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Wai Wai? It's Nepalese noodles

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November 05, 2005 14:54 IST
Corporates of Nepal are no longer remaining ensconced in the frozen environs of the Himalayas.

They are spreading their wings to neighbouring countries - and India seems to be the preferred destination.

That's at least true for one of the biggest conglomerates of Nepal, the $250 million Chaudhary Group, which, apart from being present in several activities - in automobiles, consumer goods and hospitality - also makes the tangy and crisp Wai Wai noodles.

The company is setting up two manufacturing units in India with a total production capacity to produce 20,000 metric tonnes (mt) of noodles per annum.

For those who have not tasted Wai Wai, which has so far come to India through exports, its brown variants are available in three different ways - straight out of the pack, cooked, or as a soup.

With an investment of Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) for the two units - one in Sikkim and the other in Uttaranchal -  Wai Wai is being launched in India by CG Foods India, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Cinnovation group, which has a technical collaboration with the Chaudhary group.

According to Binod K Chaudhary, president and managing director, Chaudhary Group, the instant noodle market in India is around 40,000 tonnes and valued at Rs 400 crore (Rs 4 billion).

"Wai Wai is extremely popular in the North East where we have been present for the last 18 years, and we are now looking at an all-India presence. That's why we decided to produce Wai Wai in India rather then import it from Nepal," says Chaudhary.

He also feels that, with just a couple of brands existing in India, the noodle eating habit has not yet developed fully here. So far in the two-minute noodle segment there is only Maggi, which has a dominant share, followed by Top Ramen. 

He claims Wai Wai will become hugely popular also because it is a value-added noodle and will be available in brown and white variants. "We aim to reach Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) in three years, being the second biggest noodle maker.

With processed food accounting for over 50 per cent of total food consumption, we see noodles comprising a major chunk of processed food," says Chaudhary.

Both its plants will have a capacity to produce 10,000 mt of noodles. The Sikkim plant will start production early next year.

But why has Wai Wai not become popular yet? After all, it's been in India for quite some time. According to Chaudhary, there was no clearcut strategy that the company had until now, no proper distribution network and focussed ad campaign.

"With plants in Rudrapur in Uttaranchal, we will be able to service northern and western markets much better, even while the south may take some time to catch on because of widely different eating habits," he says.

The company is addressing kids through an aggressive ad campaign on channels like Cartoon Network and Pogo. After establishing itself in noodles, CG Foods plans to get into other snacks like potato chips and cheese balls.

In Nepal, the company's food business, which accounts for 20 per cent of total business, includes fruit juices under the brand name Rio, biscuits and other products.

Besides the noodles venture, the company also wants to grow in India in areas of adventure tourism and hospitality businesses through its tie-up with Cinnovation.

"As a big group in Nepal, we also aspire to be a multinational company and India is perhaps the best country to grow with," says Chaudhary.

With a distributorship of LG, Maruti, Escorts tractors, tie-ups with the Taj group of hotels and interests in infrastructure, real estate, consumer products, the food & beverage industry, financial services in Nepal and a business expanding over 67 years, it is natural for the Chaudhary group to spread its wings in neighbouring countries.

And if Dabur can make its 'Real' juices in Nepal, there's no reason the Chaudhary Group shouldn't make its noodles in India.

Sangeeta Singh in New Delhi