I focus on trust because once you trust a brand, sale is a derivative of that: Bagrry's Group's Aditya Bagri

03:12 PM Nov 26, 2021 | Srabana Lahiri

ADITYA BAGRI, Director, Bagrry's Group, is a third generation entrepreneur who has added new dimensions to the family-owned breakfast cereal brand with product innovation, geographical expansion and business consolidation. Here, he recounts in his own words his journey, right from joining the B2B business at a young age, to turning it into an FMCG company, and his ambition of making Bagrry’s the most trusted brand for health in India



My family has been in grain milling for generations. My father picked up a flour mill in Delhi, and built a fairly successful B2B business, working with large clients like Nestle and Modern Foods and giving them customized flour solutions. My journey pretty much began from there, with early exposure to the idea of food processing. Going back, Bagrry’s was built purely out of a passion to put something honest and healthy on the shelf, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s comment on bran, a by-product of flour milling and the healthiest part of the grain, which was mostly thrown away, but could actually help solve the nutritional challenges of our country. Thus, we created a process to stabilize the bran and sell it to consumers.


At an early age, I would go to trade fairs and see my parents promote health food. I got exposure to product and packaging, and went with my father to the shop floor and market visits. It was fascinating. I remember people writing back to us saying how it was impacting their lives, in terms of weight management or overall health and well-being. In fact, I didn't like oats until I turned 18; I was quite overweight and started taking muesli regularly to lose weight, experiencing the product first hand as a consumer!

Meanwhile, I was always fascinated by numbers. So, I studied Statistics at Hindu College of Delhi University. The idea was to actually do something different and pursue this passion for quant. Today, it is very relevant as our businesses are getting more and more data-oriented. I also spent some time in the student organization called AISEC, running Corporate Relations for the Delhi chapter, which allowed me to interact with large corporates to offer them interns as a staffing solution.

By the time I went to the London School of Economics for my Masters, I had already developed the ability to speak to corporates and engage in a business environment. At Bagrrys, we had already started the sourcing relationship with the UK, and I found a good platform to be mentored by stalwarts in the oat milling space in the UK.

Then, I began working with Goldman Sachs, but realised I was in a large ecosystem doing a small part of the work. My calling was more towards the impact that I could make. So I decided to come back and join the family business, bringing with me learnings from how a high-performance organization thinks and operates. When I joined, I was the youngest in the organization. There was hardly any female representation - not by choice, but because we were in an industrial area full of factories in North Delhi. Over the years, we have managed to transform from a B2B manufacturing organization into a consumer-oriented FMCG company.


In a family business, you are quite privileged because you usually get fast-tracked, even if you come thinking that you’ll move your way up the ladder. Expectations were that I would come up with new ideas or try something different. So even the leadership who had been around for decades were looking to me for ideas and solutions to things that they did on a daily basis. We built the Marketing function, the HR function and all other support functions, in a company that had no advertising and communication focus at all. Now, we are committed to using the best ingredients from around the world, processing to preserve maximum nutrition without adding anything artificial which our conscience would not allow. We are pioneers in the muesli and oats space. Today, we focus on what we want to achieve from a brand perspective, and the business is far more strategic.

The group has three large verticals –the B2B flour mill, FMCG and the family office where we invest in various start-ups, etc. When I became Director in 2015, I was already looking after Marketing, HR and Sales. At the start of the pandemic, I was given responsibility of the full FMCG division, which we're trying to transform and scale into one of India’s most trusted health food organisations.


Innovation has always been at the heart of everything we do. Even if it’s oats which is almost like a commodity, we bring a differentiating factor to the table. We are not limiting ourselves to oats and muesli, so we have introduced categories such as makhana, quinoa, chia seeds, apple cider vinegar, super foods, peanut butters, etc. Most products have been successful. Some of our not-so-successful products were way ahead of their time - like India’s first granola bar launched in 1998. We were the first to enter the granola bar market. Those are categories that we are rethinking now. There’s a lot in the pipeline, in keeping with our tagline ‘Let’s put health first’.

We are also not limiting ourselves to our own manufacturing capacity. We work with very good large scale industry manufacturers who help us develop the product and we control the quality and supply chain. That’s helped us expand our portfolio. The attempt is to continuously innovate and give something which is more relevant to the consumer today. For example, we have steel cut oats which is now a global standard for porridge. It is a premium offering, is a lot healthier and cooks a little slower than plain oats. That’s possible because we’ve created an in-house oat milling technology that we’ve nurtured. We also have oats atta, oats poha, oats suji and oats rice, making oats the next staple grain in India.

Our early packaging was in the form of PET jars. Traditionally, cereals around the world were sold in tins or boxes. We were the first ones in India and perhaps the world to sell oats and muesli in PET jars. Consumers saw re-usability in the PET jars and that became such a talking point that when the largest oat brand came to India, they launched in PET jars too, and took the packaging format to other countries. So a very small innovation created by us led to change in the way cereal was consumed.


We are exploring a niche market – to offer solutions to those who have various types of allergies, right from wheat allergy to dairy allergy. My best insights come from the market or consumers. Launching the whey protein muesli happened because of a conversation I had at a sports complex, where one did not have a high protein breakfast option. When travelling, I found hardly any healthy breakfast option at airports or in-flight. We're very proud of developing a muesli-on-the-go solution during the pandemic. You just need to add water and stir it, the milk is inside a cartridge sealing. The whole idea was to get a healthy breakfast at 35,000 ft. That was innovation driven by need.


Our vision is to make Bagrry’s India’s most trusted brand for health. I focus on trust because once you trust a brand, sale is a derivative of that. We want to be a multi-product, multi-category brand to offer solutions which make an impact in a consumer’s life, not just at breakfast. Breakfast offerings are our core and we would not want to drop the ball too far away from that. For example, we’ve entered the organic superfoods space with quinoa, chia, sunflower, watermelon and pumpkin seeds, dairy alternatives like nut butters, etc. We expanded capacities in the lockdown as we saw consumption move up, and see a lot of opportunity ahead. We want to be everywhere where a consumer might need us. Over the next few years, I’m also looking to hire more highly capable professionals to build the future team.


On exports from Bagrry’s: We export to eight countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, Nigeria... In fact, we've managed to enter several of these countries during the pandemic. There’s potential to sell across the world, and it is now an area of focus. The competition in exports is also far more intense. But we've been able to hold our ground in exports with quality products. Now there's a roadmap to go to at least 20 countries over the next couple of years, especially in the UAE and Europe.

On marketing budget: We have significantly increased our marketing spends. Majority of what we spend is below the line, activations at point of sale or retail, or placing people in stores. We have allocated a significant budget over the last few years on digital marketing and within platform advertising. We have recently engaged specialists in creative communication and digital marketing and also upgraded packaging to stay relevant to the phygital consumer.

On the Lawrence Mills brand: The Lawrence Mills brand from the group caters to the value segment and is largely health agnostic. It is going to see a fair amount of innovation and major brands are coming to its fold very shortly. Our QSR business was a passion project for me, and so we launched Bagrry’s Health Cafés to create a brand experience center for consumers – not just have cereals but learn what you can do with versatile products like oats atta, wheat bran, oat bran. But during the pandemic, we moved it to a completely direct-to-consumer model and now sell from our website

On insights from parenthood: I recently became a father. My journey as a parent gave me an insight into what we face at a consumer level. My son had his first solids with Bagrry’s oats. I realized what we produce isn't necessarily for porridge to power an adult through a busy workday, it has applications way beyond! We continue to be ingredient suppliers to one of the largest baby food brands as B2B, but aren’t looking at infant food, because nothing is healthier than mother’s milk.

On his life mantra: When I entered the business, my father advised me to be a jack of all trades – learn every aspect of our business - if I wanted to be a business leader. I follow it to this day. Another rule I follow is, you should never do something that you are not best at.

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