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July 19 , 2013
Bengaluru-based Benson Company is known for its range of fragrances. That apart, its range of flavours has found entry into not just food & beverage products but also into pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. The 64-year-old company founded by B N Prahalada Rao in 1949 has come a long way. Today, its flavours division is led by P Sudhindra. The company has a Blending Plant for fragrances at the Jigani Industrial Area in Bengaluru and an R&D centre as well. After capturing Indian markets, the company has mega plans for the Middle-East. P Ravindra, partner, Benson Company, delves deeper into the company’s presence in various markets and future expansions in an interaction with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

Yours is a 50-year-old company, how has it fared over the years?
Benson started its operations during the year 1949 by representing the South India Drug Co (UB Group) as agents for food flavours & fragrances. During 1960s, South India Drug Co became A Boake Roberts and then merged with other company and became Bush Boake Allen. In the year 2000, Bush Boake Allen India Ltd was acquired by International Flavours & Fragrances, a US-based company and uptil now Benson is continuing as their channel partners, servicing flavours & fragrances needs’ of customers from all over India, South Africa and Dubai.

It is also important to mention that in 1990, Benson started its perfumery blending plant with technical assistance from then Bush Boake Allen India Ltd, creating winning fragrances for incense, cosmetics, soaps & detergents industries.

Which are the segments driving the growth of the company – is it fragrances, flavours, essential oils or hydrosols?
Benson Co has enjoyed healthy growth rates in both flavours and fragrances segments equally over the years. Good investments in state-of-the-art quality assurance and strict adherence to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), and training of perfumers have been the main drivers for our growth in the fragrance division. Building a committed, enthusiastic, dynamic team has been our main strength, which ensures greater growth in the coming years.  

How is the Indian market receptive to your range of products?
All our products are aimed to be a customer delight and hence we get very good response for flavours and fragrances from all over the country and also globally. This indicates our product acceptance, which gets into a range of incense sticks, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, food, beverage, among others. All our products are marketed in bulk to the companies, which manufacture the final formulation or brand.

What, according to you, is an estimated India market size for fragrances, flavours, essential oils and hydrosols?
According to our guesstimate, the Indian market size for fragrances is Rs 1,200 crore and flavours is valued at Rs1,500 crore. For essential oils and hydrosols, there are no estimates with us.

Tell us about your presence in the international arena.

In flavours, we are now present in countries like South Africa and the UAE, specifically, Dubai. Regarding fragrances, negotiations are on with few of our channel partners.

Specifically to the Middle-East which you are looking to enter, what have been the efforts made by the company to tap the market?
In the Middle-East, we are negotiating with few of the potential business partners to work out the logistics of reaching to potential customers. This market looks for a quick sourcing of bulk fragrances and flavours and hence we need to go through partners to enter the region.

Which countries in the Middle-East is Benson looking at?
From our understanding and assessment of the market, we see promising business potential in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Iran and the UAE.

What are the kinds of products that Benson is keen to market?
Since, there is good potential available in the Middle-East, we plan to market our fragrances in these countries.

What are the visible trends in the Middle-East?

The key trend in the Middle-East for fragrances is the appeal for Oud, which is a specific kind of aroma. There is good demand for sandal and strong scents, besides the ubiquitous attar which is a natural perfume oil derived from botanical sources that is very popular. The use of perfume in the Middle-East is profuse. It is gathered that all the countries of the Middle-East region spends considerable amount of money and time to buy and select perfume based on fragrances. This is where we are confident of market presence in this region.

How have been the Government of India encouraging exporters in the areas of fragrances, flavours and essential oils?
The government has encouraged the sector in terms of infrastructure, funding and export clearances. But it is the global economic downturn, which has impacted market expansion. While Benson has been doing well in India, there is an all-pervasive slowdown across the international arena. Since industries coming under pharmaceuticals, food & beverage and cosmetics are indispensable and seen to be largely recession-resistant, we hope to turn the tide and tap the opportunities.

What is your three-point suggestion to help Indian exporters to trade in the Middle-East for fragrances and flavours?
Indian exporters should continue assessing the market and embark on market expansions. Innovation and innovation again is the only answer for fragrances and flavours industries because there is an ever- increasing demand for unique and exclusive perfumes and cosmetics besides enticing essences for food industry.

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