How has AWL Group grown since its inception?
AWL is one of the very few national players in the industry to have a massive production infrastructure, with all its plants strategically located to take advantage of import parity and the domestic crop season. We operate storage facilities for handling wheat at seven locations in India. We are also doing our bit to support the apple farms of Himachal Pradesh through our controlled atmosphere storage facilities. This initiatve is an example of how expertise in one area can support initiatives in another.
What have been AWL’s challenges and achievements over the years?
Being a player in the commodity market, the first challenge is dealing with price fluctuations. Competing with established home-grown players and aggressive multinational corporations, is another. For a new entrant to get a footing in one of the largest edible oil markets of the world was a Herculean task, but we rose to the challenge. With the launch of our Fortune oil brand in 2000, AWL forayed into the branded packaged edible oil business and within 20 months Fortune rose to become India’s largest selling edible oil. Today, AWL holds 19 percent market share in refined oils.
Fortune Refined Soybean Oil was the first feather in our cap, which made our position strong in the market. Post that, a complete portfolio of diverse products was launched. These included edible oils, vanaspati, bakery shortening, lauric fats, rice, besan, pulses, and soya products. Other AWL brands are King’s, Raag, Bullet, Fryola, Jubilee, Alpha, Alife and Aadhaar. Today, we are not just the No.1 player in consumer brands, but also a preferred supplier to majors like Cadbury, Nestle, HUL, Pepsico, Parle, Britania, Balaji, Dabur, Vadilal, ITC, etc.
What does your R&D focus on?
We are following a business integration model to bring synergies and cost benefits to our operations. All this is carried out by keeping in mind a bigger perspective to manage large scale economies. To introduce any new product range we are guided by market opportunity, competition, our core competence, and most importantly, the vision to be the leader in the agri business.
We invest heavily in R&D. The highly advanced R&D of Wilmar International is also being leveraged for our India operations. Additionally, we have set up two advanced R&D centers in Vidisha and Hyderabad. Our aim is to bring innovative products packed with the goodness of natural nutrients, and fulfill our promise of ‘a healthy growing India’.
How would you rank the performance of your products?
In the refined oil category, Soybean comprises nearly 33 percent of the total portfolio; it is also the market leader with 30 percent market share for the year 2013-14. (source: Nielsen Monthly Retail Index). The last decade has seen a paradigm shift in consumption patterns in India from non-branded food products to branded. Having evaluated this trend, we introduced the first of our premium line of food staples – Fortune Besan and Soya Chunks. Today, we enjoy a decent market share for our Sun Oil, Besan, and Kacchi Ghani. We launched soya chunks in the eastern and northern markets. India has a huge potential for soya value added products and soya chunks/granules are the basic soya food that can be added to many food preparations. The east and north are the major consumption markets for soya products, so it was a strategic decision to first gain foothold in these markets. The launch was also an effort to bring about a second green and protein revolution, which the government has been stressing on, and AWL is also committed to the cause.
How are you competing with other brands?
The market has many regional players which are manufacturing and selling soya granules and chunks; some of them enjoy a good market share, but their quality is very inconsistent. The use of conventional technology in the production of these chunks leads to a loss of natural nutrients, and herein lies our competitive advantage.
Fortune soya chunks and nuggets are full of nutrition, are 100% vegetarian, loaded with the power of Proti 9, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, contain the nine essential amino acids necessary for good health and growth, and are a premium health food with low fat content. We have the ultra-modern technology Wenger K2 for production of TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein).The process is fully automatic and without human interface. The entire production undergoes multi-level stringent quality checks, and this makes our product different from other brands in the market. The best technology ensures that the nutrients are retained at all levels.
Our products are also very competitively priced at Rs 10 for 50 gm, Rs 15 for 90 gm, Rs 35 for 200 gm and Rs 135 for 1 kg. At these prices, they are the best in the category given the value they offer.
What is your current retail presence ?
We serve more than 30 million households through our network of 5,000 distributors that reach one million retail outlets. We are bringing in advanced IT systems and automating the distribution channel. We are present in general trade and in all modern format stores across India with 20.3 percent market share (2013-14) in the latter and growing every year. We are present in Reliance, Future Value Retail, RPG, D’mart etc and also in the HoReCa sector.
How have you converted opportunities to your advantage while building the brand?
We have been working with integrated models. We have tapped market opportunities in big volume categories like Besan, Soya Chunks, Rice Bran Oils, etc. There was no clear cut national brand operating in these categories, and we could harness the gap very well. Our focus has always been on quality as the deciding factor along with other dynamics such as shift in consumption from loose to packaged, desire for branded products, rising living standards, and move to brands that will sustain in developing countries like India. As a marketer, we understood the change towards modernisation and have incorporated it in our products.
What were your marketing initiatives for increasing brand visibility?
We are associating with our end consumers through in-store promos, direct marketing through home delivery mechanisms, TVCs, event sponsorships, social media, etc. We have recently launched an ad campaign called Ghar Ka Khana for promoting our flagship Fortune brand of Food and Edible Oils. For besan, we have a temple ad campaign. Our association with Mahabharat at Star Plus has been very fruitful, besides which, we have been sponsoring recipe shows on Food Food, Star Plus, ETV, Zee, etc. We have a databank of 10,000 customers with whom we interact on a regular basis to take feedback on our product offerings and other activities.
What are your plans for expansion?
The edible oil market is growing at 15 percent annually. Seeing the change in consumption and government policies, we are focusing on expanding our production capacity, product lines, distributor network, R&D, technology, automation in systems, etc. All this will help us to position ourselves more strongly, and be ready for taking on more opportunities and tapping new avenues of growth.