With a mission to create something new and quenching its customers’ thrust, Parle Agro has been one of the most favored legacy beverage brands in the country since inception. Through its share of ups & downs, the company has yet again got back on track owing to the sheer grit & determination of the trio – father Prakash Chauhan and sisters Schauna & Nadia Chauhan. Carrying ahead the legacy in style and true spirits, Chauhan sisters are one of the most successful role models for women entrepreneurs. Nadia Chauhan, the beverage connoisseur, is surely living upto its brand slogan ‘Feel the Fizz’. Holding the position of Joint Managing Director & Chief Marketing Officer, Parle Agro Pvt Ltd, Nadia has spent over a decade leading Parle Agro overseeing the company’s growth story. She joined Parle Agro in 2003 when the company was largely a single brand driven organization with a turnover of Rs300 crores; today it boasts of a portfolio that is innovative and growing with a turnover of over Rs2,800 crores, delivering double digit growth every single year. With a mission to get back to the pole position, the management team has set for itself an envious target of attaining 10,000 crore turnover by 2022 and has been well on its mission to refresh India. This exclusive interaction with such an effervescent, stylish and a powerful personality will offer you leadership lessons to be the best in the business.
Your tagline says, ‘We are Parle Agro. And we are in the business of refreshing India.’ How are you achieving this daunting task?
I am part of the 3rd generation of leaders driving this vision. My grandfather, who was fondly known as the Father of Soft Drinks in India for having created the entire Indian soft drinks category with some Iconic brands that continue to exist today, started a journey for our company that has been extremely exciting. My father and now my sister and I continue this journey forward. Our business is to refresh India. With products that are designed for the Indian palate & products that are primarily fruit based. A core part of our value system is in creating new product experiences for the consumers. We do not create me too products, and our focus is on innovation.
Our history is the proof of how we have been leading the beverage category by innovating one product at a time. Our most recent launch Frooti Fizz expands sparkling fruit based beverage category that we created almost a decade ago, and we continue to hold dominance in. Frooti Fizz is a step towards expanding this category. With our vision towards growing the sparkling Fruit Drink Category to a 4000 crore, mango being as largely accepted a fruit variant, allows us to driver greater penetration & expand the consumer base. This is one of our most recent examples. We refresh India by creating refreshing & innovative product offerings, and using an extremely developed sales & distribution system to make it available across the length and breadth of the county and our marketing strategies that adopt disruption as the approach towards advertising and creating high affinity & recall for our brands.
Parle Agro has a rich legacy. How are you planning to take this growth trajectory forward?
Yes, Parle Agro has a rich legacy. Perhaps, even richer than most of us are aware about.In the last 13 years that I have been leading the Parle Agro growth story, the focus has been on driving the large vision, by creating a powerful organization that is capable of owning & achieving the large goals that we set for ourselves. For any organization that operates in our category – sales & distribution (S&D) is one of the most critical drivers of success. Over the last decade, the focus has been on creating a world-class S&D system, to deliver in this dynamic & competitive market environment. Besides many other very large initiatives that have been driven to take company to a position of leadership, we have over the last decade, seen a growth of more than 700% and have been growing in rank across the country.
What are the learnings you gained from your father?
One paragraph cannot do justice to my learnings from my father. I am fortunate to have learned on the job, under his leadership. It has allowed me to not only understand his vision, but use a very unique lens to how we see the market opportunity & how we approach it.
When did the entrepreneurial bug bite you and you knew that family business is your calling?
I have never really thought of anything else. I always knew that the family business was my calling. I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity to be a part of it, and to lead the company back to the number one spot.
Having grown up in such a family, how were your early days? Did you always want to be a part of your father’s business?
Growing up in a family that runs such a large business meant that business was home. This is special. I have memories from very early days, when my father would come home and sample new products that he worked on, memories from when we sold off to Coca Cola and the long hours that he would be away, memories of being a part of product launches and many achievements of the company. I guess it is all of this that always made me want to be a part of my father’s business. I had seen him put his heart & soul into building the company; I wanted to help take it further.
What’s that one quality that he possesses that you don’t and vis-a-versa?
This is a question I have never been asked before. My father is a unique man. He possesses an ability to see what many cannot.
Innovation is another name of Parle Agro. What are the breakthrough innovations achieved at Parle Agro in recent times?
In India, Parle Agro introduced the category of fruit juice plus fizz drinks back in 2005 with the launch of Appy Fizz. This year, we continued to innovate in the category with the introduction of Frooti Fizz which is a unique combination of real mango juice and fizz. Mango as a flavor contributes to more than 90% of the Fruit Flavored Still Drinks category and this dominance of a single flavor shows the enormous potential for Frooti Fizz. Since the launch in March, we have seen a very positive response towards Frooti Fizz and are extremely excited about the future of this category. Our goal is to take the fruit juice plus fizz category to Rs4,000 crore in the coming years.
Being in this most dynamic industry, what keeps you going on time every time?
Our Vision keeps us going. Our passion keeps us going after our vision. We want to be back where we started – the number one spot. We won’t stop until we get there. And once we do, we will be laying down even larger ambitions for our business.
How do you keep your employees motivated to achieve better than the best?
In the past it was easier, we were a smaller organization and I could say that I knew almost everybody across the country by name. We have grown large now and it’s not that easy anymore. As a growing organization, one of the largest motivators is business performance itself. It’s a great feeling for most to be a part of a growing organization because it also means that each one is seeing success and nothing beats the feeling of success.
We do have a lot of other initiatives as well whether it is our annual retreat where we have focused on taking our teams to places and for experiences they have never imagined themselves doing such as Bungee jumping, zip lining, white water rafting, camping and a lot more. Destinations have included Indian & International hot spots. We are just planning our next one. We also have annual recognition programs to recognize outstanding performers. We have a meet that takes place every year in January, with every single person across the country, to discuss our achievement, our exciting plans ahead & recognize those who have contributed exceptionally to the achievements. We made a lot of people have their dream come true, when we got Salman Khan to visit our office and spend time with our teams. All of this adds to what keeps them motivated and in love with the business.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect while building and sustaining such an empire?
I would say the most difficult aspect is to create infrastructure at the same pace at which we are growing. People are the most important aspect of any business.
What makes Parle Agro one of the most favoured food & beverage brand? What are the elements that you possess while your competitors don’t?
I believe that we are truly an Indian company and that’s the biggest factor setting us apart from our competitors. We very well know the taste and likings of customers and based on that, we bring out innovative products for them.
Freshness is one of the most crucial elements in your business. How do you ensure the same?
Customer centricity has always been one of our key focuses and in the beverage industry, getting the consumer the perfect experience is critical. Through the years, we have continuously invested and enhanced our manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure to ensure that our consumers get the best tasting product experience. Usage of automated technologies at our factories, selection of the perfect packaging formats, moving towards a data centric supply chain and adoption of sales force automation has enabled us to get the freshest product to our consumers wherever they are present.
Where do we see Parle Agro growing from here on?
Our ultimate goal is to win back the number one spot, which we had to give up when we sold most of our beverages. We have over the years, built our organization and infrastructure back from scratch, we have been growing rapidly and faster than the industry, we have even grown in Rank and today hold the number two spot. By the year 2022, we should have achieved 10,000 crore turnover and a position of leadership across categories that we operate in.
What’s your message to new age entrepreneurs?
Stay focused, committed and drive forward fearlessly!
At so many places, you have been quite vocal about balancing personal & professional life, which is the need of the hour. How do you do that even during times of distress?
What I perhaps have not said out loud enough is that I have two very intelligent and at the same time very sensitive children. They have been as much of support in helping me achieve the work life balance. Today my daughter understands the position I hold, and I often find her even explaining to my son sometimes, when I have to be away. At times of distress, they are truly amazing. Children always know, and these two just transform into the most supportive beings during those moments. My entire support system is also very strong and has enabled me to achieve this balance and do justice to both these very important roles that I play.
With the current policy changes, how do you see Indian economy shaping up in times to come?
Demonetization was obviously one of the biggest policy changes we have encountered in recent times and now there is GST. While there might be short term negative impact from such policy changes, we should look at it from a long-term perspective. The country is on a road to development in all aspects and it is great that our systems are coming at par with developed economies. Most of the policy changes will surely set up the economy for continued and sustainable economic growth.
The GST impact - "GST will be a big opportunity for the FMCG category moving forward. The simplification of the taxation structure will definitely bring in the ease of doing business. I hope that we are able to provide our products that are fruit based and hence healthier at better prices to the consumers and really help to expand the categories we are present in far beyond what they are right now. As an organization, we started preparing well in advance for all possible impacts due to GST and we seem to be in a good place to address the different implications that it could have."
UP, CLOSE & PERSONAL
What’s your passion? Besides business, I love travelling, I’m a big foodie, I love going on all kinds of adventures with my family and kids, I love animals, and I love meeting new people.
What’s success, according to you? I will consider myself successful, if I’m able to lead our company back to the number one position.
Your most priced possession... My children & my family
How do you unwind yourself? Recently I’ve taken to Yoga. And I find it’s an amazing way to unwind. Otherwise, it’s music, or even cuddling in bed reading books with my kids.
A recent read that has inspired you the most...The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey – It is an inspiring and an intimate story of the author’s year-long encounter with a Neohelix Albolabris—a common forest snail, while an illness keeps her bedridden.
Where do you get the inspiration from? I find inspiration all around me. Sometimes it’s the people I meet, the things I see, sometimes what I read about. I find inspiration in the smallest of things.
You have been recently listed 50 most influential women. Who would you give this credit to? I am not such a big fan of all these lists that are published and these achievements. I am thankful that someone thought I am worthy of being a part of it none the less. If I have to give credit for where I have reached today, it would be to my parents. My father for truly trusting me blindly and having such strong belief in me, and giving me the kind of opportunity he gave me, very early in my life. And my mom for being such a big support in raising my kids so that I could strike a strong balance between work and family life.
What’s your leadership style? I have a wonderful leader in my father myself and I like to follow his approach in leadership. In my opinion, a leader must give vision and courage to the team, and empower the members to bring the vision to life. I believe everyone should have a voice and everyone definitely has a point of view and I feel as a leader, it is important to ensure that everyone’s point of view is addressed and heard. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it but it’s important that the point of view is out there because that leads to healthier decision making and team building.
Empowering people and respecting them is very important because everyone has ambitions & passion and it is important to nurture that. My leadership and management style tries to stick closely to this virtue and I believe it has worked well and contributed to overall company success.
What’s that one thing you would like your kids to inculcate? I would like them to be focused and true to whatever it is that they decide to do.