Where Are The Global Food Brands From India?

This article Where are the Global Food Brands from India by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on November 18, 2020.

Food dominates our hearts and minds on a daily basis. And with enhanced emotions on festivals and celebrations. Pandemic brought us closer to food by providing us time to engage in elaborate cooking at home. Not to mention that when we stepped out of our homes post lockdown, a lot of new grocery stores had popped up in the neighborhood. For that is all people were spending on.

Global Food Brands From India?

Put on your business hat and let’s look at the food brands from India. I looked at many ‘Top brands in India lists’, both with all brands and with only Indian brands. Amul is the only food brand that features prominently in all the lists. At times accompanied by fellow dairy companies like Mother Dairy and Nandini. Britannia features in some. In beverages, Paperboat has established itself as a niche Indian drink brand and sometimes makes the cut. I expected Haldirams, MTR, and Bikaji in these lists. It seems they have more visibility than business or vice-versa. I remember when Haldirams, a leading ready to eat snack brand, first opened their airport outlet at Delhi airport. Almost everyone at the airport was seen with their hamper. It is a dependable brand to consume and gift.

On Instagram, I discovered a bouquet of niche food brands with inviting images. And generous use of words like organic, natural, sustainable, eco for the products ranging from cheese to honey to cold-pressed oils to coffee and even tonic water. Their market is obviously national and global. Fuelled by the independent logistics companies that make shipping anywhere easy enough. I count them as the emerging broad base of the food industry pyramid. They will remain small and medium enterprises. Catering to their niche customers from their limited local supplies.

We have traditional Mithai brands synonymous with the cities they come from. Be it Agra’s Petha or Pune’s Bakarwadi or Odisha’s Rasagulla or Hyderabad’s Karachi Biscuits. All of them are slowly stepping out beyond their city limits and can be found at airports and at online shops. They remain a favorite with the global diaspora driven by nostalgia.

Strong homegrown food-based consumer brands

The question is, with a billion-plus people, why do we not have strong homegrown food-based consumer brands? Hardly see any new brands that have come up in the last 2-3 decades that can stand next to Amul in terms of brand value? There are two ways to look at it.

First, it clearly points out the gap in branding and on-ground presence of large food-based brands. We see smaller brands emerging fast in segments like yogurt, in a country that has curd and so many curd-based cuisines. But we hardly see any Desi brands innovating in a way that they look ahead while being rooted in the Indian pallet.

Second, it means that the food market is distributed with no big national or international players. This implies that at least when it comes to food, we are consuming local to a large extent. The pandemic has given this another boost in the arm as we see a lot more local packaged food being sold. As long as the quality of the products can be ensured, this is the best thing to happen.

India the Largest Producer

India is the largest producer of milk, mangoes, bananas, guavas, papayas. And the second-largest producer of fruits, vegetables & marine products. We do see large brands in dairy products. The same is clearly missing in all other categories. Look at the juice brands or any other products that are produced using fresh produce. More often than not they are coming from an international brand. There are spice brands, new and old. But most of them are merely packaged products. We have not seen the innovative use of spices in developing new products. Imagine a spice-based ice-cream or summer drinks or Ayurveda based products.

Many years back I had written about simple jaggery based confectionary with different flavors. I was happy to receive a version of it from an entrepreneur in Karnataka. I saw world-class coffee chocolates in Araku. But am yet to see them outside of eastern ghats. Sun-dried bananas found in villages of South India can be a pan-India product under a single brand.

FDI

Ministry of food processing industries allows 100% FDI in the food sector with many schemes that promise easy credit availability. Of the 283 food parks planned across the country, some are already operational. There is a potential to add a lot more food processing units to the existing 37,000+ registered ones. Two food technology institutes in Haryana and Tamil Nadu promise a supply of trained professionals and an opportunity for research. ‘Make in India’ website lists ideas and opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as investors that should be a good place for potential start-ups in this space.

With a bit of creativity and innovation from the entrepreneurs and smooth execution of the government scheme, we should churn out world-class food brands from India. Look at Malaysia’s Petronas’ Diwali Ad featuring the crunchy irresistible Muruku. You know that the world is waiting for our food products.

Where are the Global Food Brands from India, New Indian Express Nov 18, 2020

Original op-ed article published in the New Indian Express on Nov 18, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

E-commerce And The New-Age Middlemen

Ecommerce new age middlemen article New Indian Express on Oct 21, 2020

This article E-commerce And The New-Age Middlemen by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on October 21, 2020.

One of the key things that the Internet promised in its early days was getting rid of middlemen. E-commerce and social media enabled direct interactions between businesses and their consumers – easily and transparently. Marketplaces allowed any of us to become an entrepreneur by equipping us to sell our products or services.

E-commerce The New-Age Middlemen

When they promised the end of evil middlemen telling us to let no one come in between the supplier and the customer, little did we realize that large e-commerce platforms or marketplaces are nothing but new age middlemen? Their revenue comes from a share of transaction value that you conduct through their system. Sure, they invest in creating this large digital real-estate, in algorithms that promote your products to relevant customers and logistics. They are the digital version of a supermarket, who charges you for shelve space plus a margin on the product sold.
Soon the affiliate programs followed. With simple widgets and plugins, anyone with an influence in the digital space becomes a part of the sales force on a revenue-sharing basis. Many thought of it as a source of easy passive income. Only to realize that affiliate marketing demands efforts proportionate to the returns expected.

Once social media became mainstream, it multiplied our everyday network. Anyone we have known at any point in life is now connected no matter where they are. Their network in turn is separated by just one degree, multiplied our network further. Many enterprising individuals spotted early opportunity and started selling on social networks. This included a lot of talented women who ran home-based businesses through their FB pages and groups. Social media platforms observed that commerce happens better between known people and started integrating commerce in their platforms. Parallelly, e-commerce moved to mobile apps reaching out to a large population that joined the digital bandwagon directly on phone.

Organized Sector

E-commerce platforms brought largely the organized sector online both in terms of brands they sold as well as the prime customers they served. Their model was primarily pull-mode and hence all efforts were spent on getting the potential customers on the website or mobile app. Once the customer is there, the sheer variety of products, sales, and offers were there to make them spend.

E-commerce missed out on the reluctant customer who is not very confident in buying without seeing and without knowing who they are buying from. These are not the people who would engage in digital window shopping and must be approached with a push approach through people they trust. Most importantly they prefer to deal in their own language rather than English, the preferred language of digital platforms.

Social Commerce

The answer came in the form of social commerce that marries e-commerce and social media network. It allows anyone to sell, anyone to re-sell and of course, anyone can buy. B2B and B2C models seamlessly combined to become a B2B2C model, with the middle B being the platform. The latest in this series is O2O or Offline to Offline commerce. Meaning both the seller and the buyer are offline. Though the transaction is still enabled by online portals or apps.

Interestingly women are at the forefront of the social commerce revolution. Over 80% of registered re-sellers being women. As resellers, they become the virtual window shoppers for their friends and family. They share product details on social media and order on their behalf, after answering all the queries in their own language. Not to forget that with personalized sales comes the joy of haggling that is so much a part of shopping in India.

Platforms for E-commerce the New-Age Middlemen

In terms of platforms, the Facebook ecosystem clearly dominates with WhatsApp in the lead with a huge margin. Followed by Instagram and Facebook. In-App videos and chats are making inroads. But they still leverage the same platforms for reselling.

The largest categories of products sold are low-value vanity products. Like fashion & mobile accessories, unbranded clothes, etc. Basically, small-ticket products that people buy on impulse. Not really planned expenses. These are mostly supplied by local vendors who produce in small quantities. Including a lot of artists in their initial years. Some portals even include the used products in their portfolio. Think of Janpath in Delhi or Fashion Street in Mumbai or Bangkok’s night market’s going online. It has some elements of multi-level marketing. Remember Amway or Tupperware that was sold by a neighbor always on the lookout for the next customer?

So, one may go to established e-commerce to buy the new mobile phone. But to buy accessories for the phone there is social commerce. This is also a signal of the complimentary peaceful co-existence of both the e-commerce portals and social commerce economy.

So, from what started as a promise of not having any middleman has come a full circle where everyone is a potential middleman, New-Age Middlemen. Practices that have stood the test of time must have had some merit in them. It took us less than a decade to revert to them with a vengeance. It is time to ponder over it when we plan our next innovation cycle.

Ecommerce new age middlemen article New Indian Express on Oct 21, 2020

Original op-ed article published in the New Indian Express on Oct 21, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Lotus In The Stone – Sacred Journeys In Eternal India

Lotus In The Stone by Anuradha Goyal

Lotus In The Stone – Sacred Journeys In Eternal India by Anuradha Goyal.

Press Release Excerpts

At the Kumbh Mela… On an early morning boat ride to the ‘Sangam’, there were just two women on the boat – me, and Kiran from Bihar.

That day, I had not really planned to take a dip in it. Kiran would listen to none of it and insisted that I must take a dip now that I had come to the Sangam. 

When I told her that I was not carrying clothes to change into, she pulled out a sari from her bag and handed it over to me. I did take a dip in her sari, and she simply took back the wet sari and said she would dry it along with the rest of their clothes. This is not a social behavior we see very often.

 I too would have found this difficult to believe, if I had not experienced it myself.

Lotus In The Stone by Anuradha Goyal

Order Lotus In The Stone at Amazon

How we look at our ancient temples and sacred spaces is a question we have seldom bothered to ask. Are they just ruin? Are they an assortment of measures and dimensions? Is stone, cold, and harsh? Or, is there something more to it than meets the eye? The fact is, these sacred spaces carry the essence of civilizational India, of which we are seldom reminded in ‘modern’ times.

Garuda Prakashan happily presents a lilting memoir of ANURADHA GOYAL’s journeys to various temples and sacred spaces in India. Wherein she weaves the stories behind them, around them, the rituals, the beliefs, and the people, in their myriad manifestations, though united at the core with the same essence.

Younger Explorers and Seekers

The book not only connects today’s younger generation, full of explorers and seekers, to their past but also, the explorers and seekers of all hues to these ancient testimonies of our great and enduring civilization will benefit from this. It provides them with insights, which can’t be written in any tourism department brochure. 

These recollections, revelations come from a multitude of travels undertaken by the author across the length and breadth, literally, through the years. If it is Mathura, Ayodhya, and Kumbh in Uttar Pradesh, then it is Mahabalipuram and many others in South India. From the North-East to the West, the author, a popular travel blogger, enjoins the seemingly separate journeys into one single whole.

Genre: Non-fiction
Format: Paperback
Price: INR 399/-
Page Extent: 200+

Order here: grpr.in/lits

Writing about Kumbh, GOYAL says: This was utopia right in front of my eyes. I could trust anyone within the Mela grounds even though I knew that the same person could behave differently just outside the grounds. Remember, no one was forcing us to behave, we behaved well on our own. For Goyal, this book is for the younger generation, besides others, who could connect with India ‘that is ours’.

SANKRANT SANU, FOUNDER, GARUDA PRAKASHAN, says: “As a publisher, many manuscripts pass through me. But this is a book where I learned a lot while editing it. The book literally takes you to places mentioned in it. The author manages to bring to us that consciousness and awareness that all these things are there right in front of us, yet hidden.”

Vedic scholar and author Dr. David Frawley says: “Anuradha Goyal’s book Lotus in the Stone is a sacred journey through the inner time and space of these extraordinary temples”.

ABOUT THE BOOK

It is not a book of facts; and yet, it is. It is not a book of fiction; and yet it is full of stories. It is not a book on temple architecture; and yet it is. It is not a book of the personal monologue; and yet, it is. It is a book of travels undertaken solo, with complete strangers, with friends and family. Yet the reader will find it intensely private – as this book is about the whole, which is always bigger than the sum of its parts. More importantly, the essence of what it means to be Indian wafts through the entire book. Readers will relate to many of their own experiences as they read.

The book is not an account of the Indian civilization from an outsider’s perspective. It is a book where an Indian becomes aware of the fact of being an Indian in the course of many journeys to the sacred spaces. It is a book that details how Indians need to look at their own heritage and connect with it. Something that is lying in plain sight. But they are not able to see, because they do not have the ‘Drishti’.

This book Lotus In The Stone – – Sacred Journeys In Eternal India arms the travelers with that ‘Drishti’. It nudges and encourages the visitors to pause and begin looking at these sacred places for what they were meant to be. Places of a personal meeting with the divine in a completely public setting.

Publishers – Its Time To Read Some Innovation books

Publishers Innovate

This article Publishers – It’s time to read some Innovation books by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on September 24, 2020.

Publishers Innovate

Publishing industry is one of the least transparent industries. No one knows what the real size of the industry is, even if you exclude e-books directly published on digital platforms and self-published books that are essentially an author’s game. If you keep aside the textbook sales numbers that are predictable enough, you are aiming in the dark.
Lately, some publishers in the Indian publishing industry has become very visible primarily because of a small constellation of bestselling authors and a galaxy of celebrity authors. The latter comes with the promise of big sales.

Literature festivals created the platforms to bring authors close to their readers. They boomed, with every city, every locality having its own Lit Fest, but they were bitten by the glamour bug too soon. Lit fests became the favorite haunt of fashionistas and the real authors missed the horizon. Has this buzz converted into viable revenue for the publishers and their authors remains a question?

Indian Languages

English language publishing dominates the mind space with most big names choosing to write in English – be it a politician, a sportsperson, an actor, or a journalist. Little is spoken about the Indian language publishing, while readership numbers there may be far greater than English language publishing. Gita Press headquartered in Gorakhpur is probably India’s biggest publishing house in India with the widest possible reach and they publish in almost all Indian languages. We know there is a huge readers market in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, and Gujarati.

Quality

The publishing industry once stood for quality. Authors took pride in being published by reputed publishers and readers could trust their judgment. Today, it is a game of click-bait selling. A book is assessed solely on the basis of sales it can generate. Nothing wrong with that, as the industry has to generate revenue for itself and its authors. The problem is readership is not a parameter that they focus on, which may be a small percentage of the numbers sold. For example, most self-help books with catchy titles that promise success or happiness like a one-size-fit-all pill, clock big sales, but people hardly read them, much less use the pill it offers. Marketing muscle is spent on a select few authors.

These cash cows can arm-twist the publishers on their publishing decisions as we saw in a recent controversy.
No one knows the size of the publishing industry. Sales and readership numbers are elusive. Be it the leading publishing houses or small family-run Indian language publishers. Authors give up all rights to their works to the publishers for a small share of revenue generated by their book. The sales numbers are known only to the publisher. The author has no choice but to believe what the publisher shares. There is zero transparency and a nil interest in changing the status quo. The distributor networks are so distributed that collation of numbers leaves ample room for manipulations. This lack of transparency hurts the authors at the micro-level. And it does not help the industry in any way at the macro level.

Bestsellers

Bestselling lists trace their numbers to three primary sources. Neilson Bookscandata covers 60-70% of the spectrum but shares data only with subscribers. The next source is neighborhood bookstore, the accuracy of it is anyone’s guess. The third source is Amazon, which is the best one available in the public domain, as they account for substantial sales and each sale is counted instantly.

Book sales moving online is the biggest industry trend. With their deep discounting policies, online portals have effortlessly killed the neighborhood bookstores. As well as brought down the margins for publishers. Algorithms have taken over personalized recommendations from fellow readers. Even when we know that online ratings that feed the algorithms can be easily manipulated by using your influence or money. Like it or not digital platforms are here to stay. Pandemic just gave them another boost.

Digital Platforms

Digital platforms are more of an opportunity than a challenge if the publishing industry chooses to see them so. E-books account for less than 5% of the overall sales. Which means that most people still prefer to hold a book and read. ‘E-books only’ and audiobooks are emerging as a market segment. Subscription-based reading options are gaining ground as people want to have more choices at hand, or judge the readability for themselves.

The publishing industry needs to innovate and leapfrog by adapting to new technologies and by bringing in transparency. It has to move from being close-fisted with numbers to using data analytics to widen the reach of the industry, to improve the quality of books published. Data can be used effectively to experiment with new genres, new formats, and new mediums. In years of reviewing books, I have seen just one new age publisher experiment with new ideas and succeed at some of them. I wonder if we would ever see a publicly listed publishing house that shares its numbers transparently.

Ironically an industry that publishes authoritative books on so many subjects fails to learn from most of them.

Publishers Innovate

Original oped article published in New Indian Express on Sep 24, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Chaotic Dynamics Of Project-Based Professions

This article Dynamics Of Project-Based Professions by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on August 03, 2020.

Nepotism, cartels, or even gangs of influential professionals have been dominating the media and hence our minds. People from different backgrounds and professions are coming out with their struggles in the immensely competitive but highly visible industries. Writers spoke about closed doors of the publishing industry; musicians spoke about the biases of music companies. I have my own stories as an independent content creator. I am sure lawyers, chartered accountants, freelancers, and consultants of all kinds would have their own tales to tell about the project-based professions.

Dynamics of Project-Based Professions

Let us take an objective view of professions that are project-based in nature. You typically come together as a team of independent professionals for a project. Once finished, you move on to the next project with another team. The overlap between different teams is minimal at the beginning of your career but it increases with time as your network grows and as you become part of more and more projects. This model is prevalent in most creative fields.
Sometimes, you may form a close-knit team that you repeatedly work with due to the rapport that you build over time, or a sense of comfort or simply a compatible working relationship.

When these close-knit teams get too strong, knowingly or unknowingly they create entry barriers for others, more often to get as much share of the business as possible. If they become monopolistic, deliberately blocking new entrants, they can harm the culture and overall quality standards of the industry.

Fair Play

Assume an ideal fair play scenario in such a creative industry, where anyone with the required qualifications and talent can come and work. How do people get discovered for projects? Most of the time these projects do not have clearly defined processes for selection, unlike the corporate sector. There are no organized sources to directly source talent like a bunch of colleges or institutes. Personal biases of decision-makers are bound to creep in. Add to this the fact that the work itself is short term, highly diverse, and demands a different set of skills or profiles every time.
So, to get work, people need to be visible, they need to hustle. To find the right people for their projects, project owners need to keep an eye on new talent, they too need to hustle.

Sometimes agencies step in to manage this hustling, but more often than not, it happens informally, in social gatherings and public events. You get noticed for your visible work, that is why most people end up doing their initial projects for almost nothing. Initial projects are like an investment in building your professional resume.

Pricing

Putting on the price tag on your work is tricky. There are no standards whatsoever. Price is a function of your standing, your credibility, your past record, and most importantly how desperately the client needs you. There has been umpteen number of times when I have worked for a price only to realize that I could have easily quoted 2-4 times that price. Since most of these professions demand one’s personal time commitment, price is also a function of how much work you have on hand. Once you are well established, your price is also well established, but till then it’s a topsy turvy ride. In fact, when you have enough work at hand, you end up quoting an exorbitant price to say no, or to test waters. If you are not good with your accounts, you need to budget in for leakages of all kinds.

Revenue flow in these professions is as erratic as it can get. By design, there is no regular income, it comes in spurts. Your payments may depend on when your client gets paid. There may be few agencies between you and your client, and each step takes its cut as well as time. Your remuneration may be linked to the revenue of the end product. Forecasting revenue is tough and accounting of receipts hardly transparent. Take the case of author-publisher teams. No one can ever predict the book sales. Once it is in the market, the author has no real visibility of the number of copies sold. A lot of things work on sheer faith, another reason why people tend to stick to people they trust.

Transparency in accounts in much needed, but because creators are not a community, they never come together to demand this. On the contrary, they end up competing unnecessarily.

New Entrants to Project-based Professions

Most new entrants in creative fields, with their eyes full of dreams, think life will be hunky-dory once they are successful. They see only the rewarding part of their dream professions. Nothing prepares them for the bumps on the road, the crowd they have to jostle through. Mentors can help but one has to be fortunate to find one. This makes me think about the artist guilds that worked in good old days that moved as a community for different projects. I can see a stark difference in the creation-creator relationship. Maybe we need to go back and study these models! Till then, being aware of what you are getting into can help you deal with it.

Chaotic dynamics of project-based professions article published copy

Original article published in The New Indian Express on August 03, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Fragrant Opportunities In The Air For Indian MSMEs

This article Fragrant Opportunities by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on July 07, 2020.

A trip to Europe used to have two mandatory stops – a winery and a perfumery. Perfume makers proudly showcase their fragrances new and classic. Back home one finds rows of colorful oil-based perfume bottles in the lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Charminar in Hyderabad, or Hazratganj in Lucknow. Connoisseurs visit these lanes to get custom-made fragrances for themselves. Time to consider Fragrant Opportunities for the Indian MSME!

Kannauj in UP is India’s undisputed fragrance capital since the time it was the capital of king Harshvardhan in the early 7th CE. Making of perfumes is mentioned in ancient texts like Charak Samhita and Gangadhara’s Gandhasara. Kannauj continues to produce Attar – oil-based perfume. That is extracted using traditional methods in 350 odd small scales units in the town. They have captured the smell of the first rains and the smell of the earth in their bottles. Deservedly they have a Geographical Indicator tag.

Fragrant Opportunities

Visit an upmarket mall and you would find it hard to spot an Indian perfume brand. I could only locate one brand from Titan among all the lists of best-selling perfumes in India. This too has been designed by French perfumers, positioned as a French perfume with even an advertisement in French. Then there are some niche brands. That would classify as boutique outfits, catering to a small niche audience in the luxury segment. Most of the mass consumption of ethanol or alcohol-based fragrances is that of popular international brands. Some of which are from multinational FMCG companies operating in India. The oil-based fragrances produced in the small-scale units in the hinterlands of India have a small market in India and the middle east.

As per the MSME website, the global fragrance and flavor industry is about $24.10 Billion. Out of this India’s share is just about $500 million. Of this, about 40% is home fragrance share. That includes scented oils, fragrant sprays, and scented oils.

Fragrance & Flavour Development Centre

Fragrance & Flavour Development Centre (FFDC) was set-up in Kannauj in 1991 by the Government of India. There are two extension centers at Kanpur in UP and Berhampur in Odisha. It aims to serve as an interface between essential oil, fragrance, and flavor industry and the R & D institutions. Both in the field of agrotechnology and chemical technology. They provide training to entrepreneurs on areas like aromatherapy, on essential oils and perfumery. Making Agarbatti and dhoop. Setting up small processing units for the primary processing of raw fragrance.

Fragrances are an invisible part of almost every consumer product we use on a day to day basis. Right from our toothpaste to cosmetics to food on our plate, making them an important industrial input product. The wellness industry has products like aromatherapy that uses essential oils. The supply chain of fragrances comprises the cultivation of aromatic plants, primary processing at the local level. Secondary processing as per the need of the final product, and the incorporation in the final product. Perfumes are the simplest product that needs just the right concentrate mix and packaging, after which it is more or less a marketing game.

Colorful Perfume Bottles on display - Fragrant Opportunities

Colorful Perfume Bottles on display

Raw Materials

There are majorly 300 different types of fragrant raw materials. Of these, 50% are cultivated and rest are found in nature. A significant number of these are that can be easily cultivated. India is a leader in the production of raw materials of some of the fragrances like Menthol Mint, Spice Oils, Oleoresins, and some floral extracts. Immense untapped opportunities exist in the cultivation and processing of plants like basil, lemongrass, flowers, and spices that grow in India’s weather conditions. Setting up a primary processing unit is easy and not capital intensive. Many such units are being managed by self-help groups. A lot of government support is also available to set up such units as they fall under MSME.

In terms of trends, deodorants dominate India’s market. Though perfumes are slowly gaining share. Note that the difference between the two is just the percentage of fragrance oil they have. Working professionals, particularly women professionals are major consumers of fragrances in India. Globally ethanol-based perfumes are making way for new materials like the Cyclomethicone. A recent surge in the usage of sanitizers due to COVID 19 has added to the demand for fragrances.

New Fragrances

Consumers are always looking for fresh new fragrances. So the industry needs to constantly respond by concocting new ways to titillate the olfactory nerves. Consumption of local oil-based perfumes remains limited. Traditionalists say that for the hot tropical weather, oil-based perfumes work better and last longer. Will this awareness change the consumption patterns? Maybe.

When I asked Sh. Shakti Vinay Shukla, director FFDC, why do we not have homegrown brands of perfumes? He said the perfume choices are driven by the fashion houses and most of them are aligned to the European ones.

Is it not time to have homegrown fragrance brands for a large consumer market in India? Should Indian fragrances not carve a niche for themselves in the world? Should Indian consumers demand local fragrances? The industry is bound to respond to fragrant opportunities. Local for Vocal can be an umbrella marketing campaign for this.

Edited for this online publication.

Vocal For Local Needs A Global Push

This article Vocal for Local by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on June 11, 2020.

Eat Local, Wear Local, Consume Local has been an emerging trend, in short Vocal for Local is an undercurrent that was waiting for a trigger to become mainstream. Can the Covid-19 induced global ‘Pause’ be the kick it so desperately required? Hopefully, Yes. We see a lot of debate about turning ‘Swadeshi’, for have we not just spent the last three decades trying to be global citizens. Was Swadeshi not what we read about in the ‘Independence Movement’ chapter of history textbook? In my opinion, this time going local is a global need. Every region in the world needs to go local, at least to a certain extent.

Leaders of a nation or state or district can only promote local consumption in their area of influence, but if all leaders around the globe promote the same principle, we may inch towards a much-needed balance between local and global production as well as consumption.

Vocal for Local

Along with this we need to re-visit the ‘Small is Beautiful’, and move towards having multiple smaller units spread across geography instead of a handful of big units catering to majority consumption. It may not be possible in heavy industries like steel, but it can definitely be achieved in most consumer products that can be built in smaller units catering to local needs.

Balance Index for the Vocal for Local

I propose a ‘Local Balance Index’ or ‘Santulan Soochak’ to be devised that takes into account the percentage of consumption from within the region and imports from outside. An index should take into account the distance covered by the product from production to consumption. At a more granular level, it should take into account the distance covered by the raw materials before they became a part of the product. This should be our indicator of the domains and verticals in a region that are good candidates for moving towards self-reliance.

Today when the big corporations declare their financial numbers, they talk about efficient cost structures and productivity parameters as inputs into their earnings. They hardly take into account the environmental and health cost that the society is paying for those efficiencies. We collectively pay for the price but no one holds the responsibility to bring them down, not in practical terms.

Read More – Innovative Ideas to Explore

Distance

So, if the ‘Santulan Soochak’ indicates that your region is consuming too much of the processed food sourced from more than 500, 1000, or 2000 KMs of distance. You can look at options like – Choosing to produce it locally. Choosing to produce and promote alternatives. Or at the very least campaign and encourage people to reduce consumption. Note that I am not proposing national boundaries but a parameter of distance to make these decisions.

The call by the prime minister Modi would definitely give rise to a sentiment of ‘Going Local’ and supporting local producers. If the MSME schemes proposed by the government do reach the desired audience, that should give a lot of open ground for the entrepreneurs to play around. However, they need more than just moral support and finance options.

Opportunities for Local Entrepreneurs

To spot the right opportunities for local entrepreneurs, governments need to provide a lot of trade data in the public domain. An average Indian, especially beyond the metros, does not know what are the consumption patterns and sourcing map of their region look like. It is nearly impossible for an entrepreneur to get data on potential products that can be produced locally. They obviously cannot invest in market research. Strong Industry-Academia research linkages can potentially help.

Clusters

Traditional Indian businesses operated in clusters. Where each individual business was not too big but collectively, they are an industry, concentrated in a small geographic area. This gave them the so-called economies of scale and collective bargaining power. Handicraft based small scale industries operate in loosely organized clusters. Like ceramics at Khurja or glass bangles at Firozabad or the weaving clusters across the country. New age industries too need to build their focussed clusters. Local governments can take a data intelligence-based approach to decide which industries work best for them. Based on parameters like availability of raw material, local demand, talent, and Samtulan Soochak Index.

Awareness to succeed in Vocal for Local

Awareness about the available local products in local markets is abysmal. Big corporations score high with their well-researched, high profile, targeted marketing, and cross-media campaigns. Local businesses do need focussed local campaigns to highlight their products and their local origin. Government agencies can also pitch in by public listing of local businesses and local products. A few years ago, there were strong local food brands in almost every region of India. Be it the Bhakarwadi of Pune or Pedha of Mathura. In the last 2-3 decades, they have all gone global with standardization of their products. Tweaking their recipes for global taste and longer shelf lives. Making them easy to replicate for global competition. GI tags can help in terms of protection. But they do not really help with new markets. Unless coupled with stronger geo-tagged marketing.

Data-driven soft infrastructure is as important in enabling local producers as easy access to capital.

Vocal for Local Needs a Global Push

Original article published in New Indian Express on June 11, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Design To Drive The Return Of Tourism

This article Return of Tourism by Anuradha Goyal, author, and founder of IndiTales.com was first published by the New Indian Express newspaper on May 11, 2020.

Every time I traveled to a remote place with small shabby hotels only, I carried my own cotton sheets and towels. This was my way of ensuring my cleanliness bubble. I did the same on overnight train travels. Now, I will extend this to all the travels in the foreseeable future. Theplas and Khakhras accompanied me to all the places that are not too vegetarian friendly. Now, they may accompany me for all travels. The same goes for water – to minimize touchpoints with strangers. Sanitizer would be the new shoes; you can’t step out without it. Where possible, I would stay with family and friends, as homes seem safer than hotels.

Like me, as and when holidaymakers do come back, some of their habits would have changed forever and the businesses would have to respond innovatively and creatively to cater to them. The corporate world has more or less adapted to digital meetings. Business Travels would be restricted to a large extent to take care of their own balance sheets. Post lockdown, 3-6 months would see only emergency travel taking place followed by absolutely necessary ones.

Tourism/Hospitality Industry during Pandemic

The tourism and hospitality industry is not only the worst impacted by the ongoing pandemic but would probably be the last one to get back on feet. Capacity utilization would go down for airlines, hotels& restaurants, pushing the prices up, which in turn would act as a deterrent for leisure travelers, creating a kind of negative spiral. New hygiene and touchpoint protocols will add to costs.

People, stuck at home for months now, would need to work for some time to earn their next holiday. Fear of getting stuck in a distant land would keep them in the vicinity of their homes. Couple it with lack of public transport, travel would be limited to distances as far as their own vehicles can take them. Large events of any kind, personal, or professional remain out of question.

Read More –  Innovative Ideas to Explore 

Nature and wellness holidays are predicted to pick up first. I see a surge in learning holidays, where people travel to a destination in a small group, stay in one place to learn a skill. These could be yoga camps, spiritual retreats, writing retreats, bird watching sojourns, family gatherings, or anything where you stay in one place. This also means overall less travel but longer stays in one place.

A positive note for the Tourism Industry

On a positive note, we should see the onset of a much-needed balance. Between over-tourism at a handful of destinations and untapped potential at less explored destinations. This is the best time for tourism boards to revamp their destination maps. And promote geographically spread out destinations in their regions. Pro-active reach-out can place these destinations in the wish list of future clients. Especially for domestic clients. This can not only contain losses. But also create new revenue streams and expand the customer base.

International borders being closed is a great opportunity for the domestic tourism industry. To offer alternatives within the country to these 25 million-plus base of tourists who travel abroad. Destinations like Sicily are leading with incentivization plans for tourists who plan to visit them soon after the lockdown. By way of free entry to attractions or heavy discounts on flights and hotels. Every destination would need an ‘Ab Initio’ approach to re-establishing their destination branding.

Startups

Startups can look at designing products that expand the industry footprint beyond just selling rooms and flights. This includes curating and creating engagement opportunities for the visitors that encourages them to stay longer in the destination. India has a range of under-explored experiences. Right from culinary to cultural, from nature to adventure, to cities to tribal, from wellness to spiritual, sports to entertainment. Robust collaborations between tourism and handicrafts & handloom industry to design new-age souvenirs soaked in Indian ethos is need of the hour. Post the pause, these products would come handy when tourists would look for destinations that offer something to do for a longer duration.

Insurance Industry

The insurance industry needs to design new products around communicable diseases. Covid-19 free certification may become a requirement for crossing borders. However, one would still need to insure for any infections picked up during travel, to contain the financial and social risks it comes with. Governments would not do free evacuations forever. And the medical costs would be prohibitive with long cycles of recovery and isolation. Touchless interactions would have to be enabled using technology-led interventions.

‘Design’ would be the keyword. Public spaces would demand re-design. Public interactions would need new process designs. And it is an opportunity to design new local products.

It is heartening to see innovative brand management by a few jungle lodges. They are sending sights and sounds of jungle life to their regular and potential clients. It gives me hope that the industry has not lost hope. Let’s hope that the hospitality brands that lent helping hand by becoming quarantine facilities or running the food kitchens for those struck away from home will be amply rewarded by the travelers in the future.

Design To Drive The Return Of Tourism article in New Indian Express

Original article published in New Indian Express on May 11, 2020

Edited for this online publication.

Sakhi – Kabir Mann Nirmal Bhaya

Kabir Mann Nirmal Bhaya

Kabir Mann Nirmal Bhaya

कबीर मन निर्मल भया, जैसे गंगा नीर

पीछे पीछे हर फिरे, कहत कबीर कबीर

or

Kabir Mann Nirmal Bhaya, Jaise Ganga Neer

Peechhe Peechhe har fire, kahat Kabir Kabir

Clean your heart and mind, as River Ganga does

The world comes after you, chanting Kabir Kabir

This Kabir Saakhi has had an immense impact on me and every time I read it, it throws a new angle and new light to interpret it.

To understand this let us understand the word निर्मल  – it is made of two words Ni + MalNi means without or a prefix that negates. Mal means the excreta or the waste that the body throws out. So Kabir is talking about making your mann i.e. your heart and mind Nirmal i.e. without mal or without any filth.

Read More – Who is Kabir?

He gives an analogy with Ganga in this Sakhi – Kabir Mann Nirmal Bhaya. The inherent nature of Ganga is ( or maybe was) that it had self-cleaning properties. No matter what was thrown into it, it cleans itself. It does not do anything to others – it just cleans itself. It cleans itself of any filth that people leave in her. For this very reason, everyone runs to Ganga and chants Ganga, Ganga.

So, in essence, Kabir is saying – you clean yourself just as the River Ganga cleans itself and the world will come running after you. Not because you can offer them something, but because you can let them leave their filth at your doorstep and still be clean. Cleanliness can be taken literally as well as metaphorically where it can stand for strength of character.

Read More – Bhakti Dravid Upaji – Kabir Saakhi

It can also be interpreted as – irrespective of what you receive from the world – you should build the capability to clean yourself. The world will come and give you filth every now and then, your inherent character should not get impacted by that filth, at least not for a long time.

Read More – Man Lagyo Mero Yaar Fakiri Mein

When I look at all the great artists, scientists, scholars, achievers and observe their journeys, all they do is keep improving themselves and all otherworldly things like success, money, fame start piling around them. They are focussed on improving themselves – removing any flaws that exist in their craft one by one. In doing so, they create a magnetic power that attracts others to them. Think of the famous sportspersons or actors or even businessmen, all they are doing is improving themselves every day, bit by bit.

It also conveys that you focus on yourself, and let the world do what it wants to. It puts the onus of your quality of life on you irrespective of how the world is.

Word ‘Har‘ in the second line can also be interpreted as Hari – a word that Kabir commonly uses for God. Here he means to get Hari too, you need to clean yourself. Once you clean yourself, you would not have to run here and there searching for Hari, but Hari will come running after you – chanting your name.

If you have an interpretation of this Saakhi, please share.

Man Lagyo Mero Yaar Fakiri Mein by Kabir

Man Lagyo Mero Yaar Fakiri Mein by Kabir

Man Lagyo Mero Yaar Fakiri Mein by Kabir

 

मन लाग्यो मेरो यार फकीरी में            Man Lagyo mero yaar fakiri mein


जो सुख पाऊँ राम भजन में                Jo sukh paoon Ram bhajan mein

वो सुख नहीं अमीरी में                      woh sukh nahin ameeri mein


भला बुरा सबको सुन लीजो               Bhala Bhura sabko sun leejo

कर गुजरान गरीबी में                       kar gujraan gareebi mein


हाथ में तुम्बा, बगल में सोटा              Haath mein toomba, bagal mein sota

चारों दिशाएं जागीरी में                    chaaron dishayen jagiri mein


प्रेम नगर में रहनी हमारी                 Prem nagar mein rehani hamari

भली बन आयो सबूरी में                  Bhali bani aayee saboori mein


आखिर यह तन खाख मिलेगा            Aakhir yeh tan khaak milega

क्या फिरे मग़रूरी में                       kya fire magroori mein


कहे कबीर सुनो बही साधो               Kahe kabir suno bhai sadho

साहिब मिलेगा सबूरी में                  sahib milega saboori mein



I enjoy being a Fakir


The joy that I get in singing Ram Bhajans

I don’t get that in enjoying the riches of life


For being a Fakir, I would listen all good & bad things

and I would live in poverty


If I have my one stringed instrument in one hand, and my stick in another

All four directions are my wealth


I live in the land of love

and the good comes from being content


This body will finally merge with the earth

What is there to be proud of it


Kabir says – you will find HIM

right here in your patience


Fakir is a word that we need to understand here. This poem through various metaphors tries to explain what a Fakir is and what he enjoys and how once you start enjoying being Fakir – there is nothing else that matters from that point onwards.

Fakir is someone who can have or has everything but chooses not to have. He is detached from the material world in a way that it can not bind him. He can not be bound to one house, one person – as he believes that the whole world and everyone in this world belong to him. He is equanimous as his sense of being does not come from what he owns, where he lives and who he is related to. 

Read More – Who is Kabir?

In this poem ‘ Man Lagyo Mero Yaar Fakiri Mein ‘, he says that I am blissfully lost in the world of a Fakir. I enjoy my bhajans more than any riches. For this I can listen to anything good or bad that I have to, I am willing to spend my life in poverty for I enjoy the absolute freedom that Fakiri gives me. 

He says as long as I have my one-stringed instrument called Tumba in my one hand and my stick in another, all four directions are my kingdom. This reflects his inclination towards music or the need for music in life even when there is nothing else that’s required. Come to think of it when we try and possess small pieces of real estate or other materialistic things – in a way are we not giving up our claim to everything else, are we not saying – this is mine and implicitly imply that everything else is not mine. When you give up anything you have, suddenly everything becomes yours. 

Read More – Bhakti Dravid Upaji – Kabir Saakhi

He then reflects on the fact that this life is momentary – a theme that recurs in many of his poems. Since this body is momentary, what’s the point in being proud of it nurturing vanity for it. He is urging us to immerse in the eternal pleasures that come when you love and when you are content with what you have. 

Read More – Kabir by Hazari Prasad Dwivedi

Kabir says you will find HIM or GOD in this very contentment. Do not go looking out for him elsewhere, he resides right inside you – again a theme that repeats many times in his works.