There are some things that never change and in India, that includes the quality, consistency and flavor that generations of consumers associate with the name Haldiram Foods International (Haldiram’s).
“For over 80 years, we’ve been known for our traditional taste and age-old recipes,” Neeraj Agrawal tells The CEO Magazine. “That’s what we stand for and that’s what our tagline also says: ‘a taste of tradition’.”
Since his great-great-grandfather’s time, the same recipes, the same taste and the same quality has run through every sachet of namkeen or box of kaju katli.
“That is something that we take pride in,” the Director says.
But that doesn’t mean that the business hasn’t moved forward and evolved with the times. Since those early days, when Ganga Bishan Agarwal started selling namkeen from a small store in Bikaner, Rajasthan, Haldiram’s has relocated, expanded, added new products, opened retail stores and taken the name to overseas markets, including the United States.
“I knew that everything was moving online and that people would eventually start shopping online.”
In 1970, his grandson Shiv Kishan Agarwal shifted the headquarters to Nagpur and, in 1982, it opened its first store in Delhi.
And since his great-great-grandson officially joined the family business in his early 20s, the company has taken a step into a whole new world: the digital one. “I joined when I had just finished my master’s in the United Kingdom,” Agrawal says.
“After everything I’d seen there, I knew that everything was moving online and that people would eventually start shopping online.”
Haldiram’s had yet to embrace ecommerce, however. “We had a website, but it was inactive,” he explains, adding that it was just a holding page about the business.
Under Agrawal’s direction, not only did the website become a channel to showcase and sell the complete range of Haldiram’s products, but the company made its first foray into social media. “We started doing a lot of campaigns and social media activities,” he says.
Year-on-year growth from the ecommerce segment of the business has been the reward of his initiative.
Haldiram’s first appeared on a supermarket shelf outside of India in 1993. The country? The United States.
Today you’ll find Haldiram’s traditional Indian sweets and savory snacks in Tesco, Sommerfield, Spinneys and Carrefour, among other global chains.
“In the near future we hope to be in Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Taiwan, Columbia, Cyprus, Ukraine, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Armenia, West Indies, Sweden, Finland, and Trinidad and Tobago,” the company states on its website.
The other aspect of the business that attracted Agrawal’s focus was new product development; more precisely in the healthy snack segment where he had spotted a gap in the market.
“I worked to introduce and launch soya-related products including Poppits, a range of chips and namkeen made from healthier ingredients that are now very well established in the market,” he says.
Other product launches with a health tangent he spearheaded included sugar-free sweets and protein-rich snacks.
“The impact on our portfolio has been really positive and there’s been year-on-year growth.”
Another opportunity lay in dairy, a completely new segment for the business. So successful has the market proven that today Haldiram’s manufactures its own range of traditional drinks such as chaas (buttermilk), lassi, kesar badam milk and other flavored dairy drinks in sterile packaging.
And combined, these new products and new innovations have contributed to the growth of the whole business. “The impact on our portfolio has been really positive and there’s been year-on-year growth,” he explains. “Now, the way we see them, they’re doing pretty well.”
His sights are currently set on improving operations and building long-term relationships with its suppliers. “The idea is to extensively work on improving, streamlining and automating our processes so that there are minimum variations with regards to our operations,” he says.
As a long-established family business, Haldiram’s has been run “in a certain way” he continues. “Now we want to upgrade our software and modernize our tools to become a process-driven company.”
“We want to upgrade our software and modernize our tools to become a process-driven company.”
At his side, while the changes take place, are a collection of “super” suppliers who have been working with the company for as long as three decades.
“They have grown with us, upgrading as to our needs and requirements, so there is this close-knit understanding that we share as we work towards a common goal and vision,” he says.
So meshed are these partnerships that many of these long-standing suppliers have set up operations near to Haldiram’s plants. “This allows us to reduce logistics and speed up our deliveries,” he says. And it offers a certain reactivity to customer feedback Agrawal and his team pass on.
Looking forward, Agrawal has big plans to expand its footprint in cities such as Delhi and Nagpur. “Eventually, we have plan to open in multiple locations to save on logistic costs and also to be able to deliver faster to our customers,” he says.
There’s also growth targeted through adding to its quick service restaurant portfolio, in particular outside of regions where the name Haldiram’s is already established.
“In the last three years, we have started scaling up this side of the business and taking our restaurants into different regions and cities,” he explains. “In the last two years, we have opened 100-plus restaurants – and the journey has just started.”
“We strive to continuously innovate and provide the best quality and service to our customer base.”
Travel is a way for Agrawal to continue to draw inspiration for the business and visiting new places is a favorite way to uncover new ideas. “I like to travel a lot to understand what different segments of foods we could approach, what innovations we could implement or what new and unique experiences we can offer our customers,” he says.
And it all feeds into the philosophy that continues to drive the Haldiram’s name to new heights in the Indian market while maintaining a familiar, trusting place in the hearts of its consumers.
“We strive to continuously innovate and provide the best quality and service to our customer base. All while maintaining a close-knit understanding of their changing requirements and tastes.”
A prominent category on Haldiram’s ecommerce site is “WFH Essentials”.
So what’s in the perfect work-from-home kit? Products like bhelpuri, chili chattak lachha, bhujia, fatafat bhel, lite chidwa and samosa.