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BW Businessworld

India’s Most Valuable CEOs: Berry Much On Top

How Varun Berry is laying the foundation for transforming Britannia Industries Ltd. into a ‘total foods’ company

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Varun berry has been at the helm as managing director since 2014 on an April Fool’s Day. Inheriting big problems from predecessors, now that he has sorted out the big problems he was passed on while taking the top job and Britannia has moved well beyond a “hand-to-mouth” existence, Berry is laying the foundation to transform it into a “total foods” company.

For the past three years, Berry’s focus has been on innovation at India’s largest biscuit maker. He has cut costs, revamped the management team, streamlined the product portfolio and brought the focus back on a handful of brands.

Berry joined the company as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer early 2013 with experience spanning three decades in premier companies like Hindustan Unilever and Pepsi Co, both in India and overseas and a successful track record in leading start-ups, turnarounds, joint ventures and growth businesses.

The largest biscuit maker in the country has a sales turnover of Rs 8176.82 crore and a CAGR (Profit after Tax) is 46.84 per cent growth of CAGR sales for the years is 12.64 per cent respectively. Britannia’s revenue for the third quarter rose 6.11 per cent to Rs 2,355.27 crore during the period, but fell short of its own expectations.

“This quarter has been really tough considering the way things panned out on the economic front. The positive growth momentum witnessed in Q2, aided by good monsoon and flow through of 7th pay commission benefits was impacted with implementation of demonetisation in November,” Varun Berry, managing director, said in a statement. Growth in the international business continued to be under pressure due to deteriorating geopolitical situation and currency fluctuations in geographies like Middle East and Africa, he added.

Britannia, which had to deal with a high raw material inflation rate of more than 10 per cent in the December quarter, said its cost efficiency programme had helped mitigate the impact of higher raw material costs to a “certain extent.” It also “rationalised” advertising spends as no amount of stimulus would have helped the company boost growth after demonetisation. During his stint he has taken many steps to overhaul the entire firm— he cut costs, streamlined his team and product portfolio, and thrown his marketing weight behind all the powerful brands. He got the overheads down. He focused on innovation wherein more funds were concentrated — for example in R&D, he put a lot of effort there as we wanted innovation to be an important agenda. The company therefore, launched its state-of-the-art facility with end-to-end capability from producing to changing to testing to everything.

Berry is looking to transform Britannia into a total food company; he is planning to bring in new products, especially in the bakery segment, to fill gaps in its portfolio. This is the reason why the company earlier this month signed an MoU with Greece’s cakes and confectionery major Chipita and is in advanced stage of discussion to finalise definitive agreements including a joint venture.