The 1.5 billion Indian cutlery market is predominantly dominated by players like Kishco, Crystal and Venus. However, 2005 witnessed yet another innovative player introducing a contemporary consumer twist to the segment—Delhi-based Forks and Spoons International (FnS). With the Indian consumer’s enhanced purchasing power and growing global awareness, Adish Jain, director, FnS, feels the time was ripe for a premium lifestyle product like theirs to enter the market. In an interview with IndiaRetailing, Jain shares his experience and talks about the challenges he had to face in the Indian market to come up with new concept of selling cutlery sets geared to Indian eating habits, i.e. just forks and spoons parting from the traditional set, consisting of knives as well.
IndiaRetailing: You started your career with a profile of sales, trade and marketing. How much effort did it involve to become an entrepreneur?
Adish Jain: I am not a born entrepreneur. I worked in leading MNC’s like Perfetti and Gillette for around ten years, before I started FnS. It was in October 2004, that I got together with Magpie to start thinking about and creating a niche premium cutlery segment. The growing globally aware Indian audience, certainly prompted our thinking.
IR: Why cutlery business?
AJ: In India cutlery market is mostly an unorganised one. To gain profit share, the producers sell the products at cheaper prices in small retail shops. There is no attempt to upgrade the consumer. We did research and went to many households and found an interesting fact that out of 24 pieces cutlery gift sets, only spoons and to some extent forks were being used, while the knives were kept aside, shining.
Cutlery, as we traditionally have known it in India, originated in Europe, and even though Indian food habits vastly differ from those in European countries, Indian companies continued to make cultlery sets as they had known them. Working on this fact, FnS created cutlery sets without knives. Retailers and distributors opposed us initially. To overcome this reistance, we also introduced sets with knives. But finally the idea was a hit as is proven by 50 per cent of our sales come being contributed by the sets without knives and the balance from sets with knives.
IR: What about your turnover? Has the slowdown affected your business?
AJ: We clocked a turnover of 80 million in the year 2008. We hope to cross the figures this year. However, last three months was not a respite because of global recession. As for us, gifting market is very important and 50 per cent of our turnover comes from gift sets. This Diwali was not as good as compared to last year. We also suffered due to corporate gifting slow down this Diwali.
In the normal daily market FnS saw a slump of 10 to 15 per cent in sales, but I feel it is more of a transitory phase and in a few months the daily use market will come back to its normal mode. As far as gifting market is concerned, recession is sentimental in India and currently people are in the saving mode. Moreover, gifting happens when there is cheer, which is not visible right now.
IR: How has been your journey since the launch of FnS in 2005?
AJ: Amazing. There was lot of risk involved in it but in a short span of time we have been able to establish FnS as a strong brand in India in terms of value, market positioning and retailing as well.
IR: What is the business module of FnS?
AJ: Currently, we neither run any company-owned store nor a franchise outlet. We work on multi brand outlets (MBO) market. Our products are there in all the retail chain majors like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop, The HomeStore, Hometown. We service directly and also to small crockery retailers and stand-alone crockery stores across Delhi in 50 traditional shops. Nationally we have 40 distributors in more than 100 cities.
IR: The concept of FnS seems to be a smaller version of kitchen ware. Your comments.
AJ: We are a table ware brand; we do not work on the concept of kitchen ware. We make various kinds of spoons to start with including coffee spoon, tea spoon, regular spoon, soup, dessert, servicing spoon and many more varieties. It is the same with forks and knives. This is what we are specialised in. We estimate that out of about 60 million households, about 10 million households go for our products.
IR: What are your expansions plans to launch exclusive outlets?
AJ: We don’t plan to invest in private stores. As for us the biggest challenge is to grow the Indian cutlery market. Buying cutlery for most Indians today is an impulse decision. No one comes to a shop just to buy cutlery, it is just part of the shopping list. This perspective is what we wish to change through communication and we are focusing on the same right now.