Nepali Times Asian Paints
The noodle kingdom

Noodles have become a Nepali staple. With so many new brands in the market, competition for consumer loyalty is fierce. Rabindra Man Shrestha, CEO of Himalayan Snax and Noodles talked to Nepali Times about instant success, overproduction and hard sell.

Nepali Times: What is it about Nepalis that we excel at selling and consuming instant noodles?
Rabindra Man Shrestha:
For any product to be successful, the home market has to be very strong. If you look at the per capita consumption of noodles today, Nepal is much higher than India. We are technologically self reliant, have trained manpower and lots of experience.

You were the pioneers of the noodle rush, but there is lots of competition now.
Yes, it is a very competitive and dynamic market. This industry has been growing for the last three years, which means rivalry has grown too. There are more than 40 other brands in the market. Our turnover now is between Rs 180-200 million per month. Nepal's present noodle production capacity is twice the consumption so there is enormous pressure to sell.

What is your position in the market?
We are the leaders and we command around 40 percent of the market share. We are at the top if we put all our brands together-Mayos, Ruchi, Hurray, Lekali and Shakalaka Boom. You have to go for the niche market with segments like price and taste among others.

If there is a glut in the market, what is the attraction?
Everyone wants a piece of a fast growing industry because there is still a profit margin and there is a vast export potential.. Everyone is a noodle consumer in Nepal: children, middle class families and those from rural areas, they are all our target consumers. Noodles are light enough to carry to the hills, is very easy to cook and does not need much energy. If you compare it with any other substitute, noodles are cheaper. For the past five years, the price of noodles has not gone up at all. In fact, it has decreased. Noodles are also convenient and hygienic.

But not very nutritious.
Actually, it is very balanced with carbohydrates and proteins. It can actually serve as a staple diet. In terms of food value, noodles are perfect. Of course, even sugar becomes bitter if you eat too much.

What are the guidelines you follow in advertising gimmicks?
The promises in some advertisements are hard to believe. One wonders how a packet of noodles that costs Rs 10 can contain such large prizes. Some companies have gone overboard. As long as you stick to what you promise in your advertisement, then you are ok. Consumers can't be cheated, and there has to be a code of conduct in this regard.

You mean the government should do it?
The authorities check us regularly and certify us annually. But if you want to make the industry respectable, then it is the producers' responsibility. They should not wait for someone else to impose the rules. Consumers are getting more and more quality conscious, you can't fool them.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)