The Tarang Moment

imageThey show these types of moments in movies. Imagine a man sticking his axe into the ground and out shoots a jet stream of oil. The man is sitting on an oilfield and knows that he has arrived. This is his goldmine. And talking about gold, the famous moment in McKenna’s Gold when they enter the valley of gold. The walls, the floor and even the stream are lined with gold. McKenna, Blind Adam and the whole entourage had also arrived. They were looking at a life changing moment.

Sometime in August 2007, myself and many more Engro Foods people, had this same experience. Lifelong we would know this event as the Tarang Moment. It changed our lives.

In commercial parlance, when you launch a brand you are stepping somewhat into the unknown. If you have done it right, then a lot of research on consumer insights has been completed. The product has been tested in stress conditions and has passed. Its taste profile has been matched and tested with consumers. The packaging and name of the brand has been researched, designed and tested. Through research and our own portfolio strategy, we know the bulls eye positioning and the marketing (both media and activation) campaign has been concept tested and fits the positioning. The distribution strategy has been agreed and we know exactly where and at what price the brand will hit the shelves. Our stock levels have been worked out and the production forecast has matched those, so that there is little danger of shortages.

As they say, all the ducks are in a row, and we are ready for success. So then one wonders why, nine out of ten brand launches fail. Unfortunately, that is the history of the world, so very likely things could go wrong and the launch may not be successful. At best recall (I may have missed a small one here or there), I have lived this routine through forty three launches in my career and many of those brands are not around anymore.

So back to that Tarang Moment. We struggled to get approval from our Board of Directors to launch a tea whitener. It took three attempts. Their query was that a rival brand had failed to make it a success, so why would Engro Foods succeed? When it was finally approved, we were allowed to launch only in six towns. That really set our backs up, and it was considered a challenge to our professionalism. Research showed us that tea was the highest incidence of milk usage in Pakistan and it also showed that in those very homes where this tea was consumed, there was a great demand and connection to ‘filminess’ (the movie world). It was also researched that as yet, no right fit product – enhancing the taste of tea – was on the market. Hence the brand Tarang, portrayed a ‘filmi’ world which was enhanced by ‘Chai ka Sahi Jor’. In all my career, I cannot remember a clearer positioning, which was backed by product attributes and fitted its brand world. We felt we had hit the nail on the head.

The Tarang Moment arrived for each of us at different times. For me it arrived at 8.32 am on August 15, 2007 in R A Bazaar, Lahore. The brand had been launched, but media had not yet broken. I was on a market visit to see how we had distributed the brand. A ‘SEC C’ class store in R A Bazar was my first stop early in the morning. An old woman walked in to buy something. She saw our colourful pack on the shelves and asked the shopkeeper “Ay kya haey? Ay Taranga?”. He said ‘chai bananay kou’. The old lady bought it, nary any advertising, nary support, nary any awareness. Alhamdulillah! I knew we had hit gold. Two weeks later this was further confirmed. With advertising on TV and strong supporting activation, our capacity to supply the product had gone short. What we had expected to achieve in a years time, we got there in fifteen days with maybe five days of TV coverage. When a new filling machine arrived four months later, that also ran out of capacity within another fifteen days. The Tarang Moment may last all of us a lifetime. Its unique in my career and probably unique for all the team involved.

An EFL 10 year Montage


imageThe Engro Foods culture records our history in montages, which reduces the need for words, gives you small touch points and is easy to view in later years. With our ten years celebrations, from the day of incorporation – not operations, which started a year later- underway, I thought to create a montage of my memories. This has then gone out in our quarterly internal magazine, Between Us.

My memory stretches back to October 17th, 2005 and some twenty-five people huddled together to set the first vision of EFL, which was about doing it the right way, about opening up rural areas, about Pakistaniat and showing the world we can succeed.

A few months later, a hole in the ground in Sukkur transformed into a dairy factory and milk collection tankers poured in ample milk, much against peoples expectations. Flashbacks of laughing teams sitting around at 3 am at the PNSC office, eating pizza, just before the Olpers launch, are warm memories. Some months later I can remember our celebrations when we hit 150,000 liters a day. Then we launched Tarang. Immediately, we knew this was a success. The Tarang moment! The purple patch moment, which hits one maybe once or twice in your career.

There were those shuddering days in August 2007, when our office burned down and there was an existential threat for a few weeks to a very new organisation. We survived and the threat passed. Three weeks later we had makeshift offices, systems restored and most items back in order by the end of the year.

From then on, life has been one long roll with flash points every now and then. Our launch of ice cream and opening of our farm were tough risky calls in 2009. We have managed them Mashallah. There were tough moments, but both businesses thrive.

2010 brought the awful floods and the EFL teams gave three months of their lives to help the affected in rural areas. It is this Sadqa-e-Jaaria which propelled us to leadership of the liquid dairy industry months later. Just some four and half years after commencement of operations, EFL became leader and it has not been relinquished todate.

The ensuing years have brought ups and downs, but have also rewarded us with the two biggest International Awards in Pakistan’s corporate history. First, the G20 World Top 15 Company Award in 2012, and then the Transformational Company of the World Award from IFC/FT in 2014.

Most, I want to remember the people. One and all who gave their lives, sweat and effort to take this company to where it is today. A phenomenal achievement by a bunch of dedicated, committed and passionate men and women. I have a lot to thank them for. EFL has a lot to thank them for.

In parting, I shall re-quote my last sentence from the speech of Olper’s launch March 2006, to our people.

“When you become old and look back, you will tell your grandchildren, this was the finest thing I did in life and these were my finest hours”. In-sha-Allah.

Tea, best drink of the day

tea-plantation1Happenstance, it is a relief that I was not around Glasgow in Scotland, earlier. Had I been, I may have punched some jaw and landed up for assault. That I was 6000 miles away from Glasgow, sitting in steaming humid Karachi, partaking of cups of tea, did not reduce my irritation. Because that very cup of tea (my last surviving vice) had been declared void and out of bounds. And no, I am not talking about some office economy drive to cut costs, by banning tea at the workplace. The lords of scientific research had declared tea as carcinogenic for the male species of the human race. All hell must have broken loose in Darjeeling and Sri Lanka!

My relationship with tea goes back to my earliest memories. I remember, sitting on what is called a moundha – a small stool – with a buaa and having tea in the kitchen. Distinctly remember it being out of a Pyala. Yes sir! A good old Pyala. And I insist on calling it that, as a bowl takes all the charm and nostalgia out of the occasion. How do you describe a Pyala? Well its deep, its big, made from china, very colorful on the outside and ugly as hell. What a self respecting 3 year old was doing, partaking of sweet tea in a hot kitchen, I have no idea. Suffice it to say I survived, and now these so called researchers from Glasgow say I was wrong and that I should not have?

Anyway the story of tea begins in British times and really earlier in China. But the influence on us came through the British. The first known reference to tea in Britain is by Samuel Pepys, in the 17th century.  Pepys must have been a popular author, because soon it was one of the biggest trades of the East India Company. Along the way sugar and milk were added to tea and nonsensical mythology prevails on how this happened. By 19th century the higher social echelons were so enamored that they named the afternoon light meal after the drink, courtesy the Duchess of Bedford. This society icons indulgence was eventually also incorporated into the game of cricket. So you had these Lords and Ladies partaking tea, while playing cricket on the village green. Utter bliss!

Quite incredible that tea is also credited with two wars. By 1773 American colonists were heartily sick of the beloved King and his taxes. As part of their rebellion, one night some enterprising men emptied lots of crates of tea into Boston Harbor, as a protest against these taxes. Sounds familiar! It became known as the Boston Tea Party and was the first step towards the American Revolution. Today the rather conservative mutant, the modern Tea Party derives its name, if not its philosophy, from these legends.

The second war is what led tea to India and so to my Pyala. The British importing tea from China would pay for it by exporting opium to the country. When this was declared illegal, it led to the Opium Wars. Eventually they introduced tea plantations into India as an alternative and so for over a century India became the highest seller of tea in the world. Thus was born the local usage of tea, with many rituals added to it today.

Returning to my own story of tea; I was a chai khor. No other word for it. A delight for corporates like Lipton and Brooke Bond. Nevertheless, when I landed up in the UK, it was fascinating that they drank even more tea, but yet found the need to campaign on TV. The advertisement tagline “Tea, Best Drink of the Day” meant even more cups consumed.

Returning to Pakistan, fate took me to another tea company Unilever, with Lipton tea in tow. “Chai chaheyay; kaun see janaab” was of course their famous advertisement. One learnt of how Lipton samplers would take a ‘gadha gari of chai‘ and go from Karachi to Peshawar making tea, village to village and creating the tea habit. Trust corporates to fan bad and expensive habits. So no wonder, my attachment to tea seems to be written in stone.

Then occurred the last fateful encounter with tea. Sonay par sohaga! When Engro Foods commenced its business, over time we learnt that segmentation of dairy usage had occurred. A high incidence of milk usage was in tea. Pakistanis love to breakfast on chai and paratha/roti. We launched Tarang and it became the leading dairy industry brand in Pakistan. “Chai ka sahi jor” is probably the most famous tagline used in Pakistan. Coupled with filmi images of Saima, Sana and Moammar Rana, we have ended up annoying a lot of conservative people, in the name of commercialism.

Now I sit and wonder whether to drink this beverage. All this history of association with tea and enjoyable cups – especially the post meal ones – and then to have the carpet suddenly pulled from under ones feet, by a couple of research nerds, who remain faceless, is the outside of enough. For me tea is an association with a past trundling through childhood, to England, endless cricket on Sunday afternoons and then a commercial career, which relied heavily on Tea being the Best drink of the day. Is nothing sacrosanct in this new world of ours? Next they will take away nihari and pa-aye.

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