The power of local: Indian Greek yoghurt firm Epigamia enjoys rapid expansion
According to a recent Research and Markets report, India’s yoghurt market has seen a growth rate of about 17% from 2011-12 to 2016-17.
Rohan Mirchandani, co-founder and CEO of Drums Food International, is targeting deeper penetration into the Indian cities in which its Epigamia Greek yoghurt is currently available — Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai — as well as to new cities in the country such as Lucknow, Kolkata, Goa, Pune, Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Mysore, Kochi, Indore and Jaipur.
“We aim to be in 15 cities by the end of this fiscal year, and reach 40,000 stores in the next three years,” said Rohan.
“In the long-term we will look at expanding internationally.”
Rohan said that while they are currently not exporting any of the company’s products, they have received many inquiries from various South East Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
“One factor we must consider is the durability of the product. We need to get the shelf life to be a little longer before it will make sense for us to send our products far distances,” said Rohan.
The current shelf life of Epigamia Greek yoghurt is slightly over two weeks.
New products and developments
Rohan also said Epigamia is also looking at a few new product lines, not all of which he is able to disclose as yet.
“One product we’ve seen particular interest in is drinkable yoghurt. It’s getting more popular globally and we’ve begun looking into our own take on that,” said Rohan.
“I believe this should be ready within the next six months or so.”
Recently, Drums Food launched Epigamia Artisanal Curd, India’s first milk-based, lactose-free curd.
Apart from being a boon to a sizeable proportion of the Indian population that is lactose intolerant —supposedly about 70% — it is also targeted at improving gut health and digestion.
According to Drums Food, artisanal curd has more probiotics than other curds and its product contains two gut-friendly strains — Lactobacillus Acidophilus and Bifidobacteria — which are important for a healthy digestive system.
“In the near term, we’re planning to launch numerous variants of our lactose-free Artisanal Curd,” said Rohan.
More developments, especially in products, are expected from Epigamia soon, with the company having invested in R&D capabilities.
“We are working on an innovation centre, which we are all quite excited about. It should hopefully be ready and functional in the next couple months,” said Rohan.
He said that Drums Food sources all of its ingredients locally, from within India. These include, for example, mangoes from Ratnagiri, strawberries from Panchgani, and so on.
“It’s one of the factors we take into consideration when determining the next flavour to come out,” he said.
He added that Indian consumers today have discerning palates, aspirational tastes and a desire to lead healthier lives, all of which result in a certain willingness to experiment with flavours and products.
Rohan grew up in the US and studied in New York University (NYU) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In December 2011, he took a course in Mumbai called ‘Marketing to the Indian Consumer’. Rohan said that was his eureka moment.
Guest speaker Shripad Nadkarni, formerly head of marketing at Coca-Cola, spoke about brand building in India and how the FMCG sector only had a handful of mainly multinational brands that dominated it.
He mentioned that the next 15-20 years would be a time when local brands would be created thanks to changing consumption patterns and the use of social media as a means to reach consumers.
“I knew what I wanted to do — build a brand that would stand the test of time. We decided to launch Greek yoghurt because we saw a shift in consumer trends towards healthier eating,” he said.
While Drums Food International was previously known for its Hokey Pokey ice cream, the company stopping selling it a few months ago due to challenges including the seasonal nature of ice cream sales. Rohan has said he expects to relaunch the brand in the future.
The company launched Epigamia Greek yoghurt in 2015, only six months from the time they decided to give it shot, said Rohan.
In the last fiscal year, from April 2017 to March 2018, Rohan said Epigamia grew by more than 200%.
“We are currently selling about three million cups per month,” he said.
Drums Food currently has more than 250 employees.