M-POWER 2018: Interaction of Local Entrepreneurs with Industry Stalwarts

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An interaction between the local entrepreneurs and industry experts was held on the 10th of February 2018 at T.A. Pai Management Institute as part of the marketing conclave M-Power 2018. This unique experience gave the local entrepreneurs an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns about their industry with the industry experts. The event was graced with dignitaries from various parts of the industry, like Mr. Mahesh Kanchan- VP, sales and marketing, Carlsberg, Mr Vikram Ahluwalia- SRM diagnostics, Mr Rajeev Ranjan- Director Sales, DSM Foods, Ms. Ritika Rajpal- Assisstant General Manager, L’Oréal, Mr Pawan Pandey- Category Head, Dabur, Mr Vikas Gupta- Head-Foods, Liberty Oil Mills, Mr S Sunil Kumar- Business Director, Henkel Adhesives, and the Platform for Women Empower Register represented by Ms. Sadhna Mallya- social activist and entrepreneur.

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Mr. Mahesh Kanchan opened the discussion by mentioning that only 5% of food is consumed in the packaged and ground form the remaining 95% is sold loose and unbranded. He elaborated that there was a huge opportunity in the food and beverage sector. The government, he mentioned, was promoting agro-based food processing which was leading to an improvement in the quality and therefore an increase in the food life. He then quipped that the concept of a national player was a myth and that being local and hyper-local can make an entrepreneur a lot of money. Keeping a tab on consumer consumption behavior is important, he concluded.

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Mr. Rajiv Ranjan mentioned the dominance of local players in snack food. He pointed out that understanding consumer behavior, points of competitive advantage and converting observation to insights is what would make a huge impact for entrepreneurs. Ms. Mallya mentioned that 90% women despite having resources do nothing, it was important to motivate these women to work from around 62 villages. Mr. Kumar added that gathering the extra produce from all the houses and branding them as fresh produce and then selling them in localities would be a good idea. It would not need any branding or money for investment. He reasoned that if people start earning the extra money they would be motivated to earn more. Mr. Gupta suggested that they should register on Amazon or Flipkart so that their product would be shown on their pages across the country.

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The issues that were discussed ranged from the packaging of homegrown Udupi recipes that gave restaurant experience at home to utilizing the high tuna demand in the western world by exporting canned tuna. The experts also discussed the online and offline sale of cotton fabric as well as sharing the success story of the textile markets of Coimbatore. Mr. Mahesh suggested the selling of cold press virgin olive oil and juices as a private label so that they can garner a profit, while Mr. Ranjan warned about the competitiveness of the coconut oil market. A wide range other issues were brought forward to the experts and each of them was discussed to help the local entrepreneurs.

Mr. Ahluwalia stressed that a distribution set up was required with sharp metrics to decide the success of a pilot project in the first six months. Benchmarks had to be set and people had to understand how to promote and advertise their products. Mr. Kanchan ended the discussion by asserting that an entrepreneur had to understand the POD of their product. They needed to understand what the people needed and give them something that was better. Only then, he reasoned, would people chose someone local instead of the big brands.

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