With Indian government’s blessing, Unicharm makes paper diapers during lockdown

11, May. 2020

Photo by Pranav Kumar Jain on Unsplash
Photo by Pranav Kumar Jain on Unsplash

By Yukiko Amano

NEW DELHI, NNA – Japanese diaper and sanitary goods maker Unicharm Corp. is producing paper diapers in India despite a nationwide lockdown as the government considers its products to be essential.

Unicharm India Pvt. Ltd. resumed production at plants in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat in early April and Suri City in the southern state Andhra Pradesh on May 6, the wholly owned subsidiary’s marketing director Yuji Ikeda said. India issued a stay-at-home order March 25 to contain the coronavirus outbreak and began rescinding the order in phases from May 4.

The subsidiary that began output in 2009 makes what the government considers essential daily goods with a high domestic market share, Ikeda said in a phone interview with NNA on May 4.

The plants now provide disposable diapers and sanitary napkins to 26 Indian warehouses. Unicharm’s “MamyPoko” has an estimated 38 percent share of the Indian diaper market, the second largest after Proctor & Gamble’s “Pampers” with 45 percent. Its “Sofy” brand has an 8 percent share of the sanitary napkin market against P&G’s “Whisper” at 38 percent and Johnson & Johnson with 30 percent, Ikeda said.

But Unicharm India still struggles with obstacles in production, logistics and distribution. Just 300 some employees staff the Ahmedabad plant compared to a maximum 1,500 workers before the stay-at-home order. Roughly 30 percent of its normal truck fleet can do shipments, Ikeda said.

About 70 percent of an estimated 1,000 wholesalers and sales agencies in India have resumed sales and their working hours are limited to three hours a day, Ikeda added.

The local subsidiary is also taking note of new consumer behaviors, Ikeda said.

Indian shoppers buy more diapers at once now to secure a supply at home, the marketing head said, while sales are strong at smaller drug stores and grocery stores as well as through e-commerce.

Unicharm India's Ahmedabad plant in the western state of Gujarat (Photo courtesy of Unicharm India)
Unicharm India's Ahmedabad plant in the western state of Gujarat (Photo courtesy of Unicharm India)