KATHMANDU: With a vision to offer quality and affordable spices, S Spices and Food Products (SSFP) began producing ready-to-use spices under the brand name ‘Aangan’ in 2008. The company in Jhapa, which initiated operations with two products — Aangan Meat Masala and Aangan Curry Masala — now has 16 different spices under its portfolio. Their products include spices such as garam, momo, chaat, tea, pepper, chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin seed, cumin powder, coriander powder, et cetera.
On the brand name ‘Aangan’, Subas Khatiwada, owner of SSFP, says, “Aangan means ‘courtyard’ in Nepali, and just the name conjures up a homely feel. This relates to our vision of producing spices that are as aromatic as homemade ones.” Stating that this effort to maintain high standards has made Aangan synonymous with quality and purity, he says, “We import machine-cleaned raw materials and further process them in our factory. In addition, we also instruct staff and visitors to put on masks and remove footwear before entering the factory.” The company has obtained its licence from Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) and the products are regularly lab tested.
Aangan spices are available in 15 gm, 25 gm, 50 gm, and 200 gm packs. The price of the spices starts from Rs 5 and goes up to Rs 110. According to Khatiwada, their targeted customers range from grassroot workers to the elite. “In fact, as we focus on all segments, we also package the spices in small quantities, so that even low-income groups will be able to afford it,” he explains. According to him, their most popular products are the meat masala, curry powder, turmeric powder, chilli powder and special masala. The company claims that its
product range, quality, affordability and special formula of blending spices sets Aangan apart from similar products. SSFP has five distributors in Itahari, Dharan, Biratnagar, Damak and Birtamode and produces 15 to 20 tonnes of products annually.
Reminiscing about the effort they made to establish ‘Aangan’ as a brand, Khatiwada says, “It was difficult for us to obtain market share, as similar products were present as cut-throat competition. However, we made our publicity campaign memorable by designing a mixed marketing strategy. We spread brand awareness through posters, pamphlets, radio jingles and visited indivi-dual shops and dealers to market products. Aangan’s quality and refreshing taste finally managed to convince the customers.”
Stating that their initial effort derived excellent results, he informs, “Our efforts helped us gain the second slot of the spice market in the whole eastern region, and our only competitor now is Century Masala.” According to Khatiwada, to promote its products, Aangan sponsors local cultural and musical programmes, and puts up street stalls besides advertising on hoarding boards and radio.
Khatiwada opines that the busy lifestyle of modern consumers has extended the market scope for spices. He says, “Everyone desires great-tasting dishes without the hassle of grinding and mixing spices, so they seek ready-to-use ones.” Although the scope is high, the business is not without its share of problems. The company faces challenges in the form of load shedding, unstable government, escalating transportation costs and fuel prices, lack of local cultivation of raw materials, fluctuating prices of raw imported spices and unhealthy competition. “As all required raw materials are not available in Nepal, we depend upon China and India for the same. The prices of these materials keep fluctuating, which increases our production costs. But we have pre-determined price rates, due to which we are obliged to sell our products at those fixed prices, sometimes incurring a loss,” Khatiwada explains.
Informing that so-called entrepreneurs are jumping into the spice production business without adequate research and knowledge, he says, “Considering this to be an easy business, many small players start their business without proper knowledge and registration. They produce spices by mixing husk, colours and inedible stuff and sell these at a lower price. This ruins the market.”
However, Khatiwada is optimistic. After gaining appreciation in the eastern region, he plans to disseminate products all over Nepal.