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Advice on differentiating product

I am a lady entrepreneur from Sri Lanka. One of my friend convinced me to join the rodinhoods. Planning to start a mineral water plant.And my target customers are

1. Tourists who come to SL and whom I can sell the water to – I’ve already talked to a tourist company about the possibility.
2. The general public – especially at bus halts, etc – I’ve noticed that a lot of women especially buy them (including myself)
3. There are a lot of hotels in and around my area which would buy these up
And that there is no local industry in my area to do this

The problem is that bottled water  are very generic – how can I differentiate my product from other competitors ?


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  1. @ Jyoti .. thanks for the reply …what I think is it’s not just the shape or the colour of the sticker … You can target some people like kids and some women just going for a smart bottle … but it should be unique … but in which way that is my main concern …


    @ Vijay .. well you are correct I’m looking for the  big “differentiator”… and about your second comment some people might not like lemon taste  or even coconut (I myself don’t like coconut )

    so it has to be water … no matter what … So how can I make customers go for my product …



  2. Jyoti has shown some examples and if you notice carefully none of the bottle has TINT on the bottle here are few ideas-

    you have to decide yourself the USP of your product

    you should go for a sparkling plastic bottle with a great lable and name– you can use thin bottle for eg Poland spring here in US uses 20% less plastic in bottle and cap to go GREEN on environment.

    your water should not be added with any  ARTIFICALTASTE (as vijay said) then it may go in bevarage catagory and FDA regulations.

    HImalayan water Tastes awafull as mentioned by Neil because its packed in Himachal if I am not wrong from natural water streams and since it is a back ward area it gets govt concession in excise

    Your PR has to be killing

    last but not least- PRICE at which you are offering the product and your target customer, as bottled water is also ment for catagory of customers. there some very expensive water avilable inthe market.

    USP has to be- look, brand name,Packaging, TASTE, Price and PR.



  3. thanx Neil and Ashwin

  4. I’d look at it from a slightly obtuse angle this.

    The answer to your Primary target market/Differentiation is something you have mentioned yourself. HOTELS and OFFICES in your neighbourhood.

    My suggestions are as follows :

    1. At this stage(assuming that you have the mineral water plant down to a tee), your target should ONLY be the hotels and offices. You’ll have a tremendous advantage.
    Firstly, as you said there is no player in this market, so its a clear and open field for you. Supplying to them means a regular supply contract. Lock them in for a 3-5 years and give great deals. 
    Secondly, you’d rather be spending on a great product, and ensuring the supply chain to these offices and hotels is secured. It would work out more cost effective than trying to get into setting up a supply chain to retail stores.
    Hotels use water across their rooms, restaurants, banquets.
    Offices use is in dispensers, pantries and board rooms.

    The key would be providing a good price and prompt delivery.

    2. I do not think you need to target the general public at this stage, as the capital cost to setup this operation (as Neil pointed out) will be tremendous. This should be part of your Phase 3

    So my 2 bit is target the following areas in this order:
    1. Offices

    2. Hotels

    3. Restaurants

    4. General Public

    You will have water jugs(dispensers) primarily and a smaller quantity of bottled water for these establishments.

    Your differentiating factors could be 
    1. Environment friendly bottles/jugs (it would mean a cost analysis and comparison between regular plastic and bio-degradable plastic) 

    2. Bundle the dispensers as well as the Water cooling machines into your package. It would mean finding out who are the manufacturers and Collaborate with them for something like this.
    3. Prompt Service, Pickup and Drop Off for the supply.

    I hope this helps. 

  5. Nadeera – have you examined what VITAMIN Water has done in the USA?


    Just adding Vitamins created an entire new category.


    Also just VITAMINS – coz everyone likes to eat them!


    Check –


  6. My good friend Balu Nayar just wrote this on my FB wall:


    Balu Nayar And here’s a guy we unearthed, who’s marketing water – check out his products. Beauty Care water, Wealthy care water, Family Care water, Study Care water… Alok Rodinhood Kejriwal, you might want to tell your friend about this 


  7. Agree with Alok. Vitamin water is big in UK as well. Everybody gets the habit of having one in the morning and the color it comes up with really makes everyone to pick it up. But this is seen more of an alternate to beverages like coke/pepsi.


    Not sure Nadeera wants to try this category(beverage) or the aquafina type category like the water for thirsty with quality. 


    I would recommend the beverage category as competition is yet to start. And people love the medical terms to justify their purchase.



  8. hey guys …. Charging for nature’s provide (Water) has never been something i ever understood . anyways what i would say is the Mineral Water industry is a ripoff of when u see that most of the brands are not worth what they claim to be .But, they still exist and run a brisk loot quite efficiently. Why and how ? The answer does not lie in a Shape, taste , or color …. Its the pricing and distribution network which makes them click .

    Like many here mentioned …Himalaya does not pass the ‘Taste test’  but is still the most expensive when compared to others . while Aquafina is the cheapest and that makes it a hit with the distributors who in turn push the product more . Thus guarantee a wider reach amongst the consumer.Others like Oxyrich (Manichand product) run riots in the rural area again following the same distribution network product principle and sizing the local unbranded water segments.

    Lets understand that the only reason one opts for a bottle of Mineral Water is as a alternative to safe portable drinking water that nature provides as a thirst quencher and nourishment to the body which might not be available in the area or its surrounding . So when you need water , you don’t go selecting or looking for a particular brand….you just stretch you hand to get whatever branded water is available around.

  9. Just like to pitch in that Himalaya, Vedica, Qua, Catch or other of its likes called Mountain Water, have literally no process which should make them so costly.


    It is just that these brands pack water at source, which gets them under Tax holiday norms. Literally speaking, they don’t pay any Excise tax on the product, and hence can print ANY MRP. This makes them a fit Brand for all Hotels, Restaurants Airports, which normally charged Rs 200/- for a Sandwich of cost Rs 30/-, but couldn’t do the same with water. Now, these brands provide them with an alternative. These Brands that sell at Rs 80 a Bottle, don’t cost the Hotel more than Rs. 15.

    A fit case for case study is Bisleri Vedica which is available for Rs 30 MRP as well as Rs. 50 MRP.

    Have to agree, all Mountain water taste yuck.



    just look at the style of this brand… i used to buy it just for the bottle

  11. Gurpreet I am with you, it tastes horrible, its best to have not making onself used and immune to packaged water, it kills your ability later to cope up with any water.

  12. I saw the site and products they have great inosance and simplicity,

    coming back to Vitamin water there are racks and racks of it un US be it Whole foods are you go any where

    some one has to create that fad or craze back in India

  13. Hi Alok…TATA too is in process of launching similar water products. And i think its going to change the game in India

  14. Hi Nadeera,

                         At the end of the day you need to understand the crux ,why somebody buys a bottled water.I think following are the aspects

    • Hygiene – It comes with customer positioning (essentially customer Trust )
    • Portability
    • Price (should be affordable , unless targeted in premium category )
    • Convenience – Its is available everywhere

    Let got to Old school of Marketing Mix to differentiate

    • Product – Shape /Quality /Packaging /Hygiene
    • Price – Mass / Premium Segment
    • Place – Channel (Mass – everywhere , premium – specific places )
    • Promotion – Channels to promote (Ads/PR /WOM / Internet etc )

    Overall its takes time to build customer trust which translates to Brand , so you will need to do a sustained campaign to push the product.

  15. Thanx everyone for the valuable ideas………

  16. Hi,


    The customer segment that you want to serve is very competitive. There are a few important observations:

    1. As correctly pointed out in one of the previous posts, you need to have a strong distribution network to achieve feasibility. 2. People in your target segment give price a higher priority over design of bottle, nutrient value, etc.

    3. With time, the industry heavy weights can easily take out any advantage you have.

    4. So to answer your question, to differentiate I believe you need to change your target customer segment.  


    As Alok pointed out, VITAMIN water is doing really well. You can also look at VOSS- They position themselves as artesian water and claim to be the purest form of water sourced & processes directly from mountains. Their packaging is also unique. They are much like the APPLE of mineral water. Who do you target with such a product?- The Enterprises, the most loved target segment.


    Wish you all the best.  

  17. Wow.  What a question – how do you differentiate clear, tasteless WATER?   


    I’m thinking – in India, likely in Sri Lanka too, we don’t have the luxury of safe drinking water.  I buy bottled water because I don’t trust the water in the taps.  Many people don’t get water, and odd sources are known to cause only disease.  Yet all brands in India, from Pepsi to Himalaya, focus on the taste or how refreshing it is.  Can your differentiation therefore be “It’s Healthy”?  Better seals, packaging process, a recycling initiative – something that a consumer associates you with safe.


    Of course, this is assuming all you’re wondering about now is differentiation, and have the distribution in place?


    Just curious : I have a uncle who is into bottling of water in India for a large brand. Says there’s good money in it, with lower investment than the distribution and collection operations a actual brand needs to spend. Are you seeing this as an opportunity because of your local industry needs, or is it to go national?  


  18. And vitamins (the water soluble ones) are completely non-toxic – the excess is excreted in the urine.


    Wonder if there would be regulatory issues though ? Since she’d be adding stuff to the water ?

  19. Hi Nadeera,


    I lived in Colombo for 2 years and had a wonderful stay in your nature country.


    Bottled Water branding (if I may call that as sum of all the various factors that make a product attractive to buy) would require the following inputs, and many have expressed that in one way or the other in this chain:


    – Look and Appeal – the choice you would have to make on factors such as the current products, possible new formats and its respective cost


    – Name – Clearly health is an issue but I would say it is natural health that sells today, not as much clinical


    – Taste – Consider a touch that is not loud and keeps water as water: Sri Lanka is famous for natural fragrances: cinnamon, rose, lime. When you go for fragrance, it would be better if you consider a mix of bottled healthy water with a thirst quencher as an extended brand. And here fragrances could play a great role. However, you will need to test ride that for a while to see what would be the best composition of the bouquet, going by consumer preference


    – International name – Perhaps you could ride on an international brand, something from India that is successful, and find out the favoured brands in coastal India: Goa or Kerala


    – Since I am in M&A, there is a company in New Zealand who wish to sell out. So I can offer help if you wish to take that route.


    That’s my bit.


    Cheers and hello to Mt Lavinia, my favourite Lankan point

  20. i’ve found in bottled water in India, it’s the shape of the bottle and the colour style of the packaging.  In india, Qua and Himalaya have done a great job of this.  Himalaya with it’s distinct pink labeling and Qua with its trapezoidal bottle and european sounding name.

  21. I buy Aquafina because..


    1. I love it’s taste
    2. I love that bottle shape

    I like the idea of adding vitamins. For lazy entrepreneurs like me, it sounds like “Health without exercise”. 

  22. Reminds me of the Schiltz Beer marketing campaign from the 1920s.  Everybody used the same process.  But nobody told the story.  Tell the right story and you can carve a profitable space for yourself even among the generics.  

  23. Wow @Abey – thanks a lot ! I really learnt something important just now.

  24. Wishing you great luck on your venture. Its one of the most profitable business to be in if you can position the brand correctly. The key is to start monopolizing certain areas completely with your brand of water starting with smaller places and them move over to bigger locations in the city.

    I’ve seen how earlier people wanted AQUAFINA in India and then BISLERI became the most wanted water brand but now in Indian trains, they sell another brand called BIBA and people buy it without any issues. 

    Another segment is brands like QUA that sell for Rs.50 for 750 ml of water and are sold at 4 star and 5 star hotels.

    You highest amount of work you need to do with your brand of mineral water is POSITIONING. Everything else wont matter if you cant get the positioning right ( just my 2 cents )

  25. Alok is right everyone seems to be crazy after vitamin water here in US.

    Also check, with so many people becoming health conscious, Alo water (and other fruit flavored with pulp) water which are good for health are gaining traction and might just click.

  26. Hi ,

    As per my prespective ,what so ever the diffrentation and many Brands in mineral water industry to get your product
    sold in market u need PUSH and not PULL strategy most of the consumer are not going to ask for specific brand they just buy what retailer PUSH them, to make Good Sales of your product u need to give good Margins to retailer over other Brands.
    as far as Diffrentaion, you can make some good packaging innovation ,flavoured water ,better promotions etc
    if you can maintain healthy Margins after doing all above.  
    As far as i know  Mineral water Business is PUSH model and NOT PULL .  

  27. Some thoughts on how you can differentiate in a pretty commoditised business:

    1. SOURCE : Evian, Himalaya etc etc – they all are differentiated based on WHERE their water comes from. is that an Option for you? Check FIJI Water out….a stunning success !  Pls check this link :

    2. BENEFIT: You can own a core Emotional benefit – Freshness, Coming Alive, Relieving Tiredness etc. But this means big spends on communication.

    3. INGREDIENT/ADDITIVE:  So whether its Vitaminised water or whatever, that is another route especially if the Additive chosen is Unique and somehow “ownable”.

    4. DISTRIBUTION / AVAILABILITY: You can also build Niche brands by restricting distribution initially. For example, sell ONLY at SPAs in hotels , trying to create the thought “Spas are healthy, rejuvenating. The Spas only use this brand of water. They must know something I dont. So this brand must be healthy, natural and rejuvenating. ( To create a new marketing jargon – Osmotic Brand building” !! 🙂

    5. UNIQUE SHAPE = UNIQUE BENEFIT: You could have a unique shape not just for shape but where the shape adds to the benefit of the brand. For example, a bottle designed such that it can be “clipped on” to belts – so great drink for hikers etc.


  28. Hi Nadeera, I may have a point of view and which can become a differentiating factor for you. Install Fountains of Filtered Water at all the public places like Bus Stands, Markets, Malls and Multiplexes and sell purified and filtered water through the automated water dispensing systems into your customer’s empty water bottle. You can give a refill of one liter bottle by accepting a coin of Rs.5 or sell coupons through retailers nearby to get water out of the machine. I have noticed that when we travel for a longer duration we love to carry our own water pitcher and loath for a facility where we can refill our water pitcher. If you create such kind of Water dispensing system which will guarantee 100 % pure and filtered water and when people will see it any many places of their convenience they will start carrying their water pitchers (In fact you can sell them your own branded good quality PU Pitcher at a price of course ) This business model will create lot many differentiators for for you 

    • This will save environment by reducing the distribution and in turn production of hazardous Plastic or PET bottles.
    • You can sell the refill of empty water pitcher at phenomenally low cost. Those who are using big water containers of 20 Lit. in their office already know how economical it is when it is bought on a scale.
    • You would be able to sell it like an ATW machine (All Time Water) Machine, this machine can be plugged to a water container of 20 Lit or a bank of 4 to 5 containers of 20 Lit and you can appoint an agency to change the containers.
    • You might get some assistance from Govt agencies as you are helping to preserve nature by reducing water bottle consumption.
    • Save Environment can become your USP and you can attract customers who are looking for greener options. If you remember before the bottled water era we all use to carry our own water pitchers or bottles and refill them at all the public water stations. With some marketing effort you can revive this forgotten habit in consumer

    May be this sound a foolish idea but buying and selling bottled water also sounded a foolish idea in the beginning 🙂 You should be be focussing on creating a Blue Ocean rather than finding means to swim the Red Ocean of competition.

    Wish you all the best for your new venture  

  29. Interesting Mandar!!!!

  30. take a look at this…

  31. Hi Nadeera,

    You may like to have a look at my post “Water Water Everywhere” on

  32. Instead of selling water bottles to them (Which costs 12 to 15 INR) why don’t you sell single glass of water (obviously filtered) and also sell bottles if anyone wants. a glass must not cost more than 2 INR. you will get more customers, and that is also a good cause too.

    install a automatic vending machine which is available in the market, if anyone puts up a coin the water will dispatch..

    @Alok and other senior members might give a better insight on my idea. 

  33. Had an amazing experience when I visited Ahmedabad, 3 yrs back. Might be an option worth considering:

    There’s this hotel (and restaurant) near the railway station (name forgotten). It served packaged water free – best part was the brand was the same as the hotel. I believe it tasted quite decent.

    My suggestion is that you may distribute your packaged water ‘co-branded’ with the restaurants, etc. It might be a very interesting proposition for the restaurants, which should pay a premium for this (they may or mat not choose to give it to consumers for free). You can create a long term lock-in with this kind of arrangement, also select the best channel partners – it will help them in branding too.

    It carries the added advantage of having low customization cost as the basic product/packaging will be the same while the label on top would have to be customized. This would be a big ‘differentiator’ for sure!

    All the best.

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