Kairav Engineer, VP – Business Development, Astral Limited, is a millennial leader who has transformed the family business from a traditional sales-driven company to a market and people-centric organization, diversifying and fast-tracking its growth trajectory. The company’s current market capitalization is approximately Rs 41,400 crore, while net profit in FY22 stood at Rs 404 crore.
You joined the family business Astral Pipes in 2011. How have you seen it evolve since then, and what is significant about the brand’s journey?
Astral Pipes started out manufacturing polymer piping solutions, and in those days, the category was totally B2B. It was dominated by galvanized iron pipes and no one was ready to accept the fact that plastic pipes could withstand hot water. Astral introduced CPVC for the first time in India and changed the category landscape. After this, the entire country slowly accepted CPVC as a norm and that was just the beginning for us. We introduced many such category-firsts in the Indian piping market thereafter and raised the benchmark in the building materials category.
Brand Astral earlier had presence in limited geographies and we also had limited mind space. We needed saliency and also a firm positioning in the category, which we achieved through our targeted marketing communications using celebrities like Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh and now Allu Arjun. We tried to increase consumer involvement and consumer awareness, so that the end consumer can take the right decision about piping products. In addition, our plumber-related activities and the Astral Loyalty Programme made a lot of difference. Today, we are no longer just a pipe company. Our brand equity helped us successfully enter other categories such as sanitaryware and faucets, water tanks, paints and adhesives. But our core values and thinking remain the same – to be innovative and strive to provide best quality.
Tell us about the company’s recent foray into paints, faucets, sanitaryware, valves and infrastructure. What next on the diversification front?
The bathware range is directly connected to our piping business and the same influencers, i.e, plumbers, will play a role in the purchase process. This range provides us a face for the brand and we have come up with a full range, starting from economy to luxury. The paints business is associated with adhesives and the acquisition of Gem Paints gave us trade presence and a platform to launch Astral Paints. We will be launching an entire range of decorative paints, industrial paints and protective coating. As for valves, we have started manufacturing them indigenously and we will be able to cater to demands from various industries with our industrial valves. We are a holistic building materials company with considerable headroom for growth in very segment.
You lead Astral’s aggressive branding and advertising, including IPL sponsorship. What lies at the core of your advertising and marketing strategy? What is the quantum of annual ad spends?
Piping had been a low consumer involvement category; and pipes go behind walls with virtually no contact with the end consumer. Hence there are many challenges to remain top-of-the-mind and relevant to the actual consumer. We devised specific communication for the buying TG and it worked well. Our focus is also on making consumers more involved in the purchase process. Our communication proposition is based on our quality and innovations-led solutions, which, in turn, help us earn trust and goodwill. Astral spends around 1.5 to 2% of sales revenue on advertising and branding.
How have brand ambassadors Salman Khan (in the past) and Ranveer Singh and Allu Arjun (current) worked for the brand?
Salman Khan got us saliency and a strong brand association, and we gained a firm place in the consumer consideration set. Salman Khan also helped us reinforce the brand proposition, which is ‘Strong Nahin, Astral Strong’. Ranveer Singh brought us energy and zeal, and helped us reinforce our proposition of ‘Trusted pipe brand of India’. With him, we latched on to a new positioning – ‘Bharosemand Pipes’.
Kairav Engineer, VP – Business Development, Astral Limited
Our second campaign with Ranveer Singh was the first Sindhi language TVC made in India. The term ‘Dadho Sutho’ became a mainstream word and it has been a very successful digital campaign. Allu Arjun got us commendable brand connect and recall in South India. The fan following of Allu Arjun in the South is amazing and the Telugu TV ad featuring him in an entirely new look went viral and grabbed eyeballs. The TV ad was launched with a premiere at a theatre where we invited fans and fan pages of Allu Arjun. It was a very successful launch and the TVC has been widely appreciated among the trade and business community.
TVC with Allu Arjun: https://youtube.com/watch?v=r_-Y4nkUiLY&si=EnSIkaIECMiOmarE
TVC with Ranveer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJQ30KHcAKM
What are some of the goals you have set for the company’s growth? What will be your top agenda?
We aim to become a large cap company very soon. Also, we will be launching newer products and technologies as the category evolves to meet newer requirements of customers. While we do this, our motto and focus will be to keep the quality top notch so that we earn consumer trust. There is huge potential in the building materials category, and huge opportunities for growth. In addition, as we have expanded our presence in various categories, we need to consolidate businesses and create a strong foothold in every segment.
What is your biggest learning from life and work?
Work hard, there are no short-cuts in life. No matter how it goes, stick to business ethics. Earn your reputation by doing tough things well.