“We have built up our revenue on repeat orders”
Rohit Sareen, Director – Marketing at Sareen Impex Pvt Ltd is carrying on a business legacy of three generations of his family in the food business. Entrusted to start value added healthy food products to the company, he recognised the treasure of 100% natural Himalayan pink salt ranges and started his own brand. which has made him the current highest importer and supplier of premium grade pink Himalayan salt in India and has expanded to export in almost all sides of the globe. His vision is to replace sea salt from every nook and corner of the world and shift people from unhealthy options to healthier life. In his exclusive interaction with TPCI, Rohit takes a walk down the memory lane to chalk out the journey of his entrepreneurial venture in rock salt from its nascent stages to its present form.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of starting a business in this line of Pink Himalayan Salt?
Mr. Rohit Sareen (RS): As we have seen a shift in the spending power of the youth of today, there is much more awareness about the health and well being of people. We are witnessing a generational shift of this century in the current era in which the youth of today which I consider as the age group of 25-40 have taken over the reins and are willing to spend more upon their experiences of life and their well being. Generations of our family have a background in the food industry since 1976, which propelled me towards the health food segment where I discovered that healthy alternatives were being found for almost every item but salt was still a taboo in the health of people and was a main ingredient of almost every food. So I decided to work upon salt. From there, I found about pink Himalayan salt from our Ayurveda literature, which has some distinct mention of this product multiple times.
Q: What were the initial challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?
RS: The first and major challenge in this venture was a proper source of this product. Its mines are naturally present on earth and only available in Pakistan. This is a major bottleneck, and unfortunately the strained relations of our country with Pakistan have always cast a dark shadow on ease of trade between the two nations, which has been a bumpy ride all throughout. The second major roadblock was the major challenge of finding a right person in that country, which has had a negative reputation in the international trade arena. But thanks to some of my friends there, I was very lucky to find the right person who I could trust to work.
The third major challenge was that most of the manufacturers of this product were producing it in a very unhygienic and unhealthy atmosphere, which actually gave the birth to the idea of having our own specific manufacturing plant, which would leverage proper hygienic and healthy production measures laid by myself. So my friend in Pakistan and I set up a new production facility that would be class apart, keeping in view international health and hygiene standards to produce a high quality product, which would solve the mission of spreading the blessings of the Himalayas in the form or pink Himalayan salt in its true and natural form and also setting up a retail packaging unit in Amritsar (India), which is geographically just 180 miles from the actual Khewra Salt Mines. So distance-wise, the Khewra Salt mines in Pakistan are nearer to Amritsar in India than Karachi in Pakistan.
Q: Which markets did you tap for your product and why? What market penetration/promotion strategies did you follow?
RS: Initially, we started with the Indian market, which we thought is a numbers market. So we initially started with supplying of bulk quantities to a number of companies who were into the market of health food. After India, we entered the international market where we now supply to number of countries like Canada, US, South America, Nigeria, Netherlands, Ukraine, Israel, Russia, UAE, Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand. We followed the strategy of pitching it to health food/organic sector distributors and traditional Indian food distributors and met people by travelling across the globe through direct contacts and trade exhibitions.
Q: Who are your key competitor countries, and what unique competitive advantages have helped you establish your business presence?
RS: Our key competitor has only been Pakistan but the major advantage that we have over them is the reliability factor that people entrust upon us for our sheer quality, timely commitments and service. We walk to extra mile to facilitate the customer in all aspects we can and never ever compromise on our quality, which distinguishes us from the manufacturers in Pakistan (a country where people have had very bad experiences in terms of the quality and unethical and unprofessional people in the business). Till date, we boast of having built up our revenues on repeat orders, where a quality conscious customer is always happy with us and never thinks about trying out other suppliers, once he buys from us.
Q: What are the major tariff/non-tariff barriers that you have experienced in the international markets? What should be the roadmap to overcome these challenges?
RS: Salt has always been a product with a special tariff on it across the globe due to it being a main ingredient. If I talk about India, it was the famous Dandi March by Mahatma Gandhi Ji (that enabled this change). This Dandi March helped to remove all taxes on this product since the times of British India and the trend has followed since then in India. Even in international markets, this product has always been under the least category of tariffs due to it being one of the most common and main ingredients of all types of food.
Q: What are the expansion opportunities you envision for yourself in the global market at present? How do you plan to tap them further?
RS: Our current focus has been bulk supplies to some of the prominent companies across the globe and retail packaging for some well known brands. But we see our expansion focus towards packing this for big super chains, hypermarkets and cash & carries of the world. Also, we will be diversifying into organic spices, honey and jaggery in the future.
Q: What is your view on the general competitiveness of Indian exporters in this sector? How can it be further enhanced?
RS: Talking about bulk sack supplies to Indian exporters, we have been supplying to almost all big exporters of India catering to the needs of major salt brands and organic food companies in India. So Indian exporters who export mixed containers of various food items to their customers are happy to add this as their new product, as this is now becoming popular and people across the globe are coming up with a lot of demand for the same. This is the only natural salt available on earth, which contains natural minerals and helps to aid digestion. It is a mild salt which is good to heart. If the government promotes the prescriptions of our AYURVEDA and makes people more aware about its health benefits, then more people will be inclined towards it and we shall be closer towards the blessings of Mother Nature.