There is some good news for the Indian pork lovers! Arohan Foods- a popular name in the North-eastern region of India is now slowly making its presence felt in the rest part of the country with its Pork Sausages, Pork Salami and Pork Bacon among others pork products. In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Arindom Hazarika candidly speaks about the company’s journey till date and expansion plans.
How did you think of bringing organised pork production concept into being? What was the inspiration?
We never thought ourselves to end up as an organised pork producer. It was the love of pork and the Northeast that compelled us to start the venture. Everything else fell into place. Anabil (Anabil Goswami, Head, Strategy and Business Development, Arohan Foods) was with Tata Chemicals, Rana (Ranapratap Brahma Head, Research and New Products, Arohan Foods) was with Bank Of Baroda and I was with Kotak Mahindra Bank. We took the plunge with our little bit of funding, some production and a lot of sales pedigree to fall back on and with the firm belief that if we make a good product, we will manage to sell it.
In which year you started Arohan Foods? Who were the friends, family member supported your venture?
We started in 2011 from a small corner at the National Research Centre on Pig, Indian Council of Agricultural Reserach (ICAR) which was in Guwahati. We could manage to shell out Rs 20 akh from our savings to manage the first day operation of our venture. Subsequent infusions came from family. Even though all our parents are non consumers of the actual product, they saw the conviction in us and decided to pitch in.
From where did you get your initial funding and what was the amount?
We never managed to get a single large fund source but were lucky to have many angel friends and family and managed to raise around Rs 60 lakh to get a few basic machines. We got our first VC funding in April 2013 and have been on an upward production curve ever since. It helped us get our new plant up and running together with attracting professional recruits.
How soon you plan to breakeven?
We wish to breakeven by 2017-18.
Who are the target consumers of Arohan Foods? Do you have any tie up with Indian hotels/restaurants?
We are targeting the mainstream pork eater and are already selling across to metros. The Northeast Diaspora is the initial target. Well travelled young Indian population and growing expat population.
In building your business in Assam, what were the initial hiccups you had faced? How did you overcome those?
The main problem in starting a business in Assam is building the trust which your stakeholders need to have in you. Whether it’s the banks or the distributers, the Assamese population is still wary of anything or anyone new in the market. We had to convince people really hard to make them believe in us. Logistics and trained manpower is also a constant challenge. National Research Council (NRC) runs regular training programmes for our workers.
Do you own farm house to keep pigs? How is the system works?
So far we have around 2,500 small holder pig farmers from whom we source our pigs. We pay fair market rates by weight. These pig farmers’ gain by getting market rates without agents, we have their trust and a steady incoming supply of animals. Our veterinary consultants provide preliminary consultancy to the farmers.
Do you have any plan to expand beyond Northeast? If so which are the cities you are targeting?
We are currently all over Northeast except Tripura and in major cities like Kolkata and Mumbai. We plan to expand to all the Tier I and Tier II cities in India. We would be available in Pune and Bangalore in the next two months.
And in expanding other part of the country, how would you market your products where pork consumption is restricted?
We are the one and only company in India which is doing PORK ONLY products. We believe that we do not need to market ourselves to that extent that it seems like overloading the consumer with advertisements. If there is a pork lover out there, he/she will reach to our products. We are also careful not to intrude into any consumer’s culinary beliefs. The market is developing at a fast enough rates for us to supply without forcing the issue with sensitive areas. Traditionally, wherever pork is consumed, we will look to be present.
What is your current sales turnover?
We would refrain from divulging numbers because we are a nascent company and restricted to a small region. However we have been growing at over 20 percent every quarter and will look be a significant player in the pork space in two years time.