India’s oral care products market

by rohit on August 30, 2009

This is the first post on the WordPress platform (previous posts were transfered from Blogger) :

Consumer product companies often conduct annual or once in 2-4 year U & A (Usage & Attitudes) studies of their product category. These studies serve as long-term planning tools. Strategies to increase volume or market share are worked out basis the data got from the U & A.

These studies sometimes serve as a PR tool too, wherein part of the data is put in the public domain.

Colgate India’s U & A

So is the case with Colgate India’s recent U & A on India’s dental health, conducted by market research agency IMRB, and reported in the press last week.

Salient findings :

1. On visiting a dentist

  • As per an earlier survey (Govt. of India’s survey in ’02-’03) 80% of adults have tooth decay, 90% have gum disease and the average number of DMFT (decayed, missing, filled) teeth is 5.4 per person (above data is for 35-44 year olds).
  • However, says this U & A survey, only 3% of Indians visit a dentist at least once every year
  • 57% is the corresponding global average (19 times higher !)
  • 33% of Indians have ever visited a dentist
  • Only 13% believe in preventive i.e. pro-active visit to a dentist.The balance 87% will visit one only if they face a dental problem

2. On oral hygiene

  • Only 51% of those surveyed use toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Only 19% brush at night
  • 28% brush at least twice a day
    Since the no.1 practice dentists recommend to prevent dental problems is brushing teeth twice a day, Colgate’s  current unaddressed market can be taken as 100-28 = 72%.

Challenge in growing the oral care products market

oral care products = toothpastes (mainly), also toothpowders, toothbrushes

Now, 28% penetration is a low figure considering that  Colgate has been working the market for decades.

I assume that rural distribution of the company is not the reason for this low number : the company claims that it’s products are available in a big number viz. 4.3 million outlets.

(In any case , like the majority of IMRB’s U & A studies, this survey too is likely to be skewed if not conducted wholly in urban India).

The cost per toothbrush and toothpaste pack is in single rupee digits (Colgate itself has a 35 g paste pack for Rs. 10) i.e. the cost of brushing would be a few rupees per month, so price is not the key barrier.

It would appear that consumer attitudes  (e.g. survey shows respondents believe that the benefits of brushing is just fresh breath & removal of food particles, here prevention of dental diseases is not ‘top of mind’ ) & habits (use of toothbrush & toothpaste substitutes ) are what’s proving the barrier.

This despite the company having been at it for decades. It’s dental education programme for schools has itself reached 78 million children in the last three decades.

And yes, despite Colgate being rated time and again a ‘Most Trusted Brand‘ (No.1 ranking for last 5 years running by Brand equity) and despite it’s clear market leadership position (current market share 52%) .

No, this is not a plug for Colgate or the other players, but just an example of the challenges consumer marketers face in growing market penetration. A similar situation can be seen in many consumer categories e.g. sanitary napkins, colas, financial services.

Q to marketers : What should Colgate be doing differently !

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Venkat August 31, 2009 at 8:42 pm

The penetration could be proportionate to the number of dentists in rural areas. I am sure that this number is low. Colgate should invest in creating more dentists in the country and ensure their spread. This will be more beneficial in their Dental Education programmes.


rohit September 3, 2009 at 12:40 am

Hi Venkat, you are right.

A dentist friend informs me India has less than 100,000 dentists, mainly in urban areas. In their absence, people rely on GPs, chemists and even self-treatment. I guess every one dentist sponsored by Colgate will pay the company back his weight in gold (sorry toothpaste 🙂 ) by the time he retires !

– Rohit


Rockon September 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Good Information. Thanks for the sharing…


Ajay sinha December 2, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Great information! Dental care should be taken even from the small age to maintain a strong and white teeth.


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