Dengue fever scare causes off-season surge in mosquito repellent sales

Rachit Vats

Mumbai, Nov. 20 -- The flip side of the dreaded dengue fever that has caused casualties in a large swathe of India this year is an apparent off-season boom in repellents to keep away mosquitoes that cause the disease. Mumbai, where the illness caused the demise of celebrated Bollywood director Yash Chopra, has the highest incidence of dengue in Maharashtra.

It has been a surge in the sales of mosquito repellents in recent weeks, even though August-October is considered off-season for the products.

The mosquito repellent segment, which rose 7.6% in January-July over last year, saw India-wide sales growth hit 20% after dengue broke out - from a sedate 10-13% annual growth in the last three years. The current size of the market is more than Rs.3,200 crore.

Godrej Consumer Products, whose flagship Good Knight holds a 42% market share, saw 20% sales growth in August-October. The company attributed the surge to a delayed monsoon and dengue.

"Mosquito repellent companies increased their advertising spends during the period," said industry analyst V Srinivasan of Angel Broking. "Further, the fear of dengue has helped improve sales."

"There has been a shifting of season and a delay in monsoon, coupled with rising awareness for use of repellents," said Sunil Kataria, executive vice-president, marketing and sales, Godrej Consumer Products.

"Indian consumers have a preference for coils, we have introduced innovations including smokeless coils, that have added to sales."

Reckitt Benckiser, the second largest player after Godrej, saw sales for its Mortein brand go up by 40% from a flat 1% in the January-July period. Mortein's market share in the category is 20%.

"North and west have been the biggest contributing regions for Mortein with UP and Maharashtra being the two largest consumption states," said a company spokesperson.

Dabur's Rs. 80-crore brand Odomos, which retails cream and gel repellents, saw a 70% sales jump in the August-October period.

"Conventional mosquito repellents, like liquid vapourisers, mats and coils, offer protection when one is in the closed confines of a room, whereas Odomos offers protection outdoors - where the chances of getting bitten by disease-causing mosquitoes is very high. And this growing awareness is driving demand for products such as Odomos," said Rohit Prakash Gupta, home care category head, Dabur India.

Street-corner shops have brought in their own innovations. A local shopkeeper says he has begun selling individual mosquito repellent coils for Rs. 7-8.

The companies sell them in packs of 10.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.