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Gillette Guard in India - Customizing a Product with Customer Insights

ET Cases, 9 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Kumar Gambhiraopet and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

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Gillette Guard in India – Customizing a Product with Customer Insights


In 2008, despite being the market leader of the 1,000 crore and 5 billion units’ razors and blades market in India, Gillette India Ltd. (GIL), witnessed a tepid growth rate as its volume sales increased by a minimal 2.8% (fiscal year 2009 year ended June).1 Its flagship brand Mach3 Turbo (Three Blade) of the razor category introduced 4 years earlier for the premium segment (with a price tag which was 10 times more than its two-blade competitors,) couldn’t garner the expected mileage. In a bid to increase its sales GIL introduced Mach3 in a new avatar slashing the price to 125 or 60% lower than the Mach3 Turbo. This product was customized and targeted for greater conversion from the double edged segment, which accounts for 62% and 86% of the razors and blades market in value and volume terms respectively.2

In the year ended June 2010, its total shaving products and cartridge sales rose by only 5% in volume terms, but by 53% in value terms.3 Until 2010, GIL had been following a strategy of marketing cheaper US developed razors. However, low-income Indian customers who could not afford Gillette’s premium price relied on the outdated, conventional double-edged razor shaving products.4 Analysts opined that, while Gillette commands about 70% of the world’s razor and blade sales, it lags behind rivals in India and other developing markets, mainly because those consumers can’t afford to buy its flagship products.5 What intrigued the GIL team is that how to capture the 82% of the blade market of India and convert them to razor segment? Identifying a huge opportunity in the bottom of the pyramid, the team kicked off a massive research program to identify the innate consumer needs with a strategic intent.........................


Exhibit I: Growing Rural Markets in India

Exhibit II: Estimated Market Share for Selected Razor Brands in India - 2009

Exhibit III: Gillette Vector Razor

Exhibit IV: Shaving at a Roadside Barber Shop

Exhibit V: Gillette Guard – Product Features

Exhibit VI: Gillette Guard – Core Brand Values

Exhibit VII: WALS – Women Against Lazy Stubble & Bollywood Actor Madhavan for Guard

 1 Manas Chakravarty, et al., “Gillette India to beat market’s growth rate”,, March 22nd 2010
  • 2 Ibid.
  • 3 Ravi Ananthanarayanan, “Gillette India: short-term pain for long-term gain”,, November 28th 2010
  • 4 Gabriela Berner, et al., “Sharp Focus”,, April 13th 2014
  • 5 Ellen Byron, “Gillette’s Latest Innovation in Razors: the 11-Cent Blade”,, October 1st 2010

Teaching Note Preview

Gillette Guard in India – Customizing a Product with Customer Insights



Credited as the first product custom designed for Indian markets, Gillette Guard the low cost razor was introduced in late 2010. Developed considering the needs, culture and attitude towards shaving habits of Indian consumers, Gillette Guard is touted as “one of the most significant product launches in Gillette history”. This case study enables an interesting discussion on how customer-centric innovation would lead to custom built products through basic concept of disruption - driving growth through new offerings that are simpler, more convenient, easier to access and more affordable. With sizeable dilemmas posed in the case study (how Gillette came out of pushing the products strategy (selling foreign products in India) to devising new ones for specific markets; How Gillette did reverse its innovation, keeping the valued customer at the core of its strategy; How did Guard serve the value proposition which was mutually reinforced to the value-for-money customers and retailer as well; How Guard can be a role model for companies to strategize their pushing the product strategy to the Go to Market Strategy), it offers significant insights into how new and successful products can be launched in emerging markets.

Prerequisite Conceptual Understandings

The students/participants should be encouraged to read the following mandatory article as it would help them to broaden the intended purport of the case study:

  • • John T. Gourville, “Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers – Understanding the psychology of new adoption”, Harvard Business Review, June 2006 – To understand the changing paradigms of new product development in sync with emerging consumer trends and regional tastes
  • • In addition, the CR (Class Representative) was asked to arrange for different shaving products (Razors, double-edge blade razors, etc.) to be arranged for the classroom discussion. This was to highlight the importance of the science and art of getting to know the innate customer needs.


The students’ observations and insights (from the end customer point of view) were quite revealing and set the context for this case analysis.

Expected Learning Outcomes

This case study would help achieving the following learning outcomes:

  • • How companies can strategize customer-centric product innovation
  • • What were the factors that have contributed to Gillette Guard’s phenomenal success in India’s BOP market
  • • What it takes for Gillette India Limited to sustain its winning streak


Assignment Questions

  • I. What was the tipping point for the Gillette India Limited to reach out to the rural markets in India and how it has leveraged the potential of the fortune at the  bottom of the pyramid in the shaving segment? What were the factors which helped Gillette India Limited to reverse its innovation in devising the tailor made low cost razor ‘Gillette Guard’ for the value centric customers in rural Indian markets?
  • II. Why do you think Gillette had to fly in 20 people from Gillette’s headquarters to observe the rural markets and interact with 3000 respondents? Couldn’t they have done with Indians? Do you think Gillette could have saved few thousands of dollars had they opted for a market research instead of personal observations and interactions?
  • III. ............


Case Analysis and Discussion

The classroom discussion and analysis for this caselet could be summarized through the Board Plan [Exhibit (TN)-I]. However, the classroom discussion was facilitated under three broad sections as explained below..............


Exhibit (TN)-I: The Board Plan

Exhibit (TN)-II: Gillette’s Razor Products Pyramid Differentiation

Exhibit (TN)-III: Guard’s Innovative Features – Uses

Exhibit (TN)-IV: Guard STPD Strategy

Exhibit (TN)-V: Gillette Guard’s Marketing Mix

Exhibit (TN)-VI: Product Customization Matrix

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Best Selling Case Study
This case study enables a discussion on how to develop a new and successful product, especially for an emerging market like India. After having been in India for decades, Gillette (acquired by Procter&Gamble in 2005) focused its attention on market penetration, especially the BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid) market. After having been tested with MIT students, Gillette launched Vector in 2002, Gillette launched Vector to enter into the Indian BOP market but it was given a cold shoulder. Baffled by the Indian market response Alberto Carvalho, Vice President Global Gillette, conducted an India-centric study (with 20 people ranging from engineers to developers, from Gillette's headquarters) that resulted in a game changing product, 'Gillette Guard'. By 2013, Gillette's razors ruled the Indian market as out of every three razors sold, two were Gillette, especially Gillette Guard. This case study not only offers insights into developing and distributing a new product in an emerging market like India but also on how to sustain the newly acquired market position.

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand the importance and operationalization of customer-centric product innovation
  • To examine the factors that have contributed to Gillette Guard's phenomenal success in India's BOP market
  • To discuss and debate what it takes for Gillette India Limited to sustain its winning streak

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- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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