In India Bisleri is synonymous with the category. I and million Indians like me, buy a ‘bisleri’ not bottled drinking water!
Coke, Pepsi, Danone and Wipro are buying Bisleri for the brand value. And rightly so!!
I would also place a very high value on Bisleri’s distribution too. Distribution is a key contributor to Bisleri’s success as a brand. As always supply chain is hardly ever acknowledged for the crucial but silent role that it plays in the success of any business.
As a supply chain professional, I admire Bisleri’s distribution strategy. Bisleri’s distribution strategy is not unlike Coke or Pepsi’s – keeping the product within arm’s reach. However, what is different and is the efficiency and execution of the distribution strategy.
For bottled water, reliability and depth of distribution is key to success. Bisleri’s processes achieve these two objectives, very well.
What can companies learn about distribution, from Bisleri?
The processes have to be robust. This means they must be simple, ‘idiot proof’ and have emergency alternatives.
The trucks have to leave the factory/plant at the designated time, follow the route cover the outlets as per the journey cycle plan, have a standard call process at the store, deliver and collect and then return to the factory/plant at a designated time after covering the route.
At the factory/plant they should have a fixed process- tally the inventory, tally the cash, report problems with the truck and report any competitive activity.
The truck would get loaded at the factory over the night. There would be a fixed loading quantity with a fixed, loading pattern.
These are processes to take care of any emergency or issue.
There would be processes to take care of vehicle breakdown [ having a spare vehicles]. There would be processes to take care of leave [ have people on the bench, multi-skilling like all helpers/ merchandisers trained as drivers, drivers and helpers/merchandisers familiar with 2-3 routes].
All parameters of the distribution network would be measured – what gets measured gets done!
Measures on the scorecard would include, what time the vehicle left, how many outlets they covered, what time they returned, stocks reconciled and cash reconciled.
And the incentives and compensation of the drivers, helpers, warehouse team would be linked to this scorecard.
It is fascinating to see this process at work. I worked in Mumbai for a few months. My workplace was close to the Bisleri plant at Chakala on the Western Express Highway. To use a cliché, “ I could set my watch by the Bisleri truck”. I would pass the Bisleri truck at nearly the same place on my way to work, I would see the Bisleri truck at nearly the same time everyday, in the retail outlet opposite my workplace and in the evening you could see all the trucks back at the plant.
Wipro and Danone will learn and gain the most from the distribution model. They could learn and re-apply from the model after modifying it to suit their products and strategy. [ The Bisleri model ‘in toto’ works well for limited number of skus and brands].
The distribution model reflects Mr Prakash Chauhan’s style; simple, commonsense and no fancy jargons for him. I liked the way he changed Bisleri’s colour to sea green to make the brand standout from the commoditized ‘ blue water bottles’.
As an Indian, I would want Mr Prakash Chauhan to sell Bisleri to an Indian company. Coke and Pepsi will just kill the brand to promote Aquafina or Kinley.
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