"As VKC Nuts, we are the dry fruit wallah sitting in Khari baoli Chandni Chowk!"

Gunjan Jain talks about the marked shift in the buying pattern of consumers.
“As VKC Nuts, we are the dry fruit wallah sitting in Khari baoli Chandni Chowk!”
Nutraj is the innovative retail and consumer brand by VKC Nuts, the company into processing, exporting and importing of nuts and dried-fruits in India since more than nine decades. Led by Gunjan Jain, Managing Director, VKC Nuts, the family business is synonymous with growth and innovation in the dried-fruit sector. 
In a tete-a-tete with Gunjan, Retailer media talks about the marked shift in the buying pattern of consumers, potential and challenges of the segment, growth in the retail segment and company's decision to go digital with the recently launched online store Nutraj.com.
CAGR of 25 per cent seems to be exaggerated; could you explain to us your business plan?
Since 1926 we have aggressively expanded our horizons to include new territories around the world. While this has helped build volumes, our primary growth drivers have come in the form of extensive vertical and horizontal integration. In the last 15 years alone, the company has evolved from being a small processing unit for Walnuts in Jammu to a fully integrated multinational with a portfolio of more than 200 SKUs.  
Today, we are recognised among the most prominent shellers, processors, packers, wholesellers, distributors, exporters and importers of nuts and dried fruits in India. It has four large state-of-the-art assembly line processing facilities in Jammu, J&K and Ghaziabad, NCR. To ensure quality control and maintain healthier margins, the company has also acquired in-house capabilities for all related services including an avant-garde R&D lab, roasting and flavouring stations and cold storage among others.
Tell us how technology affects your work. Does it or does it not help you increase sales and how.
We aim to be a future-ready organisation and adopting new technologies before they become widely available or accessible has often provided us with an added edge over our competition. Technology is the future and we are slowly but surely integrating it into all aspects of our daily operations. 
Although such upgradations don't always reflect directly into a sales boost, they may add to long term gains by delivering improved quality. For example, we have the latest technology in laser sorting, metal detection, nitrogen flushing and vacuum tray packaging. Such a first mover advantage has helped create a differentiation factor and is useful in establishing brand recall.
Talk to us about the awards and recognitions the company is bestowed with.
VKC Nuts has been awarded by APEDA, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Govt. of India for Promoting Agricultural & Horticulture Exports from India and for outstanding contribution to Walnut Sector. It has also been rated SE1A, highest for SSI Sector, by CRISIL ( Indian subsidiary of standards and poor).
What exactly supports the belief that nuts/walnuts are taken as a healthy food option, are there studies/findings to support it?
A recent study (published in March in JAMA Internal Medicine) found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates were from all causes - especially heart disease and stroke.
Besides being packed with protein, vitamins and minerals; most nuts also contain healthy substances like unsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, plant sterols and L-arginine. 
There are plenty of studies and research papers dedicated to the health benefits of individual nuts and fruits. Take walnuts as a example, a landmark research from Loma Linda University showing the heart protective quality of walnuts was published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1993. In the two decades since, more than 100 studies worldwide, have linked numerous potential health benefits from walnuts in the areas of heart health, diabetes, weight management and cognitive function.
Globally, dry fruits have long been recognised among nature's healthiest ingredients and the end user is aware of nutritional charts and benefits of individual components. However, in India most people integrate these power foods into their daily diet only after being struck by an ailment or when the doctor prescribes it. As Indians are now becoming more health conscious, this trend is evolving at a rapid pace
Packaged dry fruits might be a rage in metro cities, but for Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, it is not even an option. The Kiranas or the local mandis would serve as popular selling points for people residing in these areas. What do you have to say to that?
VKC Nuts is also a leading player in that segment so we are equally happy if Kiranas or local mandis continue to capture and sustain their market share. However, packaged dry fruits have already carved a niche for themselves in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. 
Sometimes, facts can be stranger than fiction and we too have been surprised by the volumes commanded by many of these markets. Not only is there a demand for packaged dry fruits but even exotic products like dried kiwi or cranberry have been flying off the shelves.
What is the association with Reliance Retail all about. Why only Reliance and not any other modern retail store?
We will sell Nutraj products at more than 500 stores of Reliance Retail across formats such as Reliance Fresh, Reliance Super and Reliance Mart pan India. This association enables us to further enhance the accessibility of our premium consumer brand Nutraj, finest nuts & exotic dry fruits from around the world, and is a part of our current focus to strengthen this brand's footprint in modern retail. 
Nutraj is already available at most leading supermarkets, hypermarkets, convenience stores, gourmet stores and other retail chains including Future Group & Bharti Retail's Big Bazaar, Food bazaar, Foodhall, Easy Day and Easy Day Market brands; Walmart's Best Price stores; Aditya Birla Retail's More, RPG Group's Spencer's and Foodworld brands; Jubilant Retail's Total, Tesco & Tata group's Trent; TPG & Shriram group's Vishal Mega Mart, Metro AG's Metro Cash & Carry, Max Hypermarkets Spar and Modi group's Twenty Four Seven among others.
How many countries do you export to and what is the back-end supply chain like, put some light on that.
VKC Nuts is a leading dry fruits conglomerate with a worldwide reputation for superior quality and ethical dealings. We are a fully integrated provider that meets global hygiene standards in every process and are one of the largest exporters for key nuts and dried fruits from India.
The company enjoys an efficient worldwide network for supplying walnuts, morels and other products to over 35 countries. By using these existing channels and opening some new ones, we are able to import the world's most delicious nuts & dried fruits at wholesale prices for the Indian market.
Other than dry fruits, you are also into exotics, is India a good enough market for that? Are these products popular, also talk to us about the market share.
Exotics are a comparatively new category that has only been explored over the past five years. I am passionate about introducing noteworthy products from around the world on Indian shelves. Whether it is California walnuts or other exotic products like blueberries and cranberries, we have often been the first to bring in something unique and are not averse to risks. 
When it comes to exotics the Indian market is still in its nascent stages and it's too early to speak confidently in terms of the market share. However, there is immense curiosity and we are witnessing a lot of repeat customers for some of these products. It's not just the novelty value that drives the trend, as more and more Indians are appreciating the taste and extensive health benefits associated with exotics as a snack. We will continue to innovate in this segment and are looking to introduce many more exotic fruits and seeds in the coming months.
Tell us more about Nutraj, and how are you planning to compete with a dry fruit wallah sitting in Delhi's Chandni Chowk.
As VKC Nuts, we are the dry fruit wallah sitting in Khari Baoli, Chandni Chowk. The Indian dry fruits sector is very large and there will always be a pie for brands that stand out and offer something extra. Nutraj brings the finest nuts and exotic dry fruits from around the world in vacuum packed boxes. It is for those who understand or value the importance of freshness and flavour in whole foods.
Nutraj has collaborated with leading global bodies like the California Walnut Commission, California Prune Board and many others to source the most superior quality for Indian homes. From vacuum packed premium nuts, imported berries and other exotic dry fruits to sliced, diced, powdered or chopped nuts for cooking to flavoured, salted or roasted dry fruits for snacking; Nutraj satisfies every nutty need of the connoisseurs for dried fruit.
In today's times of eCommerce, do you plan to tie up with a partner that's accessible online or by way of a mobile app, i mean, the grocery is available so why not dry fruits. Your take.
We have already launched our own online shop on nutraj.com and are shipping pan India. We are also available at a few key online marketplaces that have shopping apps. While we will continue to enhance and expand our online availability, we are proceeding with immense caution in this domain. Quality control and management are of utmost importance and we will never risk sub-standard warehousing or storage for our products.
Gunjan Jain