It all started with Karsanbhai Patel of Mehsana, Gujarat, and his daughter, Nirma.
Nirma – An Origin Story
After graduating college with a B.Sc. in chemistry at the age of 21, Patel began working as a lab technician, eventually securing a job at the Geology and Mining Department of the Gujarat state government. Around the year 1969, at the age of 24, he began manufacturing and selling detergent powder from the backyard of his home, in Khokra near Ahmedabad.
Initially, it was an after-office venture and Patel would cycle around his neighborhood after work, selling homemade packets of detergent powder door to door, at one third the price of major brands in the sector.
The great quality and reasonable price of the product made it into an instant success and it was only after three years that Patel felt confident enough in his side business to leave his job. Apart from being cheap and effective, the phosphate-free detergent powder was also more environmentally friendly than most washing powders at the time.
The Journey of a Father and an Entrepreneur
He named his primary product, the detergent, Nirma after his daughter. The world-class quality and affordable price point of the product made it a favorite among buyers, aided by memorable advertising jingles that have enthralled generations over the years.
As production of washing powder was for many years highly labor intensive, Nirma at one point employed over fourteen thousand people in the year 2004. This made the company one of the major employment providers in India, as well as being one of its leading brands.
The 1980s were a tough era for Nirma, and the brand began struggling financially, unable to reach its potential in sales. Undaunted, Patel decided to pull all his products from the market, collected all due credits and with that money launched an enormous advertising campaign, which featured his daughter in a white frock, singing the now-famous Nirma jingle.
Bouncing Back from Failure
Duly wooed, customers flocked to their local grocery stores to buy Nirma washing powder, only to return empty-handed. Then, just as demand for his washing powder peaked, Patel flooded the market with the product, which in turn led to massive sales and enabled Nirma to hugely outsell Hindustan Unilever’s Surf, which was its greatest rival in the detergent industry at the time.
In 2010, Karsanbhai Patel was awarded the Padma Shri by the then president of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, for his contributions to the worlds of industry as well as philanthropy. His name has also appeared numerous times on Forbes Magazine’s list of the richest persons in India. Patel had also launched an incubation program for budding innovators and entrepreneurs, known as Nirmalabs, in the year 2004.
A Vision to Be Reckoned With
At present, Nirma has a sales force consisting of 350 direct selling personnel, 400 distributors, and over a million retailers. Over 300 million consumers buy the products manufactured by Nirma on a regular basis. An FMCG company, some of the products sold by Nirma include body soaps, detergents, edible salts, and dishwashing bars.
Nirma began as a single product and transformed into a brand and a company. But what it truly was, and will always be, is a vision. The vision of making an essential product like detergent powder available to the middle and working classes of the nation. And it is that vision which has led Nirma – and those associated with it – to the heights of success and global acclaim.
Banner Image Credit: 5.imimg.com & nirmauni.ac.in
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