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Mohit Malhotra | CEO | Dabur

The rise in COVID-19 cases indicates the second wave in India. The death rate due to COVID-19 has been recorded its highest since January this year according to the Union Health Ministry data. While a range of COVID vaccines have surged a relief, seeing the rise in COVID cases means people must take precautions and follow remedies and routines to build their immunity. Furthermore, the Ministry of AYUSH, India has suggested dietary measures that include turmeric milk, chyawanprash, and other ayurvedic herbs to prevent coronavirus infection.

This has led to a shift in consumer behaviour towards using more Ayurveda and Natural Care immunity-boosting products. When it comes to regular consumption of chyawanprash, Dabur has been the first choice for consumers in India.

With the company’s 136 years-long legacy and the motto of being ‘dedicated to the Health & Well-Being of every household’, the brand shares a strong bond of trust that has been immunising millions of families in Indian households.

During the COVID crisis, the brand Dabur took an ambitious step to further immunize the trust among its consumers by undertaking a clinical study adhering to the GCP guidelines to test the immunity-boosting power of Dabur Chyawanprash.

The findings revealed that 1 out of 42, tested positive for COVID-19 in the control group who regularly consumed Dabur Chyawanprash. However, the control group who were not consuming Dabur Chyawanprash showed a 28.57% risk of infection with 28 out of 42 people testing positive for COVID-19.

This study has been registered with the Clinical Trials Registry of India, a portal of ICMR. The fact that the clinical study report proving the effectiveness of regular consumption of Dabur Chyawanprash to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection being approved by concerned institutional ethics committees further strengthening the trust among the Dabur consumers.

And for the CEO of Dabur, Mohit Malhotra who has been a career Daburite, this new immunity of trust is no less than a proud moment. Starting his career as a management trainee in 1994 to becoming the CEO of Dabur’s global operations, Mohit has had an enriching experience of impacting and touching the lives of millions in India.

“As a part of the marketing team during my initial years, I have been involved with the launch of several key brands for Dabur like Dabur Red Toothpaste and Vatika Hair Oil, both of which have grown to become Power Brands in Dabur’s brand architecture,” shares Mohit.

As Dabur started exploring international markets, Mohit took charge as the CEO of Dabur’s international business based in Dubai and under his leadership the brand Dabur has left a global footprint in over 100 countries.

In April 2019, Mohit stepped up as the CEO of Dabur’s global operations including India. and has led the company to be more agile, nimble-footed, and quick in execution, especially during the pandemic where the brand rolled out 50 slew products within three months of coronavirus outbreak. That shows the leader’s vision and the company’s efforts in R&D.

Innovation: A secret of sustained success

With its 136 years of legacy, Dabur has been proving its superiority as Ayurvedic and Natural Healthcare brand in the world. And as the dominant leader, Mohit not only understands the importance of innovation but has further focused the company’s efforts on R&D ensuring that innovations are targeted and quick to market. With these diligent efforts, the brand now aims to target the millennial generation by offering age-old Ayurvedic remedies in a convenient and modern avatar.

But how the brand made it possible to marry rare Ayurvedic herbs with modern-age products? Mohit had a vision for this as well – Dabur’s ‘bush-to-brand’ approach. “We have been growing rare medicinal herbs that are used in our products.” He added, “These saplings are distributed free of cost to farmers. Today, we grow these rare medicinal herbs in over 6,000 acres of land across the country, and over 7,000 farmers are engaged with us in this activity.” In FY 2019-20, Dabur’s Pantnagar Greenhouse grew and distributed 1,932,325 saplings of herbs to farmers across the country.

Along with gaining and applying the wisdom of Ayurveda the company also engages in detailed tests on individual ingredients and products to ensure that the final product meets customer needs and aspirations.

Fearless and Aggressive during a crisis

“I believe a crisis is not to be wasted,” Mohit answered when asked about the COVID-19 pandemic, “it is, in fact, an opportunity to work harder to strengthen the business with new capabilities and innovations to entrench our leadership in the marketplace.”

COVID has entirely changed the innovation landscape. Health and Hygiene emerged as the key consumer needs in the post-COVID world. Consumers started using Ayurveda-based preventive hygiene, healthcare, and immunity-boosting products.

Dabur responded to the growing trend in consumer behaviour by introducing a diverse range of immunity-boosting and hygiene products such as Daur Tulsi Drops, surface sanitizers, and veggie wash during the pandemic.

The pandemic has also led consumers adapting online shopping increasingly. Targeting this emerging trend, the brand is launching a series of new products exclusively for online markets. Taking upon the crisis as a challenge, the company has truly transformed itself to be more aggressive and fearless.

Balancing the employee safety and consumer needs

COVID has triggered a humongous change in the way businesses operate. The uncertain and highly dynamic environment demanded businesses to be agile and seize the opportunities in a short time.

“We had to quickly change our business approach. We mobilised our teams to ensure strong efforts despite lockdown restrictions furthermore leveraging technology and innovation to address the changing circumstances and the emerging needs of our consumers. The situation was so dynamic, that every hour a different decision had to be taken,” Mohit said.

To tackle this challenge the company established a 24×7 war room with the sales, marketing, and supply chain departments to share and resolve issues on a real-time basis.

The company further re-purposed the brands and launched extensive campaigns on mainstream media as well as digital platforms during the lockdown period. Appreciating the team’s agile efforts during a pandemic, Mohit shared how a highly collaborative culture in the organisation has brought out the interdependence of all functions and has significantly enhanced the risk-taking ability of the teams. “COVID has acted as a catalyst for change. We have become much more agile, nimble-footed and quick in our execution,” he said.

While continuing the regular operations, meeting consumers’ growing needs, and ensuring the employees’ well-being, the company also had to face the challenge of maintaining seamless communication with its partners and business associates.

With physical order-booking becoming difficult during the lockdown period, the brand Dabur leveraged technology to make the process simpler and seamless for its partners, by rolling out a Mobile App for retailers, commencing order-booking on WhatsApp, and activating the company’s Call Centre to take orders from retail outlets across the country. This has helped the company see a major increase in e-commerce sales anticipating this channel to continue to gain salience.

The brand also used digital media to its advertising benefits further taking the brand’s market research digital and online. Mohit shared his vision behind the company’s approach of leveraging digital media, “We believe these initiatives are not just for the short term but will lead to more opportunities for an efficient and technology-enabled working culture in the organisation.”

Marching towards the glorious 150

As the world’s largest Ayurvedic and Natural healthcare brand Dabur has a very exciting future ahead, claims the CEO. A majority of the company’s new introductions have been in the healthcare space, where consumers are today seeking products to boost their immunity and fight illnesses.

Now the company aims to strengthen its product portfolio with an array of Ayurveda-based products in modern, ready-to-use formats. “We aim to make Ayurveda mainstream.” Mohit added, “There is currently good momentum in healthcare, and we will leverage this tailwind to build the business further through innovation, distribution enhancement, and higher visibility.”

The company has made its core to adapt the technological changes to extend the traditional wisdom of Ayurveda to every household. To ensure smoother operations on-field, the company is implementing a Continuous Replenishment System (CRS) to reduce the pipeline inventory by 5-6 days. The company also implemented greater automation with its front-ERP platform. Furthermore, in 2019-20 the company upgraded its IT systems to SAP HANA to enhance the capability and operational efficiency to be future-ready.

While the past decade saw Dabur report a steady performance, the company is now strongly focusing on accelerating this growth coming decade. After proving its superiority in Ayurvedic and Natural Healthcare space the company is now aggressively investing behind its brands, both at the trade level and the media level. The company has also rationalized the go-to-market strategy in terms of the media platforms in addition to investing in a massive build-up of its rural infrastructure.

Mohit shared how fruitful these strategies have been for the company’s growth, “These moves have started paying dividends already with Dabur not only improving shares but also perhaps growing ahead of our competitors, particularly in rural India.” Mohit further claims this to be the new and more aggressive Dabur marching towards its mission of encouraging every household to adapt and leverage the power of Ayurveda.