Tata group moves into packaged dal
Seen as expanding its presence in the food sector
BY David Shaftel
Following its successful entry into packaged salt, Tata Chemicals Ltd has decided to branch out further into the food sector and has launched its i-Shakti brand of pulses, or dal. The venture, the company hopes, will encourage local farmers to grow more pulses -- the edible seeds of legumes, such as lentils and dals, which are the mainstay of most meals.
I-Shakti is a joint venture between Tata Chemicals and Rallis India Ltd, a subsidiary of the Tata group that specialises in agri-business, pesticides and fertilisers. It is also the result of a public-private partnership between the two Tata subsidiaries and local governments, with an eye towards increasing the production of pulses in the face of rising prices.
According to company officials, the country's pulse requirement will touch 35 million tonnes by 2030, against 14 million tonnes at present.
“Currently, some 14 million tonnes of dal are produced in India each year. But we are still importing 3 million tonnes per year, and prices have shot up over the last year,” said R Gopalakrishnan, chairman, Rallis India. The answer, he said, is to encourage farmers to grow more dal.
At the invitation of the Tamil Nadu government, the Tata group decided to work with around 4,000 to 5,000 farmers in the state to cultivate 5,000 and 7,000 acres of urad dal, said V Shankar, managing director, Rallis India. The farmers are grouped in “commodity groups” of around 20 people who receive funding from the company via a local bank. Similar plans are in the works in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Tata Chemicals entered the food sector in 1984 with Tata Salt, which now has a presence in 60 million households, said Ashvini Hiran, chief operating officer, consumer products division, Tata Chemicals. Those are the households that the company is targeting with its i-Shakti dals, he said.
The pre-packaged dal will be sold at, among other places, Tata Kisan Sansar stores and distributed via the company’s existing salt distribution channels. The Tata dal will come in four varieties — moong, urad, toor and chana — and will retail between Rs 95 and Rs 100 per kg, Hiran said.
He added that the retail price would be slightly more than generic dals because of the packaging costs and higher quality of the dal, which doesn’t need to be cleaned and picked over.
Prior to the arrival of i-Shakti, Hiran said, branded dals only comprised between 4 and 5 per cent of the dal market.