Many of us know the Chitale Bandhu because of its Shrikhand, curd and other dairy food products. The desi brand is also popular for its version of a Gujarati snack called ‘Bhakarawadi’. The journey of this multi-crore Chitale Bandhu was started in 1939 by a dairy runner living in a remote area of Maharashtra by purchasing a few dozen buffaloes and building a successful dairy farm business. Dairy farmer Bhaskar Ganesh Chitale, also known as Baba Saheb, came from the surroundings of the zamindars and moneylenders, then he had no idea that his business would reach the heights of success. This business started with dairy farming has become a big name today. Along with their sweets and bhakarawadi, their other food products are also liked by the country and abroad. Let us tell you, their success story.
Bhaskar Ganesh was quite famous in Chitale, Maharashtra. However, his journey was not so easy. In the early 20th century, Bhaskar lost his father at the age of 14. Subsequently, to take care of his mother, he gave up studies. He later worked as a laborer in a drought-stricken village in Limbgowe, about 20 km from Satara. Within a few years, he began to feel that by working in such fields, the family was not going to run. To improve his economic condition, he moved to Bhilwadi in Sangli district in the year 1939. And, the success story of Chitale Bandhu started right here!
The fourth generation of Chitle brothers is also associated with business today. Baba Saheb’s great-grandson, Indranil recalls his early days in his family’s dairy business, saying, “While having meals with the family, we often talked about business. At that time, an atmosphere like a boardroom meeting was created. My grandfather Narasimha used to take us to the factory and shed often.
32-year-old Indranil, who joined this business a decade ago, The Businesslend Talking to me, “My great grandfather lost everything he had in the 1918 pandemic. He then came to Bhilwadi, which is situated on the banks of the Krishna River. Therefore, it was a good place to start a business. There was availability of water throughout the year and there was also a railway line reaching Mumbai. ”
Bhilwadi had a large amount of fodder and water facilities for pets such as cows, buffalo etc. Therefore, milk production was also quite good here. It was from here that Baba Saheb took care of the dairy business. Indranil says, “In the days when the dairy business was established, there was no pasteurization or partial standardization of the quality of milk. The milk had to be sold fresh or converted into food products such as yogurt or khoya. He further states that he was, in the beginning, primarily a ‘B2B’ (Business to Business) supplier.
With the help of British Railways, milk products made from milk were sent to Mumbai. However, it was difficult to maintain focus on the market due to lack of electricity and communication. Then Babasaheb brought his elder son, Raghunath Chitle, to Mumbai to take over the business with him, who used to work in a mill in Surat in those days. To do milk supply business, it is necessary to have regular customers, which was quite difficult in Mumbai in those days. This was the reason why he concentrated his business in Pune instead of Mumbai.
Indranil says that in 1944, my grandfather and younger brother of Raghunath Rao, Narasimha joined the business. However, there were many problems with being a mere B2B supplier. He further added, “Whenever the retailers claimed that the milk was not fresh, we were unable to investigate those claims. Due to this, we had to face financial loss. From here, we started selling milk under our own brand (Chitle Dairy). ”
He predictably states that Chittale had about 20 cows in those days and sold 45 to 50 liters of milk per day. He adds, “We were selling as much as we were producing. We had a house of 10,000 square feet, next to which there was a shed. ” Raghunath’s two other brothers, Parashurama and Dattareya also joined the business in the mid-1950s.
Chitle dairy had a high milk production, while there was not a large storage system. For this reason, the business was divided into two parts, ‘Chitale Dairy’ and ‘Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale’ (Chitale Bandhu).
Indranil explains, “Today we process about eight lakh liters of milk every day, out of which four lakh liters of milk is sold and the rest from milk, condensed milk and curd, paneer, shrikhand, ghee, cheese and milk powder etc. is made.
Shrikhand, Stores and Easy Procedures
In this era of internet, it seems hard to think of a time when feedback was given in person. Indranil’s father Sanjay Chitle says, “There was a need to take forward the brand created by my father (Narasimha) and uncle. Without a website, Facebook, Instagram or social media platforms, we had a good contact with customers, we were all like a family. The customers in our shop gave us all kinds of feedback, which helped us to move forward a lot.
Recalling the old things, Sanjay says, “The percentage of fat in our Shrikhand was higher than the standards, we had to go to Delhi to get its approval. My father was a friend of former railway minister, Ram Naik, who helped us a lot. He asked us to bring Shrikhand to Delhi, where the then Health Minister Sushma Swaraj also tasted and liked Shrikhand.
Milk and products made from them spoil quickly. In such a situation, it was also a big challenge to reach them on time. Indranil explains, “Around the 1970s, the roads were not so good for transportation and there were many packaging problems as well. Until 1970, milk was transported in glass bottles. Despite this, we used to bring and process raw milk from different places, then supply milk to the market till four in the morning and deliver it to the customers till seven in the morning. ”
Today there are several milk collection centers, about 75 km from the Dairy Business Center. Says Indranil, “About 40 thousand farmers work with us, who supply their raw milk to the ‘Milk Association’.” Every farmer supplies about 20 liters of milk. ”
He adds, “We had to work on credit with retail traders, due to which the farmers were not able to be paid regularly. We had to find a way to avoid the problem of cash and maintain cash flow. Therefore, we started shops to sell milk and sweets, so that regular cash flow would be maintained. ”
To streamline this process, the brand has now adopted technologies such as cloud computing, data analysis, and automated payments to farmers.
Says Indranil, “In addition, a number of tests are also done regularly to ensure that the food product does not contain esteroids and pesticides. Our milk supply business is only up to Mumbai and Pune, while Chitale Bandhu sweets are in demand worldwide. Our brand has completed 82 years this year. To sell our food products abroad, we have to follow the rules of various countries. ”
Bhakrawadi of Chitle Bandhu
Sanjay, who joined the business in 1983, says, “The time between 1980-95 was important for the brand.” He further added, “We were a special Maharashtrian brand at that time. Our brand wanted to reach other communities. To attract them to our food products, we offered an alternative to Bhakarawadi. ”
In the 70s, a neighbor of Narasimha exposed him to Bhakarawadi, a Gujarati snack. Who used to make the Nagpuri variant of Bhakarawadi.
Later Chitale Bandhu started making this Gujarati snack keeping in mind the taste of the two states. Says Indranil, “In Nagpur it is called ‘Pudachi Vadi’. It is a very spicy and fried spring roll. Its Gujarati variant is also fried, but it contains more than just garlic and onion. My grandfather thought of preparing a different kind of Bhakarawadi, combining the spicy taste of Nagpur Pudachi Vadi and the shape of Gujarati Bhakarawadi. ”
Narasimha’s elder sister-in-law Vijaya and wife Mangala learned how to make Bhakarawadi well. In the year 1976, these started selling in the Bhakarawadi market and soon their demand increased so much, which was difficult to meet.
Sanjay says that we hired 100 people for Bhakarwadi. Nevertheless, they were not sufficient to meet the demand. He says, “During 1992–96, I took many trips to find and research Bhakarawadi machines. Machines required a lot of research and in those days, contact was possible only by post, which used to take a long time.
Says Indranil, “Today we have three machines for making Bhakarawadi, which produce about one thousand kilos in an hour. To maintain the same spicy spicy taste in them, we grow a special kind of green and red chillies. ”
Chitale Bandhu has its own fruit processing unit, in which mango pulp is prepared. It is used to make shrikhand and mango barfi. Through this process, it is ensured that their taste remains the same throughout the year. His Gulab Jamun mixture is also a big hit among customers.
the household Name International The brand
The company, which started with the delivery of milk bottles, is now trying its hand at keto-vegan products as well. Says Indranil, “With the help of the Internet we are connected much better with our consumers around the world. With the help of e-commerce, we are able to launch many food products. Which do not do much in the retail market, but they are in great demand on the online platform, such as low sugar, insect-friendly and vegan-friendly food products. ”
Says Indranil, “Chitale Bandhu was the first company in the country to start packing milk in pouches in 1971. Earlier, it was very difficult to handle and clean glass bottles. It also had to suffer a lot of damage. Due to packing the milk in pouches, we were able to reach more and more customers. ”
This business, which started with a total of 10 employees, including four brothers, has become an international brand and today there are two thousand people working here.
Sanjay says, “The popularity of our brand among people was so high that we never needed to promote our food products. In those days, only Doordarshan channel used to come on TV, while it was very expensive to advertise in newspapers. That’s why we used to advertise only during festivals. ”
Even after 82 years, the name Chitle is enough to keep customers engaged.