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From soups to ready meals, Gits’ 55-year journey as pioneers in the instant mixes category

Gits was the first company to launch the instant mixes category in India and the first to coin the term. BestMediaInfo.com traces the 55-year journey of the brand in the country

Started in 1963 by two best friends, Gits Foods, known for its instant mixes and ready-to-eat meals, is today a third-generation family business. Interestingly, even the name of the brand, Gits, comes by combining the names of the two founding families, the Gilanis and the Tejanis.

Co-founder of the Gujarati business newspaper ‘Vyapar’, H Z Gilani was a journalist before he, along with A K Tejani, founded Gits.

Sahil Gilani

“The idea for the brand came when the two friends observed that their wives spent so much time in the kitchen, that they hardly had any time for themselves and their families. But, at the same time, they also did not want to sell anything unnatural,” said Sahil Gilani, Director, Sales and Marketing, Gits Foods.

Years later, the brand philosophy still remains the same — bringing quality products to every household.

When H Z Gilani and A K Tejani set out to find a solution to the problem they had identified, there was no technology available to make this dream a reality. They approached the Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), which had the instant mixes technology ready with them but no one had showed any interest in it.

“My grandfather and his friend worked with CFTRI to develop the technology. In that sense, we are the pioneers in the category. We were the first ones to start the convenience food category in India and we also coined the name instant mixes,” said Gilani.

The brand started its foray in the instant mixes category with soup mixes and the joke in the family is that the soup put them in a soup.

“When we tried to go and sell our soup mixes, people thought we were trying to sell tomato flavoured soaps. It was such an alien concept that shopkeepers would not understand what the product was. Back then, people did not know what soup was, as it was a very foreign concept,” said Gilani.

Having realised their faux pas, the brand stopped the production of soups and shifted focus to producing idli, dosa and gulab jamun mixes, which till today remain the pillars of the company.

Strategy:

For the first decade or so, there wasn’t much competition for Gits in the Indian market. The brand itself was struggling to establish base in the country and no other company wanted to enter the category. So, the family decided to focus on exports.

“We started exporting in the ’60s itself. Australia and the UK were the first countries where we exported. So, we were largely an export company in the initial years because the country just wasn’t ready for our products,” explained Gilani.

Homesick Indians, craving for Indian flavours, really helped the brand take off in the international markets. But while the revenues were coming in from exports, the brand also focused on growing its distribution network in India.

Marketing:

The brand also started marketing heavily in the export markets in the ’90s.

“We actually had Vidya Balan in our TVC even before she became a Bollywood actress. In the ad, Balan is in a South India getup and explaining the long and cumbersome process of making soft, delicious idlis. Then we see a Sardarji come into the frame, telling that it was he who had made the idlis using Gits. “Maine banaya Gits se” was the concept that we had come up with and there were a series of ads that we came up with based on the same concept,” said Gilani.

These campaigns came up around the mid to late ’90s when channels like Zee TV and Star TV had just launched their international channels.

“We did not have the funds to advertise in India because it was too expensive, whereas advertising in the export markets was comparatively cheaper. So, for the longest time, in the international markets, we were the biggest advertisers for channels like Zee and Star,” added Gilani.

In a bid to target the young Indian-origin consumers staying in the Western world, the brand changed its positioning from “Maine banaya Gits se” to “Humne banaya Gits se”. The campaign that came out in the 2000s played on the mother-daughter relationship and showed the ease of cooking with Gits’ instant mixes.

Currently, the brand exports to over 40 countries and today has a 60-40 divide between domestic and exports business, respectively. But Gilani is quick to mention that even about 10 years back, the ratio would have been skewed towards exports.

Today, in terms of distribution, the brand reaches about a lakh and a half outlets in India and for the past four to five years, it has also started advertising in the country during the festive season.

“All this while, we have never had a full-fledged creative agency. In 55 years of being in the business we have always worked on project basis or with freelancers. But we have Lowe Lintas on board now and our new creative should be out in some time,” said Gilani.

Gits has also been a frontrunner in the digital/social media space by having a presence on Facebook since 2009 and subsequently on Twitter, Instagram, etc. Currently, the digital agency involved is ToggleHead. The brand has also set up an e-store, www.gitsfood.com, which ships fresh products straight from their plant to your doorstep.

The brand recently launched its digital campaign in Raksha Bandhan this year.

Competition:

The instant mixes category is getting pretty crowded with many brands coming up with their own read-to-cook offerings. Gilani, who entered the family business when the market was growing and their closest competition was getting bought-out, believes that their promise of quality product and their stand against deep discounting will keep them in good stead against the competition.

“In the instant mixes category, gulab jamun is the flagship product for most brands. Now, if you look at the festive season, most of the brands are operating on a ‘buy one, get one’ promise. Gits is the only company that does not indulge in this. Gulab jamun mixes have two main ingredients, one is skimmed milk and the other is maida (flour). Maida is very cheap and skimmed milk is very expensive. Now, if you change the proportion of these two ingredients, you can sell the mix at a cheaper rate. However, Gits has kept the proportion of skimmed milk in its mixes the same from the beginning. Our emphasis is on quality and our consumers know that. So, despite others indulging in deep discounting, we are still able to grow our market,” said Gilani.

The brand has also innovated with its product offering to combat competition and has come up with a range of ready meals and dairy products to add to the product portfolio.

“In the last year itself, we had 10 new product launches and we are also introducing a lot of products that are more focused towards the millennials. We also changed our packaging recently. We are constantly trying to revitalise the brand and make it younger so that it appeals to today’s customers,” added Gilani.  

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