The Perfect Kitchen-mate
There are many things in life that we take for granted and among them are the humble pots and pans, without which our homes wouldn’t feel like homes. Sunil Agarwal the man behind Vinod Cookware, a leading cookware manufacturer, understands this all too well. Capitalising on this mundane but indispensable aspect of everyday existence, the go-getting entrepreneur has raked up a whopping 200 crore turnover in FY 2017-18 and aspires to double the figure in the next fiscal.
Text: Joseph Rozario
As the inheritor of a successful family business, Sunil Agarwal, like most scions of Marwari business houses, feels grateful to his forbears for giving a foundation and shape to it. The forbear, in his case, was none other than his late father Rajeram Agarwal, whom he also thanks for instilling in him the values of hard work, perseverance and dedication.
The germ of the idea of setting up a cookware business was planted in Rajeram Agarwal during his years as an employee of a popular cookware firm, when realisation dawned upon him that a 9 – 5 job was not for him and that like most others of his community, his interests too lay in enterprise. With that, the foundation of his cookware business was laid by way of a small stainless steel utensil manufacturing unit at Bhandup, in Mumbai, in 1962.
Though Rajeram Agarwal’s unit catered to the unorganised sector, it did manage to acquire considerable renown. This had him set his sights on improving quality further and also importing technology—something no one in the Indian market had thought of or attempted before . With his business growing, it should have been easy sailing for him, but the reality was different. Like all other businesses, establishing himself and then going large scale brought its own set of challenges for Rajeram too. “The most important challenge was ‘acceptance’,” says Sunil Agarwal. “As a new player in the unorganised sector, carving a position for himself was the biggest challenge. It was also a very price- sensitive market back then and providing quality ware at affordable prices was the key challenge. The machinery also had to be imported and that added to costs and narrowed down the profit margin.”
But determined that he was to win, Agarwal worked hard to first and foremost build a dedicated and productive team and simultaneously also started adopting appropriate marketing strategies which helped him gain a foothold in the market. Thereafter, with steadfast focus on superior technology and innovative products, the brand was able to carve a niche for itself.
Fulfilling unrealised dreams
As for Sunil Agarwal, though he had been working off and on with his father, his full-time entry into the business happened with his father’s demise in 2010. He has been working at full tilt since then to take his legacy forward and fulfil his unrealised dream which was to create a brand that would modernise the Indian cookware market. Thanks to his efforts and the head start provided by his father, today Vinod Cookware boasts over 400 products across seven categories which include state-of-the-art cooking technologies such as non-stick cookware, hard anodised cookware and more. The brand was the first to introduce the ‘sandwich bottom’ concept in pressure cookers. Backed by research and crafted with quality raw materials and a thorough understanding of the Indian kitchen, Vinod’s products instantly connect with home-makers. Very recently the brand has introduced ‘Ultimate Cookware’ that uses cold forged technology for warp resistance and lasting durability and ‘Platinum Cookware’ which come with a three-layer construction and which have been designed keeping both domestic and industrial chefs in mind.
Building a brand
“Vinod Cookware is synonymous with innovation and our offerings have been our strength,” says Sunil Agarwal, reflecting on the brand’s successes. “Our products have been able to stand the test of time and our substantial research has enabled us to understand the market and the consumers well and to bridge the gaps. Also, evolving and changing with the times has helped us remain relevant in spite of new competitors entering the market every day.”
That apart, special focus on after-sales-service and offering quality products at best prices have also helped the brand consolidate its position in the market which now includes both metros as well as tier I cities. Of late, the brand has also started making inroads into tier II and tier III cities and consolidating themselves in these markets features prominently on Sunil Agarwal’s to-do list of things.
So how big is Vinod Cookware really today? “Starting out from a small factory in Bhandup, Mumbai, today we have a world-class manufacturing unit in Palghar, which is India’s largest stainless steel utensils facility. It’s spread across 1,10,000 square feet and produces 8,000 pots every day! We are setting up a base in Gujarat as well,” says Agarwal.
In terms of brand building too Vinod has come a long way since its Bhandup days and today enjoys excellent brand recall. The Agarwals’ unwavering focus on advanced technology, innovation, uncompromising product quality and competitive pricing have undoubtedly paid off, which shows in its impressive rankings as one of the top five cookware brands in India. Further, the brand enjoys No 2 position in non-stick kitchenware and ranks No 3 in the pressure cooker segment. But far from being content with having achieved these distinctions, Sunil Agarwal aspires to scale still greater heights.
A man of the industry
Family business apart, Sunil Agarwal has had the overall welfare of the industry next to his heart and this shows in his being recently appointed the president of Metals & Stainless Steel Merchants Association (MASSMA), the apex body that represents the stainless steel industry and works towards its development in Mumbai. As its president, Agarwal looks forward to be able to ensure that its members’ voices are heard and that they are involved in shaping the future of the stainless steel industry. Earlier, his father has served the organisation as its president as well.
Away from the world of business, Sunil Agarwal loves travelling and exploring new places. The constant quest for upgrading his cookware apparently also has triggered a passion for food in him, for he loves to collect new recipes and keep abreast of the latest happenings in the hospitality industry. As regards the future, he is all geared to keep up the good work and take his brand to the No 1 position someday soon.