speaker-info

A. D. Padmasingh Isaac

Chairman & Managing Director, AACHI GROUP

A range of blended masalas adding an extraordinary flavour and taste to a million tongues is what the (AACHI) MASALA KING crowns every ‘Queen of the Kitchen’ with. Aachi has made a revolution in transforming freshly
ground masalas into tasty food. Yes, Mr.Isaac has made the lives of women easy in the kitchen and brought ripples of happiness and satisfaction to all in the family.

 FAMILY BACKDROP

He hails from a family that relied solely on agriculture in Nazareth with five siblings. The sudden death of his father when Mr.Isaac was 12 years old did not stop him from facing life’s challenges that lay before him. With the able support, guidance, love and untiring efforts of his mother Mrs.Flora, he pursued his formal education as a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). His mother’s aromatic cooking blended with her abundant love wove a magical spell on him that gave him an idea to do something to make cooking a pleasure. Little did he realise that this had laid a firm foundation in his mind to blossom as a successful entrepreneur at a later date.

CAREER PATH

Mr. Isaac started his career in Chennai as a Sales Officer in Godrej, and his crazy passion for marketing helped him to get promoted as an Area Sales Manager soon, with a number of salesmen reporting to him. His different marketing and selling skills made him not only achieve the targets, but also exceed the same.  He saw every challenge and obstacle faced as an opportunity that could be exploited. He took ownership of all his activities and emerged an ‘intrapreneur’ at Godrej, and sold the company’s products with great pride as though they were his own. He developed new selling strategies that helped him to create a promising career in Sales. The role and importance of branding was a vital lesson he picked up during his employment tenure in Godrej. The lack of a MBA qualification did not qualify him to promotions which made him revisit his decision to stay in Godrej.

ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY

His keen observation about market needs made him realise a serious gap for providing customers with liquid blue to make white clothes look whiter. What then was the option of the higher middle class and above, was made available to the common man too, thanks to his launching of “Twinkle” liquid blue in small sachets, which was a runaway hit. This was his first step taken in the path of entrepreneurship.

His wedding with Ms.Thelma who stood by him in his ups and downs in life, was a turning point in his life. Her cooking style was influenced greatly by that of her mother-in-law Mrs.Flora, who shared her yummy masala recipes with her young daughter-in-law.What made the cooking a lengthy process was grinding masalas for every dish that was made. He always wondered why women had to compromise between family and kitchen spending many valuable hours in cooking, and realised that only a woman can cook food with an extra ingredient for her family and that is love. He pondered on what would relieve them from the boredom of cooking and make it a happy job.This thought process made him to grind masalas and blend them for every dish that could be made. And that marked the beginning of his marathon masala journey.

Aachi was the brainchild of Mr.Isaac’s restlessness to create a place forhim in the masala industry. The Aachi Kulambu Chilli Powder is the flagship product of Aachi that keeps the cash counters ringing cheerfully with its domestic and export market, although it was a failure during its product launch.His early morning walks played a main role for new product development and manufacturing.  He had a different way of walking down the road and doing a  quick scan of the dustbins to identify  the consumption pattern of the neighbourhood, based on the empty product covers thrown. This helpedhim to learn & study the food habits, product usage and preference of people in that locality.

Extensive Market Outreach:Aachi products are sold in more than twenty five States in India. The Aachi brand has nearly 200 products with over 700 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) as in the beginning of 2016.  There are over 4000 exclusive sales agents and the brand is sold in over 12 Lakh retail outlets all over India. The latest innovation in distribution with a view to serve small retailers in towns and villages includes the establishment of the concept of Hawker Sales Distributors who would go all around and sell Aachi brand of products in the remotest corners of markets across India.  The project began in April 2014 though, there are already around 700 such hawker sales agents distributing Aachi brand of products in the markets. Within a span of 15 years, Aachi has emerged as the No.1 FMCG Brand Pan India, with its impressive  product line, and expectation to double performance in a couple of years.

Co-creating Entrepreneurs:The popular demand for Aachi products compelled him to reach the potential customers by opening Aachi Model Shops, which handles the stocking and sales of the entire range of Aachi Group products. The customer is thus able to choose from a range of products like masala powders, pickles, cooking oil, packaged drinking water, toiletries and health products. Changing global patterns of food production, international trade, technology, public expectations for health production and many other related issues created a compelling need for food safety and quality testing labs across nations. Aachi Model Shops is yet another form of creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities with those who have innate marketing skills.

STRATEGIC BRAND BUILDING

Converting Commodity into Brand:Chillies are the basic product used by Aachi in most of the blended masala powders. Mr.Isaac believes in purchasing the raw material from the farmers and wholesalers and help to convert various commodities into end products for direct consumption. His product knowledge and interactions with the consumers give him an insight into diversifying his masala product line to convert the chillies into different masalas, to make mouth-watering variety of dishes.

In cases where the manufacturing process is not cost effective, Aachi has the policy of outsourcing it to the right people, without compromising on the quality of the products. This way, he creates an opportunity for more people to join hands with him to deliver an affordable product with good quality on one hand, and employment or entrepreneurship options for the parties concerned.

Bringing happiness to families:Mr.Isaac grew up watching his mother work hard in the kitchen for over 6 hours to make tasty meals that appeal to the family. In the process, he understood that a good part of her quality time was lost in the kitchen, especially in grinding masala to add aroma and flavour to the cooked food. He also felt that a mother acts as the binding factor at home and it is necessary for her to spend more time with the family, rather than working in the kitchen. This started a thought process in him to ease the cooking process without compromising out on the flavour and taste. His worthwhile contributions to making family life meaningful include the following:-

Womens’ work made easy:Unlike olden days, life demands today’s women to do mutli-tasking. They necessarily need to be a miniature of Durga Devi with so many hands one with the knife, baby, iron box, ladle,  laptop, phone, etc.. She might let go of anything but not cooking. As food is a craving that is unending in human beings, the tongue wants to taste something new and different and definitely tasty. The range of Aachi masala products has made cooking very interesting and innovative for every Indian woman. Hence the product-line included convenient masala blends that could be used for preparing any curry or gravy on a common usage platform with the highest taste. While the competitors focused on offering pure masalas, the brand Aachi carved its own place in blended masalas to penetrate into every kitchen.

Farmer friendly Approach:To re-instil the diminished confidence among farmers, Mr. Isaac has established direct links with them and procures the basic raw materials thus doing away with the intermediaries who tend to eat away the profit of the farmers. For eg: If we consider the manufacturing and conversion process of the flagship product of the Aachi Group- Aachi Kulambu  Chilli Powder, the entire process starts with the procurement of chillies directly from the farmers. This way the farmers are able to establish a straight contact with the buyer, and since the demand is throughout the year, the farmers try to match them with a combination of alternative farming methods and coordination among themselves. These alternate methods of farming help to improve the cultivation process to give a rich and fruitful yield. Many more such agricultural produce such as pulses, millets and spices including vegetables like mango, lemon, etc. are also directly procured systematically from farmers across various regions in India. Similarly, with a role of middlemen being totally removed from the picture, the prices are more profitable and help the farmers enjoy a better standard of living.

Capability to change Challenges into Opportunities: His unique strength lay in taking ownership even when he was a Sales Officer. He played the role of an intrapreneur and designed his own incentive and promotional schemes to upsell the products. This lay the foundation for him to flourish as an entrepreneur in the later days. His strategy was to target the rural market which houses several shops, to make the product a household name. The tremendous response to the product motivated him to diversify his product line and include newer masalas to it. His marketing strategy worked from the rural market to the urban market, without any distinction between the lower, middle and upper class of potential customers. A success strategy followed by Aachi to reach the low and middle income customer segment is the introduction of all products in sachets priced at Rs 2, 5,10,20 and 50. This has helped all the classes of customers to use his range of products without economic differentiation.

Transforming the Aachi Brand from Masalas to FMCG Food Products:For a long time,Aachi as a brand has been known for Masalas. A clear product strategy to includemany products in the Ready-to-Cook and Ready-to-Eat categories launched under the Aachi brand has helped the brand get repositioned as a Food FMCG brand. The foremost among the food products under the brand launched are the instant food mixes and products like Pickles, Jams, Ghee which have become an instant success. These products give the brand the required edge to cater to the Northern and eastern States of India as well.

Uniquely Tactical &Thematic Brand Communication:The brand communication of Aachi is unique to the extent of clearly communicating to the target audience at an appropriate time. No new product introduction begins with any big monetary implications. The strategy is to go to market first with below-the-line promotions like Quantity Purchase Schemes initially with the twin objective of achieving a reasonable level of distribution and a good deal of shelf/string space in retail outlets (thus satisfying the primary customers who are retailers)and then communicate with customers at large to create a pull. This helps the brand communication result in good sales volume realization. Many advertisers begin with big media communication during product launches and such big spends may spill by the wayside without sales realization as product placement on the shelves would not have been achieved. Such spilled advertisements would only help competitors grow. The advertising communication of Aachi has gone a long way to establish the brand in consumer minds.

Commitment to Quality: Scientific Food Testing Services (P) Ltd:The Scientific Food Testing Services (SFTS) is the offshoot of such a need, with state-of-the-art technology and testing methods for following food standards in terms of biological and chemical contents. His interest in serving society stood first in his list of priorities. Providing employment opportunities to the rural folks through a system that encourages direct purchase of produce from the farmers, is yet another CSR activity pursued by him.  This practice helps in doing away with the concept of middlemen who chew away a sizeable chunk of the profits, otherwise available to the farmers.

Employment to destitute women:In the Villages surrounding Chennai, Mr. Isaac noticed the suffering of many destitute women. With minimal education and skills, these women were struggling to find any employment to make their livelihood. With nature being subject to climate change in the form of floods or drought, destitute rural women found it difficult to lead a decent living.

Their support for livelihood came in the form of employment in different establishments of Aachi Group that did not call for specific job skills. In addition, a pick up and drop facility made by the organization from the homes of these women, added a lot of comfort to their jobs. These destitute women not only earned a decent pay at par with the best offered in the industry, but were able to educate their children which was a dream until then. This education for the next generation allowed them to get equipped with employable skills to bring about a meaningful change in their futuristic lifestyle.

The Strategic Way of Saving Small Retailers in India:Studies show that popular brands from multinational companies who operate in India in the FMCG space offer retailers meager gross margins that are not good enough to make both ends meet for the small retailer’s survival. Likewise, many FMCG organizations give retailers gross margins that are much less than their percentage of their operating costs, posing again a threat of extinction of small retailers in India. The operating cost of retailers is around 14%-16% of retail sales turnover and the gross margins offered are to the tune of 8% to 10%. The Aachi brand’s strategic intent is to make retailers not only survive but also grow and hence Aachi brand of products always offers more than 20% gross margins to retailers.

PHILANTHROPIC ACTIVITIES

Mr.Isaac did not believe in just doing business and earning profits. He felt a pressing need to give back to society and reach out to the poor and needy, leading to sustainable growth of the economy. Some of his philanthropic initiatives include:-

ICI School:He took over an ailing school in Anna Nagar – ICI Matriculation School that educates children who hail from a poor family of launderers, house maids, autorickshaw drivers, security personnel and daily wages employees. As the Correspondent of the school he has helped to make education affordable for this category of people too. The school has a record of having secured 100% pass results in the board exams, which is phenomenal keeping in mind the economic background of the students.

Flora Clinic:Mr.Isaac started the Flora Clinic in Ayanambakkam, in memory of his beloved mother who has helped in making him an entrepreneur of repute. This clinic was started with the intention to serve the sick and needy on a free basis, who are not only his own employees, but also local residents. A free consultation with an experienced medical practitioner and free distribution of medicines has helped him to reduce the suffering of the ailing poor in that area.

Other Philanthropic Activities: His paternalistic care for his employees made him organise free health camps for the blue collared employees in his factories and help them to overcome their common health issues. Leading medical practitioners from different walks of medicine screened the employees and also distributed free medicines for them.

An eye camp that was organised under his leadership has benefitted his poor sighted employees and he distributed free spectacles for those whose vision could be rectified with its use.

A blood donation drive motivated his work force to donate blood for a noble and needy cause, especially when it was spearheaded by his loving wife, Ms.Thelma.This motivated many like- minded employees to follow suit, and has been incorporated as a HR policy.

His helping hand saw no rest when Chennai was hit by floods in November 2015. Food packets were distributed to the grief stricken people, and the employees who lost their belongings were given relief material by him, in an attempt to manage the situation.

To create awareness among the neighbourhood and employees, he initiated a drive to plant around 250 saplings in Chennai. This attempt to save the ecology is yet another effort taken by him to preserve the environment in addition to effective waste management in his manufacturing processes. Aachi factories have a well-established effluent treatment plant that does not negatively affect the environment, and conforms to the rules laid down by the government.

Contribution to Education : The Aachi Educational and Research Foundation (AERF) was founded by Mr. Padmasingh Isaac to help people of all walks of life have access to quality education. The Aachi Institute of Management & Entrepreneurial Development (AIMED) was the first initiative in this direction, which helps the student community to focus on their skill set, fix and chart out their career plan by offering quality education with assured employment facility.  AIMED always encourages an institution – industry interface that allows its students to interact with top class professionals in different spheres of business activity to share their experiences and expertise. Students from other institutions are also permitted to do their internship in Aachi Group of Companies, and absorb those who are inclined to the practices and policies of Aachi.

REWARDS AND RECOGNITION

A number of awards have been showered upon Mr. Padmasingh Isaac for his multi-faceted business acumen. The following are the key awards received by him recently.

My Sessions

TEF Talk – Success in small packets: The Aachi story of masalas and spice

M100 Mezzanine Hall