Brand Kent Relies on Digital-Powered Experiential Marketing Campaigns to Generate Buzz: Mahesh Gupta
by Srabana Lahiri Marketing | November 30, 2020 | Interview
Kent RO Systems Mahesh Gupta
Mahesh Gupta, Founder and Chairman of Kent RO Systems Ltd, set up the company in 1988. Today, it is a leading player in the RO Water Purifier category and has expanded to several product categories such as air purifiers, water softeners, cooking appliances and AI-driven security devices. Its products are supplied to Bangladesh, Nepal, the Middle East and Kenya. Here, Gupta, a mechanical engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur, talks of his entrepreneurial journey, expansion plans, and the brand’s philosophy - Drink Pure, Eat Pure and Breathe Pure.
What is the one thing that comes to your mind when you think of the young IIT-ian who gave up his well-paying job to start making water purifiers and the position you have reached today?
Well, that ‘young IIT-ian’ actually landed accidentally in this water purifier segment. I had designed the first RO purifier for my own use. Both my children were suffering from jaundice and the culprit was drinking water. I was forced to look for a water purifier to install at my South Delhi home. The stuff available in the market left me unimpressed. Being an IIT-ian, I decided to invent my own water purifier. After several trials and six months of hard work, I zeroed in on a technology - reverse osmosis (RO) - which promised the results I wanted, and thus the first Kent purifier was born in March, 1999.
As a first-generation entrepreneur, what are some of the stories you can tell us from your eventful journey of taking Brand Kent to where it is today?
The story has been a challenging and exciting one at the same time. When Kent started its voyage, no industry by the name of water purifiers existed in India. A handful of brands were trying their fate in this sector by selling very conventional purifiers through door to door marketing. Who would have thought that in a couple of years, the Indian water purifier industry would become one of the most lucrative sectors for national and international consumer durable brands to peep in and have a pie of the over Rs 3,500 crore industry.
Today, Kent is positioned as India’s leading water purifier company. Also, over the years the company’s transformation has been in terms of technology and new product range which is in sync with the brand’s philosophy - Drink Pure, Eat Pure and Breathe Pure. At present, the products in the Kent RO family are air purifiers, cold press juicers, vacuum and bed cleaners and vegetable purifiers. The company has also forayed into the smart kitchen appliance segment with products such as noodle and pasta makers, dosa maker, pizza and omelette maker, turbo blenders, rice cookers, atta and bread maker and many more. Another revolutionary product by Kent is a low-cost water purifier, Kent Gold AS, which is capable of removing arsenic from water. So far, only RO purifiers were able to remove dissolved arsenic from water. Last year, the company also ventured into the artificial intelligence segment.
You have diversified from water and air purification products to kitchen appliances, to products in the artificial intelligence segment such as Kent Cam Attendance and Kent Cameye. What next? What are your expansion plans?
Kent is known for innovation; that may be in any space. Kent Cameye, our smart car security device and Cam Attendance, our touchless attendance management system based on facial recognition, are the latest fruits of labour of our R&D team. Not just these two, we have a complete range of innovative smart kitchen appliances that are being manufactured for use by GenX.
In a fiercely competitive market – pitted against the likes of HUL- how do you keep Brand Kent relevant? What is the business strategy that has worked for you?
Transformation and innovation have been the underlying factors in keeping the brand relevant. We are a consumer-centric brand which focuses on adding value to its offering. We also come up with solutions to current problems. For example, cities such as Chandigarh, Gandhinagar, Patna, Bengaluru, Jammu, Lucknow, Chennai and Dehradun are listed among the cities where tap water quality is below par, as per a report by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Hence, RO water purifiers have taken a front seat there. But this led to another challenge - wastage of water through conventional water purifiers in the face of acute shortage and depleting groundwater levels. The zero-water wastage technology from Kent is an answer to such a problem. We also spend a lot of time and money on R&D, along with sales staff training, which is crucial as product knowledge is extremely important to connect with the consumer.
Hema Malini for Kent RO and now Shah Rukh Khan for Cameye – how have the associations with these actors worked for the brand? What is your brief to your brand ambassadors?
We are a very consumer-centric brand and from our brand ambassadors to our marketing strategy, the aim is to develop strong consumer connects; we chose Shah Rukh Khan and Hema Malini owing to their mature and responsible image just like the brand is working from day one on a mission to Drink Pure, Eat Pure and Breathe Pure.
Tell us how you have utilised the experiential marketing and activations space for your products. What has been your ROI from the medium and what is the opportunity you see there?
Brand Kent has been creating digital-powered experiential marketing ad campaigns that help generate a buzz and take the brands to multiple touch-points. The company has come up with a series of digital ads for its different ranges. The brand is not only interested in engaging with its curious targeted customer, but is working towards building a brand using the digital medium as its newest marketing tool. For example, every social video of ours has garnered millions of views on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms.
Is there any particular activation or experiential marketing activity that you would like to single out as memorable?
The social video #Razaai was a big hit. This video was a part of Kent RO’s digital campaign launched in 2018, focusing on creating real life video stories.
What is the biggest challenge that you see before you today?
The biggest challenge remains the one to educate people about water-borne fatal diseases. A large section of people still find water-purifiers a luxury, which is not correct. It’s a necessity keeping in mind the water quality we get in our homes.
On a personal note, tell us about a talent or hobby of yours beyond the business domain that you nurture with care? Did you learn anything new during the lockdown?
I am very fond of reading. During the lockdown I happened to cook at lot and experiment with different cuisines. And yes, smart kitchen appliances have been a big-time saviour, making the cooking experience fun and exciting.
Mahesh Gupta of Kent RO Systems, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, talks of his entrepreneurial journey, the brand’s philosophy, and what he thinks of the experiential marketing domain.