Mr Narayan awarded Family Business Leader Award
Mr Ananya Narayan, Managing Director of Hunter Foods was recognised for his exemplary performance across one key leadership category: Family Business Leader Award at the Stars of Business Award.
SME Advisor Middle East, the flagship title of CPI Business, hosted its annual Stars of Business Leadership Awards 2019, which celebrated and honoured top-notch performers from across the wide spectrum of the SME industry. Held at the luxurious setting of JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, on the evening of March 6th, the iconic awards event was graced with the presence of VIP government dignitaries, senior representatives from the public and private sectors as well as C-suite executives.
Mr Narayan tells us more about the family business, the company’s strategic objectives and vision.
My father started the company in 1985 and the factory was the first building completed in JAFZA in March 1986. Hunter Foods gained much success through their brands – Safari, Aladin and Ali Baba in the UAE in the 1980s and 1990s, and still have a strong following in the country until today. The company launched many new products and entered many new markets including Australia, US and the UK during those two decades. However, with the development of the UAE in the early 2000s and the complications in my father’s health, the company took a roller coaster ride in the years that followed. In 2013, the company hit a low point where we would have sold the company for 1 USD.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for 18 years, my wife Yan and I, decided to join and assist in the running of the business. This is when we built a new brand, Hunter’s Gourmet, which would have a wide range of “Better for You” premium and alternative snacks. We also realized that we could leverage our existing facility to package products that were not viable to produce in the UAE. Furthermore, we thought it would be wise to maximise the distribution infrastructure we had built for our own brands earlier to import and distribute other “Better for You” brands from around the world. Because of all these initiatives, we have now grown by 3 times since 2014.
Our vision is to be the first regional and then global “Better for You” snack company. This would only happen by expansion of sales, expansion in the production of additional factories in at least 3 other markets, acquisition of companies and building a strategic alliance with other partners. Meanwhile, our expansion has little meaning unless we are able to better the lives of our own associates and their families.
How has Hunter Foods’ evolved over generations?
Hunter Foods built the first brand, Safari, based on my father’s love of animals and concentrated more on purchase and optimization of the output from the machines. Each flavor of the latticed Safari potato chips was represented by a different animal. For example, Chi Lee, the lion, was the Chilli flavor; while Cheezo, the giraffe, was Cheese. As the main consumers of these chips were the kids, my father created a loyalty programme called the “Anipals” and a newsletter called “The Jungle Rap”, educating the kids about wildlife preservation, water conservation and other environmental issues through stories and cartoons. This is what built Safari’s loyal following and the company’s success. When we got involved in the company, we needed to build a brand or brands with the same passion my father started with. Having come from the hospitality industry, things that resonated with us were the “Better for You” composition of the products and the business approach, the love of packaging and branding and building new partnerships and relationships. We especially wanted to bring the customer-focused attitude from the hospitality industry into the FMCG industry.
Hunter Foods will continue to innovate and launch many new products and be even more involved in the local and regional communities. One would see our products in many more places and markets of the world.