The ballads of a soap

Wafiur Rahman
Wednesday, June 21st, 2017


 

How Pocha Shaban revolutionised an industry in Bangladesh back in the 80’s

 

“Naam e noy, guun e porichoy” – Goes the slogan of one of the most interesting and successful brands in Bangladesh. The slogan, as it stands in English, is “Not in the name, but in the quality, lies true identity”.

 

The name “1 No. Pocha Shaban” can be roughly translated as “Number 1 Spoilt Soap”. This highly unconventional and usually derogatory name is what interestingly lies behind the brand’s success. Hazi Siddique Mia, the founder of the company, named its primary product from an interesting experience, where he observed that a tea stall named “Pocha Cha” (Stale tea) was selling its tea like hot cakes, and the name made people very curious to try out the tea. Hence, he decided to name the company “Alam’s 1 No. Pocha Shaban” (Alam’s 1 No. Pocha Soap).

 

Causing raised brows, and curiosity among the masses, “1 No. Pocha” launched with a flair, and penetrated the laundry soap market in 1980 with the company’s first ever product. It soon became a monopoly, crediting its success to its superior quality and its self-contradicting brand name.

 

From its humble beginning till date, the company has executed localised selling, and basically relies upon wholesalers and retailers buying directly from the central office in Moulvibazar in Old Dhaka. Hence, it saves itself from any cost required to construct and maintain distribution channels. The soap factory is also based in Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka), where caustic soda, oils (palm, soybean etc.), silicate, perfuming agents and washing powder is combined to produce this persistently popular soap. Before the advent of the washing powder, Pocha was a household favorite for taking care of laundry.

 

However, when the Bangladeshi laundry soap market was penetrated, around the turn of the millennium, by both international and national washing powder brands, Pocha began to lose its monopoly. To retain grip on the market, Pocha took several large initiatives. Firstly, it differentiated its mother product, “1 No. Pocha Soap”, resulting in the launch of “Pocha Green” and “Pocha Super Green”. It vamped up marketing efforts, coming up with a new Sales department which engaged in door-to-door selling. Advertising campaigns were also executed more often than before, primarily relying on “wall paintings” in rural and sub-rural areas.

 

However, majority of the company’s strategy still remained “pull-selling”. The new “Pocha Washing Powder” was launched in 2005, and product diversification was performed to introduce “Pocha Salt” and “Pocha Poultry Feed”. However,”1 No. Pocha Soap” was and still remains the company’s prime product, and even though the brand had seen better days, it still remains one of the most successful home-bred brands in Bangladesh.

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