Kanwal: Transforming Kashmir’s Food, Spices and Beverage Market

  • Saqib Malik
  • Publish Date: Oct 19 2017 9:22PM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 19 2017 9:22PM
Kanwal: Transforming Kashmir’s Food, Spices and Beverage Market

 

Starting with half a dozen people, the company now has a full-fledged team of thousand employees

 

It was way back in 1970 that physical grinding of spices in the quiet Khanbal town in Anantnag district of south Kashmir paved way to an illustrious journey of what eventually became a leading food brand, not just in the Valley but across the globe. 

Kanwal, a household name for packaged spices and food products today, started with a modest beginning. It has since grown by leaps and bounds. Sitting in the cool confines of his office at Hyderpora, Farooq Amin, Chief Executive Officer of Kanwal Foods and Spices Private Limited recounts his father’s endeavor to provide quality food products to people of Jammu and Kashmir who were at the receiving end of “sub-standard” food products, especially spices.

“J&K then had a sub-standard source of spices which mostly came to us from Punjab. My father had a strong desire to bring in a hygienic and home-bred spices and food brand. Today I am a second generation entrepreneur and feel delighted to be a part of this journey,” says Amin.

Inspired by the lotus, the core philosophy of Kanwal was to move away from the unhygienic to more scientific foods, says Amin. From a simple process of grinding masalas in a ‘chakki’ to food processing at the Industrial Estate at Anantnag, Kanwal has come a long way. “In 1990’s since much of production was not possible in Kashmir due to the prevailing situation then, so we forayed into Delhi where we began production,” says Amin.  A business that began with handful of products such as turmeric and garam masala in 1970 at present has more than 100 odd products in its kitty. What began as a business unit of half a dozen people is now a full-fledged team of 1000 people who derive direct employment from Kanwal. “More than 10,000 families are dependent on the brand as my father strongly believes that it is not just a business but a mission,” says Amin.

From processing basic spices, Kanwal soon made path-breaking innovations to make ‘interesting’ products such as ready-to-use “Ware masala”, Kehwa mix and a variety of Kashmiri pickles which became a hit with people in Kashmir and even those living outside the Valley.

“We have a robust research and development team who keep innovating on quality and blends after getting the market feedback. They do research and develop a product which is viable and reliable in the market,” says Amin.

Kanwal expanded its footprint outside India in 2001, when it started exporting its products to various countries. Satisfied with the response from Kashmiri diaspora and non-Kashmiris, and even in the western countries, Amin is now mulling to sell his products such as “Kehwa mix” to various leading cafes in the UK and US.

“Our Bengaluru plant has come up well from where we make exports. The fully automatic plants at Jammu, Delhi and Rangreth Industrial Estate here have been instrumental for our production,” says Amin.

Kanwal, which expanded its product portfolio in 2006, added yet another feather in its hat when it started making bottled water ‘Tresh’. “In Food and Beverage business, it is often that these two complement each other and completes presence of a brand. It was the dream of our Chairman to have an indigenous production of water which is a key resource of our state. He envisaged that commercial production of a local water brand should compete with outside brands,” Amin says, adding that the production of Tresh, which had come to a brief halt to due to floods and the unrest last year, will be restored soon.

Amin is equally passionate about the Controlled Atmosphere (CA) store “Golden Apple” at Lassipora in South Kashmir, which is a subsidiary of Kanwal Foods and Spices.

Farooq Amin returned to Kashmir in 2000 after completing his higher studies. He says it was his father’s wish that he should be associated with the family business.  “My father insisted that I become a part of running not just a business but a mission which provides livelihood to thousands of people which emotionally motivated me,” says Amin. For him the success mantra for a successful business is to have sound technical and project feasibility reports. “We need expert industrial consultants who can guide aspiring entrepreneurs.  There needs to be an end to a rat race and entrepreneurs should rather diversify and offer a variety of products to the consumers,” says Amin.

Kanwal is planning to soon venture into hospitality and traditional packaged bakery businesses. “We have signed an Memorandum of Understanding with Jammu and Kashmir Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) as a part of which we will do marketing of products of small units under quality control of Kanwal. This will help us to empower these units which includes even a traditional baker,” says Amin.

Other product expansion plans include introducing more varieties of ready to cook curries, he says. “We are even studying the market and exploring how meat varieties could be packaged which we have not been doing till now,” he says. “Our ‘heat and eat Kashmiri rajma’ and ready-to-cook biryanis are already a treat for food lovers.”