The outperformers 2020

Tata Consumer Products is not letting the slowdown slow it down

Under new CEO Sunil D’Souza, the FMCG major is adding distribution muscle to crank up its brand engine 

For Tata Consumer Products (TCPL), it has been a busy year. After the salt business was added to its portfolio from group company, Tata Chemicals, it got a new CEO in Sunil D’Souza. With a varied set of brands and businesses – tea, coffee, salt, water and a joint venture with Starbucks – it has consumers across social strata. Tata Salt already has strong distribution and Abhijeet Kundu, analyst at Antique Stock Broking, says it will work in Tata Consumer’s favour. “It is the second-largest player in tea (after HUL) and the largest in salt. They could easily use it to grow the rest of the business especially tea,” he says. 

According to analysts, the pandemic and the lockdown may have worked in the company’s favour. With the first causing people to gravitate to branded foods, therefore Tata Sampann with its dals and spices, and the second forcing more people to eat at home. “The company is tapping the ‘in-the-kitchen’ segment, which is expected to see double-digit growth due to rising in-house consumption,” says Kaustubh Pawaskar, AVP-fundamental research, Sharekhan.

Pawaskar expects the company’s revenue and net profit to grow at a CAGR of 11% and 23%, respectively over FY20-23, on the back of the merger of Tata Chemicals’ consumer business and the strength of the existing portfolio. D’Souza, who took over the reins of the company this April, throws more light on what is in the works.

What is your strategy to build Tata Consumer into a full-scale consumer company?

With a name as trusted as Tata, it made sense to bring together two successful businesses – beverages and foods – to pursue our FMCG aspiration. Right on top is building on our core strength, which is primarily tea and salt today, though I would also count the fledgling brands of pulses, spices, and coffee. There is a huge runway to grow our core business through the shift to branded products. Yes, we are a little behind on distribution compared to competition, though that is being worked on. Our target is to double our direct reach of 500,000 outlets, over the next 12 months. That refers to the number of stores my distributor salesman knocks on. Then, there is the wholesale multiplier which over the next 36 months, will increase our total reach again by 2x from the current 2.5 million outlets. 

Apart from this, we are working on becoming digitally enabled end-to-end. That means, my salesman will be linked to the distributors and from there to the central system. It allows me to capture data in real time and take relevant decisions. Just as with distribution, in innovation, too, there is some distance to travel. We are increasing our focus on innovation structurally, with the target being to double the percentage of revenue from new products in the next 12 months. On synergies, we intend to be at 2-3% cost savings at the topline level. On people management, we now have a new structure, which is category focused. Hence, sales and R&D will report directly to me. The idea is to create a broader FMCG company, where we can look at a category with both common front-end and back-end resources. With this kind of synergy, the salesman can now sell 12 products instead of 10 and the truck driver from five products delivers seven. It allows us to enter new categories.