Swad of Success: Regional FMCG firms like Panjon, Bisk Farm, Mapro, raising funds to expand operations
By Sagar Malviya
After a gap of almost four years, TV commercial of the once popular Swad digestive candy hit the screens early this month. Swad, which is making a come back, is one of the brands owned by 48-year old Panjon, an Indore-based firm that sells candies to balm and toothpaste endorsed by Shammi Kapoor and Sonali Bendre in its glory days. The plan is to reach out to more states, expand product portfolio and grow sales ten-fold in two years.
Panjon isn’t alone. Almost half a dozen smaller regional firms such as Bisk Farm, Mapro, Wagh Bakri and V-John, among others, are entering newer states, some advertising for the first time, while others planning to raise funds to survive a fresh salvo by large consumer goods companies that expanded into the turf of smaller rivals last year.
“While our products are doing well in MP and UP, competition is also getting intense in these home markets,” admitted Atul Kothari, managing director at Panjon, which is in talks with a clutch of private investors to raise funds for expansion. “We are looking to enter Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar this year,” he said. The company plans to add more than 1,400 distributors to its existing network of 600.
So what exactly was the trigger? Well, for one, large FMCG firms have been aggressively reaching out to rural consumers through expanded distribution, which led to smaller regional players losing market share across segments in their core markets.
Over the past couple of years, P&G has almost doubled its distribution reach and now has a direct reach of 1.3 million outlets, against HUL’s direct reach of 1.60 million outlets. Emami expanded reach by as much as 30 per cent primarily in rural areas, while HUL added more than 50,000 villages to its network just last year. Ditto, in the case of Dabur, which rolled out special rural focused sales initiatives across eight key states and widened reach in 71 high potential districts.
However, the regional players are now plotting a counter attack, not just in their existing markets but also in newer states. The Rs 500-crore SAJ Food Products that dominatesEastern Indiawith its biscuit Bisk Farm is a case in point.
“Last year, we entered Karnataka and are planning to reach Andhra Pradesh next month. We aim to have a national footprint by 2013,” saidVijay Singh,MDof Kolkata-based SAJ Food Products. He added that the firm has even discussed internally about coming with a public issue in the next two years.
But it won’t be easy. And smaller rivals are aware of the fact that price competitiveness with national players would rather be futile with the latter having economies of scale. Hence, they are looking to cash on through their quality proposition rather than being price warriors.
Maharashtra-based processed food firm Mapro Foods andGujarat’s tea company Wagh Bakri feel that they are better in terms of quality compared with rivals such as Hindustan Unilever. “Large players are very aggressive in terms of schemes and offers. But we believe that consumers want quality and not price-offs,” said Parag Desai, executive director of Wagh Bakri, that is looking to enterPunjaband Haryana.
Some firms that already have an indirect reach nationally are also keen to distribute products directly and cut costs on intermediaries. Delhi-based Vi-John is reworking its distribution strategy by eliminating super-stockist and instead having selling agents in each state.
“We are planning to add over 1,500 distributors and 70 stockists to have direct reach in western and southern markets,” said Vimal Pande, CEO of Vi-John Group, which has 30 stockists and 2,500 distributors.
Modern trade is doing its bit too. “Regional brands need to build stronger consumer connect to keep their consumer franchise or they could expand distribution to add new consumers and grow base,” said Devendra Chawla, president – food and FMCG at Future Group.