League of Extraordinary Brands

by puneinvestor

A brand is dynamic, constantly changing and evolving. A good brand well taken care of can provide dividends to its owners for years to come.

The following nationwide brands are quintessentially Indian, foreign owners of a couple of them notwithstanding. When you think of each one, no other comparables come to mind. You won’t be able to name a legitimate runner-up simply because there is no one else in the ballpark. Unlike brand conglomerates, these are singular powerhouses that drive results for their owners.

Here are my top 5 in alphabetical order:


When you want some butter with your pav bhaji, only “the taste of India” will do. The brand, which now spans many dairy products, is owned by the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), which has come a long way from its humble beginnings in  pre-independence India. Over the last decade, revenues have grown to Rs. 1,37,350 crores ($2.54 billion) at a compounded annual rate of 38%. No, that’s not a typo: 3-8. This explosive growth, which almost certainly is very profitable growth (public P&L statements are unavailable), has the Amul brand at its core. Alas, the property is not traded on any market so investors have no access to it.


Bata shoes and chappals are so reliable and affordable that it just isn’t worth your time looking elsewhere. Bata is the largest retailer of footwear in India, best known for its leather or leather-substitute sandals and formal shoes. Although it isn’t technically an Indian-origin brand, you won’t find many Indians who know that. There’s a Bata shop on the main streets of up to 500 cities and towns across the country, selling affordable and good quality footwear to the common man. The brand has powered top line growth of 15% and profits have tripled over the same period. Return on equity has been north of 20%.


With 70% of the market share in India, Cadbury is the undisputed king of chocolate. This is partly due to the long history of the brand in India and partly due to the company’s consistently high-quality brand campaigns. Indeed, the brand’s real competition is a substitute product category – mithais, Indian sweets. Since Cadbury India is now a division of Mondelez International Inc., a US company which is a spin-off of the erstwhile Kraft Foods, it is difficult to analyse the most recent effects of the Cadbury brand’s strength on the division’s performance. In 2011, the last year for which detailed public data are available, the company grew its net worth by a finger-licking 39% over the previous year.


This is a classic case of the brand name replacing the noun for the category. Fevicol is to furniture adhesive what Xerox is to photocopies. Hardware traders attract carpenters into their shops by displaying buckets of Fevicol at the entrances. Fevicol is owned by Pidilite Industries Ltd. (PIL), which derives more than 80% of its revenues from Fevicol and associated brands. It is not uncommon for the neighbourhood market hardware store to have PIL products accounting for 30%+ of its sales. The net worth of the company has grown at a compounded annual rate of more than 21% over the last nine years.


When you hear Titan’s signature tune (from Mozart’s Symphony No. 25)  in a TV ad which is cleverly pulling at your heartstrings, that’s one more drop in the wide moat around Titan. Titan Industries Ltd. (TIL) owns more than 60% of the market for wristwatches and is the leading pan-national retailer of jewellery in a gold-crazy country. TIL, jointly controlled by the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation and the Tata Group, has grown its net worth at a compounded annual rate of – are you ready for it? – 36% over the last nine years.

It isn’t that these brands and companies don’t face any challenges. Bata India was in a funk in the early 2000’s and GCMMF has been embroiled in political power struggles since its late founder and ex-chairman Verghese Kurien quit in 2006. However, these brands are embedded in the psyche of the country and their owners have a unique opportunity ahead of them as the Indian economy continues to grow and the Indian consumer continues to spend more on butter, shoes, chocolates, furniture, and watches and jewellery.

Bata Mainstreet

Image © Paul Hamilton