“Quality At Reasonable Price Is What We Offer” – Rahul Chaurasia
It is festive season and the perfect time for some authentic Bengali sweets. When it comes to traditional mithai, Ganguram is easily one of the most famous, popular, and prominent brands that Kolkata has to offer. With a legacy of more than 100 years, Ganguram Sweets has been successful in maintaining and expanding its huge customer base. Souvik Ganguly, on behalf of SaleBhai, tried to discover the secret behind its success story in an exclusive interview with Mr Rahul Chausaria (Co-owner, Ganguram Sweets).
Question: Starting from the time of late Ganguram Chaurasia, how will you define the journey of Ganguram Sweets so far, in a single sentence?
Answer: Splendid. The journey from a small shop near Maniktola to the current 27 outlets has been a long one with numerous interesting milestones. All the effort that we put in to maintain the quality of our products are paid off when we feel the craze that some of our items have among customers. To be loved by multiple generations is what continues to make our sweet-producing experience an incredible one.
That is slightly more than a single sentence (laughs), but may be Ganguram’s journey deserves a few extra words (laughs again).
Question: Being originally from Uttar Pradesh, how difficult was it for Mr Ganguram to cater to Bengali taste buds?
Answer: See, Ganguram Chaurasia was a halwai who understood the requirements of Bengali taste buds brilliantly. Starting from him, we have 5 generations catering to the sweet-based needs of consumers. When he founded our brand in 1885, it is difficult to say if he could foresee the growth and success that our brand achieved in the 70s. It is will be very incorrect if I fail to mention the name of my uncle, late Shankarlala Chaurasia, who was behind this tremendous growth. It was in his time that Ganguram, as a brand, achieved maximum coverage, outlets, and expansion. With multiple foreign delegates certifying the quality of our products, the brand experienced an exponential growth.
Question: What is that one sweet that remains unchanged in terms of recipe right from the starting days of your brand, if any?
Answer: There are two in fact – mishit doi and indrani. We have never experimented with these items. We continue to follow the traditional recipes without adding any chemicals.
Question: Having catered to the Bengali community from 1880, how do you analyse the demand for sweets in Bengal? Has there been any change?
Answer: Bengali have traditionally been lovers of sweet items. There is an interesting observation that I would like to share in this regard. Bengali customers usually buy lesser number of sweets at a time, as compared to the shopping habit of non-Bengali consumers, but the frequency of their purchase is many times more. But even that is changing with time. May be it is the hectic nature of modern lifestyle that is forcing the customers to minimise their visits to our shops and maximise the purchase amount when they do find time to visit us.
Question: What has been your biggest challenge as a brand till date?
Answer: The biggest challenge has to be maintaining quality at a reasonable price. Apart from competitor pressure, constant rise in the prices of raw materials make it very difficult for us to maintain the standard of the 200+ items that we offer without increasing the price.
Question: Do you think experimenting with sweets is actually destroying the traditional recipes? For example, the rossogolla has changed immensely with time and many say it is not for the good.
Answer: See, innovation is a must. Indrani, our signature product, was a result of an experiment. All customers are not same and neither are their taste buds. It is important to constantly come up with new look, taste, and flavour to be able to be able to do business in this highly competitive market. But yes, the traditional recipes that are popular should not be tampered with. We offer flavoured rossogolla, but we also have the traditional version. The right mix of both approaches is the success mantra of this industry. The smaller events such as, birthday parties and get-togethers usually pull the fusion sweets such as, chocolate rossogolla and aam doi more. However, bigger events such as weddings still demand authentic traditional sweets.
Question: How do you ensure the quality of your products?
Answer: We are extremely careful about the quality of the milk, ghee, and sugar that we use as raw materials. If the quality of the raw materials is not maintained, the taste and freshness of the products go for a toss. We have dedicated experts, who constantly test the quality of raw materials in our lab. Also, we source raw materials only from handpicked vendors.
Question: What is your success mantra?
Answer: Best possible quality at a reasonable price. It has been our brand’s guiding principle from day one.
Question: Which level of the society is your main customer base? Do you plan to expand yourself to pull the other levels as well?
Answer: I think it is the middle class that forms our primary customer base. We also provide sweets to various corporate houses and government events, but the daily sale is mostly dependent on the middle-class consumers.
Yes, we are trying to pull the elite-class customers as well. We lacked a bit in packaging, but we are now trying to improve on that side too. Customers of all levels of our society have always praised our quality, but we didn’t focus much on packaging before. We have now included special gift-pack boxes and fancy packing. We are also offering order-based special items that are slowly gaining popularity.
Question: How has been your association with SaleBhai so far?
Answer: Obviously good. However, the volume of orders is not meeting our expectation. Do not get me wrong here. I mean to say that the volume is good, but we expected more. There are hardly any customer complaints and the demand is also going up, but I think we can do better.
Question: How important do you think the ecommerce market is for your business?
Answer: Very important. We are seeing an unprecedented monthly growth of 1000%, thanks to the online market.
Question: Which is your most-sold product? Is there any particular time of year when the demand for your products peak?
Answer: In the online market, jol bhora sandesh is doing really well. In the offline segment, mishit doi, rossogolla, and soft sandesh have maximum demand.
The festive season is naturally the best time for our business. From Raksha Bandhan to Bhai Phonta, the demand for our sweets stays very high. Also the jaggery-based sweets do very well during the winter months.
Question: What are your future plans as a brand?
Answer: As a brand, we aim to maintain our quality and improve our packaging. We intend to open more outlets in Kolkata and franchisees in the suburbs. We are also looking at having offline presence beyond West Bengal. There are plans to start outlets in Bangalore and Delhi by June, 2017.
SaleBhai: We wish you the very best for all your future endeavours and hope that you continue to bring smile on the faces of sweet-lovers with your wide range of items. Thank you for your time.
Rahul Chausaria: Thank you.
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