The Birth of the Bhujia
Haldiram’s story started in a traditional Marwari joint family from Bikaner, Rajasthan. Born in 1904, Ganga Bhishen Agarwal was fondly called “Haldiram” by friends and relatives for his pale, milk-and-turmeric complexion. In the 1920s, Haldiram started to visit his father’s tiny shop at Bhujia Bazar in Bikaner, which sold ‘bhujia’ a savoury snack made from besan (chikpea flour). When he joined the business, Haldiram introduced two changes and reinvented the traditional local bhujia. Firstly, he added moth (a type of lentil) flour to the snack, (a secret he learned from his aunt) which would enhance the flavour, and secondly, he introduced the finer bariksev a thinner version of the mothi bhujia sev using a finer mesh. He called this new variation, ‘Dungar sev’ after Dungar Singh, the popular Maharaja of Bikaner which became a fast-selling item. Ganga Bhishen Agarwal, sowed the seeds for Haldiram’s which is today India’s INR 5,000 crore company.
Believe – ‘Whatever Happens, Happens for the Best’
Haldiram, truly believed ‘Whatever happens, happens for the Best’. Haldiram and Champa had nine children of which six survived. His family fell upon hardships when they branched out from his joint family. He started to sell on the roadside and from door-to-door ‘fried moong dal’ a snack prepared by his wife to tide over difficult times. He never thought of selling bhujia again. But his destiny was entwined with bhujia. In 1937, Haldiram set up his first shop in Bikaner selling bhujia and sweets. He was soon selling 200 kilos of bhujia every week for 25 paise per kilogram. One day when Haldiram went to Kolkata to attend a wedding he took with him some bikaneri bhujia. His bhujja was liked by one-and-all which prompted him to set up a branch in Calcutta. In the early 1950’s this was of Bikaner’s first branch outside of Bikaner. Since then, there was no looking back.
The Flag Bearers
It was Haldiram’s grandsons Manoharlal and Shiv Kishan who were instrumental in the business expansion to Nagpur and Delhi. While Ganga Bhishen Agarwal, guided them till his death in 1980, both brothers continued to work hard. Never an easy task with competitors like Ghantewala and Bikanerwala at your heels in Delhi. Besides, in 1984, the shop was completed gutted in the Sikh riots. From rebuilding the business brick-by-brick then, to growing into an empire it was a long journey. Today, Haldiram boasts of a product range that includes Namkeen and savour, chips, cookies, tin sweets, panipuri, papads, pickles, and frozen curries, kebabs, burgers, wraps, and more. The company soon had three distinct areas of operations
- Delhi-based Haldiram Snacks and Ethnic Foods for the northern region,
- Nagpur-based Haldiram Foods International for western and southern India, and
- Kolkata-based Haldiram Bhujiawala for the eastern region
What followed from 1970’s to 1990’s was the setting up of larger manufacturing plants in Calcutta, Jaipur, Delhi, Nagpur, Gurgaon, Rudrapur and Noida to cater to the growing demand. Haldiram also entered the retail chain store business and of restaurants in Nagpur, Kolkata, Noida and Delhi. Haldiram Snacks’ success can also be attributed to its aggressive distribution. With 2.5 million outlets across the country, the brand is almost omnipresent, and that’s just on the fast-moving consumer goods side. Haldiram Snacks also has a quick service restaurant chain in about 50 locations, offering typical Indian cuisine with its snacks.
Expanding to foreign shores
In the 1990s, they started began to attend International Food Expos to growing their presence beyond India. The company has found global success with its products being available in more than 80 countries including USA, Canada, UAE, Sri Lanka, Germany, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. They also set up a state-of-the-art factory in London to cater to the demand for Indian sweets all over Europe.
In the financial year 2013-2014, a press release on the Haldiram’s website claims, their revenue stood at ₹3,500 crore—more than the combined revenue of Domino’s ( ₹1,733 crore) and McDonald’s ( ₹1,390 crore) in India. In 2018, the combined sales of Haldiram Delhi and Nagpur touched 5,532 crore (US$780 million). Shiv Kishan, Ganga Bhishen’s far-sighted grandson, turned Haldiram into a food empire that sells a variety of namkeens (savoury snacks), sweets, baked goods, fresh, frozen and dairy products in franchisees, food malls and corner shops across over 80 countries.
Disputes and Controversies
In 1991, the Kolkata, West Bengal faction, entered Delhi markets refusing to alter their brand name which led to a court case. After 15 years, in 2013, Delhi’s Haldiram became the sole owner of the trademark ‘Haldiram Bhujiawala.
Haldiram has also had its fair share of negative publicity due to the allegations of pesticide adulteration. Haldiram’s snacks were refused admittance into USA by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 but after thorough testing and inspections for the possible excess lead levels, the company was given a clean chit by the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (MFDA) and resumed its sale worldwide.
Awards and Recognition
- In 2017 Haldiram’s earned the title ‘India’s Largest Snack Company’, surpassing all other domestic and international competitors.
- In 2014, Haldiram’s was ranked 55th among India’s most trusted brands according to the Brand Trust Report; a study conducted by Trust Research Advisory.
- Conferred the International Food Award, 1999 from TROFEO International Alimentation of Barcelona, Spain.
- Won ‘Brand Equity Award 1998’ by Progress Harmony Development Chamber of Commerce & Industry presented by Shri Yashwant Sinha, former Union Finance Minister for the successful creation of Indian Brand ‘Haldiram’s’.
- Presented ‘Kashalkar Memorial Award’ by ‘All India Food Preservers Association’ (Regd.) in 1996 at its Golden Jubilee Celebration for manufacturing best quality food products.
- In 1994 it won the prestigious ‘International Award for Food & Beverages’ by Trade Leaders Club in Barcelona, Italy, Spain
- Winner of the Apeda Export Award for its highest quality products.
- Vidarbha Gaurav Puraskar to Shivkashanji Agarwal, Chairman, Haldiram.
- It is a member of Snacks Food Association (SFA), Virginia, U.S.A. which has the top world food product manufacturers.
The Sweet and Savoury Success
As Dr Ashok Kumar Tyagi, Executive Director of Haldiram snacks states, “We want to delight our customers, not just satisfy them, so we think about what customers want and need,” he says. While the traditional Marwari company is changing with times, opening its doors to professionals and spending on advertising and promotions (Haldiram’s tied up with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and more than 1.5 crores (15 million) Haldiram’s snack packets were printed with the logo of the film), its values continue to remain unchanged. Who would have thought a giant like Kellogg would offer to buy a stake in Haldirams?