| Workers at the cake factory of SRD Group. Picture by UB Photos |
Mangaldoi, May 28: The Rs 100-crore home-grown food major Sunanda Ram Deka (SRD) Group, known for its Repose brand of bakery products, is planning to stick solely to the food business.
“We have been in the food business for decades and there is ample opportunity in this segment. The growth of this sector in Assam is around 20-25 per cent annually, which the group has been able to take advantage of. Hence, we prefer to focus on food, which is our core competency,” Anupam Deka, the executive director of the Mangaldoi-based company, told The Telegraph.
“There have been major investments happening in the sector over the past four to five years by regional and national players and there is no reason to go anywhere else. We can expect substantial market growth in the near future,” he added.
In fact, the food sector in Assam will be witnessing the entry of major companies like ITC, which had said in February that it would invest Rs 500 crore in the FMCG sector, especially in the food processing industry, in Assam.
The group’s founder, Sunanda Ram Deka, started out in 1931 by setting up a small restaurant, Repose, at Mangaldoi in Darrang district. Today, it has become a strong player, with top companies willing to work with it.
The group, which is eyeing a turnover of Rs 250 crore after five years, currently manages a Horlicks factory, a Britannia cake factory in collaboration with Britannia Industries Limited and an ORS factory in collaboration with Jagdale Industries along with its own units.
The group was selected by Glaxo SmithKline as its franchisee for setting up a Horlicks processing and packaging unit. The factory which was set up in 2002 by SRD group has opened the door to multinationals to set up base in the state.
“We had great difficulty in convincing GlaxoSmithKline to set up a factory at Mangaldoi. We believe this was possible solely because of the trust and goodwill created by our founder Sunanda Ram Deka. But setting up of the plant made way for many big companies to consider the region as an area of equal growth potential and competency as other areas of the country,” he said.
The Horlicks unit was expanded in 2008. “Further expansion will only depend on the growth of the existing market. However, looking into our competency and our existing business relationship with GlaxoSmithKline, we are optimistic that for any future growth, the first opportunity will come to us,” he added.
Armed with decades of experience, the group is fully concentrating on the bakery and confectionary sector, which has massive potential for growth. For instance, the market for cakes alone has grown by more than 30 per cent in Assam in the past five years.
“The company is planning to scale up its production in various parts of the Northeast in the coming five years and is also looking for new opportunities to join hands with other big food giants of the world. The Britannia cake plant, where seven varieties are manufactured, is under expansion mode and will produce around 700 tonnes per month, making it the largest cake-producing unit,” Deka said.
At present, the company is making 20 varieties of bread and 50 varieties of biscuits. In the next five years, it may increase production of both varieties by 70 to 75 per cent. A few more outlets of Repose and Bakers Special brands are coming up this year in Guwahati.
As for new plans, the company is looking to increasing the shelf life of its products to give it a bigger market for its products. At the same time, it is also trying to supply fresh products, devoid of chemical preservatives, to its valued customers.