Narendra K. Pasuparthy, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur, calls himself the ‘Chief Farmer’ and CEO of Nandu’s Chicken. A second-generation entrepreneur, Narendra chose to start his career by opting to work outside of his family business for over a decade. His responsibilities with the company are varied and include finance and accounting, marketing, sales and production and customer satisfaction, among others.
In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, CEO Narendra K. Pasuparthy reveals how using modern technology has helped Nandu’s Chicken in securing the repeat customer base.
The Journey from Working As An Engineer to Becoming the Chief Farmer and CEO at Nandu’s Chicken
Basically, I am an engineer. Back in the early 90s, I went abroad to pursue my Master’s in Information Science from The University of Texas. After that, I worked in the tech space for about 10 years. From a software programmer to an engineering manager to software sales, I have played various roles at different companies. In 2005, I decided to return to India. I came back with an objective of joining my family business, Nanda Group. My father started the poultry breeding business in 1963. We are one of the oldest and largest poultry breeding companies in southern India. We’ve been in the poultry business for over 55 years now. We have breeding farms across southern India - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
We produce around 4 million chickens a month.
Until 2016, we used to sell away the chicks and fully-grown broilers to the market. We have our own hatcheries. We have more than 3,000 farmer customers across South India. About three and a half million chicks are sold to the farmers which they grow on their own and bring into the market for meat. As a company, we ourselves grow about 500,000 birds – we convert the chicks into broilers in about six weeks. And then we would sell the live birds in the market.
My objective in 2005 was to come back and modernize this business by implementing the idea of socially responsible farming. We are among the first in India to implement the socially responsible poultry farming. We said we won’t pollute the environment using the diesel generators or by throwing away the chicken litters, which emits hazardous methane gas. We started using solar power; we were the first company in India to use solar power at our poultry farms. We started converting each of our farms into a solar-powered - our objective since 2007.
To give an example - one farm uses 650 litres of diesel per month. By using solar power, we are able to reduce the diesel consumption to 40-50 litres per month; it’s 10 times lesser. After seven years, which is the payback period, we don’t have any extra cost at all and we are not polluting the environment. The solar power is a big part of our poultry farms.
Secondly, we also started the biogas process. Where we take the chicken litter and take it into the biogas plants, extract methane from that. We have successfully put that technology in place where we are processing around 4 tons. All our farms are completely modernized. We use a lot of robotics, PLC controllers and automation to take care of the birds for feeding and watering purpose.
In 2016, we started Nandu’s, which is basically a tribute to my father whose name is Nanda Kumar. We wanted to convert the live birds, we are growing through our poultry farms, into fresh meats. That is when we took a stand to produce all our chicken chemical-free. It took about 9-10 months to develop a growing program which didn’t require any use of the antibiotics. I have a team of about 15 people just to grow the poultry that we use for Nandu’s. We hand-selected the farmers, trained them on growing the chickens in a bio-secure (healthy) environment. So that the birds don’t get sick and, thus, this way no medicines or antibiotics are required.
Our focus is also on the cleanliness of the farms and the health of the birds. At every stage from production to processing, we take care of the health of the birds so the end consumers receive an all-healthy, all-fresh, chemical-free produce.
The Concept of Food Miles at Nandu’s Chicken
Now that we are producing the birds without any chemicals, we put the processing plants closer to the city – that’s based on the concept called food miles – which means how far is your meat travelling to get to your home? The more it travels, the more it is polluting the environment. We wanted to pay attention to that as well. If the consumption centre is at Bengaluru, we will put the processing plant near the same city. Our competitors’ products travel 200-300 km a day while Nandu’s chicken travels only around 80 km. We are very conscious of the number of food miles.
"The speciality of Nandu’s is – it comes from one company which is completely integrated, meaning everything is in-house. We, truly, are farm to fork concept. There are no middlemen involved. That’s how we are consumer-focused."
~ Narendra K. Pasuparthy, CEO of Nandu’s Chicken
Future Plans of Nandu’s Chicken
To get such transparency also on to the blockchain. We are working on putting all the information on the blockchain, so that consumers can trace everything and say, this is from where my food comes, and then to take the consumers through our own retail stores.
We have 20 stores in Bengaluru; one is opened recently, and by the end of January 2019, we aim at opening 25 stores. By the end of 2019, we aim at opening 50 outlets of Nandu’s Chicken in Bengaluru. We are also planning to expand our operations in other southern states. The plan is - every six months we want to open our business in one of the states.
Current Annual Sale at Nandu’s Chicken
Currently, we are privately held. What we did last year, in terms of revenue, we will be doubling that in 2019. We are growing around 15% month-on-month. 92% of people are our repeat consumers. All we do is – we just let them taste the products and they stick with us.
Customers and Partners
We don’t have any middlemen between us and our end-consumers. We have our own e-commerce store. Recently, we have partnered with Dunzo, BigBasket, DairyNinja and more. Majority of our business comes from our own website or retail stores.
Promotion Strategy with Nandu’s Chicken
We are the only company in India which is 100% integrated, with retailing included, online and offline. There are four ways to order chicken from Nandu’s – website, call centre, retail store and delivery.
In terms of promotions, we are heavily using social media, to advertise the brand. A lot of our promotion also happens through the radio. Since we are present both online and offline, there are different types of activities we do for the customers. Typically, for offline promotions it is the BTL activity like event partners, fliers, running promotions, contest, cooking shows for women focused on the quick-serve menu. We are also doing value-added products like chicken tikka, malai tikka, chicken popcorn, chicken nuggets. We, recently, launched 23 value-added products.
For online promotions, we are very heavily dependent on Facebook, Instagram, Google Adwords and Google Display Network. We run online SMS campaigns. We have more than 50,000 customers that we serve.
The Best Thing About Working in the Family Business
I’m a second generation entrepreneur. We started Nandu’s from scratch. We have support from the Group Company – Nanda Group. Without our family business, Nandu’s couldn’t have given the value proposition which we are able to give today. Working in the family business for Nandu’s is great.
The traceability, transparency and expertise in growing poultry – all these come from the 55-year-old poultry breeding experience. Nanda Group alone is a 700-people company and Nandu’s, today, is 150 people strong. To make Nandu’s possible, almost 850 people are working towards delivering great quality to the end consumers.
And from a cultural perspective, I can say, since we are a family business, our values and culture is very strong. And this culture is a very strong ingredient to attract great talent. People associated with us are empowered, and everyone is an intrapreneur. We are a very flat organization. We encourage participation, opinion-sharing, delegation. Any successful organization you see today, they have a very strong fundamental culture of the organization. This culture of our family business which I am able to draw for Nandu’s is of great advantage.
The Processed Meat Businesses in India
If we look at the buying habits of people, 15-20 years ago, it was very different than it’s today. Earlier, the concept was if it is alive it is fresh, now the concept of fresh has changed. The young generation, today, wants the meat to come from a healthy source and to be handled very hygienically in a structured manner. 90% of our consumers haven’t visited a live butcher’s shop. People want to align with a brand that can actually promise the quality of their food. They need to know from where the meat is coming from. The whole dynamics are changing.