Sunday, 13 May 2018

A SOUL TOUCH WITH A GO GETTER……..IN CONVERSATION WITH AKSHALI SHAH

In my pleasurable occupation of connecting to young Icons and understanding their profiles as well as their aspirations, I have come across a plethora of amazing human qualities. Refinements of the human nature, which have both humbled me and enriched me beyond compare was the result of this endeavor. It is now encouraging me to start today’s piece with two clichés which have been actualized for me during my eventful journey. First, that “the young are wise”. Chronologically with less seasons behind them, they still manage to pick up many valuable lessons from Life’s book as they transverse their journey on their often unchartered path. Second, “It is more important how you do things, not what you do” .Akshali Shah, the Scion(gender non-specific!) of Gowardhan Dairy Enterprises under the auspices of Parag Milk Foods and the future game-changer of India’s Dairy Industry is a classic example of both the above mentioned adages.
The voice on the phone was well modulated and courteous, epitomizing a great upbringing and a well rounded education. There was a hint of a smile in Akshali’s voice and conversation, spelling out a confidence and an optimism of a young achiever riding a crest of success. Yes!!!Today’s icon and a rendezvous with her was certainly going to be worth it! A caring well knit family and uncompromisingly impeccable credentials at the Krishnamurthy Foundation School, provided Akshali’s emphatic potential the headstart to life. Akshali endorses the importance of self reliance and a value based education as irreplaceable components of one’s skill set. Early in life, she was sure of joining her father’s enterprise and started preparing herself for her role ahead . She realized that observing people and assessing the manner in which they tackle several tasks, always provided a method of self education which was much needed in any achiever. Nearly eight years into the entrepreneurship realm, she admits that real life education is more sustainable than theoretical aspects. A Dairy Business which was not a business but a vocation. Lovingly, dedicatedly and traditionally nurtured with eye for every detail, namely from the name itself….Gowardhan for the Lord Shree Krishna Himself.
Asking about her mentor was like opening out the Floodgates….an outpouring of emotion, adulation and unreserved admiration came forth…… for whom Akshali has the deepest Love…..her father. It was evident from her enthusiastic talk and the beautiful lilt that she had when she spoke about her father that she plainly adores him. To her, Mr.Shah is her support system, her guide and the one person in this world whom she can turn to without hesitation. To me, I feel that the basepoint of every Icon’s Biography is one such personage who gravitates the young achiever to recognize the expanse of his or her potential and to achieve it. She was very vocal about the ethical nature of their manufacturing practices and the specific significance of the same as they work in the space of foods. Her tinkling laugh was right there on the line when I ventured into a compliment for their clever play of words as a Brand….”Go” from “Gowardhan” and of course the concept of the implication of “forward”,” progress” and “dynamism” attached to the word “GO”!!Who says “What’s in a Name?”
Akshali Shah is currently the Sr. VP- Strategy (Sales & Marketing) at Parag Milk Foods Ltd, one of India’s largest private dairy players and manufacturer of leading brands Gowardhan, GO, Topp up, Pride of Cows, Avvatar and Slurp. She has been spearheading innovation and strategy for new product development. In her current role, she is actively involved in product innovation, branding, marketing and advertising strategy, category intelligence and competitive analysis.
Akshali started as Management Trainee in the family led business which gave her cross functional exposure. This helped her gain first hand and practical experience about the sector. She spent her formative years in sales, brand management, customer marketing and understanding the dynamics of the business. She has been the torchbearer in identifying, building and implementing the concept of farm to table milk – Pride of Cows, premium quality milk. She has played a key role in revamping the corporate identity of the company and has brought in new innovation in branding, public image, marketing & advertising strategy, sales campaigns and marketing metrics.
Akshali freely admits that the initial years of her professional tenure were definitely uphill ones, what with the expected resistance from the seniors who were well ensconced in rigidity and prototypic framework. There were also rumbles of insecurities all of which Akshali handed with grace and elan which are conformational to her likeable and pleasant personality. Very soon, the entire workforce forged behind this veritable icon and the ride on the crest had begun.
Akshali is very vocal in the tremendous benefits she has got in her tenure in the MBA Program and is very grateful to her Alma Mater and the motivating teachers.She is very emphatic in stating that the real life lessons and the case study oriented assignments helped her get a “shop floor” experience which was both timely and relevant.Akshali admits to a substantial enrichment in her personal and professional growth during this programme.
There is a deep breath at the other end of the phone when I ask her about her greatest contribution to the mammoth fabric of Gowardhan……she introspects and begins to recount that reinventing the brand to match the contemporary plethora was definitely a big challenge.Additionally, recognizing the absolute reasons why the Indian Consumer is now Global, both in his choices and his preferences and trying to negate the same with the upright and uncompromising quality of Gowardhan was another very significant aspect of the growth of her company.
Her very emphatic potential as a visionary comes to the forefront when she speaks about the Banyan tree like Parag Foods under which many a fledgling career has taken its maiden flight. Parag Milk Foods Limited, established in 1992, is the largest private dairy FMCG company with a pan-India presence. They have our own manufacturing facilities with in-house technology which are strategically located at Manchar in Maharashtra and Palamaner in Andhra Pradesh.
They sell 100% cow’s milk products which are healthy and nutritious. Recognising that the dietary superiority of cow’s milk is second to none except human milk, even the name of the Company synchronises with “Go” for “Gau” in Sanskrit.Their integrated business model and strong R&D capabilities has helped them to emerge as the leader in innovation.
Their dairy farm, the Bhagyalaxmi Dairy Farm Private Limited houses more than 2,000 Holstein Friesian cows, with a mechanized milking process and uncompromisingly high standards of hygiene and sanitation.
Under the brand “Gowardhan”, they offer traditional products like Ghee, Dahi, Paneer to name a few while under brand name “Go” they offer products like cheese, UHT milk, chaas, lassi, yoghurt and others.Akshali’s mainstay is her constant quest for novel and wellness oriented products with an underlying idealism, which is as impressive as it is endearing.She expressed her very ardent desire to make available to the masses of India, the single superior nutrient, Cow’s milk, in its entire spectrum and also be instrumental for backward integration, where her Company would be the fulcrum and driving force for nurturing of the native cattle force of the country. “Pride of Cows”, the flagship brand of Parag Milk Foods was introduced with a proposition of Farm to Home concept targeted towards customers seeking premium quality cow milk. The Company also forayed into dairy based beverages with the launch of “Topp Up” and “Slurp” - a mango drink with a dash of milk. Recently the Company has also ventured into B2C segment for Whey Protein with the brand Avvatar – India’s 1st 100% vegetarian whey protein, first of its kind manufactured in India.Their goal is to become the largest dairy FMCG company that emphasizes on health and nutrition to consumers through innovation.With a young visionary like Akshali as the driving force of the company, it does not seem to be a tall order at all.
Her expertise in Information Technology & Digital Marketing has helped Parag Milk Foods Ltd. enhance their overall brand visibility on social media and build a strong digital presence. Under Akshali's leadership, Parag Milk Foods has developed a strong brand recall and engagement with its end consumers,
An impressive aspect of Akshali’s conversation was that she came across as someone who was well read and well-informed in the sphere of her subject of Dairy Science and Technology.She seems to be a person with an eye for detail, which is a very emphatic hallmark of an achiever.She stated that though as a country we have the largest number of cows, we also are a country where they are under utilized for their dairy resources.She wishes to change this picture in the years to come.The young icon is looking beyond……her company ….its aspirations and wishes to address the country, the national requirements and the “larger picture”….what an amazing maturity in someone so young!!
Akshali loves to travel and explore new destinations, a quality that she has inherited from her father. This has helped her understand global trends in the dairy industry and design products which suit Indian palates. She has been recognised as one of the “Most Influential Women” in IMPACT's 50 Most Influential Women in the Advertising, Media and Marketing industry.
Asked by me what she does when she is free….she laughs and confesses that she is a Workoholic….but when free, she is like any ordinary,lively young girl who catches moments of “me time” with friends and family…while dreaming big and painting on life’s canvas using all the kaleidoscopic hues imaginable.Go girl…..Go…..the Milky way awaits you…
Written by Dr Jyoti Vora
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