1 Nov 2017, 10:01 — 8 min read
Families which have been in business a long today often have the knack of finding success in diverse fields. The Shah family of Kochi has been in involved in all kinds of businesses ranging from real estate, the stock market to the extraction of spices for a long time. Universal Oleoresins, a spice extract company, was almost closed in 1999 because of a tough period for the company but under the stewardship of Jinesh Shah, Jai C Shah and Nishesh Shah it now prospers.
Nishesh asserts that the company’s turnover is a 1000 times that over what it was during the difficult time about 20 years ago. Their retail product, Spice Drop, is going mainstream in India and fuelling growth in addition to the exports which are the mainstay of the company. The company’s goal is to make spices accessible and usable for people in cities who may not have the time for time-consuming cooking.
In conversation with GlobalLinker (GL), Jinesh Shah (JS), Jai C Shah (JCS) and Nishesh Shah (NS) share the journey of the company. Watch this video to learn more:
GL: Tell us about your business and how it came into being.
NS: Universal Oleoresins is a company started by my uncle - my brothers and I are the second generation that is working in the company. The company sells spice extracts. A lot of people trade in spices. We wanted to do a value addition to this commodity. Hence we started this company with the sole purpose of creating extracts which are 100% natural giving a value addition to consumers.
Universal Oleoresins is a family business. We have been in business for a 100 years and have over 60 members in the family today. We have various diversified businesses like tea, oleoresins, stock exchange and real estate. Our Oleoresin business was started in 1981.
JCS: I joined Universal Oleoresins 3 years back after completing my education in engineering. I work with my team to troubleshoot problems and make things work better. I am also involved in marketing.
Spice Drop is a natural extract of the Spice. You just need to add one drop to your food and beverage to get the complete aroma of the spice. The manufacturing of the product happens here near Kochi. Once the product is ready, it goes to our distributors in India and around the Globe. We have a sales team working closely with us. Jinesh and I monitor the sales team.
GL: What is the USP of your business?
NS: The basic USP of our business comes from the values imbibed from our grandfathers. We don’t want to do business for the sake of doing business. It should be more to build relationships and do long term things. Though Universal is a relatively small company we have been in the business 35 years and we have customers from when we began. Relationships are hard to maintain. Quality is something everyone commits to and is generally a given when it comes to doing business.
JS: Universal Oleoresins is primarily an oleoresin manufacturer. As a family, we had a focus that was very specific. We wanted to have a limited product portfolio. We only wanted to focus on oils and oleoresins and offer good quality services to the customer with right pricing.
JCS: Spice Drop being a ready-to-use natural extract of spice is very useful for working men, women and travellers. Today life has become fast. Spice Drop helps with cooking instantly. It is spice on the go. You can add a drop in your office and you’re done.
It is equivalent to having your raw spice in a more convenient way. One of the key reasons Spice Drop was invented - As one big joint family, we always had a conflict about how much spice to put in food. As manufacturers of oleoresins we came up with the idea to make bland food for everyone and then add the product that became Spice Drop as per taste.
GL: What are the challenges you have faced in establishing your business?
NS: When the company started, this concept of extracting spices was new to India. Way back in 1998-1999 we hit a stretch where we faced huge losses because of a foreign customer. We were thinking of cutting our losses and closing the company. I was doing my MBA and came back and tried to revive the business. Since then we have been reviving our old customers, developing new markets and going into new segments. Food companies demand tailored products and we cater to that need and have grown from strength to strength. From the year 2000 since our low period to now we have grown a 1000 times in value.
JS: Ever since the start, Universal Oleoresins has been focusing on exporting. We aren’t very active in the domestic market today. Now, we started focusing on selling our products domestically. Customers in India didn’t know us as an alternative. But with an aggressive approach to the domestic market, we are now becoming better known in the domestic market as well.
GL: What are some of the milestones of your business?
NS: The success of Spice Drop is our greatest success. When I joined this product was already launched but it didn’t have much visibility. We focused on distribution, on branding it and making it one of the only brands available in the market for end-users. I took ownership of this.
GL: What is your big business dream?
NS: When we started selling oleoresins it was for the industry. But they have benefits for everyone especially regular consumers. That’s how we developed our retail arm - Spice Drop that is growing as a brand. We want to be the largest player in oleoresins for industry and we want Spice Drop to be a pioneering product and brand. We are the only ones able to offer this product which is beneficial to consumers.
GL: What role do you feel GlobalLinker plays in connecting & assisting SMEs?
NS: SMEs survive on the kind of contacts they get from established players and people. GlobalLinker is a platform that puts us in touch with people who need our kind of product be they established players or SMEs. The platform will be a great place to not only provide people our products but also to grow.
JS: GlobalLinker is going to help us expand our distribution network. It will help us reach new retail markets at home and across the globe. We will find more customers.
GL: What is your message to aspiring entrepreneurs?
NS: If you believe in something you want to do, persist with it and the results will come through. We believe in our retail product and after 16 years the results are coming in. Persist with what you believe in.
JCS: Believe in what your idea is. If not today, tomorrow it will make an impact. Be the change you want to believe in.
Disclaimer: This article is based solely on the inputs shared by the featured members. GlobalLinker does not necessarily endorse the views, opinions & facts stated by the members.
Posted byGlobalLinker Staff
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