How DFM Foods pioneered packaged snacks business

The 1980s were a watershed for Delhi Flour Mills. The mill was set up in 1916 by British founders and transferred to Indian owners at the time of Independence. But it was not until the 1980s that the company began to diversify. On a suggestion by one of its Italian machine suppliers, it ventured into packaged snacks. There was little demand for such products at the time. That did not deter the company and, in 1984, it launched CRAX corn rings.

“We had to struggle a lot to establish the concept of packaged snacks,” says Mohit Jain, Managing Director of DFM Foods, the snack food company spun off from the flour mill in 1993.

Today, the company makes packaged snacks under three main brands – CRAX corn rings, Natkhat wheat puffs, and CRAX Namkeens – at its two plants in Greater Noida and Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of Delhi.

Corn rings remain its top product, contributing 75 per cent to total sales. It sells its products across north, west and central India. “We hope to cover all of east zone by 2014,” says Jain. “We want to get into South India, too. In the coming two to three years, we should be national.”

Over the years, several big companies such as ITC and PepsiCo have entered the packaged snacks market. But DFM is still growing at a fast clip despite the competition. Its sales have expanded at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53 per cent in the past three years, from Rs 72 crore in 2009/10 to Rs 169 crore in 2011/12. Net profit grew at a CAGR of 57 per cent during the same period to Rs 10.4 crore in the last fiscal year.

The reason for the rapid growth in recent years is the company’s focus on marketing and advertising, says Rohan Jain, Executive Director and elder son of Mohit Jain. DFM spends as much as a fifth of its revenue on marketing.

Activities include adding a surprise gift for kids – their most important target – inside the packs. Last year, DFM also tied up with distributors of the animation movie Ice Age 4 to promote its products.

eBiz, India’s first government-to-business portal launched

Ministry of Commerce and Industry has announced the launch of eBiz, India’s first Government-to-Business (G2B) portal which aims at transforming and developing a conducive business environment in the country.

The portal which has been developed by Infosys in a public-private-partnership model will provide a one-stop shop for providing G2B services to investors and business communities in India. The portal will also help in reducing the delays and complexity in obtaining information and services.

Businesses that are already operating in India or planning to start operations can use the portal to obtain licences, approvals, clearances, no objection certificates, permits and even for filing of returns.

According to Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, the government is committed at fostering the business environment in the country and improving transparency and efficiency leveraging technology.

“eBiz is an important step in this direction and we are pleased to work in partnership with Infosys on this project. We hope this project will become a benchmark for successful public private partnerships in the country,” he added.

Infosys, in 2009, had won the eBiz project after a competitive bidding process. As a part of the project, Infosys apart from developing the portal was also mandated to manage it for some years. The company in turn will charge the user a certain fee for facilitating the service through eBiz platform.

As a part of the 10-year programme, Infosys will roll-out services in a phased manner. In the first year, eBiz will launch 29 services in the five states including Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Over the course of the second and third years, an additional 21 services will be launched and five additional states will be brought under the scope of this project. The project aims at offering more than 200 services from the fourth year onwards.

“We are confident that our prior experience of working with the Income Tax department and our strong consulting and systems integration capabilities will enable us to continue executing the future phases of this project successfully,” said V Balakrishnan, Member of the Board and Head of India Business Unit at Infosys.

How Digitization Enhances Value of Data

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As one of the fastest growing technology firms, Mindtree delivers technology services and accelerates growth for global 1000 companies by solving complex business challenges.
But despite its envious presence, Mindtree, for quite some time, had to deal with the problem of keeping employee information in physical form. This created hassles during the audit period and also wasted the valuable time of the IT department in searching and accessing information. “Accessibility of information was becoming a huge challenge for us. The traditional form of storing and retrieving information was helpful but had its own challenges. We used to run helter-skelter finding information during audits,” says Subramanyam Putrevu, CIO, Mindtree.
This lead to another challenge for the company: Addressing compliance issues with hardcopies in a timely manner. Meeting compliance needs used to be a time-consuming process.
To address all these challenges, Mindtree implemented a document management system. While the work-flow for document management is implemented by Mindtree, the low-end work of the scanning of documents is outsourced to a third-party.
“Now, if I want to see an employee’s educational background and employment experience, I can easily access it and showcase it in a compliance perspective as well,” Putrevu says.
This has made employee on-boarding much easier. Once an employee joins the company, the third-party solution scans the person’s documents and provides it in a digital format.
“We have been rolling out more and more systems and processes in Mindtree. One such system is the visa management system. The whole process of applying and requesting for visas has been automated internally,” Putrevu says.
Owing to document digitization, time to access the information has also gone down. “If I want to understand an employee’s history, I have much more context available in a digital format. We improved the productivity of employees as they can now access the required information at the click of a button. Based on metadata, we can easily find out all increments we have issued to employees. It has also increased employee satisfaction,” Putrevu adds.

Why the Steve Jobs Approach Pays Off

During his tenure at Apple, Steve Jobs championed a product-focused strategy that combined hardware, software, and services in a bundle for customers. This holistic approach to the Apple suite of products is perhaps the most successful example of diversification into related offerings. The strategy helped Apple both develop an extremely loyal customer base and top Fortune’s list of the most admired companies in the world for the past five years.

Now, Apple’s competitors are employing similar strategies. Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility has been widely viewed as a way for Google to employ a bundling strategy involving phones, tablets, and computers. Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, has articulated his company’s new strategy as selling “a lot of separate pieces that our customers used to buy as components.” Even Apple’s archrival, Microsoft, which has traditionally dominated the personal computer field by concentrating on software, has now integrated across-the-board elements into its Surface tablet.

The big question is this: Can the Steve Jobs approach, which has proven successful when targeting customers, be extended to the business-to-business context? The authors of this paper, the first to empirically test this question, answer with an emphatic yes. The clients of IT firms report increased levels of satisfaction and loyalty after buying bundles of related products and services, which translates to better evaluations of the vendors and a higher likelihood of repeat purchases.

The authors analyzed a data set of more than 36,000 IT vendor ratings issued by managers and executives at leading firms over a four-year period. They focused on the relationship between the type of IT products and services offered together in bundles and their effect on clients’ satisfaction and loyalty. The participants represented companies from a variety of industries, and they answered a range of questions about their experiences with the vendors.

The analysis showed that customers whose company had bought a suite of hardware, software, and services were significantly more satisfied with their purchase than customers whose company had purchased any single piece of the technology bundle. Customer satisfaction was lowest when buyers obtained only services, suggesting that technology assistance or consulting activities mean little when not accompanied by hardware and software.

Customer satisfaction was also higher when clients bought “adjacent” layers of the technology suite, such as both hardware and software, or both software and services. Purchase of more widely dispersed elements, such as hardware and services together, occurred less frequently and did not significantly boost satisfaction. This underlies how important it is for IT firms to market their integrated suites hierarchically—emphasizing to prospective clients how each layer of the stack builds on the one above or below it.

B2B firms, therefore, should consider expanding their portfolios to include products or services that are closely related. As the authors note, acquisitions, mergers, and partnerships have long paved the typical, though arduous, route for a firm trying to expand its products and services. But the increasing modularity of product components can help firms integrate different products and services without having to go through the hassle of merging with or buying another company, especially in the IT field. Open source software systems such as Linux, Moodle, and Sugar CRM, along with cloud-based hosting and delivery systems such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, “dramatically increase the capabilities of IT vendors to deliver IT application solutions that are scalable and highly reliable,” the authors write.

Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Go Into Business With a Friend

You’ve heard it before: Don’t mix business with pleasure. This could certainly be the case if you dabble with the idea of going into business with a friend. If you’re not careful, the relationship can turn sour very quickly and hurt your business in the process. On the other hand, a close, trustworthy dynamic could result in tremendous benefits for a business.
Though there is no general right or wrong answer, we asked 13 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share their insights:
“Should you go into business with a friend? Explain why (or why not).”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. It’s a Personal Decision
“I’ve gone into business with friends before and unfortunately for me, it never ended well. It can be so tempting to go into business with someone you know and trust, but it’s tough to manage a friendship when business will need to be a priority. If you’re going to do it, get a solid partnership agreement and talk through as much of the potentially awkward stuff ahead of time.” ~ Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

2. Yes, Best Friends Are the Best Partners
“I’m on my second business that I’ve started with my best friend (the first is still crushing it). I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you look at it from an efficiency point of view, best friends communicate clearly with almost 100 percent understanding. That’s rare and super efficient. Also, emotionally, you’re spending time with someone you don’t get tired of. Best friends make great partners.” ~ Brennan White, Cortex

3. Absolutely, It’s Rewarding to Share the Experience
“You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your business partner(s). Might as well be sure that it’s going to be somebody you like and trust! I couldn’t imagine putting in all of this time and effort with somebody who was simply a business partner. Starting Crowd Surf would not have been as rewarding or exciting if I didn’t have a good friend to share the experience with.” ~ Cassie Petrey, Crowd Surf

4. It Depends
“Be cautious. Know your relationship well and what it can withstand. Make sure you know how you can work together. It will probably help to have a clear decision-making process, whether one person has final say or there’s a team vote, etc. Lastly, adapt as your company does. Realize that the friend that helped you get started may not be the person to help you get to an IPO.” ~ Carlo Cisco, SELECT

5. Yes, If You Are Honest and Compatible
“Many people will say no, and I understand that. But as long as you are able to navigate through tough times with honesty and come to an agreement at the end of the day that you can both fully support, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.” ~ Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

6. Absolutely, They Provide Emotional Support Needed to Succeed
“I co-founded Inside Social with one of my oldest friends, Joey Kotkins, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Founding a startup is similar to a long, painful, draining fight. Think to yourself, whom would you rather have sitting next to you in the bunker: a close friend who you trust implicitly or a total stranger? Working with friends provides the emotional support needed to succeed.” ~ Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

7. No, Go It Alone
“No. Been there. Remember, someone has to be the decision maker at some point, which will eventually annoy the other person. Go it alone and tell your friend you’ll take him or her on vacation when you make it big.” ~ Mark Samuel, Fitmark

8. Yes, but Don’t Do It Lightly
“I went into business with a friend, and we’re still friends five years later. We have given our best to the business, and it has worked out well. But as in any business — or friendship — we’ve had disagreements. Before going into business with a friend, make sure you are clear about expectations and roles. This can save a lot of misunderstandings — and even your friendship — later on!” ~ Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

9. Yes, If They Have Something to Offer
“You should go into business with a friend, but only if he or she meets certain criteria. There should be a high level of trust, the person needs to be mature enough to handle criticism without it affecting your relationship, and he or she should possess a key business skill needed for your operation that’s not in your arsenal.” ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

10. Yes, If There Is Trust
“I’ve partnered on several different projects with friends. Not all of them have been a success. It really depends on how much you trust that person to work hard and if there is a clear way to exit if the partnership simply doesn’t work. In my experience, partnerships make projects less stressful because you have someone with whom to discuss challenges. Plus, it makes the journey more fun!” ~ Faraz Khan, Khan

11. No, It Will Ruin the Friendship
“When you go into business with a friend, you will turn that friend into a business partner. Any personal relationship you had with that friend will cease to exist once the company starts to generate money. Since I’ve been running companies since middle school, I’ve made this mistake many times. It doesn’t matter how good of friends you are — greed changes people and your friendship will never be the same.” ~ Cody McLain, WireFuseMedia LLC

12. Yes, As Long as Legal Documents Are in Place
“When people go into business with a friend, they tend to ignore contracts. But having tight contracts is almost more important when working with a friend so that conflicts don’t turn personal. Consider an equity earn-in or vesting period for everyone involved so that you can try it out and see how the business relationship works.” ~ Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com

13. Yes, Friends Keep You Sane
“Friends make perfect business partners because you will be spending countless hours grinding at the business. They will help keep you sane if you enjoy working with them. Only go into business with friends that possess skills you lack that are beneficial to the business. Just be sure to put in writing work expectations for the future and how you will dissolve the relationship if anything changes.” ~ Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

How ING Vysya Redefined Mobile Banking with Gamification

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When you hear of a bank using gamification techniques to create a mobile banking app, you know that that it’s a rare story. That’s because you know that gamification and banks are the most unlikely couple and you know that that’s what makes it interesting. And that’s the story of ING Vysya Bank.
The bank’s mobile app, designed using gamification techniques, has already swept many of its customers off their feet. A delighted customer’s review on Google Play called it “the best ever mobile banking app”, while a leading newspaper wrote: “It seems like mobile banking is finally here”.
The unique experience, says Aniruddha Paul, CIO of the bank, was made possible with a bit of calculated risk. “We wanted the app to be completely different from the run-of-the-mill banking apps available today. The UXD, we thought, would be the key differentiator. Hence, we went after a company that develops games, but has never ever designed a banking app.”
Instead of replicating the navigation methods of Internet banking, ING’s mobile app is designed contextually by placing relevant options on the screen.
For example, the creative design of the balance meter in the form of a speedometer allows the users to receive alerts when there is no minimum balance in the account. A quick glance on the ‘green zone’ and ‘red zone’ of the speedometer gives you an idea whether you are getting ‘richer’ or ‘poorer’. Interestingly, the app lets customers check their balance without even logging in. But users won’t have to worry about their critical information being exposed. “To ensure security, the devices on which the app gets downloaded are finger-printed. The app can’t be downloaded to more than two devices. In the event of losing the device, the customer can call up the bank and immediately wipe off the app. Besides, the customer can actually choose whether he wants the balance meter to be displayed or not,” says Paul.
Users can even scan a cheque and save the image in the app for future reference. A distinctive approach makes the app interactive, intuitive, visually delightful—and secure.
In a nutshell, the app facilitates true end-to-end banking, including closure of a fixed deposit.
This holistic experience wouldn’t have been possible without a rock solid back-end IT infrastructure and that was the first thing Paul ensured. “The world of digital provides a level playing field to a mid-sized bank like us and enables us to compete with much bigger banks that have thousands of branches. While the mobile app was a major front-end initiative, we simultaneously took up key projects like legacy modernization and private cloud at the back-end,” says Paul.
Though ING Vysya is the 24th largest bank in India, it is among the top 10 when it comes to overall money being processed through mobile banking. This is within six months of launching the new mobile app. Now that the bank is fully digital-ready, Paul and his team have embarked on a whole lot of digital initiatives like a Facebook app that lets you transact and an app that works on smart watches.

Banking and gamification aren’t that unlikely a couple after all!

Marico to demerge, list Kaya business

Mumbai: Marico Ltd, the owner of Parachute and Saffola brands, said on Monday it will separate its Kaya beauty and wellness chain into a listed company to boost shareholders’ value. The corporate restructuring is subject to shareholder, creditor, lender and other contractual, statutory and regulatory approvals as may be required. The appointed date of the demerger is 1 April. It may take about six months to obtain the necessary approvals and complete all formalities, the company said in a statement. The new company will likely be called Marico Kaya Enterprises Ltd. “This corporate restructuring will lead to enhanced shareholder value through sharper focus and greater energy across both organizations and businesses,” Marico said in the release. The company also announced management changes. Ajay Pahwa, chief executive of Kaya, has decided to leave the organization to pursue an entrepreneurial venture backed by private equity investment. Pahwa will be replaced by Vijay Subramaniam, who currently heads the international fast-moving consumer goods business and has been with the company since 2006. Saugata Gupta, chief executive officer of the domestic consumer business, will now head the entire consumer packaged goods business, being responsible for the international operations as well. Following the demerger, the shareholders of Marico will get one share of Marico Kaya Enterprises with a face value of Rs.10 each to be issued at a premium of Rs.200 per share for every 50 shares of Marico with a face value of Rs.1 each. Marico Kaya will be listed on BSE Ltd and the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. The new entity will have its own set of directors, distinct from Marico’s board. Harsh Mariwala will continue to be the chairman and managing director of both Marico and Marico Kaya Enterprises.