India's Beta Group to set up Dh128m food plant in Jafz

DUBAI - Beta Industries Ltd, one of the largest food processing companies in Asia, plans to set up a Dh128 million joint venture manufacturing unit in Jebel Ali Free Zone in a move to regain its position in dried fruits, nuts and potato chips segment.

By Isaac John

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Published: Thu 22 May 2003, 12:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Nov 2023, 12:15 PM

Rajmohan Pillai, chairman of the $400 million Beta Group, and brother of "Biscuit King" Rajan Pillai (whose death in 1995 under tragic circumstances in a New Delhi prison rocked India's corporate world), said the state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, which can process some 120 tonnes per day at full capacity, would go on stream in 12 months. It will be one of the largest Indian-owned food processing units in Jafz, he pointed out.

The food processing plant, to operate at 60 per cent capacity initially, will see the re-entry of Beta's once popular brand Ole and Nut King after a gap of eight years from the Middle East market.

Rajmohan, who was instrumental in revitalising the family business from near-collapse, following Rajan Pillai's death and the exit of his father from active business, said the relaunch of Ole, a brand nurtured by Rajan Pillai, marks the first major expansion undertaken by the group since 1995.

Ole was a brand leader in the Middle East market till the company that produced it got embroiled in a slew of cases in Singapore in 1994. The KJP Group, founded by Rajmohan's father Janardhanan Pillai, a leading cashew exporter in Kerala, sold off the Singapore unit as part of the efforts to wriggle out of the cases, but kept the brand intact. The KJP Group is now a part of the Beta Empire employing some 18,000 workers with operations in six countries, including Holland, USA, Thailand and Sri Lanka. "Our goal is to regain the leadership position we enjoyed in the Middle East market. We will reassemble the men who made Ole a big success there. We already have our distribution network in the Middle East, but we will bring back some of the former major Ole distributors to ensure a smooth sale to the products," Rajmohan said.

Speaking to this paper during a brief visit to Dubai to meet prospective joint venture partners, Rajmohan said he did not anticipate much problems in recapturing the regional market. "Barring one brand, which dominates the market for nuts, there is not much competition here now. We are expecting a smooth sail for the dried fruits and potato chips. One of the new brands to be launched is Dates King. As a leading food processing company in South East Asia with a 70-year tradition in food processing business, we are confident of an easy market penetration," said Rajmohan, who oversees his group's operations from Trivandrum.

He said the fast growing economy of the Middle East is a key factor that encouraged the Beta Empire to re-launch the brand in the region. "The markets in US and Europe have saturated. Our future focus will be South East Asia and the Middle East. We will be tapping the growing market for ethnic products here."

Beta's subsidiary Thai Agrifoods, the largest food processing company in South East Asia, is already a leader in Chinese ethnic products, he added. "With these new market forays and manufacturing operations in the Middle East, we hope to sustain the growth, which last year was some 12 per cent to post a turnover of around Rs20 billion," Rajmohan said.

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