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Suzu Agro aims to target the global audience: Co-founder Prachi Patil

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Launched in late 2020, the ready-to-cook food venture currently caters to India, USA, UK, UAE, Canada, Southeast Asia and African countries

Bengaluru: The ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat segment in India is growing at 18% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) and is expected to grow to about Rs. 4,800 crore by 2024. A significant push to the segment came during the Covid-19 pandemic, as an increasing number of young Indians aimed to cook healthy, delicious and hygienic food at home. Aaj Pakao, a ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat food brand under Suzu Agro Pvt Ltd, addresses this very need.

Inception story

While studying and subsequently working in the US and Europe, Prachi Patil used to rely heavily on canned ready-to-cook foods such as baked beans, etc. She returned to India for her marriage just before the Covid-19 pandemic and discovered that there were hardly any ready-to-cook foods for consumers in the country. “The few products existing in the segment were either too expensive or not tasty enough to eat joyfully. Moreover, there was a lack of nutritious options in this segment. That is when I decided to take things into my own hands and began researching and creating ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat-food products under the ‘Aaj Pakao’ label,” shares Prachi. The parent company of Aaj Pakao is Suzu Agro Pvt Ltd, founded by Prachi and her husband Aditya Patil in 2020.

Crossing hurdles

From the start of their business, Prachi and Aditya have focused on resolving the challenges that had prevented the growth of the ready-to-cook segment in India. “For instance, we innovated with our packaging and made it possible for our products to remain stored at room temperature for up to 12 months without any foul smell, or change of colour or taste,” says Prachi. The packaging, she continues, employs retort technology, which makes the products easy to store at room temperature and keeps them protected from spoilage during transportation over long distances or even across countries. “Further, this technology eliminates the need for us to add artificial preservatives or flavour to the food, as it remains fresh and its taste and colour are constant even after months of storage at room temperature. The packaging is also sturdy and can withstand transportation with ease,” explains Prachi.

If innovation in packaging is at the core of Aaj Pakao, then so is the choice and range of its products. “We aim to reduce the cooking time to make our offerings appealing to Indian families who love traditional Indian cuisine but cannot prepare enough. We started with beans [such as chickpeas] and sprouts [such as moong] since these two items require several hours of soaking and sprouting before cooking. Thus, with Aaj Pakao, one can instantly enjoy a sprout salad,” shares Prachi.

The brand has also introduced food items from different regions of India which are usually too difficult to cook without several hours of preparation (soaking, marinating, etc.) into its product range. These are made easy and straightforward to cook for even those people without much cooking skills, and with no compromise on taste or nutrition. On offer are gravies with authentic flavours, including the ever-popular Mumbai street pav bhaji, Mangalorean ghee roast, Goan special xacuti and spicy Chettinad.

Aiming higher

For the husband-wife duo, their journey into the business was tough initially, but this year, their brand is on track to earn more than Rs. 1 crore in revenue. They now plan to add foods from other regional cuisines of India to their product range. The goal is also to expand the product range by including sauces, pastes and gravies from global cuisines such as Italian, Chinese, Thai, etc. The brand will also be working to offer customers the flexibility of customising taste and ingredients.

“Apart from domestic consumers, we want to target the global audience looking for delicious, healthy and easy-to-cook foods. As an agriculture- dominated country, India has an immense variety of ingredients and food products, which we aim to export to global markets. We will build capacity in manufacturing and retail channels in India and all major countries where Indian food is sought,” adds Prachi.

Another key goal for Aaj Pakao is to cater to the unorganised and under-served B2B market. “This market has a huge demand for large order sizes but is currently short of quality suppliers. Further, we might go for venture funding with a like-minded investor to fuel our expansion plans in the times to come,” reveals Prachi.

Brownie Points

  • Aaj Pakao started as a brand in late 2020, and its products were launched in the online market by mid-2021.
  • After one year of online retail and marketing, Aaj Pakao entered the offlne market in early 2022, starting with a presence in about 200 retail outlets in Mumbai, Pune and Goa. The brand is now working to expand its retail store base to Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata.
  • Aaj Pakao’s B2B clientele comprises local players and some export businesses. The brand also caters to the USA, UK, UAE, Canada, Southeast Asia, and African countries.
  • The brand recently fulfilled a big export order for a leading US retail chain, which has stores in four states across the USA.

First appeared in The India D2C Yearbook 2022

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