Tree of Life to Bring Emerg­ing Food Brands & Trends to In­dia

Images Retail - - CONTENTS - – By Surabhi Khosla

The com­pany’s am­bi­tion is to pen­e­trate In­dia, treat gen­eral trade re­tail­ers and the In­dian con­sumers with re­spect and help them to ac­cess what they see on TV and abroad in an un­der­stand­able way…

Tree of Life one of In­dia’s premier im­porters, mar­keters and dis­trib­u­tors of gourmet, eth­nic and spe­cialty foods in In­dia is gear­ing up to cel­e­brate its 10th an­niver­sary in April 2018. The com­pany, which has been in the busi­ness of en­abling re­tail­ers – from the largest su­per­mar­ket chains to the small­est in­de­pen­dent stores – to meet the con­stantly grow­ing de­mand for in­ter­na­tional foods, of­fers a com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of im­ported, spe­cialty and gourmet food prod­ucts to an ever-grow­ing au­di­ence in In­dia.

With the help of a spe­cially trained in-store pro­mo­tions team, Tree of Life rep­re­sents 30 top in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic food brands from all over the world, with op­er­a­tions in 45 In­dian cities.

In an ex­clu­sive conversation with IM­AGES Re­tail Bu­reau, on the side­lines of In­dia Food Fo­rum 2018, Harshita Gandhi, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Tree of Life and Ajay Ba­jaj, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Tree of Life, talked about their com­pany, the jour­ney so far, strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tions and the com­pany’s fu­ture roadmap.

How did you sow the seeds of your brand, Tree of Life?

Harshita Gandhi: Tree of Life is a dis­tri­bu­tion house. We rep­re­sent In­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic brands with whom we cre­ate and then ex­e­cute their route-to-mar­ket strate­gies. We man­age their in­ven­tory man­age­ment, ex­e­cute mar­ket­ing strate­gies and drive num­bers for them to form a com­plete setup. We started 10 years ago when a cou­ple of brands wanted en­try into In­dia. We took them on as clients and helped them set up an In­dia strat­egy. We’re run­ning a very unique model across In­dia at this mo­ment.

What is your brand fo­cus?

Ajay Ba­jaj: Our fo­cus is ba­si­cally on treat­ing all brands equally. We don’t be­lieve in the idea of giv­ing one cat­e­gory more im­por­tance over the oth­ers. In our 10 years of ex­is­tence, all cat­e­gories and com­pa­nies are im­por­tant, as long as they are be­ing ac­cepted in the In­dian mar­ket, by re­tail­ers and con­sumers alike. We also pay a lot of at­ten­tion to old­brands, the same as we would to a new brand.

Harshita Gandhi: Since our work is mar­ket-based, we pay a lot of at­ten­tion to con­sumer and re­tailer de­mands and needs. We work with brands, help­ing them in ar­eas they want to fo­cus more on, and mak­ing them strong in that area. From the Tree of Life per­spec­tive, we look for new emerg­ing cat­e­gories or trends or brands so that the con­sumer gets a true bas­ket of prod­ucts to choose from. Our main fo­cus is to pro­vide a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts to the In­dian con­sumer, aside from what multi­na­tional FMCG com­pa­nies are bring­ing into the coun­try. That’s the main fo­cus of what we try and do – ed­u­cate the con­sumer, help their palate, con­sump­tion and table evolve.

Give us a case study.

Ajay Ba­jaj: I would men­tion the brand Terra, which is from USA. We launched the brand a few years ago and from Day One it has been ac­cepted to an­other level by the con­sumers. The brand is ba­si­cally healthy veg­etable chips, which were avail­able only at the re­gional level but not at the na­tional level.

We got an over­whelm­ing re­sponse by the re­tail­ers and the con­sumers and the growth that we have seen in the brand on a yearly ba­sis has been more than fifty per­cent on a like-to-like ba­sis, which is phe­nom­e­nal. There are very few brands that give you that sort of trac­tion. The real suc­cess is that the brand will soon be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia to reach an even larger au­di­ence and that we see as a huge feather in our cap in terms of our dis­tri­bu­tion and mar­ket­ing abil­i­ties.

What’s the mar­ket size for im­ported food prod­ucts in In­dia?

Harshita Gandhi: We don’t like to clas­sify the prod­ucts as “im­ported”, we see this more of a premium seg­ment. These are all brands that have plans of man­u­fac­tur­ing in In­dia or do­ing some­thing spe­cial for In­dia. Most of their prod­ucts are cus­tom-made for the In­dian con­sumer. I be­lieve that the palate of the In­dian con­sumer is ex­pand­ing, the kitchen ex­pe­ri­ences are ex­pand­ing. There is a tremen­dous growth in this area which is caus­ing peo­ple to ex­per­i­ment at home. It’s too com­pli­cated to make some fancy items con­sumers see on TV from scratch and that is where the brands we bring to In­dia come in be­cause they give them at least a step­ping stone to the “scratch cook­ing” sce­nario. This is what has spurred the growth of what we do. The fact that you are eas­ily avail­able and reach­able helps you a lot. We have seen a lot of pull as com­pared to the push that we had five-six years ago. To­day we get calls from dif­fer­ent parts of In­dia, such as Ra­jkot, Guwa­hati or Coim­bat­ore say­ing that they want to source X prod­uct of Y brand to stock in their stores. This is be­cause they have re­alised they are cater­ing to an evolved con­sumer to­day. Hence to an­swer your ques­tion the mar­ket size is dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish how­ever we have seen high dou­ble-digit growth in like to like brands for the last 5 years and the num­bers will keep im­prov­ing.

What kind of growth has your com­pany seen in the last five years?

Harshita Gandhi: We have been in the busi­ness for last ten years. We are in­volved only from the in­ven­tory man­age­ment to sales point of view. We are not in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing in any­way. Our span of ex­per­tise lies in mak­ing sure fin­ished goods reach the con­sumer.

Our main func­tion is ob­vi­ously sales and mar­ket­ing, that is the crux of what we do. But you can’t do sales and mar­ket­ing with­out ex­cel­lent in­ven­tory man­age­ment, sup­ply chain man­age­ment, and fi­nance and ac­counts man­age­ment. These are the ar­eas where we have de­vel­oped our ex­per­tise, our own sys­tems and meth­ods. When we started, we couldn’t hire big so­lu­tion provider com­pa­nies, lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies to aid us in our work, so we solved our own prob­lems with­out tak­ing help from any third party. This ap­proach has led us into a very strong po­si­tion to­day and we have taken a lot of sup­pli­ers with us into this strong place.

We have re­gional of­fices in Mum­bai and Delhi and our main dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter is in Vapi. The Gu­jarat gov­ern­ment has been ex­tremely sup­port­ive of small busi­ness like us. Our head of­fice is cen­tered in Mum­bai, and we are hop­ing to ex­pand into re­gional ware­hous­ing at this point.

Un­like a lot of even

FMCG com­pa­nies, we have an in-housed mar­ket­ing divi­sion. We do all our last mile ex­e­cu­tion of mar­ket­ing, be it sam­pling, shelf sales, ex­e­cu­tion of vis­i­bil­ity, brand­ing etc. This gives us swift­ness and cost con­trol. We have a great busi­ness de­vel­op­ment team. They un­der­stand the cat­e­gories and the prod­ucts re­ally well and can ex­plain it to re­tail­ers. All our growth has been in build­ing sys­tems and a com­pany that is poised to take a large leap for­ward in the years to come.

What is the process of se­lec­tion of com­pa­nies?

Harshita Gandhi: Some of the prod­ucts that we take on are made in the other coun­tries and some are do­mes­tic. We take on very se­lec­tive do­mes­tic pro­duced brands, which are look­ing for a premium con­sumer. We fur­ther look for a strate­gic al­liance in terms of eq­uity rather than just a pure vanilla dis­tri­bu­tion agree­ment. One do­mes­tic brand, Car­ni­val, which is into nuts, dates and dry fruits. We do this to­gether in a joint ven­ture where

Tree of Life is the sales and mar­ket­ing arm. We own the brand to­gether and this is how we will take out our busi­ness across the coun­try.

What’s your geo­graph­i­cal reach and what are your ex­pan­sion plans?

Ajay Ba­jaj: Cur­rently we are in 60 cities. We in­tend to ex­pand our dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ters by cre­at­ing a re­gional ware­hous­ing of our own. We are work­ing through a net­work of dis­trib­u­tors at this mo­ment, but by

2020 we in­tend to get into dis­tri­bu­tion too, wherein we would be cater­ing to the sub­dis­trib­u­tors, dis­trib­u­tors or re­tail­ers di­rectly, re­gion­ally. Harshita Gandhi: It will take us an­other 20 years to even scratch the sur­face of In­dia, so we re­ally don’t have any plans to go global. In all our deal­ings we have re­alised that for in­ter­na­tional brands, In­dia is ‘the’ coun­try to be in. It is pos­si­ble that some of our clients may have in­ter­na­tional plans, so we will em­brace that and give them a strat­egy. From Tree of Life per­spec­tive, our am­bi­tion is to pen­e­trate the coun­try, treat gen­eral trade re­tail­ers and the In­dian con­sumers with re­spect and help them to ac­cess what they see on TV and abroad in an un­der­stand­able way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.