It seems like an obvious question to ask Brahmani Nara, CEO of Dairy Major, Heritage Foods. Why, given her legacy as the granddaughter of the Telugu movie superstar NT Rama Rao and the daughter of actress Balakrishna (son of the NTR), did she not enter the celluloid industry like other stars?
She has been asked that question before, so she is quick to answer: “Our parents had reservations about us going into the film industry and we were shy kids to begin with; so no interest in the media industry,” she says. What really mattered to the family was education.
Travel with dairy
It’s a steamy morning in Hyderabad when we meet at 34-year-old Brahmani’s well-appointed office in Panjagutta for a conversation about her journey with the dairy industry. Her office has promised us a taste of the diverse products Heritage has to offer.
Heritage Foods was started by undivided former Prime Minister Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu, in 1992 and in 1994 the company was also listed on the stock exchange. While the company was run by his wife, Bhuvaneswari Nara, who is Vice President and MD – Brahmani, married to their son Lokesh Nara – joined Heritage in 2011 as Vice President and was later promoted to CEO.
We ask Brahmani how she came to Heritage after a long stay abroad. She graduated from Santa Clara University in California with a degree in electrical engineering and took an MBA from Stanford. “For me, what has been really important was to prove myself outside before I came to the family business. It was important not only for me but also for the family because it is a professionally run business. And I’m also glad that the family gave me the flexibility to go out and explore what’s out there and also understand what I was passionate about and whether I was really interested in the business, ”she explains.
Brahmani says being in the Bay Area of California – with its innovation and entrepreneurship – was an exciting experience. “During this time, my husband was at Stanford and graduating from business school. So I had an opportunity to be exposed to a world of innovation and intellect,” she recalls. She wanted to bring some value to the family and the business and decided to enter the venture capital field. “I went to Singapore and worked for a VC fund for about two years and then decided that I would return and join the family business. I was only 21 at the time and I felt I had to qualify and then came into Stanford and got my MBA, ”she says, adding that she is happy that she went through the process of proving to herself and the rest of the world that she had the qualification. and the pre-merger exposure.
“It was also very important for me to do my MBA because I knew I was getting into a space where once I got involved in it, it would be for a long time given my husband’s interest in the public domain. ,” she says .
Steaming cups of coffee arrive while we ask Brahmani about the Heritage business. She gives a quick overview of 95 1,953.83 crore Heritage Foods and says the company has close to 200 milk collection units and is in contact with 13,000 villages and almost three lakh farmers on a daily basis in India. “We are present in 11 markets; we are probably the most geographically diverse private dairy company in the country. We have a presence throughout South India; Maharastra is a large shopping zone for us, and we are also present in the Haryana and Delhi market and also service the UP and Uttarakhand market, ”she explains.
Milking value increase
Heritage is now a 30-year-old company and in phase four of its growth. The next decade of the journey, she says, is where the focus will be on being more consumer-centric and creating a sharper go-to-market strategy. “I’m really excited to take this asset and integrate it with superior consumer experience,” she adds.
Today, 26 percent of Heritage revenue comes from value-added dairy products, primarily curd as well as paneer and ghee, and Brahmani wants to make up 50 percent of revenue. “There are huge opportunities and a great personal interest in the fact that I have learned a lot about health and nutrition. I have spent summers working with European dairy companies, and after looking at food innovation, I think there is a great opportunity to organize the diary space for more value-creating products, “she says enthusiastically. Compared to liquid milk, which has a single-digit growth, value-creating products grow by 15-20 percent.
She classifies it as the healthy fat room with ghee and butter and the pleasure room with Indian sweets and frozen desserts and ice cream. “There are huge opportunities to embrace the consumer-centric, while continuing to penetrate our existing traditional business channel – agents and distributors and our franchisee partners. Our consumers are looking at the modern retail format; fast trading is also important. We are constantly innovating through our own new channels to reach our consumers more directly than before, and you will see more progress in the coming financial year, ”she explains.
As if on cue, a bearer arrives with a tray full of Heritage’s tasty assortment of milk and a box of doodh pedawhich pleases us.
We ask Brahmani about Heritage’s R & D efforts if it is to provide more value-added dairy products. “So far in the dairy industry, innovation or R&D has been about better taste, color or aroma. I think it can be very interesting to take a science-based approach. How do we look at our existing processes and make them more nutritious, enhance aromas using science, make better and fresher products; focus areas could be protein, energy, better digestive health – especially in the beverage area. ”
Focus on innovation
Heritage’s bond with the French company Novandie, an equivalent joint venture, is also to bring more Western-style dairy products to market. This JV will manufacture different types of yoghurt and dairy products – it has launched four varieties of fruit-based drinkable and stirred yoghurts in the Hyderabad and Bengaluru markets under the Mamie Yova brand.
“The Indian market is undergoing a transition,” says Brahmani, “there is a growing awareness of what they are eating and the quality of the food.” Consumers are looking for hygienically packaged products, and the last two pandemic years have accelerated this awareness. “Our focus on innovation for both product and distribution – we are looking at new trade and distribution models – will help us promote consumer awareness and the availability of our products.” With a long legacy behind him, the dairy major seeks to move on.
April 24, 2022