Namah Chawla

“Wanted to create noise in a category led by female endorsers:” Kiran Giradkar, CMO, Nilon’s

The food brand recently turned 60. A chat with its CMO about its changing TG, choice of ambassador, media mix and 'new age' food products.

“Earlier, the brand was present in the crowded market or the Indian heartland, and offered commodity products like pickles, vermicelli and masalas. Over the last 10 years, the company has transitioned (grown) from Rs 8 crore to Rs 400 crore, by launching new-age products,” Kiran Giradkar, chief marketing officer, Nilon’s, tells afaqs!.

Nilon’s, one of the leading food companies, reminds most us of either pickles or jams. Its product portfolio was once limited to just kitchen and food ingredients. However, over the last decade, the brand has expanded its portfolio to include cooking pastes, blended (Indian and western) spices, chutneys, sauces, Chinese and Continental range, ready-to-cook (RTC) spice mixes and beverages.

Founded by Suresh Sanghavi in a small room in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, Nilon’s recently completed 60 years. The company currently has three manufacturing facilities and employs 2,500-plus people. It has about six lakh outlets in India, with presence in Japan, the US, Middle East and Europe as well.

Speaking about how the company expanded its portfolio, Giradkar mentions that earlier, it was traditionally-driven. Now, the company has started to focus on new-age products. “Ten years ago, the contribution of achar (pickle) and vermicelli to our business, used to be 80 per cent. But now, their contribution has come down to 25 per cent.”

<div class="paragraphs"><p><strong>Kiran Giradkar, Nilon's</strong></p></div>

Kiran Giradkar, Nilon's

To keep up with the changing times, Nilon’s has now redefined its target audience. The new-age products may not entirely cater to Nilon’s initial TG of Tier-II towns and villages. “Earlier, we just focused on the housewives between the ages of 25 and 35 years. Over the last 10 years, we have expanded to mini-metros. Now the TG also involves kids and on-the-go consumers,” reveals Giradkar.

"Earlier, we just focused on the housewives between the ages of 25 and 35 years. Over the last 10 years, we have expanded to mini-metros. Now the TG also involves kids and on-the-go consumers."

With the rise in demand for instant consumption, Nilon’s is also trying to come up with new ready-to-eat (RTE) and RTC products. These products will mainly cater to nuclear families and single professionals, besides on-the-go consumers.

Also Read: “Want to be available as a healthy alternative”: Nilon’s Rajheev Agarwal on new cold drink brand Cheers

Nilon’s didn’t advertise earlier as the brand consciously decided to address up-country needs. A major part of the investments went into product distribution. With the change in its TG and product portfolio, the brand has now realised that advertising is a must.

In 2009, Nilon’s ‘Long Finger’ ad, with the tagline ‘Zubaan Se Dil Mein Uttar Jaye’, featured a young couple. The ad’s objective was to give this traditional brand a modern outlook.

"Pankaj Tripathi happened to fit the bill. The actor comes from a humble background, like our brand, has a flair for cooking and is able to cut across audiences effortlessly."

“With the recent ads, Nilon’s wants to talk to the millennial audiences. Those who are attuned to the OTT platforms. We were looking for someone who had made it big on OTT. Pankaj Tripathi happened to fit the bill. The actor comes from a humble background, like our brand, has a flair for cooking and is able to cut across audiences effortlessly,” Giradkar adds.

Nilon’s latest campaign, titled ‘Isme Pyaar Mila Hai’, features Tripathi, playing a good-at-heart gangster, who is obsessed with cooking. The actor, in a humorous way, talks about the superior quality ingredients in Nilon’s products. And also, the attention to small details while making the products.

The idea behind these ads, Giradkar explains, is to make some noise in the category, which is completely led by female protagonists.

“If you notice all the commercials and communication in the cooking or food space, they mostly feature a woman in the kitchen. It is very important for a brand of our size and investment to cut across this clutter and stand out, hence, we decided to work smartly. And, that’s how we got Pankaj Tripathi to become the brand’s face,” he adds.

Giradkar goes on to say that in the food category, every brand tends to talk about taste. No one tries to speak about the functional benefits of the products. Nilon’s wanted to highlight the emotional angle and that is why it came up with the tagline ‘Isme Pyaar Mila Hai’.

So, what makes Nilon’s different from its competitors? Says Giradkar, “If you visit our factory, you will see that the vermicelli is still dried on the terrace. It helps in retaining its taste and texture. Our competitors use furnaces for this process. Our pickles are also hand-made. We try to retain the authenticity of recipes and methods so that the taste is preserved.”

With its target audience moving from the hinterland to the mainland, the brand’s media mix strategy has also changed. Earlier, television used to be a big component. But now, only 20-30 per cent of the advertising goes towards TV. The rest, 70 per cent, is diverted to PR, activations and digital.

Food is a cluttered category, with many brands vying for attention. Nilon’s marketing has now changed to become more conversational. Giradar believes that moment marketing is a strategy that the brand needs to leverage now. He says that the use of social media is paramount for Nilon’s.

The brand hosts interesting contests for its followers on social media in order to engage with them and understand consumer sentiments.

Also Read: Nilon’s #IndiaKeFoodIcons campaign is a search for the country’s top five food joints

Elaborating on the distribution metrics, Giradkar says that the category is dominated by general trade. However, Nilon’s products are also available in modern trade outlets.

He shares that e-commerce only forms around two per cent of the overall sales. A direct-to-customer (D2C) website still has a long way to go. The brand is currently focusing on increasing its general trade distribution because of the nature and category of products.

“We also plan to open up newer channels of business like bulk purchases - be it from canteens, HORECA (hotels, restaurants and cafe) space or institutions. But we are yet to see how much profit these segments can provide,” Giradkar concludes.

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