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Maitree Fresh: Evolution of a rural brand challenging the market leaders in Tonk District The story of Maitree Dairy’s journey is very inspiring; right from its initiation and the struggle it faced in establishing such a women-led Producer Company, to gradually expanding it from a small base and equipping it with the capacity to collect as much as 12000 litres of milk per day. Who could have imagined that a small initiative of a women-led dairy would one day have an annual turnover of Rs. 6 Crores! Maitree Dairy is an example of a successful model of market linkages run by a women-led institution. Challenging scenarios in the market faced by Maitree Dairy Right from the time of initiation of Maitree Dairy, the business model was focused on buying milk from farmers, chilling it and selling it to large institutional buyers. The Institutional buyers’ list included reputed companies like Mother Dairy, DS Group, DMS etc. to whom Maitree sold the collected milk in bulk. However, due to new rules and regulations, export of value added milk products was reduced as thus, large institutional buyers’ demand for milk decreased as well. Maitree Dairy right from the beginning, believed in transferring maximum profit to its pourers. Due to adverse market conditions, it faced financial crunches and soon, reduced profit margins were not sufficient to cover even the monthly overhead expenses. Price of Milk purchase from farmers Rs 34 (approx) Price at which Milk is sold to Institutional Buyers Rs 36 (approx) Profit Margin 2 Therefore, a need was felt to rethink the whole marketing strategy in a new way to make the venture profitable again. The Idea of brand “Maitree Fresh” Jitendra Sinha, who is currently the CEO of Maitree Dairy, shared his experience about how he, along with his small team, conceived the challenging idea of selling milk in the local market with its own brand. Jitendra along with his team members had many meetings to analyse the reducing demand and prices crisis and overcome the situation. They started by consulting people experienced in this business and collecting information from other local players. After thorough analysis, the team realised that although bulk selling was not fetching good prices, retail sale price of milk hadn’t decreased, as demand in retail market still existed for quality full cream milk. So Maitree Dairy started selling full cream milk under the brand ‘Maitree Fresh’ to its buyers at Rs 36 while big market players like AMUL, SARAS etc. were charging Rs 45 to Rs 48 per litre of milk. This was a revolutionary and challenging step of brand building and setting up of local infrastructure for tapping the rural markets in Tonk District of Rajasthan. Obstacles faced while implementing Maitree Fresh Target customer: This was one of the biggest initial challenges the team faced as they were not sure of the customer segment for their product because till date, they totally relied on bulk selling and thus never had a customer base. Although a few customers would purchase milk directly from the dairy, their numbers were negligible in terms of volume sale. Pasteurization and Quality: Another challenge was that Maitree Fresh was Non Pasteurised Milk, as compared to other brands which were pasteurised, so there was a concern whether customers would choose it over other brands or not. Maintaining quality of the milk was also a big worry as non-pasteurised milk has only 12 hours of shelf life. Competition: In addition, competing with established and dominating players like Saras, AMUL etc. with high brand value and trust factor, and positioning brand Maitree Fresh in a way to grab market share was a great reason of concern. Supply Chain: Convincing local shopkeepers for retail sale was also a key challenge for the team as many didn’t trust new local brands. Competing with local Doodhiyas and penetrating their market was an important requirement for the success of Maitree Fresh. Proactive Steps taken in the Implementation of the Idea The Maitree Fresh team took many proactive measures to ensure its implementation at ground level. “Milk Swapping Deal” or “MSD”: This is one of the most innovative steps taken by the team in which they offered customers to swap their branded milk packets with Maitree Fresh packets while paying them the actual price of the original packets that they had purchased. “Identification of Key Outlet”: The team had identified key locations where formal tie ups were done and sample packets were distributed. Another key feature was offering a 200 gm packet of curd free with 1 Litre of Milk as a promotional offer, which helped in getting new customers. “Customer Relationship Management”: From the very day of launching the product, a strong feedback mechanism was built where proper feedback about the product from the consumers was taken to understand the needs and expectations of the customer and constantly improve the marketing process to build a substantial customer base in the long run. Future Plan of Action for Promotion of Maitree Fresh: “Maitree Fresh Mahila Outlet”: One of the main targets of Maitree is to open new outlets for Maitree Fresh, solely run by women, the main motive behind being the promotion of livelihood for women, along with expansion of Maitree Fresh products in rural pockets. “Ghanti Baji Idhar, chokho doodh aapke ghar”: Mitree fresh aims to provide a customer service experience where, whenever a customer rings up the Maitree Outlet, fresh “Maitree Fresh” milk would be delivered at the doorstep. This will lead to higher customer satisfaction and increase in outreach. “Meri Maitree”: On the backside of “Maitree Fresh” milk packet, success stories of women milk producers will be printed to showcase how pouring milk in Maitree Dairy has helped them in improving their life. Thus, by facing market challenges and successfully implementing innovative marketing strategies, Maitree Fresh has been able to penetrate the local market with more value added items like curd , ghee and cream and become a key challenger in the rural markets of Tonk District.