Karsanbhai Patel lost his daughter Nirma in a car accident, and went on to immortalise her name in a brand he has been nurturing like his own daughter. Today, Sabki Pasand Nirma is a phrase that goes beyond lip service. The product Karsanbhai once sold from door to door, today has an overall 20% market share in soap cakes and about 35% in detergents.
Karsanbhai started Nirma in 1969, in an era when India's domestic detergent market had very few players, mainly multi national companies, which targeted India's affluent. For most middle class and poor people, detergents were not affordable. Karsanbhai started making detergent powder in the backyard of his house in Khokra near Ahmedabad, and sold them from door to door at Rs 3 per Kg, when other brands were selling detergents at the range of Rs 13 per Kg.
Business Standard reports how during early 80s, when Nirma was struggling with sales, Karsanbhai came out with a brilliant plan to dry out the market of his products collecting all due credits. This was followed by a massive advertising campaign featuring his daughter in a white frock singling the famous Nirma jingle. Customers flocked to stores, only to return empty-handed. As the demand for Nirma peaked, Karsanbhai overwhelmed the market with his products, leading to massive sales. That year, sales of Nirma peaked, making it the most sold detergent, way above their nearest rival - Surf of Hindustan Unilever.
This year, as Karsanbhai bought the LafargeHolcim’s cement business for $1.4 billion, he proved yet again, that his entrepreneurial appetite is far from over. Mint reports how the deal will help Nirma gain a stronger hold in Rajasthan and the surrounding region.
An entrepreneur in the truest sense, Karsanbhai, although a media shy person, has a keen eye for nation building. He started the Nirma Institute of Technology in 1995, followed by the Nirma University of Science and Technology in 2003, overseen by the Nirma Education and Research Foundation. In 2004, he launched the Nirmalabs education project, aimed at training and incubating entrepreneurs in India. In 2010, Karsanbhai Patel was conferred with Padma Shri.