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How This Rs 1,500 Cr Empire Emerged From Selling Chips In A Gujarat Theater

Packaged goods form a big chunk of the Indian economy and this sector is dominated by foreign multi-national players. Only a few homegrown entrepreneurs have scaled heights in the segment despite starting from absolutely zero. They are the reason behind increasing demand for desi brands and today’s story is bringing one such businessman under the spotlight who created a buzz in the FMCG sector right from the beginning.

This is an incredible story of a man who started selling chips in small theaters of Gujarat and one day became father of a giant Indian brand.

Nobody could have predicted that three brothers, Chandubhai, Bheekhubhai, and Meghjibhai, born in a small village in Gujarat’s Jamnagar will one day become popular faces of the Indian business industry. They were born into a family of a poverty-stricken farmer which wasn’t enough to support their family. In 1972, the Virani brothers decided to leave behind their village and migrate to city. They decided to set up a business in the city and asked their father to sell their land so that the money from it could be used as the business capital.

Their father could do everything for his sons so he sold off their ancestral land and gave Rs 20,000 to them. Chandubhai led his brothers into trading of farming equipment and lost every penny they had. This brought their life to a standstill as apart from this fresh loss, they had lost their age-old source of income i.e farming. In 1974, the brothers opened a small canteen in a theater in Rajkot and began selling wafers and sandwiches made by their wives.

This wafer and sandwich business continued for the next 15 years and they realized that people loved homemade eatables more than factory manufactured food items. They were aware of the enormous opportunity in this sector and decided to expand their operations to more number f people. In 1989, they installed a semi-automatic plant for frying wafers and launched their brand Balaji Wafers offering great quality wafers at throw away prices.

It was a tough road initially. The brothers had to personally go from shop to shop to plug their products. Many shopkeepers refused to buy packets in bulk, some said the seal had broken and their wafers had gone bad, while several others bought their wafers on credit putting Balaji Wafers in a tight position. All their hardwork was not enough to bring them in a secured position but they kept on trying despite the odds. That effort, never die spirit and initial struggle had today made them the king of the market.

Notably, the Indian snacks market today is worth Rs 50,000 crore in which salty snacks capture 60 percent and potato chips hold 40 percent of the market share. Among the heavyweights like Lays, Kurkure, Parle, and Bingo, Balaji Wafers has made its own strong, distinct identity. Presently, Balaji Wafers enjoys a 65 percent market share of salty snacks in Gujarat, 50 percent in Maharashtra, 35 percent in Rajasthan, and 25 percent in Madhya Pradesh.

The scale on which they are operating today is humongous. Their manufacturing plants in Valsad and Rajkot manufacture 38 tonnes of chips and 24 tonnes of wafers everyday. Recently, the brothers made a major investment in Madhya Pradesh to the tune of Rs 400 crore and set up their third manufacturing plant. Their plant in Pithampur, Indore has a daily capacity of 24 tonnes of wafers or chips.

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