Janki Padiya, Manager Business Development at Saraf Foods Pvt Ltd on how it has become the largest manufacturers in the freeze-drying segment.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Janki Padiya: During the COVID-19 pandemic situation, there is hardly any family or individual left unhurt. Everyone is experiencing a tough time in terms of health and well-being. I lost my best friend, who was just 32, due to coronavirus. She couldn’t survive against severe lung infection. With the grace of the Almighty, things are okay with my family and me now.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Saraf Foods.
Janki Padiya: I joined Saraf Foods in August 2019 as a business development manager and have been associated till the date. The journey so far has been full of excitement, new learning, brand launching, and much more. In my career so far, I have been in the food ingredient segment for more than a decade. I started with the dehydration/ airdrying segment and now with a company that has three major food processing lines (Freeze Drying, Air Drying & IQF). B2B ingredients business is my forte. Learning curiosity inspired me to opt digital marketing course in early 2019. I chose to do my first Digital Marketing course through Google and then added a few more as well. This knowledge enabled me to drive promotions, synchronizing sales & marketing activities digitally.
Being into marketing profile, I get an opportunity to finetune clients’ requirements with our product portfolio. We also expanded the business vertical from B2B to B2C and e-commerce. We all were in panic during lockdown time and started worrying about our health while being at home. Our promoters got an idea of launching 100% natural freeze-dried fruit snacks in the Indian consumer market. In a very short period of around 24 weeks, our company launched a new D2C brand, “HALO.” It was quite an unusual time, and hundreds of adversities were faced during pre-launch. Educating customers, networks, and society for consuming healthy and natural snacks gives the satisfaction of delivering something worthy… I am truly honored to be part of the HALO team from day one and have worked hard to build our brand. It is indeed a great feeling to witness the brand flourishing.
How does Saraf Foods innovate?
Janki Padiya: Way back in 1991, when our MD, Mr. Suresh Saraf, got an idea of establishing a food processing unit, he opted for freeze-drying food processing technology, an uncharted territory. It was a modest beginning with limited space and machine capacity. For standardizing quality, the company started contract farming which helps crop management and also uplifts the overall well-being and livelihood of our farmers. Slowly by keeping collective growth in the center, the company today has become one of the largest manufacturers in the freeze-drying segment.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Janki Padiya: Covid has increased operational costs. Right from raw material sourcing, processing to deliveries. During these days, shipping and transportation costs have also increased, which directly impacted our raw material freight and final goods transportation. This has resulted in a significant financial effect on margins.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Janki Padiya: I am glad that my company has not fired any employees during this pandemic situation. In fact, during the lockdown, when groceries were not easily available, my company distributed food requirement kits to village people where our unit is located.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Janki Padiya: my experience so far, physical meetings with customers plays an essential role in business in building trust and long term relation. During pandemic times, the physical movement went to a standstill, and we really had no choice than moving our physical meetings to e-meets through various video/ audio conferencing apps or platforms. We all have been actively using different tools for day-to-day business activities as per requirement. Google, zoom, WhatsApp, etc., are some of the most-used apps. This, in fact, made our tasks quicker, easier, and most convenient.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Janki Padiya: During this situation, we have not received any special Government grant. However, additional COVID funding as loans by the bank helped us get through the tough times. Many consignments were rescheduled, disrupted supply chain had put the business at a standstill. To meet huge operational expenses, loan funds played a vital role.
Your final thoughts?
Janki Padiya: Feeling great to share my thoughts today with you on various topics. Precisely on coronavirus, I am looking at this pandemic as a lesson of mankind’s deeds and an opportunity to look at those sides which might get ignored in some way. Good physical and mental health should be the utmost priority, and I believe it is the key to sustaining a good life.