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Spicing Up India’s Snack Business: Ashok Kumar Tyagi

From a tiny shop in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan in 1937 to a global snack industry player, Haldiram’s is a household name in India. Today, it has the biggest bite of the thriving snack market with its ready-made sauces and desserts, and very Indianflavoured aperitif mixes such as Aloo Bhujia and Bhel Puri. Meanwhile, Indians abroad have helped fan the demand for the country’s favourite snacks.

Ashok Kumar Tyagi, Executive Director of Haldiram Snacks

“We are lucky,” says Haldiram Snacks Executive Director Ashok Kumar Tyagi. “Our growth over the past 15 years is very significant, and we are now India’s market leader.” It’s something he puts, in part, down to the “vision of the organisation” he’s created since joining the firm in 2006.

That vision saw Haldiram become the number one snack maker in 2016, after notching up 13 per cent growth and INR40 billion (US$538 million) in sales. In the process, it toppled multinational competitors such as PepsiCo, ITC, Nestlé, Domino’s and McDonald’s. In 2020, a new milestone was reached with US$1 billion in revenue and a doubling of business over four years.

A success story driven by consumers’ growing preference for namkeen – traditional savoury Indian snacks – over Western ones. The market dominance has sparked interest from other industry giants like Kellogg’s in joint ventures. Ashok believes this has been achieved due to the several “core values” entrenched in the company ethos. “Number one, there should be no compromise on quality because our customers are more intelligent than us,” he says. He points to “customer delight” as the most vital factor in maintaining the market lead.

When you work hard, you work intelligently.

“Second, you have to innovate. We have done a great deal of innovation to expand our product range and new flavour development.” These goals help keep team motivation high. “When you work hard, you work intelligently,” he maintains. Ashok reveals Haldiram Snacks is using automation and state-of-the-art technology to drive innovation. “It helps to improve the quality significantly while reducing the labour costs and other overheads, so you can pass on the benefits to your customers. And it has helped greatly with distribution in India and the UK,” he shares.

“Currently, we have to work more on that to speed things up and maintain the consistency and quality.” Haldiram Snacks’ expansion plans for the next couple of years – “definitely double-digit, no less” – hinge on new product launches. “We are going to do further research to add more spicy goods, confectionery, dairy and sauces,” Ashok reveals, and frozen food is another promising foray.


“We want to differentiate our product, so product development is vital. And we have the technology and processes to make it better. Automation will help our operational excellence so that we are first to develop these products.” When it comes to operations, Ashok believes distribution intelligence and supplier relations are paramount.

“In the past decade, we have grown our service to our stakeholders through ecommerce and other channels. Especially the retailers who sell our products in their market, globally and in India. And technically, that will be our part of the success,” he points out.

“Basically, our distribution is scientific. With our main import partners, we take the demographic data of each market seriously, then we share it among the partners. We must see data to work with your company because how are you going to increase your weighted distribution and market share? It’s super important. This means sales become very safe.”

Getting to the top has not been an easy task. “It’s been very difficult – both the innovation and the distribution,” Ashok concedes; however, the long-lasting associations with some 25 critical suppliers of raw materials, packaging and product ingredients has been crucial in creating that success.

Innovation and Transformation

Ashok believes significant innovation and transformation of the company helped it through the pandemic, and will continue to be a driver into the future. “We are using SAP software for business management, which automates our distribution management system,” he says.

“We treat our vendors as business partners, and our company is extremely ethical. Our first duty is to deliver a minimum 15–20 per cent return on investment to build these partners,” he explains.

“We pass on knowledge to our partners and try to improve their processes and technology so that they can work at a minimum operational cost. This helps us achieve our goals. When the cost goes down, the return on investment will automatically occur. So, it is a balance between customers and business partners. It helps to deliver the optimum cost to our customers.”

Similarly, Ashok counts on a nurturing spirit with the Haldiram team. “We can work smart, but in a supportive environment,” he says “It’s all about our customers.”

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