e4m ‘Pride of India Brands 2021’ series to tell success stories of top SMBs

On the eve of India’s 73rd Republic Day, we start the series with the inspirational story of Apis India, one of the fastest-growing FMCG companies in the country

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 25, 2022 9:05 AM  | 7 min read
Pride of India

Making approximately 29% of the Indian economy, along with micro-enterprises, the small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India are only second to agriculture when it comes to the strongest contributors to the country’s GDP. The sector is one of the largest avenues for the country’s socio-economic development - not just creating a staggering economic value but also employing 30-40% of the workforce. Moreover, in the past two years, these businesses have also shown great resilience and commitment to success, putting up a brave front against the various hurdles brought in by the pandemic.

To celebrate this spirit and honour the exemplary work of SMBs, exchange4media is bringing to you success stories of some of the inspirational brands from the sector over the next few weeks.

We launch this series ‘Pride of India Brands 2021’ today, on the eve of India’s 73rd Republic Day – an apt time to honour these businesses for their valued contributions to the “Make In India” mission. Ranging from heritage to new-age players across categories, including home furnishing, FMCG, consumer durables, auto and cosmetics, the brands will be talking about their market outlook, competition, innovation, and marketing strategies.

“Pride of India Brands 2021” is an exchange4media Group property that is specifically curated to identify and honour brands that have been a strong pillar of the Indian economy. The series, starting with stories of success, will culminate into an award ceremony that will recognise top 500 SMBs of the country.

Today’s Success Story: Apis India

“When we came to the honey market in 2016, there was one big national player ruling the top position for decades, and a distant second was a young Ayurvedic brand driven by a strong brand face. There was no number three. And we were feeling well prepared, with our extensive experience in the B2B space, to fill that gap,” Apis India Managing Director Amit Anand tells exchange4media proudly as he sits down to share the epic brand journey for the ‘e4m Pride of Bharat’ series.

This unique series of interviews has been curated to celebrate the spirit and metal of the leading SMBs in the country, which are growing rapidly and also contributing immensely to the Indian economy.

Prior to getting into the FMCG space with its consumer-facing range of packaged honey, Apis was in the honey industry for almost a century. It was founded in 1924 as a trading firm for spices and honey. Years later, in 1998, the brand set up its own production unit in Punjab followed by a packaging business in 2002. Apis worked in close association with companies like WIPRO, VLCC, Cash & Carry and Reliance. The third-generation leaders of the company decided to get into the consumer-facing market in 2015-16 and were quickly accepted by the Indian consumers. Today, it is one of the most known honey brands and has also expanded its product ranges to include jams, dates, pickles, and most recently - green tea.

As shared by Anand, the brand was growing almost 100% CAGR pre-Covid and is at 25% CAGR now. It is pertinent to note here that it clocked in Rs 274.53 crore in revenues in FY2021.

Anand attributes this growth of Apis into a leading FMCG player, especially in the honey category, to smart marketing. “I would say we have built the brand Apis India on the back of strong marketing. In fact, I believe only marketing can build a brand up. That’s why we entered the market with big marketing spends and a popular face. We wanted to show that we are in here for the long run and not a brand that will fade sooner than it appeared. We were spending 25% of our overall revenues on marketing back then.”

Apis Honey was launched in the market with a high-decibel campaign featuring Olympian PV Sindhu, with the core proposition of honey being a fitness and immunity booster.

The brand has since then partnered with big properties like the IPL and Bigg Boss. It has created a sound digital presence and is currently preparing for the upcoming election season and has already partnered with Aaj Tak for the same. It has also optimised its marketing spends a lot but are spending approximately the same amount that they were in 2016 to promote its products. “Right now, we have optimised our marketing expenses to 14% of our overall revenue. But we are quite hands-on when it comes to using the right media mix. About 50% of our marketing budget is directed towards digital. We have worked with all big and small influencers to promote our products including the likes of chef Ranveer Brar and comedian Zakir Khan. We are also extensively utilising the power of outdoor and print to create a strong brand salience,” Anand elaborates.

The brand has now signed fitness icon Milind Soman as its face. “Our core brand proposition for our honey products still emphasises on the health, wellness, and fitness aspects. And who better than Milind Soman to portray that! He is a strong fit for our brand.”

Apis India has been working with Sociapa for its creative and strategic marketing requirements. "It has been over 3 years that Sociapa has been an integral part of Apis and have worked right from developing, strategizing, scripting, and the entire planning of every campaign. We strongly believe in them and wish to create more innovative and thought-leading campaigns in the future,” says Anand.

On being asked what was the way ahead for Apis India in this growth journey, Anand shares, “The Covid-19 pandemic has given birth to a number of competitor brands in the honey space. As I said, when we started there were hardly any players in the market but now a number of reputed companies are entering the market. While it is a big challenge, we are excited to compete with them. Our focus will remain on the “Shuddh Aur Saccha Sehat Ke Liye Accha” proposition of our brand, meaning it is the purest and truest honey that is good for your health. We will build on this promise extensively.”

But did that proposition get impacted by last year’s controversy when CSE named several brands including Apis as impure? Anand reverts, “We had challenged that research back then as well. We are quite confident of our products. That research, in fact, did come at a very wrong time when the industry was in a growth phase. And the findings did have an immediate negative impact across the board. But then we decided to support the whole ecosystem with our campaigns saying that honey is a pure product. And I feel we are past the de-growth phase because of that. Since our products are so good, the consumer trust was tested but could not be shaken for a long period of time.”

Now, along with honey, the company is emphasising growing its other products as individual entities. Anand comments, “For other product categories too, we are putting heightened emphasis on establishing each entity as an individual player. For example, for our range of dates, we are creating a brand image based on values of friendship and community. For our cereals, it’s again about health and wellness. So, each product will have its own space and competition.” 

Apis India is now on a mission to become the leading FMCG player in the industry and is betting on its years of B2B experience, smart marketing skills, and a solid team to achieve that.

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