In Conversation with Lisa Suwal
Prasuma is a thirty-year-old brand. Could you tell us about its journey and how, in your view, should brands evolve and stay relevant with the passage of time?
My father began this brand thirty years ago to serve hotels and restaurants in India. Our product quality has always remained consistent, and that’s a big reason for our steady growth. Along with maintaining quality, we have always innovated to remain relevant. We realised that our growth couldn’t happen by serving just the ‘institutional’ sector. Ten years ago, we stepped into retail to serve the consumers directly. Prasuma was the first brand in India to start the ‘fresh and chilled’ segment. Other brands, which, till then, were available, were in the frozen segment.
For a brand to stay alive and to be relevant, the consumer needs to be given good quality product, consistently and persistently. Brands must remember that there are many options available for the consumers. Quality and innovation have been the two most important aspects for our brand’s success.
Interestingly, even today, the tasting of all the products, before they are rolled out, is done in our home. As a family, we all try out Prasuma products. Only if we are satisfied, the products are rolled out in the retail market. Some of our products, in fact, take anywhere between six months to a year to be perfected. We are very strict about the quality.
How often are products rolled out? Is that also an important part of the innovation strategy?
Like I said, if a brand doesn’t innovate, it dies. Without innovating consistently, the brand will not survive. That said, a brand’s product – or products – needs to be rolled out with immense care, with zero compromise on the quality. Today, there is tremendous growth in the fresh and chilled segment – a lot of our consumer base has been travelling and getting exposed to good quality products in the cold cuts and meat category. Our portfolio of products, in order to satiate the consumers’ interest, keeps increasing month on month. We have, for example, over 250 SKUs in our current portfolio, which keeps increasing. We are closely studying what categories and segments work well. We don’t hesitate to remove poor performing products but with the commitment that we always launch quality products month after month.
How do you ensure quality control?
Before I answer that, let me add that quality control is of utmost importance to Prasuma. It’s the cornerstone of our success over the last three decades. We strongly believe that if you source the right raw material, the end product will be good. Hence, choosing the right vendor for the product is crucial. I think the strategy that has helped us in quality control is the fact that we have ‘backward integrated’ ourselves in terms of the supply chain. Let me take you through how we do it – we have ‘contracted suppliers’ and that helps us to keep a very close watch on how the animal is bred, what it’s fed. We make sure that the animal is antibiotic free, hormone free, etc, to ensure quality of our products. We don’t buy from the mandis. We have our state-of-the-art suppliers that allow us to keep a close look at everything from the beginning; we have a temperature-controlled environment and from the time the product is cut to the time it reaches the retailer, we handle the supply chain on our own, ensuring that the quality is checked every step of the way. There is no third party involvement and that’s a huge reason for our quality to be consistent. From the handling to the processing to the packaging to the distribution, everything is handled by us in a temperature-controlled environment. Even in terms of transportation, we have our own fleet of refrigerated vehicles. Additionally, we have our own distribution centres in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. We have our own cold storage distribution centres, our own refrigerated vehicles to ensure that the best, freshest product reaches the consumer. Because we manage every step of the supply chain ourselves, our quality doesn’t suffer. Then there’s the packaging, which forms an important role in maintaining quality standards. Most of our packaging material, for instance, comes from New Zealand. For our products, packaging plays an important role in terms of maintaining quality, texture, even the flavor. Similarly, we import the spices, which we put into our sausages, salamis, etc, from Germany and Spain. We meet our margins in terms of volumes and backward integration. We never compromise on quality or take shortcuts.
The digital marketing landscape is changing the way that old brands used to market themselves. Going forward, how important will be digital media for a brand such as Prasuma?
Prasuma has been a very traditional brand. Our success has been through word-of-mouth through our growing consumer base that has loved our products over the years. However, digital is a very important medium, which will see a huge role in our growth strategy. For a brand like Prasuma, which is niche and premium, digital allows us to get in touch with our consumer directly, helps us reach out to the right sort of audience. Our focus on digital is not merely marketing or advertising. For us, the digital platform allows us to further educate our discerning consumer. India has traditionally not been a meat-eating market. There are a lot of myths that need to be broken. For instance, people think that sausages are mostly unhealthily created. At Prasuma, however, sausages are created with utmost care; with premium cuts that are used, without the use of anything artificial or thinners. Through the digital medium, we can make videos, write informative blog posts, even create relevant advertising while educating our consumers. Besides digital, we have been increasing our presence in the ecommerce segment through strategic partnerships with relevant players such as meatigo.com.
What is Prasuma’s growth strategy for the next two years?
The first is to focus increasingly on distribution. We wish to grow in as many cities as possible. Present in 21 cities currently, we will now increase the depth and the width of our distribution. Second, our focus will be on packaging of the highest quality. We are looking to revamping our packaging. As I mentioned earlier, packaging has always played an important role in our brand’s success. It will gain even more precedence now. Since Prasuma is always looking at innovation, 2018 will be the year for our ready to eat segment to be rolled out in a big way. From savoury jams, including smoked chicken jams, bacon-flavoured jam, and other ready-to-eat products, our consumers will see a rollout of a brand new category from Prasuma.