`Q&A with Rajneesh Bhasin, Borges Group - Olive Oil Times

Q&A with Rajneesh Bhasin, Borges Group

Feb. 13, 2011
Gita Narrayani

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Borges, one of the renowned olive oil pro­duc­ers and exporters from Spain, has recently entered the Indian mar­ket. Initially rolled out in the major met­ro­pol­i­tan regions, the com­pany plans to extend its dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work to 36 Indian cities and towns in 2011. The Borges Group has a pres­ence in over 100 coun­tries and has long-term plans for India, includ­ing a foray into olive cul­ti­va­tion. In an Interview with Gita Narrayani of Olive Oil Times, Dr. Rajneesh Bhasin, Managing Director of Borges, India talks about the prod­ucts and the ways to pop­u­lar­ize this healthy cook­ing medium in the huge Indian market.

GN: What were the rea­sons behind the selec­tion of India as a mar­ket for the prod­ucts of Borges, espe­cially olive oil?

Bhasin: Indians have turned extremely health con­scious in their food habits in recent times and are open to the idea of explor­ing new tastes and fla­vors. Changing lifestyles too have led to grow­ing aware­ness about health, nutri­tion and the need to start eat­ing and liv­ing healthy. The Indian con­sumer has evolved a lot and she is aware of the global trends and aspires to adopt brands that pro­vide the right value. Active Health’ is on the top of her agenda. She is extremely con­scious of the lifestyle-related dis­eases that are affect­ing our lives. She is increas­ingly con­cerned about the health of fam­ily mem­bers and con­tin­u­ously looks for changes/ improve­ments that can make them healthy.

Borges stands for pro­vid­ing the con­sumers with the ben­e­fits of diet based on val­ues of Mediterranean life across the globe and we aim to do that in India as well. Hence, Borges has set up a 100% sub­sidiary in India which is a first for a Mediterranean food spe­cial­ist – this itself sig­ni­fies the pri­or­ity that we accord to India as a market.

GN: Borges Extra Light Olive Oil has been spe­cially designed for the Indian con­sumer” with its light fla­vor & aroma; has it proved pop­u­lar in your test market?

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Bhasin: Borges has launched an Extra Light olive oil vari­ant that is suit­able for the Indian way of cook­ing. This vari­ant of olive oil was spe­cially intro­duced for con­sumers who want the good­ness of olive oil, but do not want the strong aroma and fla­vor of the oil to inter­fere with the spices and condi­ments used here. I am glad that the con­sumers have accepted the con­cept and the response to the oil has been encouraging.

GN: There is a per­cep­tion that olive oil is not suit­able for the dif­fer­ent types of Indian cui­sine, due to its fla­vor. What is Borges India doing to dis­pel this wrong notion?

Bhasin: It is very crit­i­cal to make olive oil and its vari­ants rel­e­vant to the daily lives of the Indian con­sumer. We are address­ing this through effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In the ini­tial stage, we have iden­ti­fied rel­e­vant usage occa­sions for each one of the Borges olive oil vari­ants which form an inte­gral part of the brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We under­stand the need to dis­pel myths related to the use of this won­der prod­uct and help under­stand the immense ben­e­fits and are pre­pared to take up this challenge.

GN: Is Borges Extra Light Olive Oil sim­i­lar in any way to olive pomace oil that some com­pa­nies are mar­ket­ing here as a suit­able medium for Indian cooking?

Bhasin: Borges Extra Light Olive Oil is a blend of refined olive oil with extra vir­gin olive oil. This vari­ant has a very mild taste and is best suited for Indian cook­ing, as it ensures that the dish retains its orig­i­nal taste. This olive oil vari­ant is specif­i­cally launched for the Indian mar­ket to offer con­sumers the good­ness of olive oil with­out the pun­gent taste.

Borges Extra Light olive oil is not sim­i­lar to pomace olive oil as there is a dif­fer­ence in the way the two vari­ants are extracted. Pomace is that part of the olive (skins, pulp, seeds, and stems) that remains after all the oil and water in it has been removed by pres­sur­ing or cen­trifug­ing processes. Pomace oil is obtained by apply­ing heat, sol­vents, or hot water to the pomace. On the other hand, Borges Extra Light olive oil is obtained by refin­ing the olive oil (which is obtained from press­ing the olive fruit but not suit­able for direct con­sump­tion) and then blend­ing it with extra vir­gin olive oil. Due to this dif­fer­ence glob­ally and in India as well, olive oil is priced at 70 – 80% pre­mium over pomace olive oil.

GN: In the tra­di­tional olive oil-con­sum­ing coun­tries, olive pomace oil is not used for cook­ing due to its com­po­si­tion, whereas it is being mar­ket­ing in India as an oil that is par­tic­u­larly suit­able for Indian cui­sine. What are your views?

Bhasin: Borges is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing qual­ity prod­ucts to its con­sumers. As a pol­icy, we do not focus too much on the pomace vari­ety of olive oil. Most mature mar­kets with high qual­ity stan­dards like Spain and the USA do not allow the sale of pomace as a cook­ing oil.

GN: We believe that Borges India is plan­ning a cam­paign that will pro­mote fit­ness by stress­ing health aware­ness and the ben­e­fits of olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. Has this cam­paign been launched yet? 

Bhasin: We have already crafted out the dif­fer­en­ti­ated posi­tion­ing for brand Borges in India by tak­ing the healthy active lifestyle route. We aim to edu­cate con­sumers on the ben­e­fits of olive oil con­sump­tion in their daily rou­tine. Our main pri­or­ity is to intro­duce a healthy and active lifestyle in Indian house­holds and drive the mes­sage of Luv Life, Luv Olive’ among con­sumers. We have tied up with well-known nutri­tion­ists to help us spread the myr­iad ben­e­fits of olive oil to end-users.

We are using a mix of on-ground pro­mo­tions, online cam­paigns and direct media inter­face to drive our strat­egy. We have also launched a microsite, luvolive.com, which pro­vides infor­ma­tion on olive oil and aims to engage with users on the var­i­ous ben­e­fits and uses of this won­der oil.

GN: Until now, olive oil has been tar­geted pri­mar­ily at the afflu­ent seg­ment in India and is basi­cally a niche prod­uct, as it is far more expen­sive than other cook­ing medi­ums. As a healthy alter­na­tive, it should be acces­si­ble to a larger sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. Do you have any plans to do this?

Bhasin: Our prod­ucts are priced com­pet­i­tively keep­ing in mind the Indian con­sumer buy­ing behav­ior. While doing our research, we also found out that the deci­sion-maker in the Indian house­hold is open to shelling out a bit extra for a health­ier eat­ing option for the fam­ily. It is our aim to pro­vide the Indian con­sumer with the best qual­ity of olive oil at the most afford­able prices. Our prod­ucts are avail­able in a wide range of pack­ag­ing, rang­ing from 125ml to 5ltrs, pro­vid­ing the con­ve­nience to choose as per need.

GN: You have said that India is a favor­able place for olive plan­ta­tions. There is already an exper­i­ment in olive cul­ti­va­tion in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Would you be col­lab­o­rat­ing with these projects or are you plan­ning a new venture?

Bhasin: It is too early to com­ment on this. However, as a lead­ing player in the Indian olive oil space, we would be keen to explore every opportunity.

GN: Yours is the first com­pany man­u­fac­tur­ing olive oil that has set up a 100% sub­sidiary in the coun­try, which in a way estab­lishes the seri­ous­ness of your future plans. Do you fore­see a time when olive oil would be part of the nor­mal Indian diet? 

Bhasin: The olive oil mar­ket is at its nascent stage in India. There is immense oppor­tu­nity to explore the mar­ket with unique mar­ket­ing strate­gies and ini­tia­tives. We are the only multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tion present in this mar­ket with a local sub­sidiary” and have a first-mover advan­tage. We are here to help in the estab­lish­ment and growth of the olive oil cat­e­gory and thereby grow with it. We want to play the role of a cat­e­gory cap­tain wher­ever we go. We will be aggres­sively look­ing at invest­ments in mar­ket­ing cam­paigns aimed at cre­at­ing aware­ness regard­ing olive oil and its health ben­e­fits amongst Indian consumers.

GN: Despite being one of the 4 met­ros, Borges has not intro­duced its prod­ucts in Kolkata. Why has this city been left out in your mar­ket­ing plan, when you have included cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and even Pune?

Bhasin: Borges started its launch in India in a test mar­ket, with oper­a­tions in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, and Bangalore. Now that we have tested our sales and mar­ket­ing strate­gies, we are pre­pared to expand into other big geographies/markets in India. Of course, Kolkata is in the pipeline and very soon you would see our entry into this very impor­tant market.

GN: You have a vari­ety of olive oils: Extra Virgin, Pure, Extra Light, and so on. What is the rel­e­vance of each of these types for the Indian consumer? 

Bhasin: We have a wide range of prod­uct offer­ings: extra vir­gin olive oil, pure olive oil and extra light olive oil, and mul­ti­ple pack sizes within each of those vari­ants, to serve every con­sumer need.

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