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Haldiram - an empire under cloud

The popular "Haldiram" snack-food brand, in spotlight after a life sentence handed down to one of the co-owners, is a Rs 1,500-crore empire of three separate companies with a common trademark, tracing its roots to Bikaner in 1937.



New Delhi: The popular "Haldiram" snack-food brand, in spotlight after a life sentence handed down to one of the co-owners, is a Rs 1,500-crore (Rs 15 billion/USD 300 million) empire of three separate companies with a common trademark, tracing its roots to Bikaner in 1937.

Sweets and savouries with Haldiram brand that can be seen in some 40 countries on the shelves of chains such as Tesco, Carrefour, Sommerfield and Sipneys, are made with the
recipes conceived seven decades ago, albeit at different factories across regions.

"We function as three separate entities with clearly defined territories in India. We do not compete with each another. We all use the same `Haldiram` brand name, although with different logo styles," said Sanjay Singhania, commercial head for one of the firms.

"But all three firms trace their origins to Bikaner in Rajasthan where Mr Gangabishan Agarwal started a sweet shop way back in 1937," Singhania told a news agency here, explaining the working of one of India`s most popular snack-food brands with a global reach.

Haldiram Manufacturing focuses on the markets in the north with its base in the national capital, Haldiram Foods has its headquarters at Nagpur and caters to the west and the south and Haldiram Bhujiawala has its hub at Kolkata and serves the east.

Even as the three entities do not divulge their turnovers, people familiar with their businesses estimate the annual revenues at around Rs 15 billion), with multiple sources of revenues, including domestic sales and exports.

The co-owner of the Kolkata entity, Prabhu Shankar Agarwal, was Friday sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of attempting to murder a tea stall owner outside his shop in Kolkata, after he refused to vacate despite an offer of Rs 400,000 (USD 8,000) and threats.

Employees familiar with the three groups said each of the three firms, though focusing on savouries and sweets, have also carved a niche for themselves in related businesses with products that appeal to regional tastes and preferences.

The Nagpur entity, for example, has introduced a new range of vermicelli and macaroni with Italian machinery that is exported to some 25 countries in the Americas, the Gulf, Europe and Asia.

Haldiram Manufacturing Company, which focuses on northern India, has established itself as a restaurant chain with 96 varieties of dishes that also double up as retail outlets for packaged, ready-to-eat savouries and sweets.

This company, the most recent enterprise in the empire with its first shop opening at Chandini Chowk in the national capital`s old quarters in 1982, has some major expansion plans drawn up for both the domestic and international markets.

Haldiram Bhujiawala is a Rs.500-crore ($100 million) entity with two large shops in Kolkata`s key districts and its co-owner, now convicted for murder, wanted to set up multi-storied food malls near the two outlets.

Prabhu Shankar Agarwal has said that his business had already suffered during the trial and pleaded with the judge for leniency as he was fending for a "thousand families".

IANS

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