The Chicken Queen
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When your father has been in the Poultry Business over the last 30 years, getting into the same would have been anyone's first call. However, the familiar face of Bollywood and Mumbai theatre, Perizaad Zorabian started her career as an actor. Having an inclination towards the performing art she never thought one day it would turn into a full-fledged career. However, filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor discovered her and the journey of an actor began.
"My parents were super supportive and imagined it would be one-off things...I don’t think anyone in my family imagined that a small independent off-beat film like Bollywood calling would kick start a truly unique career for me as an actor," said Perizaad.
But then when you admire your father, getting aligned with his footprints happens eventually. "As a little girl who was always obsessed with her father I always knew I was going to grow up and be an entrepreneur just like my daddy," she smiled.
While many might find the transition of a box office figure to become a boxed chicken person difficult, for her it was a fluid process as she allowed life to happen to her and gave the best of it.
She joined the Zorabian Chicken Empire when it was seeing the worst of its time. She came as a warrior princess who was determined to turn things around and keep the legacy alive. Very few can get into the family business at a time when the chips are down and revive it. Let's call this baptism by fire.
Perizaad resuscitated the brand by her transformation vision that involved making people invested in the brand and gaining their trust. They say education and observation often solve many problems and it certainly did in her case. During her MBA days in New York, she was fascinated by Perdue Chicken and loved their stand on quality, no antibiotics, and hormones. It's a legacy brand that has been up and running for generations. She just knew what Zorabian Chicken needed!
"I started working for Zorabian when the company was facing a very turbulent time. I stepped in knowing we had to change the way we communicated and how we positioned ourselves. We had to tell our story, share our values and beliefs and what made us so different from the rest. So, all I did was share the goodness of the brand with the world at large and most importantly made us available everywhere. I built a team from scratch for Retail and Integrated Old with New and built a team that truly transformed the way chicken is consumed in India," she explained.
Learning from their experience, she knew that re-inventing the brand was the requirement. Soon larger players entered the market and being niche no longer gave them the economies of scale to be competitive on price in the Institutional Wholesale Space. So what did they do next to up their game?
"A very dear business colleague advised us to give our chicken a face for the consumer who cared and valued quality. That’s when we entered the retail space with our fresh chicken," she said.
Having culinary expertise due to their restaurant Gondola and catering unit Cheron they knew they could never go wrong with food. That's when they entered the ready-to-cook market, a range of products that were made by their chicken and culinary expertise. The product instantly hit public’s taste buds becoming a household brand pan-India, with a lot of queries for export.
The reason for being in the business for such a long time is no compromise on quality and integrity.
"The final goal is quality and not chasing a number, they will automatically happen," she states.
Having witnessed the dark times and the glory first hand she understands the essence of entrepreneurship in true sense. "Once you have tasted success, fame, and acclaim, seeing a downturn is tough. I have to keep reminding myself and my team that it’s important to keep re-inventing the wheel, re-inventing our communication. Success spoils you. It makes you complacent & egoistic and you believe all that coming your way is your birthright. Failure is a great teacher, it makes you humble, gives you a reality check and tests whether you have what it takes to take the low after experiencing the high and still have the strength to forge ahead," she categorically points out.
Though she has laid a strong foundation of Zorabian Chicken with a loyal consumer base, she still has a lot to accomplish, she believes. Apart from her business one thing that she really wants to do for herself is getting back to acting.
"It’s amazing what maturity brings. Today more than success – fame - adulation, I want the luxury of time and energy to be able to pursue all my dreams and have a perfect work-life balance. My Favorite Quote is from the kids' film “Happy Feet”...It says, if you want it you must will it and if you will It, It will be yours! That’s truly the secret of living a life of purpose and passion," she shares.
(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)