'From 0 to 100 cities in under 60 days'- Jayant Kapre, President, United Biscuits
As the first employee of the India operations of British multinational United Biscuits (UB), Jayant Kapre has been instrumental in building the business from the ground up in just five years. "United Biscuits India is the most important thing that I have ever done," says Jayant Kapre. With its most popular product in India being the McVities Digestive biscuits, United Biscuits entered a highly fragmented and fiercely competitive Indian market. The biscuits market in India is around INR 6000 crore with major players like Britannia, Parle, ITC, etc fighting for the share, along with competition from private labels and local players.
“There are three truths about this market — it is very large, has robust underlying growth and consumers are constantly upgrading their product basket. We will offer better products with better ingredients, stay on top of the innovation curve and offer all this at relevant value. Gaining a foothold in a short period in this category is not easy, but we have done it, though there’s still much to do. Everyone in the organisation is on a high learning curve. We now have a pan-India presence in more than 100 towns, which we achieved in two months of operations. We can step up distribution whenever we need to. My current priority is to ensure that channel partners are pleased with the business. We have also had good experience with our modern trade partners,” says Jayant Kapre, President, United Biscuits.
Having commenced operations in 2010, how does one describe the brand’s expansion plans? “Our expansion plans have been really bold and aggressive. What we have done is we have ensured that before we have reached a point of stagnation we are always looking ahead, thinking ahead – whether it is in terms of product expansion, town expansion, store expansion. Thinking boldly, thinking big, is something that this business has done regularly and religiously. Both me and my team are always on the lookout for expansion. And this is particularly very important to do in a highly competitive market because if we don’t grow, we will find ourselves boxed into a very narrow area and therefore we need to constantly grow and capture new markets, expand itno adjacent categories but always with relevant and differentiated offerings. This has been the key reason for success so far,” says Jayant.
Indians generally associate biscuits with a sweet taste, keeping that in mind and the price of the product, what is the target audience of the product? Kapre answers, "We are targeting people, who are looking for healthy options. And, to satisfy the sweet pallet urge, we offer other ranges of biscuits. Though we are in the premium range, we are affordable as our target audience is SEC A and A+ categories. Biscuits are an important part of a family's monthly basket and a product that is consumed daily. But, at the end, it will be a matter of making healthier choices.” The company's marketing strategies is primarily television-driven and free samplings in the marketplace. Cross promotions with reputed brands such as piggybacking with Kelloggs or HUL's Taaza has also helped increase the brand's visibility.
United Biscuits wants to give a bigger thrust to its McVitie's brand in India, and recently roped in actors Bipasha Basu and Shriya Saran to promote the range. The company is doing what competitor Parle Products had done in the past: banking on regional celebrities to push the brand in key markets. "We have identified three key metros in the south - Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai - as high potential markets and engaging south Indian actor Shriya Saran will help us reach out to consumers more closely," said Kapre. The south, believes Kapre, has latched onto the health trend much faster than other regions and will be an important market for its digestive variant.
United Biscuits, whose digestive biscuits are a big draw globally, is hoping for similar success in India. "We want to build this category here which is a measly Rs 100 crore. Mc Vities is our main product. We consider ourselves MAD – Mad About Digestive," finishes Kapre.
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