We expect 10X sales next year for Brand Nourish, says Ashish Khandelwal

Ashish Khandelwal, MD of BL Agro, leads a company that grew out of Bareilly to reach a turnover of nearly Rs 3,500 crore, and relies on adoption of emerging technology for aggressive growth

Srabana LahiriUpdated: Monday, May 16, 2022, 10:23 AM IST
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Ashish Khandelwal, Managing Director, BL Agro |

HOW BAIL KOLHU WAS BORN…

The story of BL Agro Industries goes back to the time of my forefathers and when my grandfather set up a small shop to sell mustard oil in Bareilly. In the 70s, he looked to expand the business a little. When he passed away in 1981, his brother took over the business and gave my father, Ghanshyam Khandelwal, Rs 10 lakh as his share. My father studied the mustard oil business minutely, and found major issues relating to quality and adulteration. He then started his own company in 1986, and launched cold pressed mustard oil, in which quality can be controlled, under the brand name ‘Bail Kolhu’. It made a huge profit in its very first year, and grew steadily year on year. In 1998, the company faced a crisis when the Government banned mustard oil on the basis of rumours that it was causing dropsy, and that it was not good for human consumption. That crisis was overcome, and we were the only company that the Government eventually allowed to sell packaged mustard oil. For the very first time, we launched the one litre PET bottle of packaged oil. The same year, the family business transformed into BL Agro Oils Private Limited. Much later, it went public.

I Brought in computers…

I joined the company in 1999, as the refrain in the family was that if I wasn’t brought into the business and taught to take responsibility early, I would go astray! So began my training and entry into the business. My father was very particular that I learnt it from the bottom up, just as he had done. I used to sit in the shop post college, and learn about accounts, customer handling, products… in fact getting tea for customers was my job! My immediate contribution to the business when I finally came in was to get the accounting computerised. Until then, we had been following the old book-keeping system. Even when computers came in, my father and uncle used to tally the numbers physically, and compare the results, lest mistakes were made by the new system! Meanwhile, I also contributed to modernising the operations. We moved from semi-automatic to a fully-automated packaging plant. I am passionate about emerging technologies. So, I looked around and imported technology from other countries as much as I could, while I set my eyes on taking our company to the next level. When I joined the company in 1999, the turnover was around Rs 300-400 crore. In 2010, the company touched the Rs 1,000 crore annual turnover mark. In the last fiscal, our turnover was in the vicinity of Rs 3,400 crore. We have a target of Rs 4,500 crore turnover in FY 23.

THE NOURISH SAGA…

I had been thinking along the lines of diversifying our offerings and in 2018, we launched the Nourish brand, with a wide range of food products under it, effectively turning into a full-fledged food products company. Nourish offers a complete food cycle, right from chakki fresh atta, pulses, rice, ghee, papad, pickles, murabba to ready-to-cook foods, etc. Our big accent is on hygiene and with the latest technology and innovation, we have been able to improve shelf life of our products. We have 17 Nourish Exclusive Brand Outlets and aim to open more going forward. The new brand contributes about 20% of our revenues so far. After North India, we have been expanding to the Southern states, especially Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. I am very happy with its progress. We are upbeat about achieving 10X sales next year and developing the e-commerce channel for our business.

MY LIFE OUTSIDE WORK…

I strongly believe in keeping the office and home separate – I never bring office work home, nor do I spend office time on matters of domestic interest. I generally leave work at 5.30 pm. I have seven pet dogs and I reserve half an hour after work to play with them. Then I spend time with my kids, before going out to move around Bareilly city for a while. I am usually home by 8.30 pm.

THE #RasodeMeinMardHai CAMPAIGN

RasodeMeinMardHai-New TVC by BL Agro Bail Kolhu

RasodeMeinMardHai-New TVC by BL Agro Bail Kolhu | LeadsConnect9

BL Agro recently launched a brand campaign #RasodeMeinMardHai for brand Bail Kolhu oil with actors Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Pankaj Tripathi. The aim was to change old school beliefs and break the stereotype that kitchen chores are the responsibility of women. The campaign advocated that cooking and all the associated responsibilities are life skills that every individual must have, and that the workload of buying ingredients for a meal, prepping, making, serving and then cleaning up afterwards should be equally shouldered by men and women. Says Ashish Khandelwal, “Our vision with the TVC went beyond generating brand lift and into advocating the #RasodeMeinMardHai concept. We couldn’t have found a better fit to champion the social cause than Pankaj Tripathi, Manoj Bajpayee, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Their persona and journeys match the initiative, which is why the message we wanted to convey comes out very naturally and effectively through them.”

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