April 19, 2024
Business Interviews

Orkla IMEA set for taste of double-digit growth in ME

New entity capitalises on MTR and Eastern brands

Orkla India, which owns the food, spices and curry powder brands MTR and Eastern, has newly launched Orkla IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) as a regional subsidiary based in Dubai to capitalise on a best-selling product range and forge strong partnerships in the region.

Orkla India is a group company of Orkla, a leading Norwegian industrial investment company engaged in brands and consumer-oriented companies. Its investment portfolio comprises 12 companies operating in sectors including paint, food products, ingredients, confectionery and snacks, dietary supplements, cleaning products and personal care.

In an exclusive interview on the sidelines of Gulfood (February 19-23, 2024), held at Dubai World Trade Centre, Ashwin Subramanyam, CEO (of International Business) at Orkla India, spells out the roadmap for the new entity in the Middle East region.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is Orkla IMEA showcasing at Gulfood 2024?

At Gulfood 2024, we are excited to highlight the launch of Orkla IMEA, Orkla India’s wholly-owned subsidiary in the Middle East, and emphasise our commitment to the region’s growth prospects.

The union of two powerhouse heritage brands – MTR and Eastern – under the banner of Orkla India is a significant milestone. We are also showcasing the success of our Arabic range from Eastern, which has tapped into a new consumer base, leading to a remarkable 10x growth in just three years.

Lastly, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of MTR, a historic achievement since the brand’s launch in 1924 in India.

Orkla India/IMEA stand at Gulfood 2024 in Dubai. Image: Arnold PInto

What criteria are needed for your company to succeed in the competitive Middle East food market?

Success in the Middle East food market requires having feet, ears, and eyes on the ground.

Sensitivity to local nuances, shopping behaviours, and preferences is crucial. Unlike a one-size-fits-all approach, understanding the diverse demographics and catering to Indian and Arabic consumers is essential.

Our focus on ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook offerings aligns with changing trends and a growing desire for regional convenience.

MTR is an in-house brand of Orkla India. Image: Arnold Pinto

What are your revenue generation aspirations for the next five years?

Over the last few years, Orkla India has achieved steady double-digit year-on-year growth, with a robust 15% growth last year.

We plan to continue this trajectory, doubling down on regional investments.

We aim to maintain mid-teen growth percentages or higher over the next five years.

The Orkla India sales team met prospective buyers and distributors at Gulfood 2024. Image: Arnold Pinto

What challenges do you typically encounter in the regional market?

Sensitivity to price points, taste preferences, and understanding the varied shopping behaviours of diasporas pose significant challenges.

Adapting to the evolving demographics and addressing the needs of both Indian and Arabic consumers is crucial to success.

How does the Red Sea conflict scenario impact your business?

The Red Sea conflict scenario affects our business, particularly regarding access and timely dispatches. While we hope for a resolution, we are currently facing challenges in the supply chain.

MTR is a 100-year-old brand (1924-2024). Image: Arnold Pinto

Do you plan to establish a food production facility in the Middle East?

While we primarily source products from India, we are open to local sourcing in the UAE and are evaluating future production facility opportunities.

The dynamic nature of the market and its exciting potential may lead us to explore further involvement in production.

Orkla India was a prominent exhibitor at Gulfood 2024 in Dubai. Image: Arnold Pinto

Why operate from the UAE, as opposed to Saudi Arabia?

Our core business is heavily based in the UAE, providing a solid foundation for expansion. The robust logistics and infrastructure in the UAE also make the country an ideal hub for further growth.

Setting up in Dubai aligns with our current objectives as we evaluate options.

How important is it to be at Gulfood every year?

It is critically important for us to be at Gulfood annually. As a premier event for food industry professionals, the event serves as a forum to connect with prospective buyers and distributors, witness industry trends, and explore cutting-edge ideas that can shape the future of our business.

Featured image: Ashwin Subramanyam: MTR is celebrating 100 years in 2024. Image: Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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