Duroflex's Smita Murarka on good sleep & brand loyalty during Covid2019

The pandemic has raised consumer interest in sleep solutions, says Murarka.

MUMBAI: Increased sleep disturbances related to the global Covid2019 crisis have been coined as Covidsomnia by sleep experts, who have recorded a sudden influx of sleep disorder and deprivation cases over the last few months. Social isolation and disrupted routines are possibly the biggest reasons contributing to altered sleep schedules, unhealthy sleep patterns and insomnia. Fear and stress related to the pandemic is another reason people are losing sleep and becoming anxious or depressed. People who are worried about jobs, financial stability and health, coupled with a lack of a routine, are increasingly complaining of disturbed sleep patterns.

Clearly, a full night’s rest is the need of the hour, and the mattress you lay your weary body on can be a deciding factor in this regard. Duroflex vice president- marketing & e-commerce Smita Murarka spent some time with’s Trupti Jagtap, sharing her thoughts on how the brand has played a key role in gifting a good sleep to loved ones. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. In what category do you position Duroflex; the mattress category or sleep category?

Duroflex is a sleep solution company, while the mattress is a big bread and butter product for us; we are doing a lot more for the category, so a lot of our efforts in marketing and conversations are to drive home the importance of sleep and people’s immunity, especially this year. We have also launched a lot of products which improve the quality of sleep, whether it is pillows, accessories etc. A few months back we launched India’s first Durosleep, an antiviral mattress protector, which is new behaviour for the Indian audience. We spent a sizable amount of our input in September to launch this product because it was pretty relevant for its time. Mattresses are definitely our money-maker, but as a brand, we stand for sleep solution.

Q. How has the brand grown in this category?

October has been very healthy. From last year to this year, we have grown more than 50 per cent overall as a business, in both offline and online retail. This has been extremely encouraging, because as we know this was a difficult year for all. This month in particular has been a bumper month for Duroflex businesses.

Q. What has been your advertising and marketing strategy?

Throughout the year, right from March when Covid2019 became a reality we quickly sprang into action. At a time when most brands had stopped their marketing efforts to almost zero, we, in fact, went ahead. There was an awareness required on how important sleep is so without any commercial benefits we started the whole campaign of how sleep builds immunity and one should focus around it. We did a lot of activities through social media, and also campaigned on television.

Post that we have kept that conversation consistent. In fact, we also tied up with Luke Coutinho to do a live session; he is a holistic health and wellness expert. For Diwali, main marketing communication was “a good sleep” because Diwali in India is synonymous with the act of gifting to your loved ones friends and family. All our advertisements, especially our Diwali campaign, talk about work from home leading to a lot of mental health issues, that is why it is very important to have good sleep. So instead of really talking about only sales, we have talked about the whole behaviour and this Diwali, how you can gift yourself or loved ones a great mattress for their good sleep.

Q. What was your ad spend during the lockdown?

When lockdown was declared, obviously our business was zero, but we went ahead and communicated a lot organically. Plus, whatever investment was required in terms of TV spends or getting influencers on board, we did that. We had our first national tie-up with Big Boss and our TV campaign is up. There is a sizeable investment in marketing ongoing because we are seeing gains and we are also able to grow the business. We are able to take the brand overall whether it is in retail or online to a much greater extent, we are spending quite sizeable that is a decent proportion of our business overall.

Q. Which advertising medium gives the maximum returns?

We have been always active on our social media and digital, and we launched a new website a few months back which is very heavy on content. We see a lot of people reading about products and converting online or even offline through it. Our Instagram handle has the best engagement in the industry, and YouTube and TV have been leveraged extensively during the festive season to give us the reach. We are strengthening our consumer experience because we are finding that a lot of consumers are coming on their own and converting because of the store experience. These are the two things we are primarily focusing on – one is through digital, television, and the second is the in-store experience.

Q. Where do you stand in the market and who are your competitors?

We are definitely a leading brand, a brand that has stood the test of time for 50 years and for a long time, the south market has been our strength. A few years ago, we expanded into the western territory. But this year, contrary to prevailing trends, we are scaling our business in the national arena, and the process has been swift in the last six to seven months.

We have launched our offline presence in Delhi-NCR, north and in east and online. We are available on a lot of pin codes across the country, even tier-3 kind of markets. There is great competition in every category and every day there are new brands cropping up, which means these are exciting times.

At present, competition is primarily an unbranded category, we are gaining a lot of market share from other brands as well. Our brand efforts have paid off and our marketing efforts seems to have given us a good momentum. People are going for trusted brands like ours, that are hygienic and available through good channels. That’s why we have been able to gain lot more market share.

Q. When you interact with your consumers, how much are they aware of good sleep?

India is a country where we celebrate lack of sleep, we like to show off how we burnt the midnight oil, and I am sure that even in your industry you all talk about how you haven’t slept to submit a report or interview. We take pride in this, which is very wrong. For a long time we were trying to educate consumers on the necessity of sleep for good health, but in the hustle of daily life that was getting lost. The pandemic gave us the perfect opportunity and as a brand we have made sure that the conversation reaches consumers much more. The three pillars of health and immunity are food, fitness and sleep, that’s the reality. So of course, consumers are willing to now listen to us and act on it. First is awareness but before that is interest and the intent to listen. That has definitely increased manifold.

Q. Your recent ad talks about gifting mattress, are you trying to bring it into the gifting category?

What we are trying to say is this festive season is different, people need to focus on health and immunity, and on mental wellbeing too. So even if you are living alone, invest in something that is going to last you a good seven to ten years and get you great sleep – because the quality of mattress does affect your quality of sleep. That’s the awareness we are bringing about on the idea of gifting, that they also need to be around health and immunity benefits. That is something that will be valued by everyone, and that’s the truth of the hour.

Q. Are consumers ready to shell out money on this product?

Definitely. consumers in every stratum of the society, and not just the premium category where we operate in, are spending a lot on things that improve their homes. Mattress is one essential part of it, and they are understanding that because they have to spend a lot of time on their mattress, either working out of it or because they are at home. The awareness is something that has made them upgrade to better quality product like ours, which is great because we have not forced to fight on price or discounts anymore. They are flocking to us because our products have been certified by doctors and we have a lot of innovations which probably other brands are not able to claim, and consumers are willing to pay for that. Consumers are not willing to pay just because you’re advertising or just because you are talking about something but they will shell out if they see the real value of great products.

Q. When consumers come to buy your product at the store, what kind of experience do you give to your consumers?

While our online sales have really increased, our experience stores and our exclusive store sales have also gone up, which shows that there is a trust to walk-in to a great environment. There are a lot of precautions that we have taken right from day one. Sanitizers at the entrance, gloves, also masks if the consumer has forgotten it or wants an extra one, and the experience of mattress. We have disposable sheets that are put on so customers can touch and feel the mattress, and then sheets can be disposed. There is a TV which displays videos of our in-stock products and interactions take place at a comfortable, well-lit and hygienic space, which is not the case in the industry overall. Most consumers were unfortunately buying from places where they only have small spaces which is not conducive to go right now. We also encourage customers to understand about the product and give us a call at our direct consumer number and we get a similar selling experience on it. Basically, we are the only brand that is making sure that the same product is available across our online & offline platforms, and then it’s the consumer’s choice where they want to shop.

Q. At what rate is the sleep category growing in India?

Overall mattress and accessories will be growing at some 10 to 12 per cent but the branded segment is something that is growing faster so it was projected to grow at about 13 to 14 percent in 2019 (numbers are not out for this year). In the branded category, the numbers must have doubled because it is gaining a lot from unbranded segment. So that is the kind of growth the industry is seeing.

Q. Who is your target audience to purchase mattresses?

We are a premium brand and our target audience is anybody who is converting into a proper mattress – whether from unbranded or cotton – or upgrading. It is every Indian that we want to target. Because of the price points, a direct customer who will be able to buy our product will be in the 25-50 age group, but our core audience is around the age of 35 to 45. Earlier it was very skewed towards the male audience, but today there is an equal amount of participation from women as well, which is great to see. Today the demand for our products is national, it’s coming from tier-3 and tier-4. In fact, the growth rate in smaller towns is very encouraging.

Q. Are there repeat customers in this category, like loyal ones?

During our 50-year run, we have seen generations of customers from the same family shopping with us. Unlike fast fashion, consumers come to us for mattress once in a few years, but we have got hardcore loyal customers who shop with us for years. Now, we are also able to offer our mattress consumer additional products, like this month we saw a lot of sales for our pillows protectors. We have these additional products for which the consumers keep coming back, and the more ranges we are able to offer, a loyal consumer will add a lot of Duroflex products in their home or bedroom.

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