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‘Basmati has gone beyond NRIs’

Amira Group Chairman Karan A Chanana says the rice being embraced by more mainstream consumers in developed markets Suparna Goswami Bhattacharya Karan A Chanana is the fourth generation custodian of his family business, which constitutes the Amira Group. He has transferred the group into a professional business with a turnover of $550 million. Excerpts from an interview: You have been in the business of producing...

Amira Group Chairman Karan A Chanana says the rice being embraced by more mainstream consumers in developed markets

Suparna Goswami Bhattacharya

Karan A Chanana is the fourth generation custodian of his family business, which constitutes the Amira Group. He has transferred the group into a professional business with a turnover of $550 million. Excerpts from an interview:

You have been in the business of producing and exporting Basmati rice for almost 100 years now. Are NRIs your only buyers?

Certainly not. Whilst Basmati is certainly a staple product in Indian and South Asian cuisine, it has also been enjoyed for centuries in the Middle East and West Africa, and their diaspora communities also make up a large part of our customer base. However, the past few years have seen our market base expand greatly. Basmati is definitely a product that we believe is being embraced by more mainstream consumers in developed markets such as the USA, UK and continental Europe.

Given the cultural difference in eating habits, have you tried promoting Basmati in countries where people are not huge rice eaters?

In the past few years, our company has seen rapid expansion in the developed markets of the USA, UK and continental Europe. Other countries and regions, that are not majority rice consumers, have welcomed the brand with open arms. Many people are switching to Basmati, as it has such great properties. Not only is it completely gluten and allergy free, it also has the lowest GI (Glycaemic Index).

We believe that by highlighting the superior taste and quality, as well as the health benefits of Basmati, we can encourage people to embrace the product in the same that they have so many other “foreign” delicacies, something that I believe we have been relatively successful in doing so far.

Where (which country or region) do you see the maximum growth/business coming from?

At the moment there is substantial growth internationally. There is no specific region we see a maximum growth coming from, as all regions are showing substantial growth.

Why did you opt for listing on the NYSE?

At Amira, we see ourselves as the best in class. Therefore, it is only fitting that we go to where the best in class go —all the most highly revered companies are listed in the NYSE.

Recently, you became the first rice brand to use ecommerce to sell your product. What prompted the move? What difference has it made to your topline and bottomline?

As a growing company, we believe it’s integral to keep abreast with the times. Therefore, listing our brand online was the next natural step. We pride ourselves as the first in our industry moving towards forward and backward integration. As the move online was made recently, it is too early to tell what difference it has made to our topline and bottomline.

Karan A Chanana
Chairman , Amira Group

There have been patent issues with Basmati rice. What is the latest on this front?

While the patent issues regarding Basmati were settled 20 years ago, it is currently going through a protected geographical indication (PGI) registration, similar to champagne or wine. The Basmati belt, as is currently known, is famous for producing its unique rice with a very specific aroma, delicate flavour and fluffiness.

Apart from rice, which are the products that Amira offers?

The last few years have seen us greatly expand our product range to include ready meals, snacks and organic products.

February 26, 2015

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