Can you share the journey with a historical perspective to the emergence of the company?
In the late 1960s, the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (PUSA Institute) worked towards scientifically developing newer varieties of Basmati. India, at the time, became the epicentre of the Basmati revolution, and KRBL was a major player in that transition.
We ventured into the rice business when the Indian branded rice market in India was virtually non-existent. In the 1970s and 1980s, the rice market in India was largely unbranded and fragmented, dominated by unorganized players. This provided an opportunity for the company to create aspirational products and brands that would influence the wider consumer segment to upgrade their lifestyles with quality Basmati rice at a competitive price.
To begin with, KRBL was a manufacturing and marketing company, but it has evolved and widened its product offerings over the years. Today, it is a leading global brand in basmati rice.
Please share more details about Khushi Ram and Behari Lal and how they decided on the name, and how the brand was built over the years? Share information about others who contributed to building the company over the years.
The epic journey of KRBL was started by two brothers- Khushi Ram and Behari Lal more than a century ago. They founded the company in 1889, and KRBL is an acronym of their names.
Initially set up as a cotton-spinning business, it also had business interests in edible oil, wheat, and rice. After the unfortunate partition of India, our family decided to settle in Delhi and by the 1970s started producing rice. With production, we also supplied to the local exporters. Soon after, KRBL began to export in the 1980s and eventually set up its first rice manufacturing unit in Ghaziabad in 1992.
It’s not just one person who makes the company what it is; for us, it’s the vision of our management, hard work of our farmers, tireless efforts of our employees, faith of our investors, and loyalty of our customers.
How did the company evolve its brand for a generic product like Basmati rice? What were the challenges, and how did the firm overcome them?
It wasn’t a cakewalk!
Basmati Rice, being a premium product, observes different consuming patterns across India. In the north and west regions, our India Gate basmati rice products are in great demand. We are the market leaders because of our premium range of products in all biryani eating markets across southern states.
A strong brand image coupled with an impressive product range across different income segments helped the company stay ahead of the curve. Over the years, India Gate has attracted new customers, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and profitability.
However, like all others, during the pandemic, we faced many challenges. We have always embraced change and moved with the times by incorporating modern technology and orientation in all milling, packaging, supply chain, marketing, and sales processes.
What has been your firm’s experience with marketing and sales? They play a critical role in capturing and establishing a product and brand.
Different distribution channels helped in our growth and beat the competition by supplying quality products to our customers. To sustain our leadership position, along with traditional channels, we have enhanced our online presence.
We always continue to strengthen our delivery network by implementing GPS-enabled tracking devices for the Company employees. Through this, we can live track the demand and supply scenario and take decisions accordingly. Backed by a deep-rooted distribution network of 500+ distributors, our product range is available across the country’s length and breadth. The Omni-channel approach ensures the availability of stocks everywhere.
What is the unique selling proposition (USP) of the company
A rich industry experience of 130 years, KRBL with 14 rice brands sold under its banner worldwide, India Gate has product presence in 6 continents and direct export channels in more than 82 countries with an impeccable distribution with more than 500 Distributors in India covering the entire length and breadth of the globe.
India Gate has the world’s largest rice milling plant in Punjab, spread across 200 acres and have a 195 MT/hour paddy milling capacity that is the largest in the world. We also own a 6 million square feet warehousing space spread over 346 acres with 1 million MT rice and paddy storing capacity.
How do you procure the rice? What quality tests does your company perform that gives the best taste and aroma to the end consumer?
Basmati harvesting happens from October to December. KRBL executives go from farm to farm to check the Basmati crop. Around 100 purchasers from KRBL spread across Mandis to bid and procure the best paddy in a matter of seconds. Over 60,000 trucks move in and out of KRBL, and we physically check the quality of the paddy, and the sample goes to our lab for testing.
First, a machine measures the moisture of the paddy; the grains are then heated to reduce the moisture to below 12% and then dehusked. When the Basmati grain comes out minus the husk, technicians measure what percentage of grains are broken. Next, the grains are visually examined. Good grains are then put into a scanning machine which gives a reading on the average length and width of the sample.
The lab conducts 15 tests on each sample. That’s (GFX) 10,500 tests every day! Once we get a green signal from our lab, the paddy is unloaded in 30 minutes. The unloaded Basmati batches are then stacked in godowns or the open, covered with tarpaulin sheets. The paddy will eventually be taken up for processing through the year.
How has the company performed financially, and what are its targets for the next five and ten years?
Both domestic and export businesses are flourishing pillars of India Gate and have almost equal revenue contributions. It registered 14% CAGR growth in EBITDA over the last five years. India Gate commands a strong presence in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Middle East Region, contributing nearly 36% to its export revenues. Other countries where India Gate has a substantial market presence include Australia, Canada, the USA, and South Africa.
Increased focus on the penetration of the basmati rice category through GTM (Go-To-Market) strategies and supply chain interventions has helped build a market presence.
The company is also aggressively pursuing its new initiatives in developing health ranges for offering people better food choices. This includes Brown Rice, Quinoa, Health Seeds, and even Oil.
Your firm is committed to serving the deprived. Please share your CSR and other social service activities.
We joined hands with Chef Vikas Khanna during this pandemic to provide two million meals to lakhs of migrant workers, low-income families, slum dwellers and daily wagers, widows and transgender communities struggling for necessities everyday campaigns like #IndiaForMothers, UmeedHaiHum and Barkat.
KRBL conducts monthly workshops for its farmers. India Gate today has strong, sustainable relations with more than 85,000 farmers and is continuously adding to the number.