CONNECTING THE DOTS: PIDILITE INDUSTRIES

Have you ever thought about why we instinctively call glue ‘Fevicol’? Well, I have, and to my disbelief it is deeply ingrained in my vocabulary.

‘Fevicol’ is a brand, owned and manufactured by Pidilite Industries and one that has defined the legacy of Pidilite’s founder, Balvant Parekh.

Balvant Parekh was a lawyer by profession, however he never practiced law. To support himself, he worked at a dyeing and printing press in Mumbai followed by the job of a peon in a wood trader’s office. I believe that the time he spent working in a wood trader’s office served as the foundation of his ideas, the foundation of his legacy. Let me tell you why I feel so.

In the early 1950s, carpenters and wood workers predominantly relied on adhesives made from animal fat. These adhesives were far too weak, unreliable, and cumbrous to use. A young Balvant must have subconsciously witnessed the problem that these carpenters across India faced. It was a problem that stuck with him through his next few years of successful and unsuccessful business partnerships.

As Steve Jobs famously said, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’

Out of the blue, another opportunity for business presented itself. This eventually led to Balvant forming a partnership with Fedco, a company which promoted the interests of Hoechst AG (a German chemical company) in India. Amongst their wide-ranging product portfolio, I believe ‘Movicol’, an adhesive, was the product that caught his eye.

In 1954, due to the untimely death of one of his business partners in Hoechst AG, he decided to terminate the partnership and enter the chemical business independently. He founded ‘Parekh Dyechem Industries’ which would manufacture dyes and chemicals, a business that he had grown familiar with during his association with Hoechst AG and Fedco.

In 1959, the company was renamed to ‘Pidilite Industries’.

I feel that it was at this moment of time that the dots started connecting for him. He had identified a problem faced by a vast multitude of carpenters while working as a peon in a wood trader’s office, but more importantly, he now had the means and the knowledge to address it.

He set about creating ‘Fevicol’ (I believe the first part of the word comes from ‘Fedco’, and the second part, ‘col’ in German means to bind things together), a synthetic adhesive in 1959. This was a game changing product that was readily accepted by carpenters across India due to its ease of use, reliability, and strength. To ensure that ‘Fevicol’ resonated with ‘strength and quality’, Datta Sawant was tasked with the development of a logo, and boy, did he deliver!

‘The concept of using elephants for the Fevicol logo was based on a need to have an easily recognisable symbol in the Indian context, and at the same time, establish the strength of the product.’ – Datta Sawant

In 1963, the first modern plant was set up in Kondivita village. As ‘Fevicol’ started establishing itself as the preferred adhesive amongst carpenters and wood workers, Pidilite decided to tap a much larger user segment: students and professionals. This was achieved by the innovative launch of an easy to use 30 gm pack of ‘Fevicol’ which propelled its popularity to dizzying heights!

Today, Pidilite’s ‘Fevicol’ is the largest synthetic adhesive brand in India and boasts over 70% market share in the adhesives market. Pidilite has come a long way from being a single product player. A right blend of in-house product development and astute acquisitions have helped it to grow leaps and bounds.

The combination of Dr.Fixit (in house developed product) and M-Seal (acquired) have allowed it to enter and dominate the construction adhesives space. They are also present in the arts-and-craft space and have strengthened their portfolio through the acquisitions of Sargent Art and Tristar Colman.

Pidilite, no doubt has built a wonderful product portfolio. However, their relentless emphasis on top notch branding and marketing campaigns (TV adverts, newspaper adverts), has helped them build a special bond with people regardless of their age or occupation. Their Fevicol Bus TV Commercial, created by Ogilvy and Mather, has won awards at the Cannes Festival (considered to be the Oscars of the advertising world).

This emphasis on marketing and advertising has resulted in the creation of a strong brand image which in turn has made them one of the most recognizable brands in India.

‘Yeh Fevicol se bhi mazboot jod hai’ as quoted by our honorable PM Modi when describing India-Japan relations simply goes to show how deeply rooted ‘Fevicol’ and ‘Pidilite’ are in our minds, and speaks volumes about how warmly ‘Fevicol’ is perceived.

Striving on the popularity of their first marquee product, ‘Fevicol’, Pidilite has shown to the world how a reliable and attractive product paired with equally strong marketing and advertising, can enable one to capture people’s minds and hearts. A subtle proof of this is the omnipresence of their products in our lives.

Balvant Parekh, not only built a company that served millions, but bonded people from different walks of life, be it a carpenter, wood worker, construction worker, artist, student, or a professional, together under a single umbrella. His legacy has truly made me believe that yes, ‘….you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’

I hope that I have been able to keep you glued just the way that ‘Fevicol’ has for decades!

Sources for statistical data and pictures:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balvant_Parekh
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidilite_Industries
  3. http://www.pidilite.com/
  4. http://www.pidilite.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ANNUAL-REPORT-2018-19.pdf
%d bloggers like this: