My shave with Gillette Guard – the 9-cent razor blade.



I read an Article by Ellen Byron in the Wall Street Journal about Gillette’s newest shaving system, just then being introduced into the Indian market. It wasn’t the multi-bladed tool (is that a razor or a lawnmower?) that we’ve come to expect with each new product launch from the big razor manufacturers. In fact, it was just the opposite: a single blade razor that costs just $0.11 (now just $0.09 at today’s exchange rate).


According to the article, the move was part of P&G’s “push into emerging markets for new customers and growth...forcing P&G to be more modest on scale and more flexible on price. Gillette commands about 70% of the world's razor and blade sales, but it lags behind rivals in India and other developing markets, mainly because those consumers can't afford to buy its flagship products.” (They aren’t alone!)


So the company reverse-engineered the product for the market. It determined what the Indian market could afford to pay and then adjusted the product features to meet an acceptable COGs and necessary margin.


How did they do it?


Again, according to the article, “To cut costs, P&G eliminated the lubrication strip and colorful handle designs Indian men weren't willing to pay for. Though most men in the U.S. and Western Europe prefer a heavy razor handle, P&G found Indian men prefer a lighter weight, which also cut costs.”


I had to wonder - if Gillette could manufacture a razor blade that sold for 9-cents, how could they justify a five blade razor blade selling for $5 here in the U.S. (instead of a more reasonable $0.45)? How different could the blades themselves actually be?


The curiosity was too much for me. I had to see for myself. Thanks to eBay, it only took a few clicks (and about two weeks delivery time) until I had my chance. When the package finally arrived, I had a few days of stubble – perfect timing. I tore the razor open and went right to task. It was definitely a cheap-looking razor handle - maybe $0.02 of material - but the single blade looked legitimate as far as I could tell and I was willing to give it a shot.


Taking my time, I found that that the blade performed surprisingly well on the first pass. As a shaver who is prone to ingrown hair, particularly around my neck, I had already changed my shaving regimen to include fewer blades which helped tremendously. Given that, I pushed for a second pass directly against the grain – something I never do. In the end, I have to concede that it gave me a great shave.


The cheap handle aside, for 9-cents, it was about the best price-performer razor with which I’ve shaved. [Full disclosure, the price came closer to $0.48 by the time it got shipped to me, but still way ahead of this.] A little post-shave moisturizer and I was out the door. No nicks, no burn, no bumps. 2012 is already off to a good start! Namaste.

- Stan


**UPDATE:** Whoa! Now I think I know why they are 9-cent blades. I stand by my the earlier post above wrt shave #1. That said, shave #2 with the same blade was bru-tal! My neck has never burned more and even three days later still looks like I was dragged neck first across a gravel driveway. These are one-shave blades for sure.

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