A few weeks ago, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, we spotted an image uploaded to a social media platform by a user named Namanbir Singh. It was a picture of a milk pouch. Nothing out of the ordinary, except on the back of his Country Delight milk packet were some details about the company that left him puzzled. "Founded by IIM alumni" the highlighted text read. He questioned, what's the point of printing the founder's alma mater on the packet?
Then the Internet did its thing. The image spread like wildfire across platforms and sparked a series of threads, discussions, jokes and memes about Indian Institutes of Management, the ‘IIM’ brand and their crème de la crème alumni.
"The IIM stands for "Indian Institute of Milking my IIM degree till the day I die," tweeted comedian Aditi Mittal.
Income tax officer Vikas Prakash Singh said, "The problem lies more with the people who value such tags so much, thereby creating a need for founders to advertise it. It even impacts startup fundings, let alone purchase decision for a milk packet."
Of course, Country Delight was in the thick of it all.
Country Delight is in the D2C dairy and daily essentials delivery space. It was founded in 2011 by Chakradhar Gade and Nitin Kaushal, both studied at IIMs. They left their corporate jobs to solve a basic and widespread problem - artificial and adulterated milk. The company is expanding its products portfolio with the aim to change the lifestyles of urban Indian consumers. It’s also investing heavily in a content-first and testimonial-based marketing approach.The company is present in 13 cities across 11 states and does more than 6.5 million deliveries a month. After a recent fund raise Country Delight was valued at Rs4410 crore or $580 million as per a report on Entrackr.
In an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, Gade talks about the new product lineup, the recent social media blow up and the company’s marketing playbook.
Walk us through Country Delight’s brand journey so far.
We are a natural food essentials brand. We bring in countryside produce to city dwellers. Milk is our starting point for entering a household. We have a full-stack business model where we are integrated with the farmers and the consumers. Since it’s a direct-to-home business, there is no middleman and the milk is 100% natural.
Over time, we have added milk-based products and other essentials like eggs, bread, fruits, and vegetables. Now, we want to cover the kitchen of every household with our host of products. We want consumers to know that our products help in improving their lifestyles. For example, we plan to sell cold-pressed oils, rice, wheat, pulses, grains, this year. Later, we also plan to get into jams, pickles, and snacking categories. We want to bring back old ways of bringing produce to the kitchen with a tech approach.
The brand has heavily invested in influencer and testimonial marketing. What’s the strategy behind this approach?
We are smartly investing in marketing. We pick and choose the content that fits well into our strategy and budget. Since we have direct access to consumer feedback and insights, making these content pieces is much easier for us. The milk testing kit that’s sent with the packets enables consumers to check the quality of the product. You will see several content pieces pushing this added service we offer. Our products are tested in real-time on various quality metrics. There is a lot of depth in what we are doing from the product stories that go out as influencer and testimonial content marketing campaigns.We look for celebrities who fit into the cause. For instance, Twinkle Khanna, as a personality, has a lifestyle that Country Delight targets. That’s why we have associated with her. In the case of sports associations, milk is a strong use case of the category. Within sports, we are looking at collaborating with personalities who have the potential to make national headlines. We worked with Neeraj Chopra and Lakshya Sen before they became household names.
We want to be that brand that supports such gems who aren’t getting the attention that they are supposed to get. We have plans to work closely with the Indian Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) team. We want to use our marketing spends towards causes relatable to the brand and give sports personalities that additional impetus to do better.
What’s your take on brands rushing towards 10-minute delivery services?
I think there is a market for everything in this country. Over time, the market will evolve into a certain number of segments. Not everyone will move to the instant delivery or morning subscription model. It will depend on how consumers’ lifestyle evolves.
We have a different use case. While we look at offering convenient options, our core focus is on building quality products. Within the ambit of whatever our convenient business permits in unit economics we will do, otherwise we will continue to build a solid product line, full stack supply chain, and build a brand that consumers would want to add to their cart and recommend to others.
Your packaging emphasizes that Country Delight is an IIM alumni initiative. Recently, that resurfaced on social media and people had mixed reactions to the approach. Firstly, what are your thoughts on these reactions? Secondly, how has the IIM tag helped the brand?It’s evident why it’s given so much attention even after so many years. It’s been on our products since Day 1. We put it out there as a way to talk about us, where we come from, and over the years, it became a sentiment after a point. We decided to leave it as is. Honestly, there isn’t a ‘strategy’ as it has been portrayed. In our opinion, it’s one of those things on the internet that caught fire and died down in no time.