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By TPCI | October 9, 2019

Having started its operations in 1976, Sareen Group had first set-up Sareen Rice Mill and then added another mill with the name of Shankar Rice Mill in 1981 at Ajnala, Amritsar. Since then, the company has been moving on with the diversification process of trading with import and export of various products across the globe and there has been no looking back.

As a part of its diversification, the group set up Sareen Impex Private Limited in 2011 in the border district of Amritsar. The company boasts of a strong expertise and heritage in agro commodities with specialties in food grains like rice (basmati, non-basmati), sugar, wheat, wheat flour (atta), and seasame seeds.

Rohit recognised the treasure of 100% Natural Himalayan PinkSalt ranges and started his brand BEING HEALTHY PINK HIMALAYAN ROCK SALT which has been termed as “BLESSING OF HIMALAYA”. After setting up the source line starting right from mining up-to making of finished edible salt, he has established himself as the single largest niche player in India supplying the highest quality of Pink Himalayan Salt which is free of metals , impurities and is a true source of natural minerals.

Mr. Rohit Sareen, Director, Sareen Impex Pvt Ltd speaks to IndusFood about his personal plans for expansion and the major product lines earmarked for exports. Following are a few excerpts from the interview:

IndusFood: What was the inspiration behind the brand when it was founded? How did the business launch and evolve in the initial years? What has been the entire growth story?
Rohit Sareen: In the present day scenario, the focus of the global food and beverage industry is now shifting towards “Health and Hygiene”. With so much of artificial things, damage to environment and creation of a cosmetic world, the need of the hour is to shift the focus towards the concept of healthy eating and healthy living.  We are witnessing a generational shift in the current era in which today’s youth, which I consider as the age group of 25-40, have taken over the reins and are getting to spend more on life experiences and health and hygiene. Thus came the idea to make a brand “BEING HEALTHY”.

Three generations of our family have a background in the food industry since 1976, which propelled me towards the health-food segment. I discovered that healthy alternatives were being found for almost every item. But salt was still considered more or less as a taboo for the health of people on one hand and was a major ingredient and pre-requisite for almost every food, on the other. So I decided to work into this untapped and overlooked category.

Eventually, as I satiated my initial hunger for knowledge for salt and its history in India, I found surprising mentions of Pink Himalayan Salt in our Ayurvedic Literature. It has distinct mention of these salts for multiple times in it and also highlights its benefits.

We took this into our immediate notice and within no time, started supplying Pink Himalayan Salt to MNCs in bulk that further re-packaged the same and sold it in the market. We then analyzed that these companies are re-labeling and selling domestically. By then, a major share of India’s Rock Salt import was with us. Today, almost every 3rd brand in India selling Pink Himalayan Salt is our customer. Furthermore, with a satisfactory presence in the domestic market, we are today focusing more on exports in our retail packaging. Around 67% of rock salt being sold in India is somewhat being sourced through us in bulk packs.

IndusFood: What were the major challenges to growth and expansion and how did you meet them?
Rohit Sareen: The first and major challenge was to find a genuine source of this product. The mines of such salts are naturally present on earth and only available in Pakistan. This is a major bottleneck, and unfortunately because of the strained relations of our country with Pakistan, it has always held a dark shadow on ease of trade between the two nations. However, with time, we understood that while working with Pakistan, one has to be prepared for sudden change in policies by Govt. and one should always have a solution and troubleshooting skills to make the product available in India with 100% legitimate and legal means.

Second major roadblock was a major challenge of finding a right person in that country which has had a negative reputation in the international trade arena, but thanks to some of my friends who had introduced me to the right people there. I was indeed lucky!

Third, the manufacturers of this product (the pink salt) were producing it in a very unhygienic and unhealthy atmosphere, which actually gave birth to the idea of having our own specific manufacturing plant, which would only produce for us with the proper hygienic and healthy production measures laid by myself. So we set up a new production facility that would be class apart, keeping in view the international health and hygiene standards to produce a high-quality product, which would solve the mission of spreading the blessings of Himalayas in the form or Pink Himalayan Salt in its true and natural form. We also setup a retail packaging unit in Amritsar (India) which is geographically just 180 miles from the actual Khewra Salt Mines. So, distance wise, the Khewra Salt mines in Pakistan are more in proximity to Amritsar in India than Karachi in Pakistan.

IndusFood: What transformational changes has the business undergone, since its inception in terms of product portfolio/innovations, reach, brand equity, etc.
Rohit Sareen: Initially, we explored this product particularly for an FMCG company in India, which has its turnover in billions in the FMCG foods sector. The fact that we matched the standards and volumes for them gave us a lot of confidence. So we started diversifying by supplying bulk packs of Himalayan Pink Salt to other major players also. By God’s grace, we now supply 67% of India’s total imports and in the month of July 2019, we were the largest importers of Edible Crushed Pink Himalayan Salt in India.

So with this, our entire concept was to create the brand for the export market and hence we started our retail packaging with a packaging unit in Amritsar where we are packaging for various brands and our brand as well. Today, we have Pink Himalayan Salt both in powder form for cooking and granules form, which again is used in cooking and bathing salt as well. Our products are available today for the export markets in attractive packs that include 1Kg Standy Pouch, 800g Jar, 400g Shaker Bottle, 200g Shaker Bottle and 100g Grinder Bottle.

IndusFood: How has the brand progressed on the international front? What are the key export markets you are targeting for your products and why (domestic and international)?
Rohit Sareen: We are focusing more on promoting our brand in majorly all export markets and also doing private labelling for some of good brands across the world. Our major export markets include Canada, USA, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine, Chile, Netherlands, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and New Zealand.

Western countries have always been a step ahead in accepting health foods as essential part of their life and replacing conventional foods with organic and healthy foods. We are also coming up with a separate packaging facility for international clients in Dubai.

IndusFood: How do you see the growth in the food and agro processing industry from India? How is it expected to reflect on the exports front?
Rohit Sareen: Food Sector is always a very essential sector in the growth of the economy and as we belong to an agrarian state, we should and we are realizing its potential. The focus has always been food and the value addition that we see is converting this to health food, which is the present and future of the entire industry.

IndusFood: How do you plan to expand in the near future? Any new product launch planned or product innovation that you might want to share?
Rohit Sareen: We are working on doing research on making various blends of herbs and seasonings with Pink Himalayan Salt. We are coming up with mixtures and combinations like pink salt & black pepper, pink salt seasonings, healthy snacks made of pink salt, etc.

In marketing, we see our expansion focus towards packing this product for big Super Chains, Hypermarkets and Cash & Carries of the world while diversifying into organic spices, honey and jiggery, for which we are planning a bigger packaging facility in Dubai.

IndusFood: Have you participated in IndusFood earlier? Please share your experience. Is there any product that you plan to launch in IndusFood’s upcoming fixture in 2020?
Rohit Sareen: Indus food has been a revolution for the Indian food industry and I see this exhibition taking over from Gulf Food as the world’s biggest exhibition; and the day does not seem far. The kind of effort that the whole team is putting, and personalized touch with buyers across the world is commendable. We have participated in the last edition and we intend to launch our new packaging of 800g and 400g jars in this edition.