Silicon Valley disruption can help India learn a lot: Manuranjith Ranganathan

Ritu Jha-

On October 11, at the 5th US-India Conference jointly organized by the All India Management Association (AIMA) and the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, 28-year-old Manuranjith Ranganathan sat proudly on the dais along with some of the most well-known personalities from the Indian business firmament.

But Manuranjith knew, even then, that he owed his presence at the prestigious occasion to two influential people – his grandfather Chinni Krishnan and his father CK Ranganathan, both of whom disrupted the Indian FMCG market to the extent that it was multinationals who copied their ideas rather than the other way round.

In the 1970s when Chinni Krishnan saw poor, unkempt kids running around he would often think why they should not have the same access to shampoos and other personal care products that rich kids had. And, thus, was born the Velvette shampoo sachet, which poor people could buy with their weekly salary rather than buy a 200ml or a 500ml bottle that they certainly could not afford.

Later, after his demise, his youngest son CK Ranganathan would separate from the family business and start selling Chik shampoo at an even lower price. Both Velvette and Chik became household names and bestselling products. Multinationals started using the sachet as a means to enter the rural market.

That revolution is what Manuranjith inherited.

Talking to indica on the sidelines of the conference, Manuranjith said if there was one mentor he has had, it is his father, the founder-chairman of CavinKare, and past president of AIMA, who started the business with just $300. “Nobody could be a better mentor for me,” he said.

Manuranjith, who now runs CavinKare, said, “My father doesn’t interfere in this business. He lets me take decisions, and even if he knows that it is likely to be wrong, he lets me be and makes me learn from that. I reach out to him as well, when I am in need.”

He said that this was his first visit to Silicon Valley and he found it to be an amazing experience. “Meeting new people in Silicon Valley and getting introduced to technology that will disrupt the world is simply amazing,” he said. “The more encouraging thing is that when we, the delegates, visited Ericsson and other companies, they said that the next set of new ideas will come from India. The next decade is going to be exciting.”

Manuranjith is not insulated from reality, though. “Inflation has impacted our business,” he said. “These are challenges that businesses and leaders should face, but it is also true that businesses have overcome such challenges for many decades.”

He said that the only way to overcome inflation is to become proactive and take leadership in innovation, by adding value. “We are fortunate that our products are necessities.”

One part of the business is salons. During the Covid lockdown when people did not have access to such outlets, his company’s salon business almost collapsed. “When the salons reopened,” he said, “we gained significant market share.”

He said his company has been able to get “the common person to enjoy a rich man’s product. We give them extraordinary quality and value at a very-very nominal price. That is our products philosophy.”

Manuranjith founded CK’s Bakery after earning a management degree from the University of Floraida, Miami. He said India’s is like a passion to him and that he would like to continue staying in India and contribute here.

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