India: Dabur India Limited. Success Thru Innovation – A Case Study

Last Updated: 27 August 2004
Article by Vineet Goyal

The story of Dabur is more than a century old when it was established as a small pharmacy by Dr. S K Burman, in 1884, in Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta). Since than, it is a story of success based on innovative ideas, dedication to nature, corporate and process hygiene, dynamic leadership and commitment to the partners and stakeholders.

Dabur established its first production unit at Garhia in 1896 and it was one of a very few Indian companies to start its own R&D unit in 1919. The company has gone a long way in popularizing and making easily available a whole range of products based on the traditional science of Ayurveda. In early 1900 itself, Dabur identified nature-based Ayurvedic medicines as its area of specialization. It is the first company to provide health care through scientifically tested and automated production of formulations based on the Indian traditional science. Subsequently, Dabur was incorporated as a Pvt. Ltd. Company – Dabur (Dr. S K Burman) Pvt. Ltd. In 1936.

There has not been any looking back for the giant from that time.

Seeing an immense potential to serve the Indian customer with low-cost high quality ayurvedic products for personal care, Dabur introduced the first packaged and branded hair oil – Dabur Amla Hair Oil in 1940, which eventually became the largest selling hair oil in the country. Today Personal care is the largest SBU contributing to 45% sales of Dabur and comprises of the following products -

  • Products related to Hair Care, Skin Care, Oral Care and Foods
  • 3 leading brands - Vatika, Amla Hair Oil and Lal Dant Manjan with Rs.100 crore turnover each
  • Vatika Hair Oil & Shampoo the high growth brand
  • Strategic positioning of Honey as food product, leading to market leadership (over 40%) in branded honey market 

However, healthcare remained to be the prime-focus for the company and it is the 2nd largest SBU with 28% share in sales

  • Products related to Health Supplements, Digestives, Baby Care and Natural Cures.
  • Leadership in Ayurvedic and herbal products market with highly popular brands.
  • Dabur Chyawanprash the largest selling Ayurvedic medicine with 65% (Rs.127 crore) market share.
  • Leader in herbal digestives with 90% market share, Hajmola tablets in command with 75% market share of digestive tablets category
  • Dabur Lal Tail tops baby massage oil market with 35% of total share

Innovation has been the key all along. Dabur Chyawanprash was the first packaged and branded Chyawanprash in India, when it was launched in 1949. Subsequent to the launch of Hajmola Tablets in 1978, when the market became competitive and the market-share of hajmola started dropping, the ayurvedic digestive formulation was converted into a children’s fun product with the launch of Hajmola Candy which became an instant hit. Dabur also introduced Lal Dant Manjan way back in 1970 which is a conveniently packaged herbal toothpowder made available at affordable costs to the rural masses.

In the Ayurvedic medicines segment, Dabur today has more than 250 products sold through prescriptions as well as over the counter

  • Major categories in traditional formulations include:

- Asav Arishtas

- Ras Rasayanas

- Churnas

- Medicated Oils

  • Proprietary Ayurvedic medicines developed by Dabur include:

- Nature Care Isabgol

- Madhuvaani

- Trifgol

The company shifted based to Delhi from Calcutta in 1972 and started commercial production at Sahibabad, the most modern herbal medicines plant at that time. With the technology at the helm in Dabur, by 1995, in addition to the existing products, the company exported products like an improved version of Chyawanprash – with more honey and less pungency, liquid form of Chyawanprash, an aqueous based hair-vitalizer , Melatonine etc – all in-house innovations.

Dabur captured the imagination of young Indian consumers in 1996, with the launch of Real Fruit Juices - a new concept in the Indian foods market. The first local brand of 100% pure natural fruit juices made to international standards, Real became the fastest growing and largest selling brand in the country. Subsequently, Dabur Foods also took the route of ethnic cooking pastes and chutneys to enter Indian kitchens – when Hommade was born.

The giant completed 100 years in the year 1984 and became a Public Co. Ltd. With the first maiden public issue in 1994. in 1998, Burman family - one of the most forward looking entrepreneurs at that time, handed over the management of the company to professionals – against one of the very first few Indian Businesses having done so. The result – Dabur established its market leadership status by staging a turnover of Rs. 1000 crores by the year 2000. Across a span of 100 years, Dabur had grown from a small beginning based on traditional health care to a commanding position amongst the august league of large corporate businesses.

However, there was no place for complacency at Dabur.

Dabur established its leadership in health care as one of only two companies worldwide to launch the anti-cancer drug Intaxel (Paclitaxel). Dabur Research Foundation, which was set up as early as in 1978, developed an eco-friendly process to extract the drug from its plant source.

Three domestic pharma companies – Cadilla Pharmaceuticals, Shantha Biotech and Dabur India, signed an agreement with the department of biotechnology, Govt. of India, for developing and marketing basic molecules in leprosy, hepatitis and tumor disease segments.

With the setting up of Dabur Oncology's sterile cytotoxic facility in 2001, the Company gained entry into the highly specialised area of cancer therapy. The state-of-the-art plant and laboratory in the UK have approval from the MCA of UK. They follow FDA guidelines for production of drugs specifically for European and American markets.

As a reflection of its constant efforts at achieving superior quality standards, Dabur became the first Ayurvedic products company to get ISO 9002 certification. Reinforcing its commitment to nature and its conservation, Dabur Nepal, a subsidiary of Dabur India, has set up fully automated green houses in Nepal which help to produce saplings of rare medicinal plants that are under threat of extinction.

Dabur is also implementing IT in a big way, which shall help in integrating a vast distribution system spread all over the country and across the world and to cut costs and increase profitability.

In Dabur India Ltd. Knowledge and technology are key resources, which have helped the company to achieve higher levels of excellence and efficiency.

The story continues….

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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