Friday, November 7, 2008

Brand India : Lijjat Papad

Brand India #2 : The story of Lijjat

In the previous post of Brand India (Brand India : Introduction), I introduced the concept of the term, its origin and significance. Although Brand India is a relatively urban term, in this post, I'd like to share with you a very popular story of women empowerment, wisdom and the creation of a brand called "Lijjat". It is a very awe inspiring story of the success of the Indian woman and true representation of Brand India, more than just IT. You all might once have had the tasty lijjat papad with your meal. The story behind it is even more relishing.

Lijjat was the brain child of seven semi-literate Gujarati housewives from Bombay. They wanted to start a venture to create a sustainable livelihood using the only skill they had i.e. cooking.The women borrowed Rs 80 from Chaganlal Karamsi Parekh, a member of the Servants of India Society and a social worker.They took over a loss-making papad making venture by one Laxmidasbhai and bought the necessary ingredients and the basic infrastructure required to manufacture papads. On March 15, 1959, they gathered on the terrace of their building and started with the production of 4 packets of Papads. They started selling the papads to a known merchant in Bhuleshwar. From the beginning, the women had decided that they would not approach anyone for donations or help, even if the organization incurred losses.

During the first year, the women had to stop production for four months during the rainy season as the rains would prevent the drying of the papads. The next year, they solved the problem by buying a cot and a stove. The papads were kept on the cot and the stove below the cot so that the process of drying could take place in spite of the rains.

Initially, the women were making two different qualities of papads, in order to sell the inferior one at a cheaper rate.Chaganlal Karamsi Parekh, popularly known as Chaganbapa, became their guide and advised them to make a standard papad and asked them never to compromise on quality. He emphasized to them the importance of running it as a business enterprise and maintaining proper accounts.

The group got considerable publicity through word of mouth and articles in vernacular newspapers. This publicity helped it increase its membership. By the second year of its formation, 100 to 150 women had joined the group, and by the end of the third year it had more than 300 members. By this time, the terrace of seven founders could no longer accommodate the members and the ingredients, so the kneaded flour was distributed among the members who would take it to their homes and make papads. The papads were brought back for weighing and packaging.

In 1962, the name Lijjat was chosen by the group for its products. The name was suggested by Dhirajben Ruparel, was chosen in a contest held for the purpose, with prize money of Rs. 5. The organization was named Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad.

After tasting tremendous success with their papads, Lijjat began producing other products like khakhra (1974), masala (1976), vadi, wheat atta, and bakery products (1979). In 1970s, Lijjat set up flour mills(1975), printing division (1977) and polypropylene packing division (1978). The group also initiated some unsuccessful ventures such as cottage leather (1979), matches (1979), and agarbattis (incense sticks).

In 1980s, Lijjat also started taking part in several trade fairs and exhibitions, which improve its sales and made the brand name "Lijjat" well-known among the people. The advertising was undertaken through the vernacular newspapers, television and radio. The institution sponsored programs and gave away gifts for the winners of specific shows in the television. The money for advertisements was spent by the Polypropylene Division, which recovered the same by adding it to the price of the bags that it supplied to all the branches and divisions throughout India.

In 1988, Lijjat entered the soap market with Sasa detergent and soap (Sasa had annual sales of Rs 500 million, accounting for 17 percent of Lijjat's total turnover in 1998).
During the same time, Lijjat started attracted attention of foreign visitors and officials. The Vice-President of Uganda, Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kasibwe, visited Lijjat's central office in January 1996, since she wanted to start a similar institution in Uganda. Lijjat started exporting its products with the help of merchant importers in the United Kingdom, the United States, the Middle East, Singapore, the Netherlands Thailand, and other countries. Its annual exports accounted for more than US$2.4 million in 2001.

In 2002, Lijjat had a turnover of Rs 3 billion and exports worth Rs.100 million. It employed 42,000 people in 62 divisions all over the country. The 62nd branch became operational at Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, enrolling over 150 members.

In 2003, Lijjat received the "Best Village Industry Institution". It also received the PHDCCI Brand Equity Award 2005.

Refernces :

Wikipedia (
Lijjat website (