Forget the cola wars, India seems to now be readying itself for its toilet cleaner wars.
Reckitt Benckiser, the British multinational that produces Harpic toilet cleaner, has dragged Patanjali to court over its ad which allegedly disparaged its own. Patanjali’s Green Flush toilet cleaner is running a television commercial in which a cap-wearing man rings the doorbell and makes a beeline for the toilet, only to be dragged out by the irate housewife. “Bahut ho gaya zabardasti ghar me ghuske toilet cleaning ka khel tamasha (Enough of forcibly entering houses for this charade of cleaning toilets),” says the voice-over, before promoting Patanjali’s own toilet cleaner, Green Flush.
Patanjali never explicitly mentions Harpic, but it’s not hard to see which brand it’s referring to. For years, Harpic has running TV commercials in which its eager representatives — including TV actor Aman Verma — enter homes, and point out unclean toilets before cleaning them with Harpic.
Harpic isn’t amused with the allusions to its product. The company’s lawyer claimed before the Delhi High court that the germ-kill claims of Patanjali’s product, Green Flush, were identical to that of Harpic, and Patanjali infringed its copyright as the labels on its toilet cleaner were identical to that of Harpic. He also added that the first few seconds of the ad “mocked” Harpic’s ad campaign.
The Delhi High Court, though, observed that the advertisement appeared to be a repartee. It asked Patanjali to file its response within 10 days on the allegations made by Reckitt in its suit. The court also declined Harpic’s plea to to pass an interim order restraining Patanjali from airing its ads.
It’s a minor win for Baba Ramdev as he battles to make Patanjali a household name in India’s FMCG market which is currently dominated by foreign brands. Patanjali has made rapid strides with its range of household products over the last few years, and now has annual revenues of Rs. 10,500 crore, only behind Hindustan Unilver and ITC. Patanjali’s progress has rattled foreign companies, who’re now scrambling to compete — after Patanjali toothpaste’s success, Colgate has launched its own ayurvedic brand called Colgate Vedshakti.
It should turn out to be a fascinating contest. Patanjali has the advantage of a loyal fan-base that swears by its products, and incumbents have decades of experience in retail and settled supply chains. But as its latest ad campaign shows, Patanjali isn’t backing down from a fight — it’s taking on big multinationals head-on.