As little children, not many of us had definitive answers to the oft-asked, “What do you want to become when you grow up?” And today as grown individuals, we cannot help but feel envious of those who did in fact grow up to become what they always thought they would. Akshali Shah, 26, grew up watching her father build Parag Milk Foods, now one of India's most elite private sector dairy companies and was determined to join him someday. She stayed aligned to her dream all through, and went on to study MBA in Family Business Management at S.P Jain University after graduation. She joined Parag Milk Foods as a management trainee in the year 2010 and is now the VP, Sales and Marketing. We caught up with Akshali to talk about her journey so far and how daughters joining their fathers’ businesses is the new normal!
Making a mark
Since I have grown with Parag Milk Foods, the bigger challenge for me was to adjust within the system where we had people working for 10–12 years.
Although Akshali had joined the family business, she knew from the start that the road was not going to be easy. Apart from living up to her father’s expectations, she had to prove her mettle to the management that had seen her ever since she was a little girl. Ably guided by her father, she took on every challenge with great zeal to earn the position that she holds today.
She solely headed Pride of Cows, a premium brand of milk, humanly untouched from milking to packaging.
The whole idea was to provide premium quality, fresh milk to consumers directly from farm to home.
The brand was started in 2011 with 175 customers and no fixed marketing structure. Akshali took the lead and designed the ‘Only the Best’ campaign for Pride of Cows on digital mediums which went live for a month. This campaign boosted brand awareness and the company started receiving a lot of inquiries. The campaign was also extensively promoted through Facebook posts and influencer activities. Another major initiative which Akshali undertook for Pride of Cows was the summer intern programme where the company hired over 100 B-school interns every year who were deployed on field to create awareness for Pride of Cows. This project was aimed at generating a sustainable and profitable business model for the brand amongst customers.
A backend software was designed for order rescheduling, cancellations, and payments. Along with extensive use of social media, the company also launched a mobile app for hassle-free operations. The brand is currently being serviced in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pimpri-Chinchwad, and Pune, with a customer base of over 25,000.
As social media started gaining pace, Akshali took charge of making the presence of Parag’s brands felt across all digital platforms. She was also responsible for re-inventing the brand and its logo in tune with the taste of modern consumers across the globe.
We are currently working on the mix of traditional as well as modern technologies to chalk down the newer strategies for all our upcoming products. Digital is going to be a major focus across all brands. It will help us create differentiation.
In a space rife with fierce competition, Akshali feels that it is Parag’s focus on value-added products and innovation which sets them apart from the others.
We don’t just focus on taste but also give huge importance to packaging. Our branding initiatives have given us the premium positioning in the market.
Parag Milk Foods Pvt. Ltd. was founded in 1992, a time which saw a lot of milk holidays. As a result, the farmers were forced to throw away all their milk as co-operatives didn’t take milk from them on holidays.
It was then that Devendra Shah, Akshali’s father, tapped the opportunity and started processing milk collected from farmers during holidays. What started as a milk collection and processing operation has now grown into the one of the largest private dairy players in India. In 2008, the company established one of India’s largest cheese plants and started manufacturing value-added milk products. Parag also owns one of the largest modern dairy farms in India with a rotary milk parlour.
And as the company explores newer shores for expanding business operations, Akshali is at the helm of most things and is making sure she carries forward her father’s legacy with élan.
We take a 360-degree holistic approach to promote our products. We are always on par and even ahead when it comes to market trends and consumer preferences.
Akshali feels that the next phase of growth for the company will come through innovation. She is now working on a mix of traditional as well as modern strategy implementation, rethinking the consumer portfolio in the context of young consumers, and leveraging the group's strengths.
First a businesswoman, then a daughter
Along with being a successful businesswoman who is expanding a business empire, Akshali also belongs to the new wave of dynamic young daughters who are joining their fathers’ businesses. From the time she announced her decision of joining her father’s business, her family and friends have rallied in support for her and she owes a large portion of her success to them.
It's not true that women did not have capabilities earlier; rather this is just about more acceptances and of a little more boldness.
As responsibilities grow bigger and expectations get higher, Akshali also makes sure she indulges in some much needed ‘me time’ once in a while. These short breaks work wonders and help her in bringing her A game to work every day.
From the moment I get up, I am checking emails and am looped in until midnight. To get away from all the stress, I make it a point to walk four days a week; it is my go-to fitness activity. Travelling is what I enjoy the most as it exposes me to different cultures, food habits, and people’s perspectives, which I can draw inspiration from, even at work.