Interview With Suyash Mehrotra From India

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Suyash Mehrotra

Suyash Mehrotra is an international business professional. In light of that, he recently launched the world's first ever branded instant tea powder - Nestlé Choladi.

Interview with the 2021 TITAN Business Awards Winner - Suyash Mehrotra.

1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself and your background.

I am an International Business professional with over 13 years of experience in building some of India’s favorite brands in commodity and packaged consumer goods space across 50-odd international markets. Having worked with conglomerates of the likes of ITC, Marico and Nestlé, I have worn multiple hats as a Business Manager, Category manager and a Brand manager.

As an individual, I am motivated by 4 pillars of Entrepreneurship, Ambition, Integrity and Ownership. And my body of work reflects that.

I am a voracious reader and extensively write on matters of branding, entrepreneurship and trade ( I am a Chevening Fellow (CRISP) with Oxford University and recently bagged a book contract with a London based publishing house. I was chosen as the Economic Times Young Leader across working professionals in India in 2012 and won the coveted Peter Drucker challenge last year with participants from 88 countries. I have, to my credit, several global awards (Stevie, Globee & Now Titan) for my work in the field of International business and marketing.

2What is your role in the company?

I was the Senior Manager (Exports) - Planning and Strategy.

3Please tell us more about your organization.

Nestlé India is the Indian subsidiary of Nestlé S.A with a product range that includes infant food, coffee, instant tea, confectionery, dairy products, pet foods and snacks. Nestlé has presence across India with 8 manufacturing facilities and exported $ 65 Million worth of goods in 2020 to over 40 countries.

4Describe the industry your organization is specialized in, as well as its main characteristics.

The company specializes in foods and beverages – both packaged as well as bulk commodities.

5Congratulations! As the winner of the TITAN Business Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?

Firstly, let me take this opportunity to thank the jury at TITAN Business Awards and IAA for conferring the TITAN Business Platinum Award for Innovator of the year and Best Innovation Management Strategy on me. I am earnestly grateful for the recognition.

2020, despite being a tough year was also a landmark year for me in a professional capacity.

Building upon the pedigree of Nilgiri tea growing region in India, I launched the world's first ever branded bulk Instant Tea powder, Nestlé Choladi across international markets. What started as an honest attempt to differentiate a value added commodity in the global B2B marketplace metamorphosed into a powerful instrument of better prices for several marginal tea growers. It has also helped set a new benchmark for other Indian manufacturers.

To see an Indian commodity, sell like a premium brand across Asia, EU and North America has been one of the most satisfying feats of my 13 year long career. It gives me great pleasure to see those efforts getting acknowledged on a global forum like this one.

6How has winning an international award help promote your organization?

More than anything, I believe this recognition will help spread more awareness about the innovation I pioneered.

It’s a simple premise of standardizing quality coupled with focused marketing which allows farmers and processors to capture a higher share of their product value chain. I believe it has potential for wide scale adoption in several developing markets which happen to be exporters of key commodities like Coffee, Tea, Cocoa, Rubber etc.

7What are the challenges of developing / marketing your winning entry(ies)?

I think there should be a winner’s circle / joint ceremony whereby we get to share our learning and use each other’s social circle to promote the winning entries. Platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube can go a long way to help market the awards and winners more effectively.

8As a business owner, please tell us more about your ideation process.

My personal template for International Business Expansion can be summarized in 3 words - CHASE THE MONEY!!

1. Identify a market / channel / demographic where you can be relevant 2. Treat every market as a distinct animal rather than trying to homogenize your offerings. If you create VALUE, there is ALWAYS an opportunity.

It’s better to be a small fish in a big pond than the other way around - at least you give yourself a chance to grow! Good competition will force you to become better. Not to forget, everybody does like cheering for the underdog.

There are a lot of things which have been done in industry circles before you. And there will be a lot of things which will happen in the future. No company is ever satisfied with its status quo. Unless you positively challenge the system, nothing new is ever going to happen. Name of the game is innovation. And innovation happens only when someone with tenacity asks the right questions at the right time and is willing to back it up with action.

9What is your own definition of a successful team / organization / business?

A successful team & business is premised on TRUST.

You build trust by establishing credibility with both internal and external stakeholders.

US Navy Seals work with an adage, “Hold Fast. Stay True”. Businesses would do well to follow that philosophy.

10What led you / your organization to become successful within the industry you are currently in?

I would attribute my success to the principle of consumer centricity.

I try thinking like a consumer and not like a company employee. The idea is to not let your prejudices and subjective opinion clout your thought process. Be 100% objective when you are trying to sell! Listen to your consumer and let him educate you on his market’s dynamics. Trust me, you will never go wrong.

It’s important to understand his expectation from the product. Once you grasp that, everything else invariably falls in place.

You test that hypothesis within a trusted circle and once you have the proof of concept, you move with agility to capture the first mover advantage. To be able to innovate your offering in order to match the customer requirement is what differentiates a winning product from the crowd.

11How has the country, you are based in, helped move your industry forward?

India is the 2nd largest producer of Tea in the world after China.

The 170 year old industry employs over 1.2 million people with women accounting for 50% of the workforce. This one beverage, as such, has immense potential to positively impact the socio-economic development in far-flung, remote and interior areas of my country. India, to its credit, already has 3 geographical indicator region for teas – Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri.

12What have you found to be a hindering factor, for your business, during the entire course of the pandemic, and how did you overcome that hinderance?

Instant Tea, like any other F&B category was deeply impacted during the early stages of COVID pandemic. The consumption across markets dropped dramatically.

In times of uncertainty, consumers seek trust and quality. And you build credibility when your strategy and execution reeks of consistency. It was that consistency which kept me in good stead with my clients and allowed to sail smoothly through the last 18 months.

13What are the current trends in the business industry that you are most excited about?

The demand for healthy, natural & organic products across foods, beverages and cosmetics has risen multifold in the aftermath of COVID pandemic. Consumers are becoming more conscious of the products they consume and its origin. Sales have largely become omni-channel.

It is a challenge that any Sales and Marketing professional would cherish.

14What resources would you recommend to someone who is searching to improve their business prospects and organizational success?

LinkedIn is arguably the most reliable source for finding business prospects.

15Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I can think of a thousand names. I would certainly collaborate with artists whom I could get in tune with, with whom I can create a synergistic and creative project.

16Where do you see the evolution of the overall business industry in the next 5-10 years?

I see a lot of start-ups becoming prominent industry leaders across business verticals.

The entrepreneurial and fresh approach to business holds the key and only those who adapt / innovate would survive.

17Who inspired you in your life, and why?

Strange as it may sound, my single biggest inspiration happens to be Michael Jordan. More than his actual exploits on the court, I have always been enamoured by his attitude..

Team’s Point guard not performing. He owns it like a boss.

Opposition comes up with Jordan rules? He break those.

He demanded nothing short of best from his team, & he was the first to step up his game and lead with an example. It takes guts to retire at one’s prime and make a successful return to a high demanding game. It’s his tenacity and single minded obsession to success which I have truly tried to emulate.

18What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?


International Business is inherently subject to risks. Currency risk, regulatory risk, tariffs or something like COVID-19 can deal a killer blow to your market plans. You require a truly resilient mindset to tackle such headwinds without losing the sight of endgame.

My only advice would be never try to rationalize failures or change of premise. Instead try to be a solutions guy. Even a layman can theorize the problem statement. Art and skill is in finding and implementing a solution. It takes a lot to get the flywheel in motion, but once it does - the momentum carries it forward. Never let your focus from the endgame slip.