How This Legacy Business Became a Common Name in Indian Homes
Like in all legacy businesses, this one too came with a lot of pressure
Creating a brand, a name for itself which becomes synonymous with the product they offer is the dream of every business owner. But building that requires years of effort and perseverance. It’s not for nothing that legacy businesses are called so.
When it comes to kitchenware there are few names that have always stood out and had often reached heights where the product in the offer is called by the brand’s name by itself.
When we look back into the past, from our childhood days, walking into the kitchen one would find stainless steel products and plastic boxes kept here and there around the place. But it was always the glass products that found their privileged place inside a cabinet, often kept as a “showpiece”.
With awareness about the hazards from the use of plastic, the glass products are out of the cabinet and are now used in everyday life, more often as tiffin boxes and bottles. And a name that holds a legacy in creating these is Borosil. Today, walk into any shop’s kitchenware section and it will be difficult to not spot a Borosil product.
We uncover the journey of this glassworks brand from being mainly a scientific product manufacturer in 1962 to today finding its way into our homes. Entrepreneur India caught up with Shreevar Kheruka, Managing Director, Borosil Glass Works Ltd.
Building the Brand
Started in 1962, Borosil had a joint venture with Corning Glass Works USA. In 1988, Kherukas bought the shareholding from Corning and started their story with the brand. Kheruka remembers that when their family acquired the firm, it was mainly a scientific product manufacturing company with some consumer products. Ever since then, they have transformed the company to become a consumer products firm. “We have maintained the quality heritage while substantially expanding the product portfolio, distribution and retail outreach. The brand too has a high level of recall. I can’t say we created the brand from scratch but we have further enhanced the image and made it a consumer brand,” he said.
The Pressure of a Legacy Business
Like in all legacy businesses, this one too came with a lot of pressure. Kheruka says that that’s also because consumer expectations have also increased. He explained that back in 1988, India’s economy was protectionist, the imports were taxed at very high percentages and it was impossible to import products and sell it here. “Now that import duty has come down substantially, Indian consumers have been exposed to great products from overseas. In the last 10-15 years, the expectations have gone up and now we compete with global standards,” he said.
When a brand has a huge recall value in the market, one wrong step can really cost you. So is there a trick to surviving through it all? Kheruka said that for them it has been to look at customer needs and their requirements of pricing and quality to accordingly develop products.
Even today, plastic and steel products hold a large share of the market. Every household uses these products for storage instead of using glass because of the obvious scare of breaking the jars. Kheruka points out that glass today has a very low market share – about 4-5 per cent in storage. “Our competition has been the mindset of the people,” he said.
But now the thoughts are changing. More and more people are realizing the hazards of plastic both for the environment and health, so they are switching to glass. “The challenge has been to communicate the multiple usages of glass – mindset has been a challenge. Millennials want to be more environmentally friendly so they want to switch to glass. We are capitalizing on this changing mindset,” he said.
Being the Next Gen
When you are born into a family of business and are expected to take reigns, while many believe it comes easy, there is also a whole different set of challenge. Kheruka too said any succession is always a challenge. When he took charge of Borosil, the company was going through a major crisis but he describes it as the perfect storm. “We were able to solve it and that gave credibility to the management, making way for acceptance for me,” he said.
As the new boss, Kheruka believes he’s bringing in innovation by building and motivating a strong team. “I empower my colleagues to take decisions and make mistakes. Setting a culture of trying new things, removing the fear of failure is the most important thing,” he said.
In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform).
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