Despite an international taste preference and demand for Pakistani rice, Pakistan has dropped to 13th place in terms of global rice production (despite the opportunity to increase its market size by 50%), mainly because of a lack of quality variants (Source: United States Department of Agriculture, 2016). Recognising this demand-supply gap, Jazaa Foods (an FMCG company established by Junaid Jamshed in November 2015) launched Jazaa rice in March this year as a premium quality brand designed to tap into this global market potential.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics estimates the total volume of the rice industry at approximately 6.9 million metric tons, of which 40 to 45% goes towards local consumption and the rest is exported. The category comprises basmati (Pakistan’s claim to fame, grown in Punjab), irri (cultivated in Sindh), parboiled (colloquially known as sela in Punjab) and brown rice (grown on a very limited scale on rocky terrains in Northern Pakistan).
According to Ali Jabbar, CEO, Jazaa Foods, “as a staple crop, rice has traditionally been dominated by wholesale suppliers, where the business model relies on low-cost milling and production – and the hope of a steady monsoon season.”
Unbranded khulla chawal accounts for almost 96% of the total industry output. There are only a handful of branded players and these include Matco’s Falak, Engro Eximp’s Rymah and Guard Basmati – the focus here has always been on export markets, because of the higher profit margins. Jabbar says, “there was no brand catering to the growing domestic demand for quality, branded rice and we wanted to take advantage of this gap.”
Given that rice has the third largest crop production output in Pakistan (Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 2015), supply was not a problem and according to Jamshed, Director, Jazaa Foods, the “real challenge was to select rice variants of the highest quality, add value through standardised milling, and bring Jazaa rice to market as an affordable product of the highest quality.”
The name of the company as well as the brand originated from this extensive focus on delivering value-added products. Jazaa translates to ‘reward’ or a ‘fulfilling return’, which is appropriate, as Jamshed’s vision for Jazaa Foods is to establish Pakistan’s first FMCG initiative producing branded consumption commodities of the highest quality.
"Despite the stringent quality control standards the product was subjected to, I wanted to ensure that Jazaa rice remains affordable for every Pakistani household.”
— Junaid Jamshed
Interestingly, the inspiration for Jazaa rice came from the Indian brand Tilda, a major player in the international market, which relies on delivering the best tasting rice. “I wanted to replicate Tilda’s success in Pakistan, which is why despite the stringent quality control standards the product was subjected to, I wanted to ensure that Jazaa rice would remain affordable for every Pakistani household.”
Implementing this vision meant that the pricing strategy had to be carefully devised so that the brand would be affordable across most socio-economic groups. To ensure this, Jazaa rice was launched in five variants, each of which has two SKUs: Jazaa Elite Steam Rice (Rs 199/one kg; Rs 985/five kg), Jazaa Premium Basmati (Rs 170/one kg; Rs 840/five kg), Sela Gold Rice (Rs 160/one kg; Rs 790/five kg), Basmati Rice (Rs 140/one kg; Rs 690/five kg) and Economy Rice (Rs 110/one kg; Rs 540/5 kg). To put it into context, a one-kilogram pack of unbranded rice sells for between Rs 90 and 100, while a similar quantity of branded rice is priced at between Rs 120 and 160.
However, Jamshed was keen to ensure that this affordability did not come at the expense of product quality. “From the onset, I believed that to grab market share, Jazaa rice would have to deliver quality and taste in every pack.”
Industry insiders have often pinpointed the lack of adequate processing facilities as the reason why Pakistani rice is of poor quality and Jazaa Foods expected to encounter a similar challenge. However, the team was pleasantly surprised to find that a robust infrastructure for refining, processing and packaging rice was already in place. The problem, they discovered, is that the major rice players prefer to minimise the cost of production and are thus unwilling to make the required investment to improve quality.
Jazaa Foods, however, believe that investing time and money early on will hold the brand in good stead and yield optimal returns in the long run. Therefore, from the time the rice is purchased from designated plantations in Punjab to when it is transported to the milling unit at Port Qasim, the company closely monitors the supply chain. Furthermore, prior to packaging, every grain of rice is inspected by an internationally trained, in-house quality assurance team, and it is only after their approval that the rice is packaged for distribution. According to Jamshed, “the critical success factors for Jazaa rice, locally and internationally, are extensive refining as well as packaging that is not only attractive, but complies with international food packaging regulations.”
While the brand vision is to take Jazaa rice global, currently the brand’s distribution (which began in Karachi) has been limited to supermarkets, grocery shops and kiryana stores across Pakistan.
In what can safely be termed a packaging innovation for branded rice in Pakistan, the pack of each of the five variants carries a product shot of a meal cooked with that particular rice variety. This has not only helped the packaging to grab eyeballs on retail shelves, but, as Jabbar explains, “it has helped to create awareness about which kind of rice is most suited for which recipe. For instance, most people are unaware that sela rice is ideal for biryani and pulao.”
In the four months since launch, Jazaa rice has managed to carve out a place for itself. The Jazaa Foods team is particularly proud of this achievement because instead of opting for an extensive ATL-driven prelaunch campaign, they opted to let word-of-mouth promotions drive sales. In addition, a chunk of the initial marketing budget was allocated to trade activation initiatives, including having store inceptors at selected outlets hand out product samples to generate trial and consumption. “The rationale,” Jamshed states, “was that once people experience the taste of Jazaa rice, they will not be satisfied with any other brand or variety of rice.” Product placement in cooking shows, particularly during Ramazan, was also a strategy that helped increase brand awareness and recall.
To make the brand even more accessible, free home delivery within Karachi is being offered and orders can be placed by logging on to jazaafoods.com. “The advantage,” Jabbar says, “is that there is no minimum order quantity and people can order even a pack of one kilogram.”
A traditional ATL campaign, conceived, designed and executed by Ailaan Advertising, was launched after the product distribution had started.
Planning is now underway to launch export operations, where the challenge will be the extensive product quality and packaging regulations.
Considering Jazaa rice’s export potential, Jamshed adds that, “I realise that our expenses will increase substantially, but in my experience, the export market is where the maximum profits are. An important incentive is the presence of large Pakistani expatriate communities in those markets who will welcome a quality brand that will give the traditional aroma and flavour they are accustomed to.”