R S Agarwal - Founder Emami Group, A Successful CA

Once a CA left his job, sold his products on hand-pulled rickshaw and is now among the 100 richest Indians!

Although it seems to be a script of Bollywood movie, but this is the real life story of Mr.Radhe Shyam Agarwal. He is a Chartered Accountant, Company Secretary, LLB and a Master Degree holder in Commerce. From a very humble beginning and with very limited resources, Agarwal has driven the Emami with exceptional and extra ordinary skills to make the company reach its present stage. Considered as a present day Management Guru who is innovative, an administrator par excellence and possessor of great consumer insight and far sight.

In 1970, he joined the renowned Aditya Birla Group as Vice President being a Chartered Accountant. But within four years, he left his cushy job and decided to follow the torturous trail of entrepreneurship. The inception of Emami Group took place in West Bengal, when two childhood friends, Mr. R.S. Agarwal and Mr. R.S. Goenka left their high profile jobs to set up Kemco Chemicals, an Ayurvedic medicine and cosmetic manufacturing unit in Kolkata, in 1974.

It was an extremely bold step in the early seventies when the Indian FMCG market was still dominated by multinationals. Several such companies headquartered in Kolkata were considering shifting out of West Bengal due to labor unrest and political problems. But against all odds with a vision of combining the age old wisdom of Ayurveda with modern manufacturing techniques for creating winning brands the company started with a merger amount of Rs. 20,000. A dream of reaching out to the Indian middle class; a target audience whom they thought will have increasing potential for consumption, the company started manufacturing cosmetic products as well as Ayurvedic medicines under the brand name of Emami from a small office (still retained) in Kolkata’s business district of Bada Bazar. Their consumer insight is reflected today in the mission statement of Emami Limited: "Making people healthy and beautiful naturally".
This is what set the ball rolling when the partners launched Emami Talcum, Emami Vanishing Cream and Emami Cold Cream and glycerine soap, which were great favourite brands with the quality conscious consumers in the mid-seventies. The company soon became adept in selling beautiful dreams to Indian women interested in finding their own identity. The signature tune of Emami played over radio and TV became a household favourite.

In the early days the two friends used to go around places and sell their cosmetics from shop to shop. They piled their goods on hand pulled rickshaws and went on distribution drives making their brand extremely popular, available and acceptable among consumers.
The first-rate quality of the products soon created a consumer pull and gradually some people were hired to work for them. A chain of distributors was established and the sale of Emami products spread from West Bengal to rest of Eastern India and gradually to other states.

The intial days were tougher then they appeared. The capital base of Emami was small, angle investing was a non existing concept, and the entire cosmetic market was dominated by multinationals.The financial astuteness came handy in 1978, Himani Ltd (incorporated as a Private Limited Company in 1949) had become sick unit and was up for sale. Himani, almost a 100 year old company with good brand equity in Eastern India and a well laid out factory in Kolkata, was producing a number of cosmetics. Mr. Agarwal and Mr Goenka realized the opportunity and acquired Himani though for their young organization it was a tough task to mobilize resources for buying a sick unit and even tougher to turn it around to a profitable venture. The degree of financial risk involved was enormous considering the small capital base of the company in those days. However they decided to go ahead with the deal which later on proved to be the turning point for the organization.

Himani was restored to profit and the debt taken for the deal was paid off within two years. Production of various health care items and toiletries based on Ayurvedic preparation had begun in the Himani factory. Ten years after commencement of the company, it launched their first flagship brand Boroplus Antiseptic Cream under the Himani umbrella in 1984. Many additional brands followed Boroplus including Boroplus Prickly Heat Powder which came as a brand extension of the mother brand. Emami brands started selling in all states of North, East and West India. Today Boroplus is not only the largest selling Antiseptic Cream in India but also in Russia, Ukraine, and Nepal.

Nineties was very eventful for Emami. The next flagship brand of the company Navratna Cool Oil came in the nineties under the Himani Umbrella and the second factory was opened at Pondicherry to expand production. Navratna over the years has become market leader in the cool oil category.
The introduction of new brands continued and the distribution network of the company was extended to South India with Navratna spear heading the process.

 Early day picture of Mr R S Agarwal and Mr R S Goenka in office

In 1995, Kemco Chemicals, the partnership firm was converted into a Public Limited Company under the name and style of Emami Ltd. In 1998, Emami Ltd was merged with Himani Ltd and its name was changed to Emami Ltd as per fresh certificate of incorporation dated September1, 1998.
In 2000, with a view to concentrate on its core FMCG business, Emami's investment undertaking was demerged and Pan Emami Cosme Ltd. issued its fully paid up shares to shareholders of Emami in the ratio of 1:1. In 2003 a new factory unit was set up at Amingaon, Guwahati.

A Public Issue of 50 lacs Equity Shares of Rs2/- each at a price of Rs. 70 followed in 2005. The issue was oversubscribed within few seconds of its opening with an overall over subscription of 36 times of the issue size. The share price sold at Rs. 70 today is quoted in the stock market as over Rs.1250.considering all the aspects.
Global footprint

Taking one step at a time Emami went overseas and international business contributes around 12% of the total revenue, growing at a CAGR of 19% over last five years.

Emami has five international subsidiaries and its global reach extends to more than 63 countries including India, SAARC,GCC, UK, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, African and the CIS countries.
Beauty secrets and amazing array of ambassadors

In 2002 Emami roped in film actor Madhuri Dixit as brand endorser of a full range of its cosmetics including hair oil, sunscreen lotion, shampoo, fairness cream and talcum powder. The products were formulated after intensive research and inputs from both Madhuri Dixit. The actor had been collecting beauty secrets from across the globe, and the company decided to brand the cosmetics the ‘Beauty secrets by Madhuri’ range. While it is yet another first in Emami’s ‘first’ list it is also the first time in brand history that an endorser co-owns a brand.

Emami has successfully established its brands through strong celebrity endorsements. In a market where competition is intensifying, product lifecycle is shrinking and strategic management of a company is gaining pivotal position Emami’s inclusion of celebrities as brand ambassadors established that it strictly relies on its own unique method of retailing.

Mr R S Agarwal is also known as marketing grow. It is the only brand in the country to have both
Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan as endorsers for the same brand, Navratna. The concept of brand endorsement by celebrities was successfully experimented in case of most of the brand launches. To name a few celebrated and acclaimed entertainment and sports personalities who have endorsed Emami products over the years-

Entertainment industry - Amitabh Bacchan, Rakhi Juhi Chawla, Dharmendra, Divya Bharati, Kareena Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Malaika Arora Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Bipasha Basu, Suriya, Mahesh Babu, Govinda, Chiranjeevi, Surya and Upendra among others.

Sports fraternity - Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Amit Mishra, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Milkha Singh, Vijendra Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan among others.

In 2005 Emami created a marketing history in India by launching Fair and Handsome, the first fairness cream for men. In a tropically harsh country like India, a fairness cream for men represented an unexplored opportunity. Emami created a completely new market segment by introducing India’s first fairness cream customised for men.
Traveling the region and by interacting with a host of retailers and intermediaries Emami discovered that 30 to 35 per cent of users of fairness creams are men, with a growing interest in personal grooming. The sales of Fair and Handsome in its first year had touched around Rs 50 crore. Another feather on the cap was when Emami roped in Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to endorse the brand, targeting the male fairness cream market in India which immediately made the brand even more popular and trusted by the consumers.

In 2006 the company decided to introduce a Health Care Division and a number of new brands of Ayurvedic OTC medicines. The company has taken up the challenge of growing this new division with a dedicated and enthusiastic team working on this project.
Emami Limited with an investment of Rs 730 crore acquired Zandu Pharmaceuticals Works Ltd on the basis of huge business synergy between Zandu and Emami. Post the acquisition of Zandu Pharmaceuticals, a century old household name in India, some of its prominent brands like Zandu Balm, Zandu Chyawanprash, Zandu Kesri Jeevan, Zandu Pancharishta, Sudarshan and Nityam Churna came under Emami’s basket of brands.

In 2006, J B Marketing & Finance Ltd., the erstwhile marketing company of the Emami Group merged with Emami Ltd. and the total turnover of Emami including sales in domestic and export market stood at Rs 518 crores at the end of the fiscal year 2006-07.

Within four decades, the company Emami Ltd has a turnover of Rs. 1821, the flagship company of the Rs.8000 crore Emami Group.

R S Agarwal and R S Goenka

Today, Emami Limited is led by Mr. R S Agarwal and Mr. R S Goenka with the help of the second generation Promoter Directors from the two families. Emami Limited has a team of over 4500 people running one of the leading and fastest growing personal and healthcare businesses in India. Emami is a Group of Indian multinational companies, dealing in real estate, paper, edible oils, cement etc, and is widely known for the FMCG range. The founders has unanimously decided that the group will not enter the tobacco, liquor, hotels or film businesses.

Recently Emami has moved to next level with the acquisition of She Comfort, Rasoi (Vanaspati Brand) and the latest Kesh King at a whooping 1650 cr (as per media reports) but as R S Agarwal decision was challenged while they acquired Zandu and he proved his critics wrong, these acquisition in last two years would also write new history in itself.

In 2015, the net worth of Mr. Agarwal was assessed as $1.43 billion and ranked in top 100 along with R S Goenka who has equal contribution in building Emami.

R S Agarwal is an author to several books, a prolific speaker and has received several awards for his contribution to CA fraternity, truly a man of substance.

A true leader