‘SON’Shine!

NIKHIL BALLAL

By and large, Indians are religious by nature and worship the ‘super-power’ in the form they believed since childhood. Hence, a puja room (popularly known as Devghar) is an integral part of household.

Parikshit Prabhudesai son of ‘Pitambari’ fame Mr. Ravindra Prabhudesai has stormed the market of Agarbattis( incense sticks) by launching 25 fragrances in 22 states in short span of 18 months. Parikshit is just 25 but is successfully carrying forward the legacy of Pitmabari. The devghar has been his entry point.

When he was asked to do a project on a company in his college days he selected his own family business to understand it better. While doing project he realised the ‘pain points’ in his organisation which helped him to become a good entrepreneur at an early age.  “I feel one who is planning to join his family business should engage in this exercise”, says Parikshit.

Prabhudesais are known for their simplicity and audacity. They all started from scratch and climbed the staircase of success. Parikshit also followed his family tradition and started working from a lower rank like his illustrious father in production department.  After understanding production he went to quality control and eventually started looking after the marketing of his company. That helped him hone the skills.

When asked how agarbattis became the launching pad, his reply was simple “It was perhaps the providence which gave me the idea”. One day when his father was performing puja suddenly agarbattis grabbed his attention.  Our initial plan was only to cultivate ‘Champa’ flowers (Saundarya’ species) and sell them in market. But we failed miserably in the initial stage.  By the time we got the flowers from Dapoli in Kokan to Dadar in Mumbai they would get dry in the journey. So, some people suggested us to take out the extract from the flowers and sell. We tried our hands on that as well but we were not successful either, remembered Parikshit.

This did not let down the father-son duo. They were thinking hard and the idea of making agarbatti struck his father. “My father instilled confidence in me and encouraged me to pursue my dream project of manufacturing agarbattis. Before finalizing this idea, we made a thorough study of market & found that all the Agarbattis available in the market are made from chemical fragrance.  Hence they do not match the ‘Final note’ that is the exact fragrance of the flower. As these Agarbattis are made from various chemicals, it can cause health problems like Restlessness, Headache, Insomnia etc. Pitambari is, from its beginning, very keen about the purity & quality in its products. Hence we decided to manufacture agarbatties from the natural extract of the flowers cultivated in our own farms. This is our Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

I was extremely excited to work on this project. We started with a five acre land and cultivated few thousand Chafa ( generic name Michelia Champaca) plants of ‘Saundarya’ species . From these chafa flowers we produced our first batch of agarbattis. People appreciated the fragrance which boosted our confidence. Gradually we expanded; today we have Ten Thousand plants of varieties of flowers such as Rose, Lily, Anant, Krishnkamal, Mogra, Chameli etc.& aromatic grass such Lemongrass, Palmarosa & Citronella  in 100 acres land in Dapoli, Talawade & Tamhane”, smiles Parikshit.

The aptly we chose Brand name for these agarbatties is Devbhakti as Agarbatti is an integral part of God’s Worship.

Uncertainties of nature always are a big challenge. Irregular rainfall affects production of flowers. March to June is the most crucial period for our business.  Last year the scorching heat affected our plants with heat stroke. Nature teaches us many things. It also gives us solutions. We have to be involved hundred percent.

When asked about the remarkable success he had achieved in marketing strategy, Parikshit said, “I started from local markets of Thane. I use to cover 40 shops in a day and interact with hundreds of retailers, wholesalers and customers. This study helped us to improve our product and suit the needs of customers. Every month we expanded in three states, today 22 states have our agarbattis.

We realised early that in Agarbatti business unless and until we don’t do value addition to the raw item profits will remain elusive. When we processed the flowers into agarbattis we started getting good margins”, states Parikshit.

Every state is different but if you ask to categorise me then north and south state’s customer habits are similar whereas middle Indian states habits are alike. North and South are more religious and prefer agarbattis in wooden boxes. Since, it’s a sensitive matter of worship material they want it packed nicely. Whereas, in middle India states like Maharashtra, Gujrat, Goa and Madhyapradesh they don’t mind getting agarbattis in plastic pouch or assorted. We adopted accordingly.

“Pricing of incense stick is equally important. It cannot be high as there is stiff competition and at the same time the cost-effectiveness must not affect the quality too”, Parikshit stated.

“We today have penetrated in all communities.  Our agarbattis have become a household name. When we were marketing our product in Jain community we realised that they don’t use agarbatti as it is made with bamboo which are normally used during last rites.  Jains prefer dhup.  We have started our research soon we will cater to this community too”, says confident Parikshit.

Today Devbhakti Agarbatti is available in various types such as 7 in 1, 4 in 1 Packs, Divine Twist ( having two different fragrances in 1 stick), Manaspooja, &  Pancharati (Dhoop stick)

“Since Agarbatti market is an unorganised market there are many small-medium and big brands. There are hundreds of local brands which are confined to a city or district. People are habituated to use same brands for many years. To change their habits was a challenge. Therefore, instead of targeting every household we decided to target all local temples. We did sampling and took feedback of customers. This helped us to penetrate in local markets and communities. Along with this, regular promotion through advertisements in all types of media such as Print, Electronic, Radio, Digital etc has a vital role in the success of Devbhakti”, smiles Parikshit.

“Today Devbhakti agarbattis have reached sales of 10 crores in short span of 18 months. They wish to reach 100 crores in next 5 years. Good turnover will encourage us to do better CSR activities and achieve development for our employees as well as the farms where the flowers are grown. We are working hard to achieve our goals”, concludes Parikshit.

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