Featured case: Magic Water Saver:
Driving Sustainability at the Bottom of the Pyramid

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The case
Magic water

Who – the protagonists

Namrata Sachdev (name changed), Head of Laundry for Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

What?

In line with its commitment for responsible growth and reducing the environmental footprint, Unilever recently launched 'Magic Water Saver' in India:  a laundry innovation that helps to conserve three buckets of water for every laundry wash. The product is targeted towards low-income consumers since their struggle for water costs both money and effort as their water source is often located far away from their homes.

Why?Magic water

Even though almost three quarters of the Earth's surface is covered by water, less than 1% is available for human consumption. Water shortage is a harsh reality in over half the world. It is estimated that by 2030, the supply of water in India will only be enough to cope with half the amount needed. Today, over 100 million Indians struggle with water problems on an everyday basis. Doing the laundry process, especially by hand, is extremely water intensive.

When?

Following three years of development, Magic was launched in 2012.

Where?

The product was initially tested in a single state in India, Andhra Pradesh, where water is extremely scarce. It was made available across 21 towns in several thousand general trade stores.

Magic waterKey quote

‘As the development progressed, extensive consumer interactions revealed that the key challenge for Magic is that it is not just a new product or a new brand, but a completely new category. It also meant adding a new step to the already hated chore of laundry.’ – From the case

What next?

By June 2013, Magic had only achieved 40% of its target sales and profits were low. Various marketing approaches had been tried, including TV advertising and  product demonstrations in the streets and in individual homes. However, there was a considerable shortfall in meeting launch target volumes. What can Namrata do to turn things around?

 
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Magic Water Saver: Driving Sustainability at the Bottom of the Pyramid
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Teaching note
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The authors
Authors

Shilpa Madan and Sanjaya Singh Gaur

Shilpa, one of our scholarship recipients, explains why she is so passionate about sustainability.

Encouragement and feedback

The Case Writing Scholarship proved to be a privilege in several respects. As a first-time case writer, encouragement, coaching, and feedback from The Case Centre’s team of experts were immensely valuable in developing and sharpening the case. It also helped me gain access to market information that was not readily available in the public domain, facilitating a richer understanding of the problem in the case. 

Environmental imperative

Magic water

We are living in a world where natural resources are not just scarce, but depleting at an alarming rate. While today it may still be a ‘choice’ to invest in sustainable development, future leaders will have no option but to put environmental concerns at the forefront of their business practices.

Doing well by doing good

Having been a part of Unilever for several years, I have a deep sense of respect for its commitment to sustainability and its philosophy of doing well by doing good. Water shortage is a harsh reality in over half the world and the problem is even more acute in developing markets.

While sustainable products, such as Magic, are R&D breakthroughs, they need insight-driven, well-crafted, sharp marketing plans to achieve scale and do well for the environment and the business.

The challenge is compounded manifold when such products target low-income consumers – with low literacy rates, lack of awareness of environmental challenges and non-availability of media channels for conventional advertising.

Eye-opener

Teaching the case was an eye-opener. I learnt that what may be taken for granted by the case writer (who is very familiar with the situation), may not be clear for the reader. Teaching the case helped to improve the comprehension, storyline and clarity of the case.

Also, including multimedia references aided engagement and participation. Further, some interesting points emerged from the discussion with the participants and were incorporated into the teaching note. My biggest learning was to not underestimate the value of feedback, both from peers and students!

About the authors

Shilpa Madan was awarded a Case Writing Scholarship to write this case. She is a PhD Scholar at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
e Shilpa004@e.ntu.edu.sg

Sanjaya Singh Gaur, who supervised the writing of Shilpa’s case, is Professor and Head of Marketing at Sunway University Business School, Malaysia.
e sanjayag@sunway.edu.my

 

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