Going into homes to make a product people like
"That’s another ‘a-ha’ moment," Carvalho said. "That taught us the importance that you really need to go where your consumers are, not just to talk to them, but observe and spend time with them to gather the key insight."
P&G acquired Gillette in 2005 and the next several years were spent integrating the companies. But in 2008, the focus on India returned when Carvalho decided to bring 20 people, ranging from engineers to developers, from Gillette’s U.S. headquarters to India for three weeks.
They spent 3,000 hours with more than 1,000 consumers at their homes, in stores and in small group discussions. They observed people’s routines throughout the day, sometimes staying late into the evening. They also hosted small group discussions. "We asked them what their aspirations were and why they wanted to shave, and how often," Carvahlo said.
They learned that families often live in huts without electricity and share a bathroom with other huts. So men shave sitting on their floors with a bowl of water, often without a mirror, in the dark morning hours. As a result, shaving could take up to half an hour, compared with the five to seven minutes it takes to shave in American households. And Indian men strain to not cut themselves.
The takeaway: In the U.S., razor makers spent decades on marketing centered on a close shave, adding blade after blade to achieve a smoother cheek. But men in India are more concerned about not cutting themselves.
"I worked in this category for 23 years and I never realized with those insights that’s how they think about the product," said Eric Liu, Gillette’s director of research and development, global shave care.
With that knowledge, the Gillette team started making a new razor for the Indian market. In nine months, P&G developed five prototypes.
The company declined to give specifics on each prototype for competitive reasons. But they tested things like handle designs, how well the blade cuts hair and how easy the razor is to rinse.
The resulting Guard razor has one blade, to put the emphasis on safety rather than closeness, compared with two to five blades found on U.S. razors.
One insight from filming shavers was that Indians grip the razors in many different ways, so the handle is textured to allow for easy gripping. There’s also a hole at the handle’s base, to make it easier to hang up, and a small comb by the blade since Indians hair growth tends to be thicker.
Next, the company had to figure out how to produce the razor at the right price. "We had to say ‘How do we do this at ruthless cost?’" Carvalho said.
P&G scrutinized the smallest details. It cut the number of components in the razor down to 4 compared with 25 needed for Mach3, Gillette’s three-blade razor. They even made the razor’s handle hollow so it would be lighter and cheaper to make.
"I can remember talking about changes to this product that were worth a thousandth, or two thousandths of a cent," said Jim Keighley, the company’s associate director for product engineering.
The result? The Guard costs about one third of what it costs to make the Vector, Gilllette’s low-price Indian razor before Guard. Gillette sells the Guard for 15 rupees, or 34 cents, and each razor blade is 5 rupees, or 12 cents.
The company’s strategy seems to have worked. P&G says with 9 percent market share, Guard has grown share faster than any other P&G brand in India. And Gillette’s market share for razors and blades in India has grown to 49.1 percent, according to Euromonitor. That’s up from 37.3 in 2007.