One of the oldest and the largest manufacturers of alcohol, the Bapuna Group, apart from producing their own alcohol beverages, handles the bottling for some of world’s largest liquor conglomerates such as Pernod Ricard, United Spirits, Radico Khaitan and Allied Blenders & Distillers. Bapunas in 2002 diversified by acquiring a stake in popular dairy giant company Dinshaw’s owned by the Ranas. Today, Jamashp Bapuna is the Director of the Bapuna Group and Joint Managing Director of Dinshaw’s. Apart from his business, Jamashp takes active participation in the management and activities at Gondwana Club, where he was elected as the President in 2015. In a relaxed chat, Jamashp Bapuna speaks to Nation Next at his office ‘Banaz’ in Byramji Town, which was once the Bapunas’ residence before they shifted to their three-acre palatial mansion adjacent Poonam Chambers. Jamashp in the interview speaks how his family business of alcohol trading and manufacturing started and also shares the reason behind acquiring stake in Dinshaw’s.
The Bapuna family has a history that spans decades in the alcohol industry beginning with trading and gradually moving to manufacturing of alcohol. How did trading and manufacturing begin?
My grandfather hailed from a small village in Gujarat. When he moved to Nagpur around 50 years back, he use to work for a couple of people and he gradually began his own business. Thereafter, we secured a few tenders which made my father venture into the alcohol business. Our business just grew from there.
The Bapuna Group acquired 50% stake in Dinshaw’s in 2002. Despite having a strong foothold in liquor industry, why did Bapuna group opt for dairy business?
Mr Rana, who’s the Managing Director for Dinshaw’s approached us as he needed our help for his business. Co-incidentally, my grandfather’s name was also Dinshaw! When the Ranas approached us, my father immediately offered help because he never wanted a Parsi company to shut down. This is how even I started taking care of the business and eventually we diversified into dairy business.
Ranas have 50% stake in Dinshaw’s and you too are an equal stakeholder in Dinshaw’s. So, who calls the shots?
For us, it’s like a family so everything is done and decided together. That’s how things work in the long run. If one person decides everything, things don’t work out. It’s like a marriage, where both have to work.
Dinshaw’s ice cream as a brand didn’t get a beating by either national or international brands like Baskin Robbins, Amul, etc. But Naturals seems to be giving a tough competition in the local market. Does it worry you?
It’s not that we never got a competition. We keep facing competition; it’s just about how we deal with it. I have a simple philosophy – ‘Don’t let somebody grow so much that they sit on your head.’ I guess this has worked for us. What Naturals sells in Nagpur is not even 0.001% of what we sell in Nagpur. I wouldn’t say that we have a competition with them in Nagpur. Yes, it is a niche product but it doesn’t worry me, though competition in metro cities is much tougher. But then healthy competition keeps you on your toes and makes you improve.
You say that you would rather see your son pursuing a career in sports, as business is too tough. Why? When a Bapuna says so, doesn’t it give a gloomy picture of business environment?
I have played club cricket in England and in South Africa too in the past. In fact in South Africa, I had a contract to play cricket for a period of time. But being the eldest of the siblings, and considering our parents’ mindset and generation, I had to set my priorities. But today, I feel that if my son is interested in sports and excels in it, I don’t mind him pursuing it. Right now he’s too much into tennis. One year down the line, if he’s still interested in tennis, I might send him to Florida. I’ll be happier if my son makes a career in sports. Our generation has accepted this kind of thinking and mindset, wherein a son doesn’t necessarily need to join his father’s business the moment he’s ‘business-ready.’ I want my son to be happy and do what he wants first.
Of late, you have lost a lot of weight. What drove you all of a sudden towards fitness?
Once you have children, you want to be there for them. I would always take it as a joke whenever I visited a doctor for routine checkups and he would tell me that my weight is a problem. But when you see your kids growing, and you want to be with them for long, you have to take a drastic step like this. This has also worked for me in relieving all health complications in life. I feel good about myself. Today, I realize that doctors are not all that stupid; what they say does make sense! (Smiles)
For years you have had an active participation in Gondwana club’s management. You are now the President of the club. What motivates you to be a part of the activities at Gondwana Club? Doesn’t your business take a beating because of your involvement in the club’s management?
I don’t take Gondwana club’s work as my duty. I do it out of passion and fondness for the club. Nagpur doesn’t have many options in terms of recreation. Over the years, members of Gondwana Club have become a family to me. At the club, we end up meeting so many friends; we see similar faces so it’s like a second home. Doing anything for your home is not work. Also, if you can do something about a place that has given you so much, why not?
Dinshaw’s brand is doing well in Maharashtra…
Today we have our presence in 13 states. Dinshaw’s business is growing at the rate of 15-18% per year. In today’s business scenario, if you have such statistics, I feel we are progressing. We don’t spend extravagantly on advertisement. People love our ice cream because of the quality we offer.