Viveat Susan Pinto, Financial Express
August 28, 2023
Coffee Day Global, which operates the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) chain, has been given a temporary relief against bankruptcy proceedings initiated by lender IndusInd Bank last month. The Chennai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT) last week halted admission of IndusInd Bank’s plea against Coffee Day Global, a subsidiary of the listed Coffee Day Enterprises (CDEL), by the NCLT Bengaluru, till September 20.
What this means for CCD is that it get some more time at a time when it has swung into the black after struggling for the last few years, since the tragic demise of its founder VG Siddhartha in 2019. Coffee Day Global posted a net profit of Rs 24.57 crore for the June quarter of 2023-24 (FY24) versus a net loss of Rs 11.73 crore reported in the same period last year.
Revenue from operations stood at Rs 223.20 crore in the quarter under review, a growth of nearly 18% versus the year-ago period, CDEL results for Coffee Day Global showed.
More importantly, CCD outlets are down to 467 in the June quarter of FY24 from a peak of 1,752 stores in FY19, indicating that the company is shutting down unprofitable operations as it looks to manage its debt and other expenses. Group debt is down to Rs 1,711 crore, according to its latest annual report for FY23, versus Rs 7,214 crore reported in FY19.
“While the coffee retail market in India is growing, in CCD‘s case the need to downsize has to do with internal issues. Sometimes a smaller footprint just helps to manage operations better especially when you are dealing with larger problems such as a debt overhang,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.
CCD’s financial health is critical for CDEL, which derives close to 94% of its group turnover from the coffee retail business, according to its FY23 annual report. In FY22, the contribution of the coffee retail business to group turnover was 85%. Losses of Coffee Day Global in FY23 narrowed to Rs 69.62 crore from Rs 112.48 crore in FY22. In FY19, the company had a net profit of Rs 10 crore.
Apart from cafes, CCD also has kiosks and vending machines installed in corporate offices, institutions and business hubs. While the number of kiosks has fallen over the last few years and is at around 265 now from a peak of 537 in FY19, the number of vending machines have been growing after briefly slowing down over the last few years. From a peak of 58,697 crore in FY20, it is now at 50,870 in number, the company’s latest results show.
CCD is also expected to fight the insolvency proceedings against it aggressively, according to industry sources. IndusInd Bank has claimed that Coffee Day Global defaulted on a loan of Rs 94 crore, which occurred on February 28, 2020. The company has disputed this in court.
(Published in Financial Express)
Christina Moniz, Financial Express
August 11, 2023
Pizza chain Domino’s recently unveiled a Rs. 49 pizza, its cheapest anywhere in the world. At $0.60, the pizza chain’s seven-inch cheese pizza is priced far lower than Domino’s in China (where $3.80 is the cheapest option). As per media reports, the rising inflation has caused Jubilant FoodWorks, which runs Domino’s outlets in India, to see a 70% slide in profits in the first quarter of CY23.
Competitor Pizza Hut has launched its Flavour Fun range, offering 12 new pizzas in five different sauce flavours, starting at a price of Rs. 79, which is easy on the pocket, especially targeted at young consumers. “We further stabilise costs by rolling out value deals from time to time such as 1 Plus 1 (two personal pizzas at Rs. 299 each), a Hut Treat Box for four starting at Rs. 799 and My Box deals starting at Rs. 229 for solo consumption. While food inflation is projected to persist, QSR brands must demonstrate agility and innovation in their offerings to effectively engage with customers,” says Merrill Pereyra, managing director, Pizza Hut India Subcontinent. Despite the competitive nature of the QSR market, he remarks that the rising purchasing power of consumers opens up promising opportunities for brands to expand.
Get the drift?
Crisil says the cost of a vegetarian thali rose 28% in July on the back of high tomato, onion and other raw material prices. With consumers also cutting back on eating out and discretionary spends, brands are bending over backwards to serve offerings at attractive prices to drive up footfalls .
Other fast food chains in the country too are rolling out value meals and snacks to appeal to price-conscious consumers. Burger King India announced its latest value range of ‘Tasty Meals’ starting at Rs. 99 to encourage dine-in consumers, while KFC too has unveiled its snacker range, featuring its most popular offerings like the classic chicken roll and chicken popcorn, at Rs. 99. McDonald’s India (West and South) also recently unveiled a campaign showcasing its easy-on-the-pocket McSaver meals at Rs. 179. McDonald’s India (North and East) made headlines with its decision to temporarily drop tomatoes from their products due to quality concerns and supply shortage.
This is just the second quarter of the current fiscal, but Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, observes that the trend among QSR brands is to absorb costs or reduce expenses rather than raise prices and risk a drop in footfalls. Most brands are hoping to keep consumer demand up and make up for the loss in margins in the second half of the financial year.
That would be a 1% hit on margins on account of inflation, say experts.
Pramod Damodaran, CEO, Wagh Bakri Tea Lounge, has a slightly different take. Noting that food input cost is just one cost item for a QSR brand, he says that most companies make gross margins of over 60% on each order. These margins are without taking into account costs of labour, rent, etc. “The new price points are designed to drive more walk-ins and new customers. The menu is vast enough to get consumers to eventually spend more after they walk in. Customers often buy a small burger but that is not a substantial meal and so they need to buy fries or other sides, which have higher margins. Most QSR chains find a way to pass on the inflation-added cost to the customer,” says Damodaran. For example, he says, if the inflation rate is at 5% this year, restaurants may increase the price of certain items on the menu by 3% for the first six months and by another 3-4% in the next six months, thus covering the additional input cost.
Focus on efficiency
The fact that brands have launched affordable, lower-priced offerings may have landed them in a slightly tricky situation, says Rajat Tuli, partner, Kearney. “The value offerings at lower prices have encouraged trials and new customer walk-ins, but existing customers are also opting for these. That has resulted in a lower average ticket size, while the cost to serve stays the same. Order volumes have grown but average order values have stayed the same or reduced, which could be a challenge if the trend continues,” he points out, though he adds that gross margins in the current quarter have shown improvement over the last quarter. Fast food chains need to bring in more efficiencies in cost, streamline processes and introduce more digitalisation.
It is also something that McDonald’s India (West & South) is working towards, says MD Saurabh Kalra. Noting that inflation is not new to the company in India, Kalra explains, “Recognising that food inflation is a domestic truth, over the years, we have developed tools and strategies to manage it effectively. This is attributed to our strategic management of our supply chain and product mix, as well as our cost initiatives. We have been successful in managing our costs and in maintaining healthy margins.” Further, with the reality of global warming, there will be pressures on agricultural output.
Kalra argues that enhancing efficiency and adoption of new technology are the only ways to create long-term solutions, something that McDonald’s has been doing globally too.
(Published in Financial Express)
Manu Balachandran, Forbes India
July 28, 2023
Revant Himatsingka doesn’t despise junk food.
The 31-year-old firmly believes that those who consume it also know the perils and long-term risks associated with it. From obesity to heart disease and diabetes, junk food is often counted as a more serious threat to life than even smoking according to some studies. “Most people who consume Coke and cigarettes know they are bad for you and consume them,” Himatsingka says.
Himatsingka, however, has a problem with junk food masquerading as healthy. That’s why over the past few months he has been busy calling out its makers, and in the process taking on some of the world’s biggest FMCG behemoths.
Since April this year, Himatsingka, through his social media profile, Foodpharmer, claims to have taken on almost all the FMCG companies in India, whose products he has reviewed, and in the process has been swamped with lawsuits. Himatsingka has a following of half a million followers on Instagram.
“Food is probably 60-70 percent of what shapes our health,” Himatsingka told Forbes India over a telephone call. “And what is shaping our food today is packaged food, which is very different from what our grandparents grew up eating. Most packaged food is just selling junk and they’re marketing it as healthy. This happens even more in relatively poorer countries.”
Himatsingka began his war against fake claims with a video about Bournvita, made by confectionary maker Mondelez. That video, critiquing the children’s drink for its excessive use of sugar, was shared across social media and on WhatsApp. Himatsingka poked fun at Bournvita’s tagline Tayyari Jeet Ki (preparing for victory), instead suggesting that Bournvita was preparing children for diabetes.
He listed out all the ingredients in Bournvita, debunked claims that the drink is healthy, and remarked that half of a package of Bournvita is sugar, and [it] even contains cancer-causing ingredients.
Trouble soon followed. Mondelez sent Himatsingka a legal notice asking him to take down the video within 24 hours. Coincidentally, the notice came to him on the last day of his notice period at McKinsey where he had been working as a consultant. Unfortunately for Mondelez, the video continues to be in circulation, more so across WhatsApp. Himatsingka took down the video and even issued a statement saying that he had no interest or resources to take on the company in any court cases.
“Most people have Coke once a week,” Himatsingka says. “But people have Bournvita twice a day. So you end up having 14 [servings of] Bournvita in a week. So, the net impact of Bournvita is probably worse than that of Coke.”
“As a growing market, India is potentially a natural “dumping ground” for poor products and processes that have been used by prominent brands in other markets,” Devangshu Dutta, the founder and CEO of management consultancy firm Third Eyesight says. “It is incumbent upon Indian customers to be diligent, picking up cues not only from Indian consumer-activists and but also their counterparts in the developed economies.”
From Kolkata to New York and back
Himatsingka grew up in an upper-middle-class household, with a homemaker mother and a father running his own business in Kolkata.
After his schooling, Himatsingka went to New York to study finance at the New York University’s NYU Stern School of Business where he graduated in finance. For a year after that he worked with a bank in the US. At 22, he ventured out into writing a book, Selfienomics, a self-help comedy book focusing on managing finances, health, religion, death, starting a business, and even completing projects on time.
“I wrote one chapter on how to read a food label even then,” Himatsingka says. “Back then, and even now I believe that it is the most important skill in the 21st century.” While he did secure admission into the illustrious IIM Bangalore, Himatsingka turned it down, instead focussing on his book.
By 2018, Himatsingka went to do an MBA at Wharton and followed it up with a course in nutrition, while also starting work at McKinsey as a consultant. “As a consultant, you work to solve business problems and you try to structure solutions,” Himatsingka says. “We focus on our career when it comes to structuring solutions and being data driven. But I try to extrapolate that into life. In life, one of our most important aspects is health.”
Himatsingka was also concerned by the growing link between cancer and heart diseases to packaged and processed food. In 2019, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested a possible link between “ultra-processed” foods and cancer. The study defined ultra-processed foods as those lacking vitamins and fibre, which also contain high levels of sugar, fat, and salt. Such ultra-processed food, the study noted, represents as much as half of the daily energy intake in several developed countries.
“This is such a big problem and no one is talking about it,” Himatsingka says. “No one is trying to solve it. So, I thought, I wanted to do something in this space.”
That meant, Himatsingka, who by his own account was making very good money in the US, decided it was time to come back home, and try and do something around awareness. “I’m very social impact driven,” Himatsingka says. “April 1st is when I made the Bournvita video. I made a video showcasing how Bournvita was falsely labelling itself. Their label showed that you get stronger bones and muscles. Then I got a legal notice from Bournvita asking me to take down the video in 24 hours.”
The idea for the Bournvita video, Himatsingka says, came from his concern that a product like Coke had become the face of obesity and junk food, while many others were marketing themselves as healthy, without it being so.
Mondelez, the makers of Bournvita soon retorted that the drink contains nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, D, iron, zinc and copper that help build immunity and have been part of its formulation for 70 years. It also said that every serve of Bournvita has 7.5 grams of added sugar, much less than the recommended limit for children.
imatsingka though found support from unexpected quarters. The Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest India (NAPi) a think tank comprising independent experts in epidemiology, human nutrition, community nutrition and paediatrics, medical education, administration, and management, issued a statement supporting Himatsingka.
“The food product Bournvita falls under the ultra-processed food (UPF) category based on its ingredients list,” NAPi said in a statement. “This industrial formulation is inherently harmful. There is enough scientific evidence present in the public domain pertaining to the negative impact of increasing consumption of UPFs on human health, which include several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression (Non-Communicable Diseases-NCDs).”
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also issued a notice to Mondelez asking the company to review and withdraw all misleading advertisements, packaging, and labels. The NCPCR is a statutory body to protect child rights.
Fighting it out now
Personally, for Himatsingka, the pushback from Mondelez couldn’t have come at a worse time. “I had just quit my job. And my family was asking me what I was trying to do with my life. They said ‘you had such a good job, you left all of that, now you are getting into a legal fight’,” Himatsingka says. “So I removed the video as they asked me to. And that got even more attention.”
Since then, Himatsingka has been actively taking on FMCG companies and their products in the country, ranging from ketchup, and chyawanprash to juices and bread among others. Himatsingka recounts having received legal notices from Dabur and even been asked to remove a video by Sting Energy, owned by PepsiCo.
He says his strength, however, comes from many parents who have reached out to him and are thanking his efforts for making them aware of the importance of reading labels. “People are reading labels for the first time and have now started figuring that many of the products are not that healthy,” Himatsingka says.
However, the pressure of the job continues to be heavy. “There is a lot of pressure,” the 31-year-old says. “These companies send legal notices and I have no idea how to deal with it. These are very technical and very dense documents, where they analyse each line and write a paragraph on each line. I once got a 300-page document from one company and they were asking me for a few crores. It’s strenuous.”
What lies ahead?
For now, the 31-year-old says his focus remains steadfast on raising awareness around food.
“Because of the Bournvita controversy, the rollover impact is that all the other companies are also going to get scared now to falsely market themselves,” Himatsingka says. “I cannot think of a human problem that is relatively easy to solve than nutrition labels and it creates massive impact.”
A few weeks ago, Himatsingka raised awareness about the growing consumption of bread in India and how most makers of bread who sell whole wheat or brown bread use more maida, which has less fiber, and is unhealthy. He had also called out juice makers for their use of sugar by comparing various mango juices available in the country.
“When a movie comes out, there are reviews and I can openly say whether I liked a movie or not,” Himatsingka says. “So why can’t I say the same about a food product? I’m just unboxing a product and saying what is there inside it. So I don’t think I’m legally wrong. They can ask me for whatever money they want. But I don’t think they can win on that.”
Along the way, he says he has also seen positive changes in companies. For instance, Himatsingka made a video on ketchup and explained how Maggi Rich Tomato Ketchup has more sugar than tomato in its ingredients. “Last month, they (Nestle) announced that they’re changing the recipe,” Himatsingka says. “They’re reducing their sugar content and they are going to have more tomatoes than sugar. One tiny change like that has such a major impact on the large scale.”
Experts agree that the growing scrutiny about ingredients is certain to give FMCG majors sleepless nights. “Given that food has a disproportionate share in our spend, an enormous impact on our health as well as a tremendous ecological footprint, it is only natural for consumers to question the composition, the origins, and the overall impact of the food that is being sold by leading brands,” says Dutta of Third Eyesight. “Over the last several decades, packaged food has become laden with synthetic flavouring, colouring, and shelf-life-extending chemicals, which are being called into question by activists through blogs and social media. On several occasions, prominent companies are forced to change their product composition or, at the very least, admit to the health-negative implications of their ingredients.”
Meanwhile, over the past three or four weeks, Himatsingka says he hasn’t been flooded with lawsuits. That’s partly because he has become quite careful about how he words his statements, instead focusing only on the merits of his argument.
“There are millions of problems in the world. But most of the problems are very hard to solve, like air pollution. But teaching people how to read a food label is easy. I feel learning how to read a food label is more important than coding in the 21st century, where most of what we’re eating is processed or packaged.”
Indeed, the fight is long. And Himatsingka is only gearing up for more.
(Published in Forbes India)
Sharleen D’Souza & Shivani Shinde, Business Standard
June 8, 2023
Why are companies finding it difficult to sustain the supply-chain business?
Experts point out that gross margins in supplying fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are very low.
While it does look attractive because it is the largest part of the consumption market, the last-mile supply chain and retailer are not making money.
“FMCG brands have ensured high margins for their businesses by streamlining and smoothing their supply chains over decades and making them cost-efficient,” said Anshuman Singh, founder and managing director, Stellar Value Chain Solutions.
Singh said in rural markets, the costs of supply chains were proportionately high due to lower volumes.
He added: “The low margins in the last leg of the FMCG rural supply chain make it difficult for new-age rural distribution players to offset the high costs.”
Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer, Third Eyesight, a consultancy firm, said modern B2B (business-to-business) players had tried to step in to replace the traditional links in supply chains with price incentives and a large selection of products.
“Traditional distributors and wholesalers don’t just add costs but also add value, including aggregating demand for brands, disaggregating supplies for small retailers, providing market intelligence to both ends of the chain, and giving credit to retailers and a sort of financial guarantee for manufacturers,” Dutta said.
He said for their business models to work — online or offline — B2B businesses needed a significant concentration of demand, which had been tough to get in many locations.
On July 6, 2022, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), in the dispute between biscuit manufacturer Parle and B2B player Udaan, upheld the plea of the former, saying it did not violate competition laws. Parle had refused to sell its products directly to Udaan.
Udaan was the first B2B start-up to have a run-in with a well established brand, which was not interested in moving away from the traditional distribution model.
What has that meant for Udaan? It has meant tweaks to its business.
It further diversified its product portfolio so that its access to the market was not impacted.
It forayed into the mobile accessories segment as local brands tapped into its network of over 3 million retailers.
Earlier, this year it expanded its reach in the miller segment, which supplies staples like pulses, grains, wheat, rice, and oil.
Udaan aims to take on board about 100 miller partners per quarter.
It works with over 500 miller partners, supplying over 10,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) to retailers and kirana owners, according to the company in an interaction with Business Standard.
The other company that recently had to tweak its business or go back to its focus on rural India is Pune-based ElasticRun.
B2B start-up ElasticRun has decided to focus on the core business and wind up its new expansion plans.
Backed by SoftBank and Prosus Venture, ElasticRun, which typically runs distribution for FMCGs in rural areas, decided to expand and also cater to retailers within city limits, i.e. tier 1 and tier 2 markets that had a strong distribution owing to companies having direct distribution in those areas.
“We initiated a pilot for urban markets. But through the year, as the macro changed, we decided not to pursue the urban pilot and focus on our core of rural business … we have to part ways with almost 2 per cent of our employees,” said Sandeep Deshmukh, co-founder and chief executive officer, ElasticRun, in an earlier interaction with Business Standard.
ElasticRun extends the reach of the brands’ direct distribution networks to deep rural markets. It enables access to a set of net new stores and customers, who were not accessible through traditional distribution networks.
The need to spend in order to get market share has caused well-entrenched players like Amazon to pull out of some of its distribution business.
Amazon India has decided to shut down Amazon Distribution, according to sources. This follows its recent decision to close down its food delivery and edtech offers. The moves are part of the annual operating planning review process amid global macroeconomic uncertainties. The e-commerce giant is looking to focus on its core businesses, sources said.
Amazon Distribution operates a platform where sellers sell FMCGs and apparel products from companies and distribute them among kiranas and small neighbourhood stores.
However, this unit operated in only three cities of Karnataka — Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Hubbali.
(Published in Business Standard)