In Conversation with Abhinandan Dhoke

CEO, ORGANIC INDIA
Tuesday, 09 Jan 2018
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Abhinandan Dhoke is the CEO of ORGANIC INDIA. He is passionate about enhancing the reach and impact of this visionary company through his wealth of experience working with some of India’s largest and most successful businesses. Abhinandan believes that all companies today have a responsibility to support society and the environment through their operations, and he is committed to sharing this message with the world, through ORGANIC INDIA’s example. Before joining ORGANIC INDIA, Abhinandan was VP Sales and Marketing for Relaxo, a popular Indian footwear company. At Relaxo, he was responsible for the development of end-to-end sales and marketing, trade marketing and brand management. Prior to this, he spent over 14 years in a variety of enriching roles with Britannia Industries Ltd, in which he worked across geographies, and every part of the value chain.
About
Abhinandan Dhoke is the CEO of ORGANIC INDIA. He is passionate about enhancing the reach and impact of this visionary company through his wealth of experience working with some of India’s largest and most successful businesses. Abhinandan believes that all companies today have a responsibility to support society and the environment through their operations, and he is committed to sharing this message with the world, through ORGANIC INDIA’s example. Before joining ORGANIC INDIA, Abhinandan was VP Sales and Marketing for Relaxo, a popular Indian footwear company. At Relaxo, he was responsible for the development of end-to-end sales and marketing, trade marketing and brand management. Prior to this, he spent over 14 years in a variety of enriching roles with Britannia Industries Ltd, in which he worked across geographies, and every part of the value chain.

Organic India recently launched five new products (Apple Cider Vinegar, Mustard Oil, Pomegranate Vinegar, Sesame Oil, Stevia). What, according to you, are the growth and innovation opportunity areas for organic products in India? What have you got planned for 2018?

Innovation is a way of life. At Organic India, we strongly wish to be a holistic provider in the health and wellness category. Our innovation strategy is driven by the fact that anything that promotes healthy living, we wish to be a participant in it for the sake of our consumers. The outcome of our recent launches (Apple Cider Vinega  r, Mustard Oil, Pomegranate Vinegar, Sesame Oil, Stevia) has been due to a clear opportunity that we have seen in areas of organic food consumption. Our products require a lot of planning – from the conception to the roll out in the market, it can take anywhere between 9-12 months. We are driven by the commitment that the consumer is searching for a healthier alternative in terms of food, searching for ‘a healthier solution for healthier living’. 

We have invested in a new manufacturing setup now. This is a world-class manufacturing facility based out of Lucknow. This year we will not only expand our exclusive wellness stores, we will also get into an even more intricate distribution strategy. From 25,000 outlets we will add 50,000-60,000 outlets.

Who is the target consumer for organic products? How do you ensure brand loyalty in a cluttered market?

Our consumer aspires to a genuine, healthy product because we are leading very stressful lifestyles. There’s a lot of pollution in the environment, there’s a lot of pesticide in our food. That said, there’s an increasing awareness of using products that are certified organic and good for health. It’s the search for a healthier alternative that is leading to people to turn to organic food. At Organic India we believe there is a burgeoning opportunity for us to participate. The consumer is conscious of what she wants. There is also a big element of comfort and convenience which the consumer looks for -- once she is assured of a quality product, there will always be the top-of-the-mind recall. Once the product is good, built into an effective distribution and marketing strategy, brand loyalty can easily develop. It's a reason why we are seeing an annual growth of 20-25 per cent.

How should brands, according to you, build products within categories or segments?

I’ll talk in the context of Organic India. We keep asking ourselves, ‘which category are we absent in as far as organic health and wellness category is concerned?’ Our search for that answer is what allows us to keep innovating. We work on the premise that the consumer wants to experience health holistically. While we want to build a global community in wellness, our product portfolio strategy is based on precisely this vision. We keep delving deeper into the wellness category and therein develop newer products every quarter. From a detox kit that is a cleansing programme for 28 days to our ‘beverage’ category (with teas, infusions, etc, wherein we will soon be stepping into organic coffee); from healthy oils, herbal supplements to natural sweeteners, we keep innovating continually. We will soon look at body oils, for instance. We have a dedicated team that’s headed by a chief innovation officer. We believe in proactive innovation, thinking ahead of the curve, a reason why we are successful.  

What were the challenges when you began your journey?

When we entered the business, the challenge was to convince even the farmers to root for organic farming. There was no motivation for farmers to yield crop without pesticides. They weren’t educated even though they were skilled. So the challenge was two-fold – one, convincing the farmers of the growth potential of organic products, and educating them about the potential of what could grow on their farms. Two, the challenge to grow the market for organic food products. Organic India has been the pioneer in developing the organic market in India but our journey was also about building awareness around certified organic products and why it was better for everyone. To illustrate a point: Our organic tea packet of twenty-five tea bags would cost roughly Rs150. Now, nowhere in the market will you get a cup of tea for less than Rs10. But our single tea bag, which is healthy, packed with anti-oxidants and organic, costs much, much lesser. Similarly, a packet of regular dal may cost marginally lower than Organic India’s packet but consumers are ensured of good, quality product and the knowledge that the premium reaches the farmer directly.

What is the retail strategy to grow the brand?

Our retail strategy is tied to our sampling strategy. We have spread across as an omnichannel brand, doubling our outlets in the last two years. We are present in more than 25,000 outlets in tier one, tier two and tier three cities. In the next couple of years, we will reach lakh-plus outlets. Our aim is simple: Be accessible so consumers can reach our products easily. Besides the outlets, we have exclusive, signature stores. We are also building the distribution network and capacity so it is easy for our products to reach our consumers. 

For readers to understand our retail strategy, it is important for them to understand our sampling strategy. We started the sampling of our products in stores such as Fab India where our target consumer base was already there. Additionally, we also did a massive sampling strategy in jogging parks and tracks. However, I must reiterate that for any sampling strategy to be successful,  the product has to be full of taste, quality. For that, the product has to be absolutely successful in terms of taste, quality. A successful sampling strategy ensures that the product is in your blood.

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