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Though concept of bottled water in Western countries picked up in early 1900 , Indian Elite first tasted it only in 70”s [as it was difficult to gulp down the fact by an average Indian that water was up for sale!!

“Bisleri” , Bombay based brand with Italian antecedents was THE MINERAL WATER and it ruled till early nineties under monopolistic conditions and had a dream run for so many years. Mineral water meant “BISLERI” and vice versa. Growth in tourism ,opening up Indian economy, rapid urbanization [ 33% India is considered urban] shortage and improper quality of drinking water saw a spurt of growth in bottled water , all over the country in early 90”s. Till that time, bottle of drinking water meant good old “BISLERI” packed in PVC bottle.


Early Nineties

The filtration process was turning a new leaf with reverse osmosis technology trying to make a foothold. Around same time, Polyethylene Terapthalate , widely known as PET, too, started gaining ground as an ideal packing medium. Its usage was beginning to be accepted. With numerous companies taking a plunge around same time, the experiment with process, packing and market was on…

Boom !

With no regulations to control neither the entry nor the quality, the market saw phenomenal and unchecked growth for 7 years. Time and again, media hailed this industry as a SUNRISE ONE and put the annual growth rate at phenomenal 40%. Small entrepreneurs, big business houses, individuals, distributors, made a beeline for this industry. And then came the disturbing part; In between there were numerous reports of inferior quality brands, duplications of the product, recycling of bottles, utilization of tap water. Even well known brands had a tough time with reports of inferior quality involving them started making rounds.

Any brand with an Indian processor was being looked at with suspicion by knowledgeable customers. These suspicions were confirmed firmly by CONSUMER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH SOCIETY through its independent testing of 13 leading brands [January 1998], and the tests were startling. Most of them were not up to the mark!!


Perturbed by these reports, finally MINISTRY OF HEALTH & FAMILY WELFARE [Department of Health] vide notification dated 10 it compulsory to obtain ISI mark for every processor operating under Indian Territory. It was supposed to be enforced from 29 March, 2001 and later date was relaxed till 30 these standards were prepared long back, nobody had bothered to obtain the mark [Barring one: BlueLite , Delhi]

ISI has stringent procedure of screening the unit .Process, hygienic conditions, in house lab testing, packing & documentation pertaining to these. Due to absence of regulation nobody wanted to touch ISI with a barge pole as apart from these lengthy procedures, a tag of heavy marking fee came along. Post Regulation, it became fate accompli. Things were not the same…

The new regulations outlined the processes, packing, hygienic conditions, in house labs, presence of chemist and micro biologist, rigorous testing of product, voluminous documentation and heavy marking fee. Out of unofficial reports of presence of more than 3500 processors and packers, only handful survived Most of them are bottled up!


Schweppes was the first Multi national to enter Indian market in 1997 but couldn't survive and made a hasty retreat.

While Pepsi’s "AQUAFINA" & Nestle’s “PURE LIFE” [1999-2002 ] started their sojourn with Indian Bottled Water, entry of "Kinley" [ May 2000] really shook the market with Media Blitzkreig , aggressive marketing and maximum utilization of existing distribution channels. By the end of that year, it notched up 8-9% market share, equivalent to what Aquafina had achieved after 15 months of operation. The aggression continued & eroded market leader’s share considerably and in just in 3 years it achieved what others collective couldn’t do in a decade: Shake the leader. By the end of the year 2002, claims were made that KINLEY HAD dented the considerable market of leader but BISLERI still maintains that it has unassailable share of 50 % till date


Consumption of bottled water in India is linked to the level of prosperity in the different regions. The western region accounts for 40 per cent of the market and the eastern region just 10. However, the bottling plants are concentrated in the southern region – of the 3400 + bottling water plants in India, more than 55 % are in 4 southern states . This is a major problem because southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, is water starved

As multinationals have entered Indian Shores, making rapid strides in Indian Market and have eroded market share, image and infrastructure of leaders and small players alike. My belief is that through methodical approach, Indian companies CAN withstand this onslaught, which is threatening to gobble up the competition & eventually, the Market. Though in a way, this entry has provided a semblance of professionalism to the market and Indian firms HAVE noted the same. Unless a matching product, not necessarily coming from huge infrastructure matching them, is brought in the market, it would be reduced to NO COMPETITION.

My wishes to present Indian entrepreneurs and those who are planning to take the plunge. If one has general perception that bottled water in India is a saturated Market now, take my words: it is just the beginning and thirsting for more, day by day…