Interview: Rahul Akkara, VP – Marketing, Parag Milk Foods

The challenge for any brand is to increase distribution, create value offerings for the consumer and constantly reinvent and innovate to create a differentiator”

Surbhi C | Delhi | December 7, 2011

For a large majority of households the day begins with the purchase of milk. One of the reasons why milk is such an important part of our diet can also accredited to dieticians and doctors, who do not fail to recommend milk and its products as one of the best sources of calcium. Significantly, very few of us think about changing our brand of choice in this category. Reason: consumers want to go with the brand they have trust in and are wary of trying new alternatives. In such a scenario, it is quite difficult for a new brand to come into the picture and carve a niche for itself. Parag Milk Foods, which offers milk and milk products under the ‘Gowardhan’ brand, understands these challenges and is more than willing to tackle them.

In conversation with BestMediaInfo, Rahul Akkara, Vice-president – Marketing, Parag Milk Foods, talks about how the company, which was started in 1992, is looking at creating differentiators in the market and also spread its wings in international markets. Excerpts:

The milk and dairy products category is very competitive. How do you plan to make a space for yourself?

The milk and the dairy products category in India is growing. I am sure with more domestic and international players coming in, the market, and the demand, would only expand. The challenge therefore for any brand would be to increase its distribution, create value offerings for the consumer and constantly reinvent and innovate to create a differentiator in the consumer’s mind.

Parag Milk has indicated in the past that it plans to make cheese its growth driver. How do you plan to get an edge over established players like Amul and Britannia?

Players like Amul and Britannia have been in the business for 50 years but have never been focused in the cheese segment. What the consumer got from them in the last 40-50 years in cheese was just processed cheese blocks and slices. Besides, these companies never focused on educating the consumer on how different cheeses are used for different applications. As a result, for a majority of consumers in India cheese is just cheese.

Our thinking is different. We wish to educate the consumer on having the right cheese product. Over the last two years we have reinvented the category and offered our consumers products which the consumer has seen for the first time in India. Today’s consumers are experimental and want to try new products and services. This is where we come in. We launched India’s first shredded cheese, India’s first natural flavoured yogurt, India’s first cheese in tube format. Hence, consumers may perceive Amul to be a leader but they also perceive us to be a leader as far as innovations are concerned, and this is where we have an edge.

What market share are you targeting for ‘Go Cheese’ by the end of this financial year and thereafter?

There is tremendous potential for our products both in domestic and international markets, and in the next one year we will look at creating the infrastructure for our products on a pan-India level and reach out to newer markets and consumers. As we do that our market share would also go up.

Are you planning to enter some new product categories?

Parag as a company constantly innovates and comes out with exciting products. As we move ahead, yes, we would be getting in a lot more offerings and these would require marketing investments.

Please share your marketing and advertising plans for your existing range for this year?

This year we have been focusing on cheese as well as ghee. The consumption of both these products is increasing. We have invested this year Rs 20 crore on advertising and marketing for our products and brands. Like any other FMCG company, television would be the front driver followed by print and outdoor. We would be focusing on increasing our share of voice both at national and regional level.

You mentioned about distribution being a challenge, so what are your plans to beef up your channel strength and making sure that you are able to reach the last mile of your target group?

Today Parag Milk Foods has a pan-India network; we operate with more than 300,000 retail outlets and have more than 2,000 distributors. We are available in all modern format stores and are growing horizontally in terms of shelf space. We clearly realise and value this partnership that we have with our retail partners and constantly work towards making their business with us viable and profitable. As a recent development, we have also started CNF module in key markets which would help us in faster distribution and reaching out quicker to our consumers.

Parag has announced that it will be entering international markets. Which markets are you eyeing, and with what product offerings?

We have already started our distribution in overseas markets. We are exporting our products like cheese and ghee to the USA, Middle East, Africa and South-east Asia. Export is going to be a big slice of our overall turnover in the years to come. Today, Indians are everywhere; no matter where they are, they still love their Indian food products and this is where we come in. In some countries we have also seen locals preferring our cheese over what is available on the shelf, and this has encouraged us to think of introducing other product offerings in the near future.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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