Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

From Meghalaya to Gujarat, India's regional brands are stronger than ever

From the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya to Jalandhar in Punjab, from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, to Rajkot, Gujarat, these brands have a rustic feel to them but when it comes to performance, they can hold a candle to any Indian or multinational conglomerate

Brian Carvalho
Published: Sep 26, 2022 10:30:23 AM IST
Updated: Sep 26, 2022 05:50:42 PM IST

In the February of 2021, Forbes India did its first special issue of ‘Regional Goliaths’—brand warriors from Ludhiana to Rajkot, from Kanpur to Jodhpur with domineering positions in the regions they operate out from. These labels in areas like packaged snacks, laundry soaps and spices typically give their pan-India rivals—including storied multinationals (MNCs)—a run for their money and market share in specific regions.

Emboldened by such victories, many of these local leviathans expanded to other states and cities, and a few even crossed the border. The Rajkot-headquartered Balaji Wafers, for instance, was a ₹2,374 crore brand (in revenue) as of fiscal 2020. The Viranis, who made it to the magazine’s cover, had become bigger than rivals like PepsiCo and ITC Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, and were then expanding to gain a national footprint.

Forbes India’s Regional Goliaths package was done bang in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic—almost a year after the lockdowns began and just before the devastating second wave. By then, consumers had come to grips about dealing with drops in production and broken supply chains. The lockdowns did something else: They brought consumers face-to-face with brands they had never encountered in the past. The hand sanitiser segment is perhaps the best example of this shift, as a rash of localised players flooded the market, with anxious Joes and Jyotsnas lapping up whichever brand came their way. This, however, didn’t come at the cost of the established MNC labels; it’s just that the market for a product with negligible penetration pre-Covid had shot through the roof.

With people having learnt to cope with Covid in a more rational manner in an unlocked world, sanitiser sales may well be likely closer to the ‘old normal’, and consumer preferences across categories may well be back to pre-lockdown days. For a clutch of regional brands, however, the party continues, as we discover in the second Forbes India edition of Regional Goliaths.

Like last year, our in-house local labels connoisseur Rajiv Singh, along with a bunch of eager brand beavers put together a list of some of the most formidable Goliaths. From the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya to Jalandhar in Punjab, from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh to, inevitably, Rajkot in Gujarat, the team shortlisted a bunch of businesses with significant sales and market share. Many of these brands have a rustic feel to them, like Rani Oil or Gyan Dairy or Gaay Chhap besan (gram flour), but when it comes to performance, they can hold a candle to any India conglomerate or multinational marketer.

Perhaps the brand that packs the biggest surprise element is a cement maker from Meghalaya, Star Cement. With a capacity of 5.7 million tonnes per annum in FY21, the company lords over the Northeast market, a region that India’s top cement makers have found difficult to break into. As Rajendra Chamaria, vice chairman and managing director, tells Singh, who wrote this story: “The terrain, topography and the market are not easy for everybody.” Don’t miss Chamaria’s inspiring story of a comeback against all odds on page 22.

Another formidable Goliath on the list from a town called Udumalaipettai in the Tiruppur district of Tamil Nadu is poultry company Suguna Foods. Naini Thaker has the story of a rare regional player—much of its close-to-₹10,000 crore revenue comes from the South and East—that claims to be a leader on the national stage. Don’t also miss the incredible run of the Lovely Group of Jalandhar, which has graduated from a laddu maker into the field of higher education. Next stop: Electric vehicles! Mansvini Kaushik has that story on page 48.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter ID: @Brianc_Ed

(This story appears in the 07 October, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)