The mosquito economy is swelling as brands across categories come up with innovative methods of tackling an age-old plague
Spiders, cockroaches, centipedes, even lizards, evoke terror that sets otherwise sensible people screaming, reducing them to shivering heaps. It’s ironic that the one creature where such a reaction would be entirely justified and which is capable of, quite literally, reducing people to shivering heaps — the mosquito — doesn’t usually provoke anywhere near the same level of panic. The ones who survive an encounter with a few ugly bumps, fever, or a trip to the hospital are lucky. A blog post by Bill Gates in 2014 declared mosquitoes the deadliest animal in the world with approximately 725,000 deaths to their credit, annually.
According to Abhay Soi, chairman and managing director, Radiant Lifecare, the economy surrounding mosquitoes is pegged to be around 25,000 crore, and counting. And it’s growing far beyond old standards, like mats, coils and creams.
A Mahendran, former managing director of Godrej Consumer Products Limited (GCPL) and currently the chairman and managing director of Global Consumer Products shares an interesting evolution-theory: the mosquito is a living testament to survival of the fittest, continuously adapting to its surroundings. Its weight has doubled in 20-odd years. It is not surprising that this beast has become impervious to old solutions, being deployed by human beings (read companies). Mahendran knows mosquitoes well enough, having launched Good knight in the early-80s, eventually selling the brand to GCPL.
GCPL is currently the clear category leader with Good knight and Hit. It views the crisis not just as an economic opportunity, but a larger cause of helping fight vector borne diseases. “That’s why we launched Good knight fast card: priced at `1, it does not even need electricity,” says Sunil Kataria, business head-India and SAARC, GCPL. “We could have launched a liquid-vaporisation machine which at `150 to `200 could have given higher margins, but our efforts are towards increasing penetration in all households, so more people access affordable and effective solutions”, he says.
Recently, GCPL forayed into the outdoor and personal repellent category basis the insight that dengue being a day-borne mosquito disease, needs products for day protection. The outdoor portfolio includes cool gel, patches and fabric roll-on. The last of these is a first ever format for India: four dots applied on clothes for eight hours of protection, informs Kataria. Even in terms of its marketing, the company’s ‘Subah bolo good night’ programme, pushed the category rather than a particular product. GCPL has already piloted a very large school campaign, to engage and educate kids and plans to go national with it soon.
Mahendran is preparing to write the next chapter in his war against mosquitoes with the launch of repellent brand DND. The range includes aeromax diffusers that combines coil with a fan to increase the efficacy, turbo liquid vaporiser, and Nanosol mosquito repellent. “We hope to push the low-income positioning of the mosquito-coil to a higher end gadgetry position with the launch”, he shares. His brand would possibly be the youngest player in the personal repellents market in India, pegged at `126 crore, a miniscule 3% of the overall insecticide market. The established players other than Hit and Good knight include All Out from SC Johnson, Mortein from Reckitt, and Maxo from Jyothy Laboratories.
Other categories like insurance and durables are becoming a part of the mosquito economy. Apollo Munich Health Insurance, for instance, launched a standalone and specialised health product, Dengue Care, making it the first plan in India to offer a standalone indemnity cover for possibly the largest vector-borne disease. The year long plans cost `578 and `444 for `1,00,000 and `50,000 worth of coverage. The interesting bit from a consumer point as per Antony Jacob, chief executive officer, Apollo Munich Health Insurance, is that this is designed to be an over the counter (OTC) product that needs no underwriting. Apollo Munich claims sales of 25,000 policies as of October 2016.
LG Electronics has launched specialised offerings, by way of mosquito-away TVs and air-conditioners that claim to drive mosquitoes away without emitting any harmful chemicals. Says Niladri Datta, head of corporate marketing, LG India, “The LG Mosquito Away TV, developed as per the Indian insights by consumers, is equipped with an ultrasonic device which once activated, uses sound-wave technology and makes mosquitoes fly away without emitting any harmful radiations.” In fact, it does not even require TVs to be switched on to make the mosquitoes fly away, says the spokesperson. The Korean company is already clocking 25% of its AC sales from the mosquito-away air-conditioner within a year of its launch, we are informed. A similar idea won a Grand Prix at Cannes for Brazilian radio station Band FM in 2012, even if there are several articles available after even a cursory search online, citing scientific research that the technology doesn’t work.
Ashish Bhargava, partner, India Value Fund (IVF) believes that paranoia of vector borne diseases will drive consumption of products and lead to development of innovative solutions that are safer, more convenient and effective. IVF, for instance, is already invested in HiCare which is the second largest pest-control solutions player. “We saw a structurally attractive, non-cyclical, good growth opportunity business” adds Bhargava. The company has launched the country’s first anti-mosquito system ‘HiCare 360’ made of three steps: it blocks, protects, kills mosquitoes and does an year-round mosquito-treatment, shares Himanshu Chakrawarti, chief executive officer, HiCare.
It’s not just mosquitoes that are evolving; so are the various players combating or claiming to combat the menace. Given the ubiquitous whine of a mosquito as we try to sleep or the flying pillars of insects that form over our heads, whenever we hit the great outdoors, it does appear that investing in the mosquito economy will yield rich dividends for a long time to come.