India’s baby care market saw considerable activity in 2016, with new companies entering the segment and existing players making headway into new sub-categories. This is not surprising considering India is home to close to 100 million babies (0-4 years), as per the latest census data.

A few examples of brands entering this space are:

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Patanjali launching a range of Ayurvedic baby care products under the brand name Shishu

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Dabur foraying into premium baby care products with Dabur Baby massage oils

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The Himalaya Drug Company entering the personal grooming space with a focus on baby care

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Hindustan Unilever launching the Baby Dove range of baby products

Some brands are also looking at mergers and acquisitions as a strategy to enter this category and build their current portfolio of products. The most recent deal between Reckitt Benckiser and Mead Johnson is one such example. Reckitt’s established antiseptic brand Dettol could very well provide a platform for Reckitt’s entry into the baby personal care category.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), the number of beauty and personal care launches in India claiming to be for babies and toddlers almost doubled between 2015 to 2016. Baby personal care products in India at one time mostly meant shampoos and massage oils. Now, the category has expanded to include wipes and specialised body and face products. For instance, Himalaya has moved beyond oils, shampoos and creams to include diapers and wipes into their offering mix. Another example is Hindustan Unilever’s Baby Dove which entered the category with products such as soap bars, lotions, diaper rash creams and wipes.

More opportunities for consumer engagement as brands move online

Indian women have always turned to their families, friends and paediatricians for advice on how to care for their babies. However, this is changing as joint families are giving way to more nuclear families. Census data shows that households with five or more members grew by 12% from 2001 to 2011, whereas households with three or four members grew by 53%, indicating a shift towards living in smaller families. On top of that, Mintel research reveals that as many as three in four Indian women are solely responsible for taking care of their children. Indeed, parents are looking for ways to make their lives easier as they cope with household chores, work and also taking care of their children.

Aside from family and friends, there are now other channels available for parents to look for information and advices. A few start-ups, such as Babychakra, Tinystep and Parentune, have launched online portals that provide information on topics spanning across conception, pregnancy, birth and early childhood for parents-to-be and existing parents. These platforms also help parents discover services like doctors, playschools, event organisers, day cares and breast milk donors, to name a few.

There is a lot of opportunity for companies and online services to work together to offer greater engagement to consumers. Baby care brands can partner with online forums and portals to understand what parents are looking for and cater their products accordingly. Additionally, this will help build word-of-mouth for brands. In return, these online portals will benefit by associating with a brand that consumers recognise and this will help them reach a larger audience. The Mintel Trend ‘Buydeology’ discusses ways in which consumers are affiliating themselves with companies that share their cultural and ideological values. Parents are likely to connect with brands that aim to offer what is best for their babies.

On the flip side, these online platforms are only available to consumers with internet access. According to Mintel research, 37% of Indian parents with children under the age of 5 have accessed the internet in the three months to June 2016. Companies in the baby care space can help these online portals extend their services offline by working together to create a win-win situation for the consumer, online platform and the brands themselves. This could be executed either by conducting physical forum meet ups, toll-free numbers to speak to advisors or creating printed content for distribution to mothers. These offline forums can also be utilised by brands to educate mothers about their products. It will not be long before the industry sees brands collaborating with such online platforms to offer their services offline as well.

Ranjana Sundaresan is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel based in the India office.

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