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Ranganathan's Rebellious Path to Brand Building Ranganathan always stood by his words of not taking the end customer for granted and to never budge on quality

By Sneha Banerjee

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Cavin Kare

A heir or heiress taking their family business forward is seen as a natural trend with Indian empires. But it takes tremendous amount of guts and hard work to ditch ones family business and start an empire single-handedly. Cuddalore boy CK Ranganathan, the Founder Chairman of FMCG conglomerate CavinKare, left his family business to create a path on his own hypothesis.

Under his leadership, the company diversified into personal care, food & beverage, and dairy. Over the years, the brand portfolio expanded to shampoos (Chik, Meera, Karthika and Nyle), Hair Wash Powders (Meera & Karthika), Coconut Oil (Meera), Fairness creams (Fairever), Deodorant & Talc (Spinz), Pickles & Snacks (Ruchi, Chinni's & Garden), Hair Colours (Indica), Retail Salon Products (Raaga Professional), Beverages (Maa), Dairy (Cavin's), and Beauty Salons (Green Trends & Limelite) both in domestic and international markets.

Shrugging Inferiority Complex

Ranganathan couldn't cope with the English language and was hence sent to a Tamil medium school. According to him, throughout his childhood he was ailing from inferiority complex. "There are certain basic things that I did right. My attitude changed and hence this helped me change my whole world. The attitude of feeling inferior! The moment I joined my family business, which till then was successfully run by my brothers, I realized this was common sense and not rocket science. I can do it!" The minute he shed his inferiority complex, from then on there was no looking back! not go on a discounting spree even in his initial days. Ranganathan started implementing a scheme wherein a retailer could return empty sachets of shampoos and get a packet of Chik shampoo in return.

When he saw retailers outsmart them by dumping hundreds of packets, Ranganathan tweaked the scheme to make them return packets of Chik shampoo packets. This scheme miraculously worked as retailers came forward and bought the shampoo packets seeing the demand, and this gave the company cash flows to advertise the

brand on radio and other media platforms. Once he saw the demand grow, he stopped the scheme and saw his distribution platform expand.

Ranganathan always stood by his words of not taking the end customer for granted and decided never to budge on quality – this he believes will help them compete in the long run. CavinKare, under Ranganthan's guidance, has also aced the concept of "family salons' in India and is the first to channel this industry into an organized salon chain sector with its specialist brands Limelite and Green Trends. Trends-in-Vogue, the parent company that operates the salon chains has a clear-cut focus on providing personal styling and beauty services to men, women and children. The franchisee-led format of the salon chain encourages budding and small time entrepreneurs to succeed in business, a cause which is very close to Ranganathan from his early years in entrepreneurship.

Choosing Quality over Margins

Ranganathan was under pressure from retailers to offer higher margins to them. When most local players gave higher margins to them, Ranganathan never compromised on quality and did not go on a discounting spree even in his initial days. He started implementing a scheme wherein a retailer could return empty sachets of shampoos and get a packet of Chik shampoo in return. When he saw retailers outsmart them by dumping hundreds of packets, Ranganathan tweaked the scheme to make them return packets of Chik shampoo packets. This scheme miraculously worked as retailers came forward and bought the shampoo packets seeing the demand, and this gave the company cash flows to advertise the brand on radio and other media platforms. Once he saw the demand grow, he stopped the scheme and saw his distribution platform expand. Ranganathan always stood by his words of not taking the end customer for granted and decided never to budge on quality – this he believes will help them compete in the long run.

Brand building Lessons CKR Adhered To

  • Ranganathan believed in a simple philosophy – everything starts with the product. We will either introduce a significantly differentiated product or a completely differentiated product from the competition. "I also introduced a detergent and you also introduced a detergent powder; my detergent should have the ability to convince the customer that it is better in quality than theirs. Otherwise I don't get into the game. These are principle's I don't want to violate," he said.
  • Ranganathan, who also spends enormously on research and development, believes that communicating the product is very important and hence spent enormous amount of time, energy and money in telling the right story to the customers via advertising. The company shrugged the idea of pricing war and decided to introduce premium products in the market.
  • Ranganathan today abides by the policies of being asset light and people light and relentlessly pursue the process of distribution to ensure that his products are available at every nook and corner of the country. Today, in spite of being conferred with several prestigious titles, Ranganathan feels that he has several milestones to cover and there is a long journey that awaits him
Sneha Banerjee

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

She used to write for Entrepreneur India from Bangalore and other cities in South India. 

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