NAVIGATING THEIR WAY
Entrepreneur magazine|September 2021
When a new family member enters a business it brings issues of a newer generation. As the pandemic stuck last year we saw what kind of transitions these gen-next leaders made to sustain businesses. We also saw a humane side of theirs coming forward and showing a different kind of leadership. This test of time gave them enough room to think about what role they can play to keep the family legacy alive and newer changes they could implement. While businesses would have undergone drastic changes, family values remained uncompromised. The current issue, being the fifth edition of our annual ‘Tomorrow Inc’ edition aims to understand the entrepreneurial spirit of the new generation of the family business and how they can build business for the new-age economy.
Punita Sabharwal

THE MAN BEHIND THE DESIGNER LABEL

Amrish Kumar, Managing Director & Creative Director, Ritu Kumar

Amrish is a second-generation entrepreneur, who was challenged to grow a largely ‘boutique’ business, started in 1971 into a highly successful, pan-India women’s apparel company with brands spanning global fashion, Indian contemporary and Indian couture brands. In 2007, he launched ‘Label Ritu Kumar’, a western wear brand which marked the beginning of their move into mainstream fashion. Today Label, boasts of more than 50+ stores, across India. He is also responsible for modernising and expanding the legacy product line into two different brands for pret and couture. Amrish launched Ritu Kumar Home in 2019 and also launched aarke by Ritu Kumar in 2021, a brand with Indian wear sensibilities that will bridge the gap between designer wear and accessible price points. When asked what drew him towards the business, Kumar says, “Two things drew me in; first on a very commercial level is the potential of being able to drive a business and brand of my own. When I came to the family business, back then there were only 12 stores. Secondly, there was always a connection with the artisanal nature of our business because it was around since I was very young. It has its own character and name and is unlike any brand in the industry. This was the most subliminal kind of motivation.” Over the years he has developed the infrastructure and functions verticals. He has also helmed brand building and marketing. After a successful fund raise, from Everstone Capital in 2013, Amrish took on the role of CEO and drove the day to day operations across multiple functions including design, supply chain, E-commerce and operations. Talking about some of his bold moves at the company, he shares, “I have launched four segregated brands and now we are a family of five brands. We have worked on our e-commerce presence, our websites. The business we gain from there is larger than what we gain from our market business.” In the last five years, the company has consistently been able to deliver 20%+ top-line growth and grow touch points to 100+ across 30+ cities in India while consistently expanding the brands’ online presence in key markets of USA, UK & the Middle East to become one of the most recognized women’s fashion apparel brands. Simultaneously, Amrish has successfully, transformed the company from a largely promoter-run set-up into an institutionalized, professionally run organization while driving innovations.

THE CENTENARY TEA MAKER

Parag Desai, Executive Director, Wagh Bakri Tea Group

Parag Desai happens to be the fourth Generation entrepreneur, wherein he was exposed to the business since childhood.

“I remember the first time when I was taught (professionally) the art of tasting tea. I was in my teens. The entire process was explained scientifically and then was exposed to the art of taste. That has stayed with me even today,” recalls Desai. Desai was filled with ideas and had some aggressive plans as he never thought about any other career than to join the family business. Desai was keen to study consumer behaviour and forecast future demands. Framing the strategies and planning to implement them at the right time was equally exciting.

At product level, he took the range to the next level. “Today, we have a wide range of Green Teas, Exotic Teas, Iced Teas, Instant Premixes like Cappuccino & Haldi Doodh, etc,” he adds. At brand level, he gradually redefined the group’s traditional or conservative kadakmithi (strong and sweet) chai along the way. Their latest campaigns #SisterWaliChai & #DadWaliChai got an overwhelming response and was relatable to the younger generation. Sharing more on the innovation front he says, “We have already ventured into QSR Outlets with Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge.” Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge carries forward the legacy of 100 years old Wagh Bakri Tea Group in a modern avatar. The lounges are spread across the country in cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Pune, Mumbai, Gurugram and Goa. Sharing more on his bold move Desai says, “Back in 2002, when Café culture was booming and going to a Café was becoming a style statement. Tea was still a Keetli culture. We launched the Tea Lounge to increase category aspiration. Going to a Tea Lounge to drink the best quality tea with a rich ambience experience was quite unique and bold.” Currently the brand exports to 40 countries and is now starting to introduce complementary products like quick snacks, sugar, new age instant premixes. As Desai says, “We will continue spending time to understand the preferences of our customers to remain their preferred and trusted choice.”

MAPPING THE NATION

Rohan Verma, CEO & Executive Director, MapmyIndia

Rohan Verma’s earliest memories of the business environment began at home. “I was less than 5 years old when I remember my parents working on IBM mainframe computers. They would work long hours in a few of the rooms of our home, which was their office – training other people in building software at our office, or going to visit a client outside Delhi. Throughout my schooling days from class 4 till class 12, after school I would visit the office on many days and see them digitizing maps, building mapping software, making marketing material, and sometimes I even accompanied them to exhibitions and product launches,” shares Verma. After his class 12 exams and before he headed off to Stanford, Rohan interned at the office and his first work was to learn about digital vector maps and convert them to GPS device ready formats, so that the digital map of some part of India could be loaded into a GPS device which someone wanted to use for waypoint navigation. After his first year at Stanford, he spent the summer of 2004 working on building out India’s first interactive mapping portal, MapmyIndia.com, along with his team. Launching MapmyIndia.com at the age of 19 was his full-blown introduction to the business. His induction in the family business was with the aim of democratizing access and further growing the benefits of digital maps and location technologies to everyone. So he got involved with launching the consumer facing internet mapping portal. Then next he was involved with launching the GPS navigation product, a new category for India, which brought in immense benefits to consumers, who could rely on a digital companion and navigator while traveling to not get lost and reach their destination safely and efficiently.

BUILDING THE HEALTHY BREAKFAST CLUB

Aditya Bagri, Director, Bagrry’s

As a second-generation in the family business, Aditya was fortunate to observe the business from a very early stage. His family has been in grain milling for over 50 years and his father established a B2B business with marquee customers before launching Bagrry’s – their flagship brand of breakfast cereals and health foods. Sharing his childhood memories from the retail brand created in early 90s, Bagri says, “As a child, I saw my parents work endlessly on building the brand and the product range. From developing the in-house technology to process oats, unavailable in India back in the 90s to promoting the products in several trade fairs, expand distribution, it was a master class on entrepreneurship.” Aditya joined the business after completing his masters and having worked for a short while in the banking sector. The first few years were a period of steep learning, starting out from the sales and marketing function, he was gradually introduced to every department of the business and is now mandated with building the flagship FMCG vertical. Talking about the potential he saw in the business, Bagri says, “Our business category is a future centric one with more and more consumers looking for healthy alternatives.” He is now looking at adding new lines that are consumer focussed, expanding the reach both domestically and internationally. Some of the initiatives he took were to expand the portfolio from a niche breakfast cereal brand to a complete portfolio of breakfast cereals and health foods. Recently, the brand built its own D2C platform with products that are online first and have a potential to scale.

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