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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Tatas take premium water brand Himalayan to Singapore, more global marts soon

PTI  Mumbai, August 03, 2014
First Published: 13:03 IST(3/8/2014) | Last Updated: 13:09 IST(3/8/2014)

Nearly two years after it had said its premium water brand Himalayan would go global piggybacking Starbucks, Tata Global Beverages has finally taken the product to Singapore.

The tea, coffee and water business arm of the diversified Tata Group has said the response to the product has been on par with the French rival Evian.

"It's over a year (last October) that we test-launched the Himalayan water brand in the Singaporean market through the Starbucks outlets. Following the good response, we recently appointed a few national distributors for retail sale as well," Tata Global Beverages managing director and chief executive Ajoy Misra told PTI.

He did not name the distributors or disclose their count.

When asked about retail response to Himalayan in Singapore, he said: "If the initial store reports are to be believed it is being sold very well, even on par with the French rival brand Evian, which is priced at par."  

On the next markets for the Himalayan, Misra said it will soon be travelling to new international markets, but declined to share the timeline or name the geographies.

In 2012, the Tatas roped the iconic American coffee chain Starbucks into the country in an equal JV and today it has 50 outlets spanning Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Bangalore, Pune and Chennai. At that time the Tatas and Starbucks had said they would be taking Himalayan overseas.

When pointed out that in the domestic market it's hardly seen at retail stores, Misra said it is available at all modern trade outlets and also through major Pepsi distributors, as the company has a joint venture NurishCo.

If the price would be cut to increase volume of Himalayan in the doemstic market, Misra answered in the negative and said: "The brand is in fact under-priced and we want to retain it as a real premium brand." It is available in the domestic market at Rs. 50/L and Rs. 25 for 500-ml.

The Tatas entered the bottled water business by acquiring Mount Everest Mineral Water Co, the then owners of Himalayan, in 2007. Initially it had bought 26% in Mount Everest, for Rs. 115 crore and later the Tatas increased stake to 50% and merged it earlier this year with TGB.

The company has two water brands now -- the mass brand Tata Water Plus priced at Rs. 20/L and Tata Glucose+. Both are available in pouches in the Southern markets of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Tata Water Plus, a fortified water product was also bought by the Tatas after it signed a 50:50 JV with PepsiCo in 2010.

Misra said that soon the company will be taking Tata Water to other markets, but did not offer details.

While the mass brands are bottled locally, Misra said the Himalayan is the only water brand in the country that is bottled untouched by hand at Paonta Sahib in the Himalayas.

On the company's water business, executive director and group chief financial officer L Krishnakumar said currently this vertical contributes only about 2% of total revenue, but wants to increase to take it around 10% over the next few years.

Currently, 70% of TGB revenue come from the tea business (Tata Tea is the world's second largest marketer of the drink after Unilever, and the largest in the domestic market), 20% from coffee business and the rest from water and plantations business.

A few years ago TGB had given up the management control on its plantations to the workers, it still holds 40% in North India Plantations (in the NE regions) and in South India Plantations (in Kerala).

Tata Global has also a few months ago shifted its headquarters to Mumbai from Kolkata. About 20 months ago, it had shifted its HQs from London to Kolkata as well.

On the revenue break-up, Krishnakumar said close to 65% of the revenue come from overseas markets.

The different brands Tata Tea's Tetley is the no 1 or no 2 in Britain and many other European markets, he said, adding that Tetley contributes close to 40% of the total tea revenue.


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