growth potential in India, driven by factors such as consumption, premiumisation, category expansion and the rapid development of the middle class. The company plans to leverage its scientific credentials, focusing on being a “front-footed” player in the market.

Wallace also noted that the current average price of toothpaste in India remains low, indicating an opportunity for premiumization. Colgate-Palmolive aims for its India business to become a $1-billion subsidiary in the medium term.

Colgate-Palmolive competes across various price points, from ₹10 to super-premium, offering products across these segments.

Balancing Volume and Price Growth

According to Wallace, achieving a balance between volume and price growth is essential for the company. Volume growth reflects market excitement and product usage, and Wallace emphasises the importance of striking that balance.

Wallace believes that India has the potential to outpace other emerging markets due to its expanding middle class and per capita opportunities. He pointed to Brazil, one of Colgate’s top three markets, which has the world’s highest per capita toothpaste consumption.

Colgate’s Approach to Ayurveda and Naturals

Wallace distinguished Colgate’s approach from that of ayurvedic brands like Patanjali. While Patanjali focuses on ayurveda, Colgate-Palmolive is a “science-driven” brand, investing significantly in clinical validation and scientific research, he said.

“The ayurvedic credentials that Patanjali has, we are not going to compete with that. That’s the core of what that brand stands for. We stand for science and technical superiority,” Wallace told the business daily.

Wallace highlighted India’s extraordinary digital transformation over the past decade, saying that investments in digital infrastructure have led to rapid growth in the online market and the availability of a skilled workforce.

Wallace said Colgate-Palmolive views India as a critical market for its strategic growth and innovation efforts. The company is committed to leveraging its scientific excellence while harnessing India’s digital potential to drive further expansion in the Indian market.

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