Small businesses, big ideas: These family-owned businesses are scripting success stories by starting out small

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Small insights into any business can generate big ideas. This week, SMBStory covered the journey of India’s old and leading family-owned businesses that started out with a small yet strong idea. These businesses are now scripting their own success stories. 

National Engineering Industries

Chandra Kant Birla, Chairman, CK Birla Group

In 1946, when India was beginning to find its footing across the world as a free nation, industrialist BM Birla was way ahead of the times when he thought of making the country self-reliant in the industrial manufacturing sector. 

He found the opportunity in a small, yet indispensable mechanical component — bearings. Bearings — small and large — are widely used in the automotive and industrial sectors as it reduces friction between the moving parts, thereby achieving the desired motion in machines.  

However, at the time, this essential component was imported from abroad, causing distress to domestic manufacturers. In a bid to make an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat,’ BM Birla started a bearing-manufacturing company called the National Bearing Company Limited (NBC) in 1946. 

NBC — which was later changed to National Engineering Industries (NEI) — was started with an initial investment of Rs 80 lakh, with a sole production unit in Jaipur. In 1950, the company began with manufacturing 30,000 cylindrical roller bearings, which were supplied to the Indian Railways as well.  

NEI is the flagship company of the $2.4 billion CK Birla Group. Over the years, NEI has become a global bearing manufacturer and exporter out of India, clocking Rs 2,511 crore turnover in FY19. At present, it manufactures about 20 crore bearings in 1,450 sizes in a year from five manufacturing units spread across Jaipur, Gujarat, and Haryana. In fact, the production facility at Newai, Jaipur was started as an all-women unit in 1980.

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Apis Honey

Apis India CEO Pankaj Mishra

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is one of India’s oldest professions, but it has gained mainstream popularity in the last few years. Local demand for honey has been growing due to increasing customer preference for natural alternatives to artificial sweeteners and the rising awareness of the health benefits of honey. 

With their packaged honey products, brands like Dabur and Patanjali have capitalised on this trend and made a name for themselves in the market. However, for many years, it was Delhi-based Apis India that was supplying the honey to Dabur and Patanjali. After realising the big opportunity in the FMCG space for honey, Apis began pivoting to a B2C model in 2016. Willing to give up its marquee clients Dabur and Patanjali and becoming their competitor, Apis started a consumer-facing brand — Apis Himalaya Honey. 

“When we started our own brand, we lost business from Dabur and Patanjali. We were also building our distribution network from scratch, which required significant investments. But we were okay with it because we were determined to build an FMCG brand. Our persistence paid off as the Apis Himalaya Honey brand grew in an unprecedented manner,” Pankaj Mishra, CEO, Apis India, tells SMBStory. 

From between Rs 130-140 crore turnover in 2015, Apis clocked around Rs 200 crore last year. In the last three years, it has added dates, fruit jams, pickles, ginger garlic paste, green tea, and soya chunks to its product portfolio.

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Emmbros Overseas

Sahil Mehta, Director, Emmbros Overseas

Sahil Mehta’s entrepreneurial journey began when he followed the footsteps of his father, Ramesh Mehta. Sahil’s father was a Panchkula-based manufacturer of pharma products such as oils and tablets, who also had knowledge of Ayurveda, popularly known as the ‘kitchen science’.  

Initially, Sahil started trading the products produced by his father to the US markets. In 2007, he named the company as Emmbros Overseas. The tipping point came in 2015 when he realised that he wanted to start something of his own for the Indian market. Sahil says he was keen to explore the cosmetics industry, which was his forte.  

“My vision was to create natural and premium products backed by organic raw materials and Ayurveda,” Sahil says.   

Today, Emmbros Overseas is the parent company and houses five separate cosmetic brands that cater to all ages, genders, and groups. The five brands are St. Botanica, Oriental Botanics, Man Arden, Mom & World, and Muscle XP. 

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Khoya Mithai

Sid Mathur, Founder, Khoya Mithai

In a culture-rich country like India, the ‘muh meetha karo’ saying is an expression of happiness on any special occasion or festival that calls for the sharing of sweets, resembling the auspiciousness of the jamboree.  

However, in recent years, chocolates, cookies, and confectionery items have replaced the traditional Indian mithai boxes. But what made this mithai-eating country switch to chocolates, creams, and caramels? Sid Mathur, Founder and Director of Delhi-based Khoya Mithai says that gifting mithai are passé now, and people have restyled their way of offering sweets by gifting premium-packaged chocolate boxes, cookies, and other items.  

Seeing this gap in the market — where the traditional and delicious mithais were being neglected — Sid, a professional in the F&B industry, decided to launch a luxury mithai brand in 2016, with the vision to bring back traditional sweets in the mainstream and give the importance it deserved.

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