The third generation of the world's largest biscuit maker in volume terms, Parle Products, is thinking big. Their ambition is to put the company on the global map. However, growth can't be at the cost of the age-old Parle legacy of offering great value-for-money products. Even as Ajay Chauhan and Arup Chauhan, both Executive Directors, surge ahead on the growth path, they are constantly guided by their predecessors, Vijay Chauhan and Sharad Chauhan. A meeting every Wednesday with the elders is sacrosanct. In an exclusive interview with
Business Today, the third generation of the Chauhan family talks about its vision for the 84-year-old biscuit company. Excerpts: Q. How is the third generation of the Chauhan family different from its predecessors?
In terms of difference, I am hungry to grow. I entered the business in 1996, when Parle Products was just a Rs 300-crore company. I don't want to take all the credit, but my cousin (Ajay) and I have consistently endeavoured to grow the business
. Today, we are a Rs 9,000-crore company. By the end of this fiscal, our international presence is going to get bigger. My vision is to make Parle Products the largest food company in the world.A. Ajay:
We are in tune with times and have adapted to the needs of the day. Parle Products is a global company. We are present in over 40 countries and the ambition is to scale up. We forayed into premium biscuits
because Indian consumers are changing, the desire to spend on a premium product is there.
Q.Biscuits in India have been synonymous with Parle for decades. Now that you have strong global aspirations, what are you doing to create a global image for Parle?
I am trying to bring in cultural change in the company. If you came to our office five years ago, it looked like any Indian family-run business. There was no dress code, people walked in wearing anything they felt like. Many of them came to work in chappals. Our office was not air-conditioned. I introduced a formal dress code, renovated the office. The Parle campus in Mumbai is the global headquarter of Parle Products, and it had to have an international look and feel.
In order to become an international food company, we have to have a range of offerings. We have to maximise market shares across categories. We, therefore, decided to foray into premium-end of biscuits. We got into snacks. We are currently test-marketing cakes in West Bengal. My vision is make Parle synonymous with food even globally, just as Wal-Mart is synonymous with retail and Coke is synonymous with aerated beverages.Q. But isn't snacks a difficult business to be in?A. Ajay:
Tell me, which business is not difficult? On one hand, we have to compete with a global company like PepsiCo, which is heavy on advertising. At the other end of the spectrum is a brand such as Balaji, which is not advertising, but is getting market share by offering more quantity. Our task is to get consumers to believe that our product is better than the competition and give them reason to buy our snack offerings.
A. Did you always want to be part of the family business?
I was always passionate about growing the family business. In fact, I gave up my engineering course mid-way and got into the business, as Parle then was facing an acute capacity crisis. I was thinking big from the day I entered the business. I set myself a target of becoming a Rs 30,000-crore company eight-years ago. Today, we are already a Rs 9,000-crore company.