The Coronavirus pandemic pushed many legacy consumer products companies to fast-forward their e-commerce strategy and Ahemdabad-headquartered Adani Wilmar is no exception. In an inflationary environment where margins are under immense pressure, Adani Wilmar, like its peers, is also embarking on a premium direct-to-consumer play, which will give the FMCG major higher margins. It is shortly going to launch ready-to-cook biryani, poha and khichdi. “We will give you the basmati rice along with choice of masalas and spices (which could be dum biryani or hyderabadi biryani) and all that you have to do is add them to the rice and cook,” explains Angshu Mallick, MD and CEO, Adani Wilmar.

Poha would also be launched in variants such as Indori poha, while the khichdi mixes would come in variants such as Bengal’s bhog khichdi, a pav bhaji variant to tickle the taste buds of the people of Maharashtra, Punjabi khichdi, as well as Mexican salsa khichdi, which according to Mallick, would target the millennials.

“Our intent is to make khichdi interesting and nutritious. All our ready-to-cook products would also be enriched with ingredients such as ragi, sesame seed, flax seed and millets,” says Mallick, who expects over 70% of its premium portfolio revenue to come from its portal, The ready-to-cook products will also be available in modern trade.

The direct-to-consumer will help the company cross-promote its entire basket of products, adds Mallick. “If you buy my khichdi mix, I can encourage you to buy basmati rice too. I can also give you besan for free. However, D2C currently is very small, but it is promising. It is going to change the way we buy our groceries.”

When the pandemic first derailed daily life in 2020, the FMCG major started taking orders through its website and delivered its entire basket of products at residential complexes. It also launched Fortune Business, an app which enabled retailers to order merchandise directly. Since then Fortune Business has over 25,000 downloads, while the consumer app has 10,000 downloads. “Our e-commerce business contributes around 12%-15%; in categories such as food it is over 25%,” says Mallick.

The ₹37,000-crore FMCG major is all set for an IPO, and is looking to raise ₹4,500 crore, which according to Mallick would be largely used for capacity building. As a mass FMCG company, the plan is to focus largely on agriculture-led staples such as edible oil, flour, rice, sugar and pulses. “We will grow the pie and it’s our goal to be among the top three in anything that we do. The five categories are more than 300 million metric tonnes. We want to be first masters in basic. If you say dal, it has to be the best-quality chana dal. Once that is done I could foray into chana snacks or ready-to-cook products also,” explains Mallick.

He is especially excited about atta, which he says is the fastest-growing food FMCG product in the country. “In spite of Ashirvaad being around for many years, there hasn’t been a formidable second player, with nationwide scale. Chakki atta is a 45-million-metric-tonne opportunity, as opposed to edible oil, which is a 22-million-tonne market opportunity. Only 15% of the atta market is organised. We entered this space two years ago and have already gained 5-6% market share.”

Covid-19 and health concerns have dramatically increased the preference for packaged food, including packaged staples, not just in urban India but in rural markets too. Mallick believes the company’s focus on capacity building will not just enable scale, but also result in improving quality. “When we started oil we started with 600 million tonnes, but within a year we expanded to 1,600 million metric tonnes. If you set up such a large capacity, you will obviously invest in good packaging, processes, technology, good quality products and value addition and that is what will make a difference.”

Scale will also help to offer competitive pricing. “Small-town consumers are asking for packaged products, and whichever company comes up with a value-for-money proposition they will opt for those products. Capacity building will help us achieve that target.” The ₹4,500-crore IPO will enable Adani Wilmar double its manufacturing capacity, says Mallick.

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