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Spirit of Innovation

In Focus
NAME:Amit Dahanukar
COMPANY:Tilaknagar Industries
LOCATION:Mumbai, India
Tilaknagar Industries has nearly 90 years of strong brand identity and loyalty to its stakeholders. Now, CEO Amit Dahanukar is ready to lead the company along a path of significant growth.

When Amit Dahanukar joined Tilaknagar Industries (TI) 20 years ago, it was with a firm view of the expectations that were in store for him. Founded by his great-grandfather in 1933, TI held deep roots in Amit’s family. Now, four generations later, the time had finally come for him to extend his family’s legacy and guide the company into the future. Amit took hold of the responsibility with the core founding values of the company in mind: keeping the needs and interests of its stakeholders at the centre of operations.

Though TI began as a sugar company, over the past 40 years it has built an impeccable reputation in the spirits industry. “We are the experts in making brandy and that’s a quite undisputed fact. Even if you ask around, what does Tilaknagar Industries do or what does TI stand for? They will mention that we are the brandy company,” Amit says proudly.

Overcoming challenges

Throughout its 88 years, TI has become known for perfecting its craft, and Amit is aware of the struggles his great-grandfather overcame to get to that point. Establishing a company in India, during a time of foreign rule was not an easy task. Amit believes the company’s reputation built over the years is due to one special formula. “It is a blend of passion and expertise with which we serve our customers,” he says. It is with this same passion that he is now determined to carry the legacy of TI forward.

Just two years ago, Amit oversaw the difficult task of guiding the company through a comprehensive debt restructuring scheme, reducing its debt while maintaining a favourable position with financial institutions. Though he considered it a truly trying time as CEO, Amit is proud that the company has successfully pulled through that phase. “We emerged stronger and there were a lot of learnings, which we took right through this period,” he says. He also credits the company’s ability to stay afloat to the strong brand identity of its brandies as well as its loyal and honest relationship with suppliers and other stakeholders. “The brand kept moving. That was a very fundamental point, and that actually gave me confidence that at the end of the day, this is all going to be worth it,” he says.

Untapped potential

Only 24 when he joined TI, the young, ambitious Amit immediately saw many opportunities both for himself and the company. He identified great potential in the Indian-made foreign liquor market, which was on the cusp of significant growth.

“It is a blend of passion and expertise with which we serve our customers.”

Amit believes that potential is the same today, barring the difficulties of the past two years with the COVID-19 pandemic. But he remains optimistic about the future of the industry, especially with the company’s potential to increase market share in the southern, northern and eastern states of India. There, he says, is an entire market that is still unaware of the benefits and uses of brandy.

Considering this, Amit plans on taking a three-pronged approach towards the company’s growth. First, a deeper market penetration strategy will be placed on the southern markets, which account for up to 85 per cent of the company’s shares. The focus will then be taken to new territories in India.

The third strategy will be to focus on overseas markets, as TI has been receiving many enquiries about exports. These tactics, along with amped-up awareness and digital and traditional marketing, Amit believes will form a winning approach for TI’s overall growth in the next five years. He is especially certain of the benefits of engagement on digital platforms for the company’s growth, success, and overall relationship with its stakeholders.

Amit goes on to say that the passion and spirit of innovation has led TI to pioneer the creation of fruit-infused flavoured brandy called Mansion House. The brandy, available in orange, cherry and peach, launched in 2022, and Amit says more flavours are on the horizon. “Besides providing a wider choice to the existing brandy consumers, the flavoured brandy, as a more versatile drink, also appeals to the younger, more experimental consumer as well,” he says.

Even more, TI is actively working to create an annual celebration of brandy – World Brandy Day – to be observed on the second Friday of December each year. “The annual festival would be an occasion to both honour the spirit of brandy and celebrate its myriad applications in cocktails, drinking concoctions, baking and chocolate,” he says.

Building a better tomorrow

Yet, as with any company, there are some core areas Amit feels can be tightened. One key area would be to have the team maintain the mindset of a startup company regardless of its growth or success. That way, he shares, the spirit of both entrepreneurship and innovation can always be encouraged. “We need to be dynamic as a company.

“We need to be able to respond quickly to the challenges in today’s environment and any other challenges that might also come up along the way,” he says, making it clear that as CEO, it is his job to set an example that will trickle down to his team.

Amit also hopes to ensure that the company can adapt to planning and changes with the current global digital transformation. “As a company, we need to invest our time and resources to really take advantage of this because, going forward, it’s going to be critical,” he says.

Above all else, Amit is certain of the resilience of TI, and that is the resounding message he hopes the company sends in its branding – not just as a leader in brandy, but as a strong player in the industry. Coupled with the incredible potential that the company holds for growth as well as his hands-on, entrepreneurial approach, Amit is adamant that TI stands as a force to be reckoned with.

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