If you ever happen to visit Maharashtra, especially Pune, and visit a departmental or grocery store, you would come across a brand named Chitale Bandhu. The famous brand's delicious sweets and the savory bakarwadi are a must-try. One cannot go to Pune and not try these mouth-watering sweets and savories. But did you know that the existence of this business was because of an unforeseen pandemic? It is crazy how a business boomed during a pandemic (not the Covid-19 pandemic), and today it has become a well-established company and brand.History
Bhaskar Ganesh Chitale was a local businessman who lived in a small village in the Satara district of Maharashtra. During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, this young man had nothing on himself to support his family. That being said, he shifted to another district Bhilwandi that had enough access to water, and there he laid the foundation of his dairy business. Bhilwandi was home to many domestic animals, and since it was located near the railways, Bhaskar Chitale set up his dairy business in this district.
Still, due to some unspecified disease, the cattle owned by him died, resulting in the collapse of his business.
It was not until 1939 that he founded another business to earn his living and named it Chitale Group of Industries, and it was under his group that he restarted his dairy business but on a large scale. At that time, there was no pasteurization or standardization of milk. Everything was sold fresh or was either converted into dairy products. Chitale Dairy mainly focused on the B2B business model, and in partnership with British Airlines, they started selling their products across Mumbai.
After completing their education, his sons Raghunath, Rajabhau, Nanasaheb, and Kakasaheb Chitale carried his business forward.
While Nanasaheb and Kakasaheb Chitale settled in Bhilwandi to look after their dairy business, Raghunath Chitale started a new venture and named it Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. Due to the already existing brand Chitale Dairy and quality products, Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale quickly gained popularity among the customers.About Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale
Shri founded the company. Raghunath Rao Chitale, in 1950. The entrepreneur started small and acquired a 500 sq. foot shop on Bajirao Road in Pune. Chitale brothers jointly managed their dairy business along with their new confectionery business, and in no time, their brand experienced tremendous growth across Maharashtra, as well as India. Today, if there are any festivities, one cannot miss this brand that has assured quality and consistent taste over generations.The Iconic Bakarwadi
In the 1970s, Narsinha Chitale tasted Bakarwadi, a popular Gujrati snack made by his neighbor. The only difference was that the neighbor made a 'Nagpuri' variant of the snack. Popularly known as 'Pudachi Vadi,' this "Nagpuri" variant was an extremely spicy roll, whereas the Gujrati staple snack has many garlic and onions. The amalgamation of the spicy Pudachi Vadi and the shape of Gujarati Bakarwadi is the iconic Chitale Bakarwadi.
This iconic Bakarwadi was launched in the market in 1976, and shortly the brand saw a massive surge in demand for this snack. Today, with innovation and technology, the brand can make around 1000kgs of Bakarwadi per hour with the help of three automated machines, and it retails around 3000 kg of the snack per day. The popularity grew to such a level that this product became the second best-seller after Chitale Dairy.
Many other brands like Haldiram also started to manufacturer this snack, but the Chitale Group being the original, remained unbeatable.Diversification of brands
Apart from Chitale Dairy and Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, the Chitale group started to diversify their portfolio to cater to the consumers' demand and to sustain their business. They introduced other brands, which are listed as follows
- Chitale Agro: A few years ago, Chitale Group of Industries expanded their business in the food processing industry. Even though this subsidiary was established recently, it has successfully positioned itself as a front-runner in food processing. This venture focuses on manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of pulps, juices, and concentrates obtained by the process in various fruits like mango, tomato, papaya, and banana.
- Chitale Digitals:The venture was founded around 75 years ago, and it renders high functional digital products to its consumers. They provide Hardware & Software solutions, security, networking, and ERP solutions. Their top customers include Natural Icecream, Sathe and company, and Yantra Automation Pvt. Ltd.
Chitale Bandhu's annual turnover stands at Rs. 200 crores. As many as 2000-3000 customers visit their stores daily. On average, the company's business grows up to 10%. It also acquires a typical margin of 13-14%. According to few sources, the company gains an estimated revenue of $13 million with an operating margin of 6-7%. The company's brand Chitale Dairy has a milk processing capacity of around 7.9 lakh liter per day with an average collection of 6.6 lakh liter per day.Expansion
Today, the company is run by the fourth generation of the family. With innovations and automation, the company managed to improve production and also focused on a proper distribution chain to make sure their products reach beyond Pune.
With the IT boom in Pune, the demand for Chitale delicacies grew even more. To meet the requirements of potential consumers, the company even set up small outlets near offices of big companies like Infosys, Dell, TCS, and many more.
The company also opened their outlets at Mumbai and Pune airports, where they saw received great enthusiasm from the customers.
Apart from the above-mentioned small outlets, the company has 40 outlets in Pune, and five new innovative stores, namely Chitale Xpress.
Chitale Group also exports its products to 5 continents around the world. They have a presence across Europe, United States, South East Asia, and Australia.Final Words
This home-grown company didn't use any marketing strategy to reach the position that they hold today. The mere word-of-mouth strategy has helped the company establish its loyal customer base that can vouch for the products manufactured by the brand.
Chitale Bandhu & its brands have become a staple in many households in India and across the United States and Israel. Rising from the pandemic of 1918, Bhaskar Chitale faced many hardships to sustain this business successfully.
Chitale Group's business has been passed from generation to generation. With every generation came innovation that flourished the business we see today.