Nadia Chauhan, Joint Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer of Parle Agro, has her sights set on the goal of making the Food and Beverage (F&B) company a Rs 5,000-crore entity by 2018 and the number one beverage company in India. Frooti, Appy Fizz, the company’s two much-loved brands, have been enjoyed by most of us.
Founded in 1929, Parle Products was owned by the Chauhan family of Vile Parle, Mumbai and was split into three separate companies – Parle Agro, Parle Bisleri and Parle Products. Each of these were owned by different factions of the original Chauhan family. Parle Agro started operations in 1984 with Prakash Chauhan at the helm and his daughter’s who are part of the business too.
With Nadia’s father, Prakash Chauhan, at the helm, Nadia joined the company in 2003 as part of the marketing team managing the brand Frooti. Over the years she has grown to take over the entire marketing department, sales, R&D, transformation, global markets, new business and eventually take on her current role as Joint Managing Director and CMO, Parle Agro.
Born in California and brought up in Mumbai, the 30 year old studied commerce at H. R. College.
When she was a child, product sampling was a breakfast staple, and family discussions revolved around the products that the company was launching.
“I got to spend a lot of time with my Dad who used to involve me a lot in office regularly. I spent all my holidays at the office attending meetings with him, being part of brand launches, and important sales meetings and campaigns. It was unusual for a kid my age, but I absolutely loved it. I believe these experiences have added a lot to make me who I am today. Especially the passion that I have developed for our business, having been a part of it from such an early age, and having the opportunity to have shadowed my father was truly the best business lesson that I could have ever asked for,” Nadia quips.
At at the age of 11 she started her own venture. With ample encouragement from the family she started Just Divine, a baking company. She would bake brownies on order. “Since at that time we didn’t have social media, I used to make sales calls and go door to door selling. It was an amazing experience. Then I ventured into making tie and dye T-shirts that I sold door to door all over our neighbourhood in Vile Parle East. Eventually, I found my place –at Parle Agro,” she says.
In her current role, Nadia is responsible for developing and building Parle Agro. The most exciting aspect of her role she says “is to envision the future, and chart out a road map for the company to achieve the aggressive goals and the large vision we have for ourselves to make Parle Agro the largest F&B company in India.
According to Nadia, the core values of the company and the family have been defined so well that there is no scope for cracks. “When my father inducted me and my sisters into the business, the key thing he did was to define each of our responsibilities based on our passion, skills, strengths and ability to contribute to the business. It made it so easy for us to settle down in our roles.”
With their father clearly laying out the foundation for Nadia and her sisters, the siblings were cognisant of the larger picture. “We clearly understood that if the business was to continue and grow then it would move forward with us as a family and we would have to be able to work towards it,” Nadia explains.
Nadia believes that marketing helps the business develop on a much larger scale. “We want to bring to the market things that the Indian consumer has not experienced earlier. It has to be new and innovative and not be a ‘me too’ product,” she adds.
One of the key drivers other than a disruptive market strategy is innovation. “When we are competing with multinationals with much larger budgets it is important that we stand out. At the same time we take a lot of pride in being an Indian company. So one of our responsibilities is to deliver the best products to Indian consumers,” Nadia says.
Having had a wonderful leader in her father herself, Nadia talks about her own leadership approach: “I believe everyone should have a voice and everyone definitely has a point of view and I feel as a leader it is important to ensure that everyone’s point of view is addressed and heard. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it but its important that the point of view is out there because that leads to healthier decision making and team building. Empowering people and respecting them is very important because everyone has ambitions and passion and it is important to nurture that.”
Man or woman, Nadia insists that everyone needs to have a healthy balance in life. “We work from 8.30 to 5 pm so that we can spend the evenings with family or pursue our hobbies and other activities of interest,” she says.
When asked what works for her, she says, “Everyone works out their own method of achieving their balance, and what works for everyone is different. I honestly feel a lot more need to stay fit to run after my kids. They demand so much physical energy from you.”
Nadia spends a lot of time with her kids over the weekend at her farmhouse. As a child she used to do horse riding for hours, an activity she plans to take up when her kids grow up a bit more and can ride with her too. This summer vacation she and her kids have discovered legos and she is thoroughly enjoying building lego sets. As activity she calls – addictive.
Nadia is where she wanted to be, doing something that she is extremely passionate about. She has found her calling and as advice to others still looking for theirs, she says-
“Whether you are a man or a woman, as long as you have a dream and a vision that you are extremely passionate about, and as long as you are committed to it nothing can hold you back. With conviction you will find the ability to do all that it takes, and do all that you have to.”