How Johar Group's Legacy Paved the Way for Oxbow Brands' Success
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How Johar Group's Legacy Paved the Way for Oxbow Brands' Success

The Johar Group, established around 75 years ago by Rahul Johar's grandfather, has a rich history of diverse businesses in India, particularly in Punjab, Coimbatore, and Kerala. From hospitality and catering, the group expanded into hotels, distribution, and manufacturing, becoming a major player in Kerala. Over the decades, they have been involved in various ventures, including being third-party manufacturers for large Indian multinationals like Unilever, and partners with brands like McDowell's (now Diageo) in Kerala.

“My grandfather set up the Johar Group about 75 years ago, and we've ventured into multiple businesses, from hospitality to manufacturing. It's a legacy of entrepreneurship and resilience,” says Rahul Johar, Founder & CEO of Oxbow Brands.

From Student to Entrepreneur

Rahul Johar joined the family business around 17 years ago, after studying and gaining experience in the UK. Initially, he focused on importing packaged foods from various parts of the world and distributing them across India. This venture involved working with hotels, airlines, and retail outlets. Recognizing the stringent food safety standards in India, the Johar Group started partnering with Indian companies to de-risk their operations and comply with regulations.

“I joined the business to understand and expand our family's legacy. My time in the UK taught me invaluable lessons, which I applied to our business back in India,” recalls Rahul Johar.

The Birth of Oxbow Brands

Oxbow Brands was conceptualized two years ago as a response to the challenges faced by the Johar Group in its distribution business. The idea was to create their own brands to ensure stability and growth, rather than being at the mercy of external companies' strategic changes.

“We saw all the hard work put in by our team, our channel partners, and our retailers. Anytime a brand dropped, it disheartened everyone. That's when we decided to take control of our future by creating our own brands,” explains Johar.

How Johar Group's Legacy Paved the Way for Oxbow Brands' Success

Conceptualization and Acceptance

Oxbow Brands operates with the agility and innovation of a startup, despite being part of a larger family business. They have launched four in-house brands, all conceptualized and controlled by them. Additionally, they have partnered with other brands to help them scale, taking equity stakes in these companies.

Oxbow Brands has created a diverse product portfolio under the brand name "Dobra." Their products include beverages, snacks, and confectionery, all designed to bring fun and nostalgia to consumers.

“The idea around Dobra was to bring back fun and indulgence. Our first product, Pop Goli, is a nostalgic beverage that’s known by different names across India,” says Rahul.

The beverage category includes Pop Goli and Coco Poco, a juice with nata de coco pieces. Their confectionery range features cotton candy, packaged innovatively to maintain hygiene and appeal. Their latest product is flavored Tapioca chips, which took a year to develop due to the extensive flavor testing process.

“Our Tapioca chips are packed with unique flavors. We went through over a hundred flavor tests to finalize the ones we wanted to launch,” he adds.

Innovations in Consumer Goods

Rahul Johar is spearheading innovation within the consumer goods sector at Oxbow Brands. They collaborate with various flavor houses to develop products and rely on consumer feedback to refine them. They also leverage technology to streamline operations, from capturing orders to tracking stock.

“Developing products has been about using our gut feel and consumer feedback. Technology has helped us gather information systematically, making our operations more efficient,” says Rahul Johar.

Omni-Channel Presence

Oxbow Brands boasts a robust omnichannel presence, covering traditional stores, regional modern trade stores, national modern trade stores, Q-commerce, and their website. This diverse presence ensures that they reach consumers wherever they prefer to shop.

“We believe in being where the consumer prefers to buy. Whether it's a big store, a neighborhood shop, or an online platform, we aim to provide the same great experience across all channels,” explains Johar.

Despite being relatively new to the D2C space, Oxbow Brands has already started leveraging the insights and data from direct consumer interactions. They recognize the high costs associated with D2C but see it as a valuable part of their omni-channel strategy.

“D2C is hard and costly, but it provides invaluable data and allows consumers to experience all our products together. It's an essential part of our strategy,” notes the CEO.

Oxbow Brands is also beginning to explore AI to enhance its operations further. They aim to create digital twins of their operations to optimize processes and improve efficiency. “We are just starting with AI, but we know it will play a significant role in our future. We're learning from the big players in the CPG sector and are excited about the possibilities,” says Johar.

How Johar Group's Legacy Paved the Way for Oxbow Brands' Success

Supporting Startups

Rahul Johar plays a pivotal role in nurturing Indian startups by extending distribution and offline presence assistance through Oxbow Brands. They act as an omnichannel accelerator, partnering with startups and helping them scale in return for equity.

“There are many great brands out there with brilliant founders. We help them channelize their products from the factory to the retail shelf, reducing their costs and helping them grow,” says Rahul Johar.

Future Vision

Oxbow Brands, under Rahul Johar's leadership, is poised for continued growth and innovation. They are committed to creating and scaling high-quality, fun, and nostalgic products while supporting the broader ecosystem of startups in the consumer goods sector.

“The journey has just begun for us. We are excited about the future and the many brands we will partner with and create. It's about growing together and making a lasting impact,” says Johar.

As Oxbow Brands continues to grow and expand its footprint, its commitment to quality, innovation, and consumer satisfaction remains steadfast. The company's ability to navigate the complexities of the market, coupled with its focus on creating and nurturing brands, positions it as a formidable player in the consumer goods industry.

“Our vision is to be a leader in the consumer goods sector, not just in India but globally. We aim to bring innovative products to the market, support emerging brands, and ensure that our consumers have access to the best products wherever they choose to shop,” Concludes the CEO.

Looking ahead, Oxbow Brands is poised for a future filled with opportunities and challenges. With Rahul Johar at the helm, the company is well-equipped to tackle the dynamic landscape of the consumer goods industry. The entrepreneurial spirit, combined with a deep understanding of market needs and consumer preferences, will continue to drive Oxbow Brands toward greater success.

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