Interview: Varun Chaudhary, Managing Director, CG Corp Global

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Updated: March 12, 2021 11:58 AM

‘We want Wai Wai to become a household name in India’

The initial months were tough, but as the economy reopened, our sales rose exponentially.The initial months were tough, but as the economy reopened, our sales rose exponentially.

CG Corp Global, the parent company of CG Foods which owns Wai Wai, is aiming for a larger share in India’s instant noodle market by FY22. Varun Chaudhary tells Devika Singh that the company is working on strengthening its production capacity and distribution, and foraying into multiple food categories to make Wai Wai popular beyond the North East region.

Instant noodle brands are among the few that registered growth in sales last year. How did Wai Wai fare in India?

The initial months were tough, but as the economy reopened, our sales rose exponentially — we clocked a 25% growth in CY 2020, as compared to 2019. And we are on track to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore in FY21. However, we had halted our new launches last year due to the pandemic. This year, we will launch a new product in the convenience food category every quarter. The plan is to increase our market share in North East India, where we command 60% of the market, and at the same time, better our reach in the rest of India. Overall, we aim to capture 30% of the market by the end of FY22. We want Wai Wai to become a household name in India.

How do you plan to claim a larger share in this hotly contested market which has FMCG giants Nestlé and ITC, as well as several other players?

We are pushing out our products more aggressively and expanding our distribution across India. At the same time, we want to leverage the Wai Wai brand name by launching new variants and categories to get a better share of this market. For instance, we have introduced a range of sauces — Schezwan Chunky Sauce, Green Chilly and Red Chilly sauces — and by the end of this month, we plan to introduce soya sauce and fruit vinegar, too. Going ahead, we also plan to launch a two-minute pasta range. We are eyeing several other food categories, too. To back these new launches, we are expanding our production capacity; our new plant in Guwahati will be operational this month onwards, another one in Ajmer by June, and one in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh, by September this year.

What will be your go-to-market strategy for these new product launches?

We are leveraging Wai Wai’s distribution strength for these products. Wai Wai is present in over two lakh retail touchpoints. However, our new sauces range, initially, is being placed in important district headquarters of India with a population of at least a few lakhs. We are not selling tomato ketchup, and the demand for cuisine-based sauces mostly comes in from class A and B cities in the country.

For marketing of these products, the focus is on BTL activities such as customised brand dealer boards, danglers, banners, etc. We are also tapping social media, and have sent samples to renowned chefs and connoisseurs to review our products. Compared to our competitors, we are offering more quantity (10% extra) in our jars, and have also priced our products lower at Rs 80, as against competitors’ Rs 85.

Most brands have seen limited success with noodle variants. But Wai Wai seems to be betting big on new flavours, including spinach and fish curry…

We offer very localised and customised variants keeping in mind the diverse taste palate of India. Though these are mass products, wherein there is limited room for customisation, we believe there is huge potential in community-driven products. And hence, we have variants like Fish Noodles and Jain Masala Noodles. We have received a good response for our recently launched Atta Noodles, Wai Wai Akbare Chicken noodles (in East and North East India), and bigger packs of both brown and white instant noodles. We plan to launch more such variants going ahead.

What went wrong with your QSR business?

It was a completely new business for us and it took some time to get the model right. However, the restaurant business has a very quickly changing landscape; given the pandemic and the trend towards cloud kitchens, we have to now rethink our strategy. Hence, we shut down our QSR operations last year, and are now mulling a new business model around it.

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