In a free and frank conversation, Bhavesh Parsana, MD, Satol Chemicals, took Mrigank Warrier, Assistant Editor, Clean India Journal, through the spellbinding journey of his company and laid out his plans for the future.
Please share some snapshots of your journey from inception to the present-day.
When we started in 1999, there was a tremendous requirement for quality cleaning chemicals from industries like food processing, dairy, and breweries, but these were not widely available in India. Compared to cleaning and sanitisation abroad, the standards in India were very low.
There were very few Indian players in the market, and only one was manufacturing in India; most imported their products from abroad. We studied this gap, and entered the market with specialised, innovative products.
Gradually, we understood customers’ problems and requirements, and developed tailor-made products that met quality standards. Initially, we focussed on routine cleaning in the food industry, then took further steps with sanitisation products. Over time, customers saw the level of our quality, service and support, and we expanded our portfolio to supply cleaning and sanitising chemicals to the hotel industry, laundry industry etc. Today, we are among the top players in the dairy and brewery market.
Please share some examples of how you have developed customised solutions.
When we entered this business, recycling beer bottles or milk bottles was a challenge, because removing the label during bottle washing was a difficult task. We worked on the chemistry of bottle washing and glass cleaning and solved this problem.
In the dairy industry, the source of milk may be in a small village that is hours away from the collection centre; if milk bottles are not properly sanitised, the milk will get spoiled. Our technical team visited a bottle washing plant, stayed there for a week to understand the challenges, then passed on their observations to our R&D team, which came back with a solution. Based on this experience, the same customer has been with us for 15 years.
You have ventured beyond cleaning chemicals to a service model. Please explain how.
Yes, we also supply cleaning equipment to our clients if needed. If the customer is signing a contract, we provide the equipment on a lease basis. Otherwise, we sell the equipment as in an open market. From fogging systems and foaming systems to high-pressure jets, we can provide everything.
Why did you choose to make-in-India? Tell us about your manufacturing facility.
There are challenges associated with selling imported products. For example, an oxidisable product may be delivered three-four months later, during which the product quality can deteriorate. By manufacturing in India, a fresher, better-quality product can be offered.
Initially, our manufacturing facilities were at Parwanoo in Himachal Pradesh, with an installed capacity of 100 tonnes per month. Now, we have our own manufacturing facility at Sarigam in Gujarat, where we are operating at 650-700 tonnes per month, with an installed capacity of 1,100 tonnes per month.
How has the variety of products you offer evolved over time?
Initially, we started with the brewery and dairy industry. Then, we focussed on microbiological contamination in the food industry and its cleaning challenges; food spoilage was an issue we worked to prevent. Then the poultry industry and fishery industry started to increase demand. Our focus has grown and shifted based on what customers want; we have developed tailor-made products accordingly.
In the past two decades, many new players have come up. How are you distinguishing yourself from your competitors?
In our specialised field, our service and product is quite unique. Once we win over a customer and provide them with quality products and service at a good price, we face no other challenges.
We have never bothered about competition, because we have not focussed on volumes. Rather than commodity products, we have focussed on specialty products.
Facilities have become very conscious about using cleaning products that meet their ESG policies. How do your products meet this requirement?
In India, most companies have become aware of and are implementing ESG only within the last two years. Meanwhile, we have had multinational clients like Coke, Pepsi and ITC which have been following ESG guidelines for 4-5 years. We have been helping them meet their ESG goals throughout, and have all the necessary certifications for the same.
Typically, these include GMP, ISO and EPA certifications. Our housekeeping products have also been certified as halal. Going forward, our products will also be Green Seal certified.
With a two decade legacy, are you also exporting your products?
We are exporting to nearby countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The export market accounts for 10-15% of the business.
What will your focus areas be in the near future?
Presently, we are focussing on tanker pellets and cloud kitchen cleaning. In cloud kitchens, many food items are made using the same facility, one after another; they need quick, tough cleaning between items.
We are planning to become a leading player – number one or number two – in India and the Indian subcontinent. Based on this, we have developed our team (including their education and training), infrastructure and manufacturing facility.
The average tenure of an employee here is more than five years. People are staying because of the culture we have developed, and are delivering because of it. This is our core strength, and we are thinking of doubling our employee numbers within the next two years.
How has the company grown over the last twenty-three years?
We have been growing at a rate of over 25% every year. Every three years, we double in size. After Covid, the demand from the industrial segment is booming. Earlier, only a selected few in an industrial facility – such as a quality control person or a microbiologist – knew about sanitisation. Now, everyone knows its importance.
Earlier, we had to go to customers and convince them to use our products. Now, the situation is reversed. Customers come to us with their sanitisation requirements and ask us to recommend which product they should use.
Have you had any customers who have stayed with you since 1999?
There are scores of customers – like Amul, Mother Dairy, Pepsi, Coca Cola – who have stayed with us over the past 15-20 years. Metro Cash & Carry has been with us since they started their India operations.
Our products are used for CIP (Cleaning in Place). The quality of the client’s product depends on the quality of cleaning that our products deliver; their brand depends on us. We have been delivering consistent quality, which is why so many of our initial customers have remained our clients for decades.