The tale of the Indian Greek yoghurt

Rohan Mirchandani describes how he went from being the ice cream man to the dahi wala

February 22, 2018 03:25 pm | Updated 03:25 pm IST

“In 500-400 BC, ancient Athens designated the legal right of inter-marrying into another city-state. This was called epigamia . It was the term used to formalise relationships between people of different nations. This marriage of two different civilisations is the nature or essence of our product. This is why I named the first Indian-based Greek yoghurt, Epigamia. It has a very Indian DNA despite being Greek yoghurt,” says Rohan Mirchandani, founder and CEO of the Greek yoghurt brand we see lining dairy shelves across most retail stores.

With its range of flavoured yoghurt, the brand has become synonymous with Greek yoghurt in the country and more recently, introduced its new artisanal, lactose-free variant.

Just as all success stories have a remarkable story of origin, Epigamia does too. Before acquiring the sole position of being the first Indian Greek yoghurt brand, Mirchandani started off by selling ice cream. For the US-born and bred entrepreneur, his association with Hokey Pokey Ice Creams as an investor was his introduction to India, which is why he also eventually decided to move to the country in 2013.

Until he got into the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) space, Mirchandani thought India was the largest FMCG consumer while still in business school. “This gave me reason to transform Hokey Pokey from a parlour to an FMCG product. While the brand and the product were accepted widely, we faced the challenge of seasonability. Hence, we put on our thinking caps and went on to work on a product that isn’t in India, but is Indian; something that meets lifestyle needs but is made from locally sourced ingredients,” explains Mirchandani.

While Epigamia Greek yoghurt might have originally been meant to tackle the seasonability of ice cream, it went on to become a huge hit with a cross-section of consumers. Mirchandani feels “the reason for the response is the Indian DNA of the product and the fact that we are preservative-free”.

Before moving to India, Mirchandani led a career in the finance sector with Standard & Poor’s Corporate Valuation Group, where he spent time in Tokyo working on one of the largest merger and acquisition transactions in history.

He then went on to join his family-owned company, the Ross Group, where he was responsible for re-branding the logistics business. Mirchandani claims he is a student of gastronomy, loves playing and watching basketball, and is an art aficionado.

“My passion for food is linked to my passion for travel; I consider myself an amateur gastronomist. I can never be satisfied with a meal without knowing how it originated and the culture behind the cuisine,” he adds.

Art of the matter

Mirchandani is also a whisky and wine connoisseur, especially Californian wines and American bourbons.

All this begs the question: how does this yoghurt brand deal with complaints that arise out of storage at FMCG stores and other outlets?

“We get numerous complaints about delivery and poor conditions at FMCG outlets. When such issues crop up, we replace the products. It does affect revenue, but our honesty to the product is priority,” concludes Mirchandani.

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