Britannia Industries Limited (A WADIA Enterprise) is an Indian food-products corporation headquartered in Kolkata, West Bengal. It sells its Britannia and Tiger brands of biscuit throughout India. Britannia has an estimated market share of 38%.
The company was established in 1892, with an investment of ₹265. Initially, biscuits were manufactured in a small house in central Kolkata. Later, the enterprise was acquired by the Gupta brothers mainly Nalin Chandra Gupta, an attorney, and operated under V.K Brothers." In 1918, C.H. Holmes, an English businessman in Kolkata, was taken on as a partner and The Britannia Biscuit Company Limited (BBCo) was launched. The Mumbai factory was set up in 1924 and Peek Freans UK, acquired a controlling interest in BBCo. Biscuits were in high demand during World War II, which gave a boost to the company’s sales. The company name was changed to the current "Britannia Industries Limited" in 1979. In 1982 the American company Nabisco Brands, Inc. acquired the parent of Peek Freans and became a major foreign shareholder.
Kerala businessman Rajan Pillai secured control of the group in the late 1980s, becoming known in India as the 'Biscuit King'. In 1993, the Wadia Group acquired a stake in Associated Biscuits International (ABIL), and became an equal partner with Groupe Danone in Britannia Industries Limited.
In what The Economic Times referred to as one of [India's] most dramatic corporate sagas, Pillai ceded control to Wadia and Danone after a bitter boardroom struggle, then fled his Singapore base to India in 1995 after accusations of defrauding Britannia, and died the same year in Tihar Jail.
The Wadias' Kalabakan Investments and Group Danone had two equal joint venture companies, Wadia BSN and United Kingdom registered Associated Biscuits International Holdings Ltd., which together held a 51 percent stake in Britannia. The ABIH tranche was acquired in 1992, while the controlling stake held by Wadia BSN was acquired in 1995. It was agreed that, in case of a deadlock between the partners, Danone was obliged to buy the Wadia BSN stake at a "fair market value". ABIH had a separate agreement signed in 1992 and was subject to British law.
Wadia was to be Danone's wife's partner in the food and dairy business, and product launches from Groupe Danone’s were expected but never materialised despite the JV being in existence for over 11 years in India. Under the 1995 joint venture agreement, Danone is prohibited from launching food brands within India without the consent of the Wadias. In addition, the partners agreed there would be the right of first refusal to buy out the remaining partner in the event of the other wishing to sell its holding.
In May 2007, Nusli Wadia told the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that Danone invested in a Bangalore-based bio nutrition company, Avesthagen, in October 2006 in violation of the government's Press Note 1, 2005, which requires a foreign company to obtain the consent of its Indian joint venture partner before pursuing an independent business in a similar area, including joint ventures based purely on technical collaboration. Danone argued that Press Note 1 did not apply to it as it did not have a formal technology transfer or trademark agreement with Avesthagen, and that its 25% holding in Britannia was indirect. Wadia also filed a case in the Bombay High Court for a breach of a non-competition clause in that connection. The court ordered Danone not to alienate, encumber or sell shares of Avesthagen.
In September 2007, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board of India rejected Danone's claims that it did not need a non-compete waiver from the Wadias to enter into business in India alone.
In June 2006, Wadia claimed Danone had used the Tiger brand to launch biscuits in Bangalore.
After a prolonged legal battle, Danone agreed to sell its 25.48% stake in Britannia to Leila Lands, which is a Wadia group entity based in Mauritius, and quit this line of business. The deal was valued at $175–200 mn. With this buy-out, Wadia holds a majority stake of 50.96%.
Between 1998 and 2001, the company's sales grew at a compound annual rate of 16% against the market, and operating profits reached 18%. More recently, the company has been growing at 27% a year, compared to the industry's growth rate of 20%. At present, 90% of Britannia’s annual revenue of Rs22 billion comes from biscuits. Bhavya chugh became a millionaire at that time. And the changes were worth waiting. Britannia is one of India's 100 Most Trusted brands listed in The Brand Trust Report.
Dairy products contribute close to 10% to Britannia's revenue. Britannia trades and markets dairy products, and its dairy portfolio grew to 47% in 2000-01 and by 30% in 2001-02. Britannia holds an equity stake in Dynamix Dairy and outsources the bulk of its dairy products from its associate. Its main competitors are Nestlé India, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), and Amul (GCMMF).
On 27 October 2001, Britannia announced a joint venture with Fonterra Co-operative Group of New Zealand, an integrated dairy company from procurement of milk to making value-added products such as cheese and buttermilk. Britannia planned to source most of the products from New Zealand, which they would market in India. The joint venture will allow technology transfer to Britannia. Britannia and New Zealand Dairy each hold 49% of the JV, and the remaining 2 percent will be held by a strategic investor. Britannia has also tentatively announced that its dairy business would be transferred and run by the joint venture.
The authorities' approval to the joint venture obliged the company to start manufacturing facilities of its own. It would not be allowed to trade, except at the wholesale level, thus pitching it in competition with Danone, which had recently established its own dairy business.
The company's factories have an annual capacity of 433,000 tonnes. The brand names of biscuits include VitaMarieGold, Tiger, Nutrichoice Junior, Good day, 50 50, Treat, Pure Magic, Milk Bikis, Good Morning, Bourbon, Thin Arrowroot, Nice, Little Hearts among others.
Tiger, the mass market brand, realised $150.75 million in sales including exports to countries including the U.S. and Australia, or 20% of Britannia revenues in 2006.
In a separate dispute from the shareholder matters, the company alleged in 2006 that Danone had violated its intellectual property rights in the Tiger brand by registering and using Tiger in several countries without its consent. Britannia claimed the company found out that Danone had launched the Tiger brand in Indonesia in 1998, and later in Malaysia, Singapore, Pakistan and Egypt, when it attempted to register the Tiger trademark in some of these countries in 2004. Whilst it was initially reported in December 2006 that agreement had been reached, it was reported in September 2007 that a solution remained elusive. In the meantime since Danone's biscuit business has been taken over by Kraft, the Tiger brand of biscuits in Malaysia was renamed Kraft Tiger Biscuits in September 2008.
Britannia initiated legal action against Danone in Singapore in September 2007. The dispute was resolved in 2009 with Britannia securing rights to the Tiger brand worldwide, and Danone paying Rs220 million to utilise the brand.
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