There is nothing extraordinary about the conference room at Chaman Lal Setia Exports’ Gurgaon office… in terms of appearance, atleast. However, if you pay close attention to the conversations of the promoters spanning two generations, then you might be able to piece together the reason behind the firm’s impressive growth over the past five decades.
Rajeev Setia, executive director and one of the founding members of the company speaks in fluent Punjabi with a trader over the phone. At the other end of the table is his son, Sankesh Setia, who’s trying to resolve an issue with an international order. And he sounds like any other professional business manager. While both are executive directors of the firm, each of them has their unique way in which they go about business; that mixed approach of the old and new generation is what has helped the basmati rice exporter survive and thrive amidst changing times. Basmati rice is a common heritage that India shares with Pakistan with both the countries accounting for 70% and 30% production of the grain respectively.
“The entry of the next generation has made a big difference to our business. They are way more organised and aggressive,” says Rajeev, who oversaw the transformation of the rice mill into an export house back in 1982 along with his brother, Vijay and father, Chaman Lal. And he is now joined by his sons Sankesh, Sukarn and nephew, Ankit. However, the emergence of the next gen isn’t the only reason this family run-company has done well in the past five years. The miller that markets the Maharani rice brand witnessed a rise in revenue from Rs.218 crore in FY13 to an estimated Rs.750 crore in FY18.
Tilling the soil
It was in 1974 when Chaman Lal Setia started a rice mill in Amritsar, Punjab. Despite being just college students at the time, both his sons would partake in the mill work as well. Rajeev recalls how within just three years of establishing the mill, they were endowed with a government legislation that enabled them to sell their grains across the country, unlike earlier where it was controlled by the government.
And then rice exp