You may not be so familiar with Western Beverages, but you will definitely have heard of and seen their range of products. The Taan range of soft drinks, sodas and packaged drinking water are a popular sight and choice, especially in these days when the escalating temperatures leave one craving for a nice chilled drink. Interestingly, this home grown brand has worked its way into the hearts and minds of people, thus enabling it to stand tall despite the stiff competition if faces from the range of multinational and big ticket desi brands.
Started in 1996, Western Beverages is the brainchild of Ravindranath Kamat. After completing his Masters in Economics from the School of Economics, Mumbai University, Kamat received a scholarship for an advanced course in economics from the Hague University in Netherlands. On returning back to India, he was accepted into IIM- Calcutta in the 1976 batch. Thereafter, he worked with various groups including the Chowgule Group, the Timblo Group and Coca Cola.
Kamat’s stint at Coca-Cola lasted for several years. Apart from serving the company in the capacity of Managing Director of the plant in Goa, he was also part of company’s chief advisory board in Mumbai. After leaving the Coca-Cola group, he joined the Fomento Group and was part of the Goa Bottling Company as the Managing Director till 1993.
By then he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and he decided to start a Cadbury Schweppes’ franchise in the state. But fate, it seems, had other plans in store for him. Just before he could start the franchise, Cadbury Schweppes was sold to Coca Cola. The resulting conflict of interest made him unable to operate the franchise. Undettered, in 1996, he started his own venture, Western Beverages. Today, even though he’s way past the retirement age, 71-year-old Kamat is busy at work, diligently overlooking the company and its progress.
Western Beverages produces a range of carbonated soft drinks, soda and packaged drinking water under the brand Taan. The soft drinks lemonade, orangeade, pineapple fizz and masala soda are available in packs of 250ml and 750ml and are priced reasonably in the range of `10 to `20. Taan’s packaged drinking water, meanwhile is currently available in 500 ml and 1 litre bottles priced at `8 and `12 respectively. Taking the action a notch further, Kamat went on to launch Twist, a range of premium mixers available in three flavours – tonic water, bitter lemon and ginger ale – and available in 250 ml, non returnable full sleeve glass bottles priced at `25 per bottle and also take away packs of 12 pet bottles of 500ml each priced at priced at `30 per bottle. These packs are intended for consumption at home, parties, picnics etc. The soda is also manufactured in 300ml.
Talking about what sets Western Beverages apart from others, especially the big daddies of the beverage industry, Kamat says, “The three things that define us and set us apart are quality, reasonable price and availability. The strength of our product lies in its quality. We use the best raw material and there is absolutely no compromise on quality. It’s a known fact that the moment quality deteriorates, the consumers will not return to buy the products. Our second important strategy was to keep our products at a reasonable rate. At Western Beverages we keep our products reasonably priced and unlike other brands, we have not increased our prices for several years now. Our third strength is that although we are small, we have a good and strong distribution line. We take care of our distributors who in turn, take care of us.”
The staff strength at Western Beverages comprises of 11 people working in the office, 60-70 workers in their factories and about 12 employees for laboratory, administration and quality control. Located at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate, the company operates four production plants including one to manufacture the pet bottles that they use. And even in the face of stiff competition, with new competitors springing up almost everyday day, the company has maintained its hold on the domestic market averaging a turnover of about `10 crores per annum.
Kamat believes today’s youngsters still have to learn the importance of hard work to achieve success in life. Recalling his life, Kamat says it was definitely no bed of roses and it took him a lot of hard work and long working hours to get to where he is today. Apart from being the MD of Western Beverages, Kamat is also the chairman of the Model Education Society which runs the Bhatikar Model School. He is also part of the academic committee board of the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Institute of Management and is also serving as President of Margao’s popular BPS Sports Club, for the fourth time.
On a parting note, Kamat says, “We like to keep a low profile. It’s all about the company and the products, and definitely not about me. There’s no ‘me’ anywhere in the picture. Our company achieves 20 per cent growth every year and we are happy with it.” So are his customers with the amazing quality products he provides them with.