Coffee with the CEO – In conversation with Jayant Kapre, President (Country Head) at United Biscuits India
Biscuits are a tough space to be in. We have however, identified some clear spaces, and are making strong forays in them. These include various opportunities in the health and wellness space, as well as offering consumers better products in even well-established large sub-categories
How big is the McVitie’s brand in India and how much slice of the market has it captured already?
We crossed 120 crores in sales last year, which is good going for a 4 year old business in this space. More importantly, we have a strong presence where we are present, and this tells us that we have the opportunity to grow a great deal in the coming years.
Where do you wish to take United Biscuits in the next five years? What is your vision for the company?
Like all companies in India, we have ambitious number targets, but rather than talk about those, I would like to say that our intent is to build a presence that allows us to be a formidable player for a very long time.
What is the best marketing move that you’ve initiated which sets you apart from your competitors?
We have made some good moves in the last four years, and are satisfied with how we have executed our strategy in terms of everyday tactics. We aim to be focused and try to conquer specific tasks that we set out to win in. Sometimes it needs a really good marketing move, and sometimes just common sense.
Starting a business in the biscuit space is a huge challenge, but one that we have enjoyed overcoming. The biggest challenge is of course consumer loyalty, which takes on the one hand patience to win, but equally for the business and the brand to be on its best game almost all the time. Personally, it has been demanding in terms of time, and also for all us as a team in terms of resolving the many issues that a start-up business must navigate through.
What has been your single biggest challenge in sourcing and retaining talent?
The main challenge is that most people are risk averse, and avoid joining start-ups. The second is that people often misread their own appetite for a startup business, and sometimes want to join without being mentally prepared for what it really entails. We have been fortunate to find some outstanding people, who have then stayed the course with us through the initial periods, and are now seeing the fruits of their hard work.
Do you think an MBA is mandatory to do well as a senior Business Leader? How has your education at IIM helped you so far?
Many of the biggest businesses in the world were created by non-MBA’s. What is important however, is to develop and retain a mindset towards asking the right questions, and then being superb at execution. Those can do both well are usually unstoppable. My MBA helped me greatly in trying to do the former.
How had your life been prior to the stint with United Biscuits?
I have enjoyed most of the roles that I have done, but none can match this one in terms of a sense of fulfillment, as also a sense of ownership.
Jayant Kapre is the President and Country Head at United Biscuits India which owns the popular McVitie’s brand. As the first employee of the India operations of British multinational United Biscuits (UB), Jayant has been instrumental in building the business from the ground up in just five years.
An MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, Jayant has a wealth of experience having worked with organizations like Unilever, Wrigley and PepsiCo.