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Ravindra Modi started Hyderabad Food Products in 1984 in Hyderabad, to sell basic grinded masalas under the brand name ‘Surya’. Today, the company has grown to become one of the leading producers of ethnic food articles, which includes spice powders, blended masalas, pickles, cooking pastes, namkeens (Indian snacks) and sweets, especially in South India.
From Kiranas to Shopping Malls
Modi claims that his company was one of the forerunners in introducing laminated packaging in the business. Moreover, he played a big role in standardising the manufacturing procedure of Indian spices by using technology; spices which were earlier grinded in stone grinder. “We observed that if we package products well, then spices that were earlier sold at the backside of the ‘kirana’ stores, could be brought to the front counters of the shops, thereby it was given a necessary facelift,” he said.
The brand is popular among consumers for its consistent quality and competitive pricing. Modi believes that when you need to create a brand, you need to be patient. Talking about continuous innovation, Modi says, “We were the first company to advertise on TV and give out promotional schemes to consumers. Apart from that we were continuously upgrading our manufacturing processes. Take for example red chilli powder – this is a product that is available in various categories, odour, color and taste. It is difficult to detect these things in packaged format. Hence, we decided to start a lab where measuring factors like pungency level and blends can be checked, so that our product remains consistent in all packages.”
He further adds, “This was a big technological input in our process. Standardizing the raw material or buying it and mixing it in a way that it remains the same, was one of our key initiatives.” Standardizing raw materials and other ingredients – Modi considers - was the key technological advancement that helped them beef up their operations. “Technology is very easy now and we aren’t in a rocket model of technology business wherein we cannot implement these novel techniques. You have to be consistent in your approach all the time and this is how you create a brand. This helps you win the belief of the people,” Modi said.
Modi said that food is an extremely sensitive product and a manufacturer should be wary of the fact that one cannot compromise on taste and quality at any cost. Once a customer disowns your brand, he disowns it forever, he adds. HFPPL today has a capacity to produce 7,000 tons spice powders, 2,000 tons of blended masalas, 1,500 tons of pickle and cooking pastes and around 6,000 tons of namkeens (Indian Snacks) and sweets per annum. The company has multi-locational plants; each dedicated for different segments of products and employs about 400 dedicated staff.
(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)