04 Oct

Salov ready to grab Indian olive oil market

A month ago, Riyad Oomerbhoy, MD of FMCG RRO just did the unthinkable. Severed ties with one of the world’s biggest FMCG companies Unilever’s and made a deal with an Italian family-owned business the Salov Group to bring in their Filippo Berio Olive oil, which the family has been making for the past 150 years. A deal he says he made over the phone from India to Italy. And Oomerbhoy has bagged exclusive rights to Saarc and Middle East as well.

Now, he is host to the fifth generation of the Fontana family, 50-year-old CEO and chairman, Alberto Fontana who is on his first trip to India. And both are ready to take on the MNC giant and grab at least 15% of the approximately 2,000 tonne olive oil market. “I am not afraid of Unilever. Family businesses are changing worldwide. Up until 15-20 years ago, a lot of the family businesses were absorbed, to-day the story is different, as the companies undergo phases and grow and achieve a certain size, they are not to be scoffed at,” says Fontana.

Over the years, there have undoubtedly been offers from private equity, FMCG and others to take over, buyout but Fontana has always resisted. He recalls the last serious offer being at least ten years ago. “At that time, we were a e150-million company, today we are more than e350 million (Rs 19,000 crores approx), we bring value to a business, quicker decisions, ethics as well as family businesses bring commitment, quality and culture that is very difficult to find in large multinationals, says Fontana who is quick to caution that it is only those family ventures that structure themselves in a corporate way who will succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

The strength to resist the temptations to selling out have come from the fact as Fontana says, “As long as you are having fun and pride in what you do, you will survive.” For Fontana, whose biggest markets have been the US (60%) followed by Europe, it is the new markets of East Europe, S America and maybe India which are where he and his next generation are looking forward to having fun.

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