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BW Businessworld

All Cookies And Cream

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Circa 2009. After years of battling for control of Britannia Industries with Nusli Wadia, Groupe Danone SA of France exited, selling its 25.5 per cent stake to him for Rs 800 crore. After the sell-off, The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation (BBTC), Wadia’s investment vehicle, became the majority owner of the highly profitable Britannia.

The biscuit company, which is part of BBTC’s financial book-keeping, is the jewel in Wadia’s corporate empire. Britannia has grown at a steady pace of 20 per cent in recent years and sales in FY2012 went up to Rs 5,485 crore from Rs 4,624 crore the previous year. Britannia has managed to hold a steady 33 per cent share of the biscuit market against stiff competition.

Vinita Bali, MD of Britannia Industries, told BW that the company’s success lay in the market support for its six power brands, including Marie, Tiger, Milkbikis and 50:50. “In the last 6 years we have added only one brand, that of Nutrichoice, a high-fibre biscuit marketed as a health food. Instead of multiplying brands, we have focused on investing and building our existing brands targeted at specific groups; and we have broadened what each brand offers,” Bali said.
But take away Britannia from BBTC and the old businesses (tea and coffee estates, and plantations) account for very little — just over Rs 440 crore. Ness Wadia, who heads BBTC, conceded that there was stagnation in the old businesses, and said he planned to scale these up in the coming months. “We are going to move tea and coffee upstream to create more niche, value-added products; we also intend to use our land assets to develop agriculture,” he said.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 20-05-2013)