Submitted by admin on Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:19

Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and MD, Nestle India has been steering the company out of crisis post the Maggi controversy, and has successfully led the brand to claim 61% market-share in two years. But here’s why feels ‘uncomfortable’ with the ‘Turnaround MD’ tag…



Q] Nestle has turned its focus to health in a big way - be it the new Milkybar with more milk and less sugar or Maggi Atta noodles - after the Maggi debacle. How has it worked for you?

Very clearly, our focus is on valorizing our products by using the power of science and nutrition. So, we launched Milo with 40% lower sugar, increased the milk content in Milkybar and have over a period of time reduced the level of sodium and salt in our Maggi Noodles. We have also recently re-launched our Atta and Oats range with the benefit of fibre & 15% RDA of protein; then we have Greek yogurt Grekyo; its lychee variant has got a good response in the market. So, we will be on that journey of ensuring that we give healthier and tastier products because in food, you can’t have a bad-tasting product and expect people to eat it just because it’s nutritionally good. So, both taste and nutrition is what we will play to as an organization.

Q] Is that also the reason why you recently launched a Food Safety Institute at Manesar?

Yes, the Food Safety Institute came out of a discussion post the Maggi crisis. While in discussions with the FSSAI, we said that we would be able to help with food safety training, because that’s an area of strength for the company. And the FSSAI was receptive to this idea. The purpose is to provide training, and awareness creation with food operators, our own suppliers, people who the FSSAI might choose to send for training programmes here. However, this is just one effort, I am sure it needs many more corporates to commit themselves to this task. Over a period of time, together with the upgradation of the Government laboratories, and the setting up of more such food safety institutes, awareness and compliance towards food safety will increase.

Q] You have earned yourself the tag of ‘Turnaround MD’ - apart from Maggi, you have focused quite a bit on product launches, around 40 since 2016… what’s next on your agenda?

I am honestly very uncomfortable with the tag of ‘Turnaround MD’. I have always believed very fervently and from the bottom of my heart that whatever little I have achieved has been because of the trust, confidence, support and blessings of my people, and of the environment that surrounds me. While I know that as an individual, I do have a role to play, I believe what has been achieved by my team is vastly more than what I could have singularly ever achieved. So I have the perspective, and the humility to admit that my people have made this happen. I obviously would have desired to do many more launches and many more new initiatives, but I know fully well that I need to prioritize for the benefit of the organization, and on the steps we need to take in order to once again become a robust and resilient company. And that’s really what our journey has been all about.

Q] You have sprung back as the market leader in the noodles category, with a 61% share, but still haven’t managed to reach the 75% mark Maggi had before the controversy. Where are you falling short?

Right now, we are at about 61%-62% market share. We will increase this by increasing engagement with consumers, relevant innovation, etc. Also, the fact is that if the category itself becomes larger in terms of total volume, then whether I have 65% share or 75% share, it won’t matter so long as the volume base of our brand keeps growing over a period of time. Having said that, I don’t think we have lost the ambition or the vision for my team to still come back to that 75% volume share.

Q] Is there a time-frame in which you hope to achieve that?

Like all arduous things in life, it’s very difficult to put a timeline to this goal too. There is a level of desire, commitment, aggression, and dedication that my team and I have to get to that target. So, like Arjuna’s focus on the fish eye, it has not gone off our sight as well.

Q] Clearly, as part of that strategy, you have launched multiple new flavours of Maggi, Hotheads range, and more recently, four local flavours. What’s your favourite?

My favourite actually is the simple masala. It’s a brand I love, and the taste I love. The versatility that it offers makes it attractive for me. So, I can add a dash of vegetables to it or some eggs, and it will make for a completely different kind of taste. While by and large I like to cook my Maggi myself, of late I admit I have become a bit lazy so I tend to favour the cup noodles that we have. It’s quicker, I just have to add the hot water and it is ready!


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