Commercial entities in general and Indian businesses in particular, consider Ashok Bhatia, the indefatigable Chairman & Managing Director of AB International as a man of few words that are seldom breached.
“His vocabulary and dictionary do not carry words like, ‘Impossible,’ ‘Never,’ ‘Look somewhere else,’ and ‘Not interested.’ In fact, he will find ways and means of helping people, even though they may mean nothing to his business,” his friends and associates say.
The man who puts his heart into his Company and into everyone he meets, is a respected member of the New Zealand business community and the fact that AB International will mark its Tenth Anniversary this year is a source of endearment and admiration.
Armed with wide experience in trade & commerce, import and distribution and wholesale and retail activities in India and Fiji, Mr Bhatia decided to establish a Company in 2001 to cater to the growing need for quality Indian products in the New Zealand market.
Business acumen, market intelligence and an insight into customer preference were factors that helped AB International register rapid growth and achieve its objective of becoming a household name throughout the country.
It is often said that while every family from the Indian Subcontinent would be a consumer of at least two products imported and marketed by AB International, most other New Zealanders would have tasted these in a restaurant or a takeaway.
That speaks for the extensive product range and popular brands that the company proudly represents in New Zealand.
Many of these adorn the shelves of almost all Indian owned and operated supermarkets, superettes, dairies and convenience stores and a growing number of mainstream supermarkets including those of Progressive Enterprises (Foodtown, Countdown and Woolworths) and Foodstuffs (Pak N Save, New World, Four Square) and others.
Brands and Products
AB International has the distinction of having introduced a number of Indian brands to New Zealand, many of which have found loyal customers among all ethnic groups.
These include the famous MTR, Dabur, Ujra and other brands.
Mr Bhatia admitted that market acceptance did not occur overnight.
“It took years of efforts, marketing, advertising and convincing retailers of the quality and durability of Indian products. We are proud that ‘Made in India’ brands are today accepted as healthy products in Kiwi homes,” he said.
Among the brands and products imported and marketed by the Company are Bajaj Almond Oils, Bikano Sweets & Snacks, Dabur Products, Frooti, India Gate Basmati Rice, Midas Pastes & Pickles, MTR, Rajdhani Besan, Urja Chakki Atta and Vicco Products. Each of these has its own broad varieties and products, known world over for their reliability and cost-effectiveness.
The Ujra Range
AB International is embarking on a plan that will see the complete range of Ujra products on retailers’ shelves shortly.
These would include flours, food products, pickles, ketchup, fruit drinks and other items.
“Each of the Ujra products will carry our stamp of guarantee of quality and durability,” Mr Bhatia said.
A well-appointed warehouse in Auckland caters to the growing demand across the country but there are times when stock maintenance becomes an issue.
According to Mr Bhatia, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
“Even in these rough times, we have tried our best to keep up with the customer demands. We live in the real world. The recession has affected all of us. But even these hard times has not dissuaded from investing in stocks, technology, marketing and other activities,” he said.
Mr Bhatia believes in the innate good of people but is also aware of those shedding crocodile tears.
“I have seen a number of people liquidating their businesses just to escape meeting their financial obligations and yet driving around in expensive and flash cars. But such people lose credibility and would find it hard to return to business. Honesty and integrity cannot get anyone wrong,” he said.
Businesspersons like him would expect banks to be considerate towards small and medium enterprises.
According to Mr Bhatia, export restrictions imposed by the Indian Government, albeit for a short duration, hurt importers and the market demand.
“Consumers want consistent supply. Years of hard work can be thwarted by a temporary halt to export of essential items such as rice and spices,’ he said.
Mr Bhatia urged the New Zealand Government to put in place policies that were uniform and unambiguous.
“We should be informed of such policies, which we would expect all departments to follow, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority,” he said.