More than three decades ago, Ravindra Modi was attending a conference as a chemical engineer in Mumbai, where he was presenting his thesis. Modi back then was specializing in food technology and was hence automatically intrigued by a talk by an American. He was intrigued with the idea about food technology and packaging and contemplated as a student to start something on the same lines.
Back then, there weren’t many packaged food companies and the domain of spices was an unorganized category. “The idea came to me that I need to convince consumers that it was unadulterated and of good quality, there is a good opportunity to startup here,” Modi said.
Initially I needed a little bit of manpower and a basic grinder, hence this helped us start with a very small investment, he added.
Hyderabad Food Products Pvt. Ltd. [HFPPL] was incorporated in 1984 in Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, India. The company produces large segment of ethnic food such as Spice Powders, Blended Masalas, Indian Pickles, Cooking Pastes, Namkeens (Indian Snacks) and Indian Sweets. It manufactures and markets its products under the brand name ‘SURYA’. The brand is popular among consumers for its consistent quality and competitive price. The company has multi-locational plants, each dedicated for different segments of products and employ about 400 dedicated staff.
Brand creation and entrepreneurial journey
Having created a niche of his own, Modi strongly believes that when you need to create a brand, you need to be patient.
Initially the spices were grinded using a stone grinder and from there Modi’s company has now standardized the manufacturing procedure using technology. “We also observed that if we can give a good packaging to the material that was earlier sold at the back side of the kirana store, we could bring the product to the front counters of the shop, thereby giving it a necessary facelift,” he said.
We were competing with an organized sector where price alone mattered, but despite all this we continued to remain persistent with our journey in brand-building, he adds.
Modi revealed that many a times he juggled with the idea of ditching these hardships and taking up a comfortable job. He was a good student and could have very well settled for a comfortable work life, but he continued to chart the entrepreneurial route.
What hardships taught him
While sustaining a company with meagre funds continued to remain a challenge, Modi rightly knew that he couldn’t have diluted his product quality just because you aren’t earning profits.
He introduced standardization of products, raw materials and mechanical packing of products to his brand.
Modi said that food is an extremely sensitive product and a manufacturer should be wary of the fact that one cannot compromise of taste and quality at any cost. Once a customer disowns your brand, he disowns it forever, he adds.
Perspective on today’s entrepreneurs
“When I started manufacturing pickles, I was asked by the bank as to why I required such a big space and money because pickles are manufactured at home. Even banks were not willing to understand the mechanics of making pickles at a large-scale,” he said. But today bankers have a better idea about business models and the emergence of venture funds and angel investors have given entrepreneurs more options, he said.
Today the financial options have opened the doors of entrepreneurship in India unlike yester years wherein entrepreneurship was considered to be a foolish career option.
The company today has a capacity to produce 7000 tons Spice Powders, 2000 tons of Blended Masalas, 1500 tons of Pickle and Cooking Pastes and around 6000 tons of Namkeens (Indian Snacks) and Sweets per annum.