Fueled by passion and driven by the ambition to see his products on the shelf of a store someday, Shyam Bagri set out from the small town of Nokha in Bikaner, Rajasthan in the 1980s at the age of 19 to set up his own mill in Delhi. It was not an easy decision. He was about to leave behind his family’s flour mills business, which were all thriving.
Bagri soon built a strong B2B business, with a client roster that included big brands such as Nestlé, GSK, Britannia, Domino’s Pizza, and Modern Foods, among others.
Soon after, he pioneered the launch of oats in India. The brand Oatex, produced from a small oat mill, contained western grain with nutritive properties. In 1994, he developed a Swiss breakfast cereal called muesli in India for the first time. Shyam Bagri wasn’t a small town flour miller anymore.
He had now built a powerhouse called Bagrry’s boasting of an expansive range of breakfast foods. He would soon be on his way to grab a chunk of the market share from one of the biggest cereal producers in the country.
By 2016, Bagrry’s had become the second biggest breakfast cereal brand in India after Kellogg’s, cornering an 18.7 percent market share. Today, the brand is valued at Rs 180 crore. Our first episode in Disruptors tracks the incredible journey of Bagrry’s. CNBC-TV18’s Mangalam Maloo interviewed Shyam Bagri and Aditya Bagri, founder and director respectively of Bagrry’s.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Mangalam Maloo: What took you to muesli?
Shyam Bagri: In the early 90s, I was very keen on having my products on the shelves and the flour mills is a very B2B business
Mangalam: So at that time you were supplying to Nestlé, GSK, and more?
Shyam: Yes, Britannia and Modern Foods as well. And, we still supply to them through our flour mill in Rajasthan.
Mangalam: So the oats that comes in Britannia’s oats cookies or Maggi oats noodles is supplied by Bagrry’s?
Aditya: We do a lot of R&D with them to develop these products. So, we are not just suppliers but also innovate and create some products with oats.
Mangalam: Traditionally, for an upma- poha- idli-eating nation, for cereals, it would only be cornflakes for them. At that point, what made you think muesli could be the disruptor?
Shyam: After wheat bran, we came into oats, and oat is the main ingredient for muesli, which is a value-addition in oats. So, we thought if you want to incorporate oats in your diet, muesli is the tastier and healthier way to incorporate it.
Mangalam: It was challenging right? I was looking through your financials and Rs 1 crore in 1989 that turned into just Rs 2 crore in 2000. And then you saw a substantial growth. Muesli didn’t really pick up, right?
Aditya: That time it wasn’t built from a financial perspective. Back in the early 90s, we started the entity, which we operate Bagrry’s India, we had a bit of B2B billing activity so that’s what was reflected in the topline. But what was most exciting was that I’d see my parents at work and my father was very passionate about what he made. So, for him, the exciting part was putting something of his own on the shelf. And, even some people in our office were very curious, because here’s a guy who has a milling business where he crushes thousands of tons of wheat and he’s getting excited about putting small packets of by-products; this is something we throw away, and instead he has processed that and created a product out of it. And then, he got into muesli. I keep asking him, how he manages to come across it. There was no Internet at that time and no way to research such foods. But we somehow managed it. The excitement was more to build it out of passion. During that time, we also experimented with granola bars—we are probably the first to launch it—in the 90s, as well as, brown rice; categories which are popular today.
Watch the complete episode here to find out more about Bagrry’s successful journey as CNBC-TV18’s Disruptors.