Company Name: Balaji wafers
Founded by: Chandubhai Virani
Balaji Wafers is the largest regional potato wafer, snack brand and the second biggest player in the potato wafer segment in the country. Based in Rajkot, it also caters into grain based snacks in various flavours.
How It All Started
Chandubhai Virani is the founder and director of Balaji Wafers Private Ltd. The days of struggle for Chandubhai dates back to 1972. At that time, rains were scarce and farming was becoming tough with every passing day. Looking at the worsening conditions, their father who was an ordinary farmer gave three of his sons – Meghjibhai, Bhikhubhai and Chandubhai – the sum of Rs 20,000 to invest it wisely.
He asked them to go and start a business with the amount. They all migrated to Rajkot and being from an agricultural background, they finalised to start a business of fertilizers and farm implements.
Due to lack of knowledge and experience, the business didn’t work out as they were supplied with duplicate fertilizers. Looking at their admirable efforts, Govindbhai – a cinema owner, handed over the canteen to them on contract basis in 1976. Despite having the canteen job, they also managed the ticket counter and filled in for the doorkeeper. They use to buy loose wafers made locally and packet them to sell in the cinema hall.
However, the supplier of wafers was always late which use to disturb the business at the cinema hall. Then the family made ‘masala’ sandwiches for the canteen, it was a hit, but due to perishable product it was hard to keep up it and it was then that Chandubhai saw a future in wafers because they could be carried anywhere and everywhere. With a investment of Rs 10,000, Chandubhai set up a small scale business in a shed and began his experiments with making chips, after canteen work. In a short span, he had three canteen contracts- 2 at Astron Cinema and the Kotecha Girls High School in the city.
In 1984, they coined their brand name ‘Balaji’. The premises of Balaji Wafers Private Limited in the village of Vajdi (Vad) around 20 km from Rajkot, has a small Balaji temple in the forefront of the 50-acre factory area. It is a proof of the faith that the owners have in Lord Balaji, from where the brand name ‘Balaji’ was derived.
The factory has around 2,000 plants and trees, a hundred cows, a water treatment and bio-gas plant but not a single company branding done anywhere. Despite of the fact that company do not favour branding, it is a record-breaking factory when it started in 2003, with the highest potato processing capacity of around 5,000 kg potatoes in an hour.
The initial 10 years was a lot of struggle for the 3 brothers, and they earned around Rs. 20,000 to 30,000 a month. For the business to gain momentum, the company Balaji Wafers Private Limited was formed in 1992, along with the 3 directors – the brothers Bhikhubhai, Chandubhai and Kanubhai. For the first time Balaji Wafers invested INR 5 lakhs and took their biggest leap by setting up a plant in Aji, ‘Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation’s’ industrial estate.
Subsequently, in 1995-96 another plant was installed too. Chandubhai had farsighted technology advancement so he installed a technologically advanced semi-automatic plant with a capacity of 250 kg of potato chips per hour. A desperate need of better technology arose and in 1999, Balaji Wafers installed Gujarat’s first fully automated potato chips plant which was followed by another one in 2003-04 in Vajdi district with a capacity of 1,200 kg per hour.
The company has an employee base of 5,000 people of which 2,500 are women. From employees to shopkeepers, for Chandubhai everyone is part of the “Balaji Family”. The next generation has now joined the business. They include Bhikhubhai’s sons – Keyur takes care of R&D and Mihir looks after marketing; Chandubhai’s son Pranay takes care of development, liaison and construction (while his daughter Kinjal is married), and Kanubhai’s son, a student, is waiting in the wings.
What started as a small micro-business has evolved into a multi-national company with a turnover of Rs. 4000 crores.
Marketing strategy and Interesting Facts behind its Success.
- Balaji brand is not an outcome of intensive marketing and advertising campaigns but has been created solely by the importance the company places on delivering quality and affordable products and various CSR initiatives that it has undertaken, making it a classic example of ‘word of mouth’ promotion.
- Balaji do not advertise its products nor run any retail schemes or promotions to sell their products. Instead of misspending on superficial aspects like packaging and design which does not really benefit either the company or the consumer, Balaji believes in investing on ensuring that fresh and quality products reach the market.
- Balaji does not use artificial flavours in its snacks and prefers to use local spices which give a made-at-home taste to its snacks.
- Balaji has affordable price unlike other popular brands almost 50% less, despite of in cost bearing process like engaging in research, sustainability, product innovation and new manufacturing techniques this all is possible as Balaji makes good use of freely available resources like water and air, it makes biogas (worth approximately 15-20 lacs) to use in the canteen by treating waste water from the plant, generates electricity worth 25-30 lacs which is used in the plant. Benefits from these savings are transferred to the consumer. Apart from all this, Balaji also concentrates on ensuring that it maintains good relations with distributors & retailers who give the brand good visibility at the point of sale.
- Balaji Group processes around 450,000 kg of potatoes per day and 400,000 kg of namkeens per day. Balaji has a dense network of 550 distributors and its products are sold upto 400,000 retail outlets across India.
Apart from colour, appearance and taste, what sets apart the best wafers are the crunch when one bites into them. That said, a visit to the products page of Balaji Wafers will surely urge one to buy a pack — the page opens with an irresistible ‘crunch’. Balaji is said to be the second biggest brand in the potato wafer segment in India, without any promotions and advertisements.
The Economic times declared Balaji wafers as the “Sultan of Wafers”. The key elements behind the phenomenal success of Balaji are the strong fundamental values of Virani brothers, which chiefly include “Trust, Passion and Steady Hard Work!” The wafers are loved by all and it’s a part and parcel om many lives on a daily basis.