Triveni Group, one of India's largest sugar companies, is planning to double its hand sanitiser production in the next ten days and has said it wants to stay invested in the business even after the coronavirus pandemic dies down.
Like many other sugar producers in the country, Triveni got into bottling hand sanitisers using the ethyl alcohol produced in its factories to plug the acute shortage in the wake of the pandemic. It is planning to increase production from the current 4,000 litres to 5,000 litres in the next few days and then to 10,000 litres by May 1.
"We started production within 5 days of the lockdown," says Tarun Sawhney, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Triveni Engineering and Industries Ltd. "The main ingredient in the production of sanitisers is ethyl alcohol and we are following WHO recommended formulation by using 80 per cent ethyl alcohol which is produced in-house. The remaining ingredients are required in small quantities and sourced from the market. Our pricing falls well below the ceiling price fixed by the government, which is Rs 100 for 200 ml packs (and pro rata increase in prices for larger volume packs)."
So far the company has invested Rs 1.5 crore in phase 1 for producing sanitisers but it intends to ramp up investment 10-fold, commensurate with the increase in production. The company also plans to launch diferent variants like a 200/500 ml stock keeping unit (SKU).
"Bottling and packaging is being done in-house. We are in the nascent stages of production, and have catered to the government needs at this point in time. As production ramps up, we will launch it across FMCG and pharma channels and the initial orders through the same are in the process of execution," Sawhney says. "We would like to reiterate that our hand sanitiser business is here to stay and the product will very much continue to be a part of our portfolio, post the pandemic too."
Like Triveni a number of new players from a variety of sectors have joined the bandwagon to make sanitizers in the country. With demand shooting through the roof, sanitizers are expected to corner a significant 15 percent share of the overall personal hygiene segment of the market from just 4 percent right now.
"Our existing distillery workforce is providing the supervisory services in the production of sanitisers. We have employed about 30-40 additional people, mostly unskilled, who come from neighbouring areas of the distillery and in fact we are providing employment to the rural unskilled workforce," he says. "The government had been extremely proactive and supportive - it provided all the approvals (drug, excise etc.) on a priority basis, and also assisted in ensuring that the product is expeditiously distributed across the region in an unhindered manner. It is also assisting us with databases of drug distributors so that we can develop a separate distribution channel for our product to ensure that the product reaches the end customer very fast."
For now Triveni is supplying the sanitisers free of cost to district administrations and at subsidised rates of Rs 100 per litre to other government officers and institutions. Even when it hits the market for business, Sawhney says the sanitisers would still be priced well below the government's prescribed ceiling prices.
"We shall be going through the distribution chain at higher prices (more than Rs 100 per litre) but below the govt ceiling prices so that we are able to make some profits," he adds. "At this point in time, pure profit is not the motive."